Let Them Drink Red!


Chances are, if you’re new to wine, you’ve heard two things:

  1. Pairing wine with food is incredibly complex and takes years to master.
  2. Red wine with red meat, white wine with white.

While the first is somewhat true and the second is a good starting-point, here’s the advice I like to give the best:

Drink what you like.

And for us, that usually means red wine with anything, specifically Pinot Noir. So when the opportunity to sample a trio of Pinot Noirs perfect for Thanksgiving presented itself, what do you think I said? Yes please!

While you might normally pair a meal of turkey cutlets with a clean, crisp white (and be perfectly within your rights to do so), the reason reds work well with Thanksgiving, or any big, rich meal, is in the meal’s description: rich! A wine needs to complement the meal while holding it’s own, not merely match the color of the primary protein!

Two Pinot Noirs, both bottles and poured samples

The first two bottles we tried side-by-side were The Crossings (from New Zeland) and Llai Llai (from Chile). Here are the notes that came with each (for those who find them interesting–I know I do!):

The Crossings Pinot Noir 2009 is said to be a fantastic wine to pair with potatoes; a Thanksgiving favorite. It’s finely poised aromas of red cherry, spice, raspberry, and gentle smokiness forms the perfect smell for the nose. The palate is vibrantly intense with a full rich and silky mid-palate which creates a very persistent finish.  The resplendent ruby red goes through to the core of the wine and will harmonize the many flavors of the Thanksgiving meal. Recently named a Best Buy and Best Value for Pinot Noir by World Value Wine Challenge.

[Llai Llai] This light wine will blend in with the many foods of the holiday and allow guests to enjoy the flavors of both their drink and dinner. This Pinot Noir is hand-harvested, creating a deep, brilliant red color with a ripe and intense red fruit aroma. Llai Llai Pinot Noir has the perfect balance of alcohol and acidity creating a certain elegance and sweet earthy notes, perfect for harmonizing multiple flavors. The very ripe and soft tannins allow for a long, rich, and smooth finish which is necessary to preserving the moistness of the turkey. Recently named the Best Value Chilean Pinot Noir by World Value Wine.

Both are available under $20 a bottle , so excellent options for the budget-conscious (and, let’s face it, who isn’t these days?). We found Crossings to be slightly sweeter than Llai Llai, each a medium red color and a fine flavor. There’s definitely no harsh aftertaste that you might find from a stronger red, these are both nice and easy table wines. The Llai Llai was slightly more mellow, according to Todd, but it was tough for either of us to pick a favorite.

Sonoma Coast Vineyards Pinot Noir, bottle and poured sample

A few days later we got a chance to try a California Pinot Noir, from the Sonoma Coast Vineyards. This one’s a bit pricier at an SRP of $39.99 but, after sampling it, I have to say it’s worth every penny. Let’s start with the “liner notes:”

Sonoma Coast Vineyards Freestone Hills Pinot Noir 2008 is perfect to pair with the heavy foods of Thanksgiving. The mixture of dark black cherry and ripe rich black raspberry fruits plus pomegranate will insistently enhance any fall celebration and we think it is perfect to pair with a Thanksgiving turkey! It’s fruity enough to bring together the different flavors of the meal while creating a fresh taste.

Two things right off: deep red color and a velvety mouth-feel; amazing. Todd thought it was a little oakier than he prefers, and I can see that (I suppose).

But I? Well, let’s put it this way: I could have easily finished the bottle in one night, on my own. I didn’t! But I could have. And remember how I said pairing wines with food is about richness? The Sonoma Coast held it’s own with a sinfully rich crawfish bisque last night, so turkey, dressing and all the trimmings would pair equally as well.

Whether it’s your own table or you’re invited to a friend’s home for dinner this year, I highly suggest the Sonoma Coast Vineyards. Even after the holiday this is a great wine to have on hand for anytime you need to unwind.

FCC Disclaimer: I was provided bottles of wine on which to base this review. The opinions expressed are entirely my own, unless otherwise indicated.