On a Thanksgiving for Pinot

It’s a hard grape to grow. As you know. Right? It’s, uh, it’s thin-skinned, temperamental, ripens early. It’s, you know, it’s not a survivor like cabernet, which can just grow anywhere and thrive even when it’s neglected. No, pinot needs constant care and attention. You know? And, in fact, it can only grow in these really specific, little tucked-away corners of the world. And only the most patient and nurturing of growers can do it, really. Only somebody who really takes the time to understand pinot’s potential can then coax it into its fullest expression. (Jack explaining pinot noir to Maya in Sideways)

Pinot noir is one of the world’s great grapes for wine. It’s seductive, and subtle – yet difficult and temperamental. It is the classy lady at the ball who catches your eye, which doesn’t reveal the complex person behind the first glance.

Pinot noir is red, but not dark like other red wines. Pinot noir is flavorful, but not overpowering. Pinot noir is difficult to grow because its best locations require the odd combination of cool temperatures and a long growing season. It is fussy about the soil, slope, and climate, but ironically, once successful on the vine, winemakers find transitioning the grape into a wonderful wine as easy. The wine is an interesting blend of fruit and earth tones. While it does not pack a punch of puckering tannin, the charm is in its complexity and cerebral nature.

While growers cultivate pinot noir throughout the world, its geography remains limited because of its preferred conditions. Pinot noir is the grand grape of Burgundy (France), with interesting is the same parallel as another place where pinot is king – Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Pinot noirs from both of these regions tend to be earthier than the silky nature of those in California.

California regions doing well with pinot noir include Russian River Valley (Sonoma), Carneros (southern Sonoma and Napa), Anderson Valley (Mendocino), Santa Lucia Highlands (Monterrey), and Santa Rita Hills (Santa Barbara). The setting for Sideways was in the Santa Barbara wine region.

Pinot noir is a versatile food wine. It’s very good for pre-dinner and appetizers, yet goes well with main food as chicken, fish, and pork. To me, pinot noir is an excellent wine for Thanksgiving dinner.

In general, pinot noir wine is not cheap. For anyone wanting to spend more than $20, talk to knowledgeable staff at a wine department. Since Wine Spectator (not long ago) featured California pinot noir, here are their bargains, plus a few others from me.

Wine Spectator Values (Score and Price)
Saintsbury Garnet (Carneros) 88 ($20)
Siduri (Sonoma) 88 ($20
Villa Mt Eden (Sonoma Coast) 88 ($20)
Hitching Post (Santa Barbara Hometown) 87 ($20)
Kenwood (Russian River) 87 ($16)

Heron (Sonoma) 87 ($16)
Acacia (California) 86 ($15
Heron (California) 85 ($14)
Castle Rock (Carneros) 84 ($14)
Cupcake (Carneros) 84 ($14)

AFA Additions
A to Z (Oregon) 90 ($20)
Mark West (California) $10, Santa Lucia Highlands $13
Angeline (California) $12
Castle Rock (several: Mendocino, Monterey, and Willamette) $12
Pepperwood Grove (California) $7
There are good values from New Zealand, so take a flyer or ask your wine merchant

18 thoughts on “On a Thanksgiving for Pinot

    • Mags,
      Wine is like any topic – there is a lot to learn, and the more one learns, they more they realize how much they don’t know.

      A tip of the hat for the wines from your homeland. Australian wines are good, and as a whole, many of the best values in the US. And the upper-end priced Aussie wines are outstanding too. Many thanks for visiting and commenting.


  1. i don’t like wine at all. i’ve tried to acquire a taste for it, but, to me, it’s like gargling with vinegar. i have a bottle of 3 dollar wine in my kitchen that i bought when i decided it would be fun to try to cook with it. i’ve used it a few times, and it wasn’t half bad. that said, i love grapes. after all, without grapes, there would be no raisins! 😉


    • Nonnie,
      Let’s face it …. not everything is for everybody. However, you make an interesting point that cooking with wine adds flavor to the food. As the alcohol evaporates, many good flavors are left behind … and of course red wines provide different flavors than white wines. … Meanwhile, you are right to be thankful for raisins! Well done …. and thanks for sharing.


  2. I come back to a quick proper read of your blog and what do we have – a wine review! Sweet serendipity! And a Pinot too – one of my all time faves of all time. Shame they are do damn expensive in Oz though – $25+ gets you something worthy of a closed eyes appreciation moment. The thing I like about a Pinot is that a good one can be like a light velvet – there’s nothing about the wine that gets in the way of pure enjoyment.!


    • Charlie,
      Welcome first-time commenter … and given that you post Red Wine Wednesdays, the timing for this post and your visit is serendipitous. (Not sure I have ever type that word on this blog before).

      The traditional Thanksgiving holiday meal in the US has some tastes that makes wine pairing difficult. Turkey accommodates many wines, but green beans, cranberries, and sweet potatoes provide their share of conflict. Thus enter Pinot, Reisling, and Gwertztraminer.

      I enjoy my share of hearty reds, but I don’t limit myself to hearty reds. And I agree … once reaching that $20+ price point, the world of elegance dramatically opens.

      Charlie – thanks so much for visiting and I look forward to your post tomorrow … hmmmm … given the time differential, wI may see later today.


    • Miss D,
      Wow .. I getting my share of non-wine drinkers today … but that’s ok. 🙂 Thanks for passing this post along to your sister-in-law, so hopefully get something out of it. Thanks for visiting too!


    • El Guapo,
      Glad you enjoyed it. On the cooking side, I’m partial to sauvignon blancs, but hey – whatever works. As a wine drinker, I recall chef Mario Batali saying that if you aren’t willing to drink it, don’t cook with it – an interesting thought for those of us who partake in the glass. Oh well … pass this wine info to friends. Thanks for commenting.


    • M,
      Welcome first-time visitor, and sorry that it took me so long to reply as holiday travels got in the way.

      I too enjoy moscato, but wonder if it is too sweet for Thanksgiving. Hmmm … but maybe not – so thanks for your suggestion. Unfortunately, I saw it too late for this year, but will remember this suggestion.

      Thanks for visiting and commenting – plus I hope you return.


    • Ed,
      Great hearing from you … and surprising, I’ve been thinking about you and the others recently – so the timing is serendipitous. Hope all is well … and I will contact you by email soon. OH … many thanks for the link – and I hope you return on for the Monday post that you influenced. Thanks for contacting me.


  3. biologically, yes, pinot noir is the best for turkey. however, as most wine experts will say, the best wine with anything is anything you like best. for me, it’s malbec and cabernet.


    • RMV,
      Very true about drinking the wine you like …. and I adore malbec and other big reds. The turkey is easy to match, but the side dishes make matching wine for the meal difficult. I went with pinot noir and gwertztraminer. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and hope you had a good Thanksgiving.


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