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By Chuck Hill

Chuck Hill, wine reviewer and columnist

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Meat My Merlot
A 4-Part Series
Published Oct & Nov 2015

Bordeaux Buddies
The Blending Grapes

on their own
A 4-Part Series
Published Aug & Sep 2015

Wines for Oysters
and Mussels

A 4-Part Series
Published July & Aug 2015

Pinot Noir & Salmon
A 4-Part Series
Published June & July 2015

Red Rhone Varietals
A 4-Part Series
Published Apr & May 2015

50 Shades of Chardonnay
A 4-Part Series
Published Mar & Apr 2015

Italian Varietals
Come to America

A 4-Part Series
Published Jan & Feb 2015

Cabernet Sauvignon
& Blends

A 4-Part Series
Published Nov & Dec 2014


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Wines of the Week
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Last Week's Reviews
Published November 16, 2015

Wines for Thanksgiving
See more Thanksgiving wines reviews
By Chuck Hill

Thanksgiving is a great time for wine. It is a great excuse to open multiple bottles and compare different wines with appetizers, entrees of turkey, ham or redder meats and even desserts (serve a cheese board to finish the red wines).  I revisited some of my favorite bottles from 2015 to see which would add fun to your Thanksgiving party. 

There is a great deal of Northwest wine touring activity associated with the weekend after Thanksgiving. Instead of shopping the Black Friday sales, head out to Oregon’s Willamette Valley ( or Washington’s Yakima Valley ( for special events and tastings.  (See our Wine Country Calendars for Thanksgiving events in most regions.) 

Pinot Noir

Montinore Estate
2013 Pinot Noir, Reserve
Willamette Valley AVA

Montinore Estate was established in 1982 near Forest Grove, Oregon with 210 acres of vineyards, carefully matched to the varieties being grown.  This reserve Pinot Noir was the favorite with my tasters, offering rich and complex aromas and flavors of dark cherry, red plum, baking spice and toasty cedar – superb with the bird! 

Dobbes Family Estate
2012 Pinot Noir, Griffin’s Cuvee
Willamette Valley AVA

Joe Dobbes is another Oregon winemaker with long experience and a wide following.  He crafts several Pinot Noir wines in each vintage, assembling cuvees from highly respected vineyard sources.  Look for aromas and flavors of ripe red cherry and strawberry, toasted oak, earthy mineral and nuances of tobacco, vanilla and herbs. 

A to Z Wineworks
2013 Pinot Noir

Who says great Pinot Noir has to be expensive?   A to Z Wineworks began as a partnership of Oregon wine industry veterans who knew how to find the grapes and make the wine to please both the palate and the pocketbook.  My tasters enjoyed raspberry and cherry fruit with hints of mineral and citrus, finishing with earthy complexity that accompanies the full scope and breadth of the Thanksgiving table. 

Luminous Hills
2013 Pinot Noir
Yamhill-Carlton AVA

With both gentle and dramatic south-facing slopes, Byron Dooley’s estate Luminous Hills Vineyard sits in the southwestern portion of the Yamhill-Carlton District within the larger Willamette Valley appellation. Byron’s blend of clonally diverse wines offers complex flavors and aromas of red fruits, violets, cocoa and hints of toasty cedar and spicy green bean. 


Rosé Wines

Ponzi Vineyards
2014 Pinot Noir Rosé
Willamette Valley AVA

My tasters declared this the best of the Pinot Noir Rosés, showing crisp and tightly focused aromas and flavors featuring red cherry, grapefruit and mineral – the consummate food wine. 

Acrobat by King Estate
2014 Rosé of Pinot Noir

This rosé features quite a complex aroma for a Pinot Noir including notes of mandarin orange, cherry, floral perfume and other tropical fruits.  Similar flavors and a good acid balance give it the thumbs up for a great turkey wine. 

2014 Pinot Noir Rosé, Silver Linings
Willamette Valley AVA

This tasty rosé is a bit on the lighter side but serves equally well as an enjoyable sipper or as a complement to appetizers or for a lighter sip with your turkey.  Look for aromas and flavors of red cherry, citrus and orchard blossom. 

Dry Whites

Maryhill Winery
2014 Chardonnay
Columbia Valley AVA

The Maryhill Winery in Washington’s Columbia Gorge is a perfect winery destination for the fall, and could even be a lovely post-Thanksgiving side trip for Friday or Saturday.  A warm fire is burning in the tasting room fireplace and helpful staff can assist in your holiday wine shopping needs.  Choose this flavorful Chardonnay on turkey day for its ripe tropical and stone fruit aromas and flavors leading to a crisp, food-friendly palate. 

King Estate Winery
2013 Chardonnay, Signature Selection

Each year I, and my Chardonnay tasters, struggle with scoring different styles of the varietal.  Some are lean and crisp highlighting citrus and mineral, and others are rich and buttery with ripe, tropical fruits and toasty oak.  This Signature Chardonnay from King Estate leans to the rich side with bright, forward aromas and flavors of lemon, melon, apricot and vanilla, yet offers a balancing acidity that complements lighter cuisine to a “T.” 

Alexandria Nicole Cellars
2014 Albarino, “Affinity”
Yakima Valley AVA

Grapes for this wine come from Crawford Vineyard in the Yakima Valley where the owners Charlie and Connie Crawford produce superb fruit. Plush tropical flavors of pineapple, lemon and melon are complemented by notes of grapefruit and lemongrass. Interesting fruit flavors complement Thanksgiving side dishes and work well with the dark meat from the thighs and drumsticks. 

Brooks Winery
2013 Dry Riesling, Estate
Willamette Valley AVA

Dry Rieslings are a perfect option for pairing with the complex collection of dishes that usually accompany Thanksgiving dinner.  Serve this complex Riesling – tart apple, mineral, jasmine, herbs, kiwi – with appetizers or an entrée of turkey or ham. 

Januik Winery
2014 Sauvignon Blanc, Sagemoor Vineyards
Columbia Valley AVA

This wine is made with Sauvignon Blanc from Bacchus Vineyard as well as Semillon (22%) from Dionysius Vineyard.  The wine is the perfect balance of intense varietal character (grapefruit, herb, spicy pear) with complex citrus, mineral and acidity on the palate to help dry wine lovers enjoy the holiday banquet. 

Other areas:

Segura Viudas NV Brut
Penedes, Spain

Segura Viudas is a Spanish Cava – sparkling wine crafted by the traditional Methode Champenoise in the heart of northeast Spain’s Penedes region.  I have enjoyed this as my house everyday bubbly for decades, serving it at Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years and any other celebratory occasions.  It is crisp and dry with just enough fruitiness to pair with all types of foods, offering floral perfume, stone fruits and flinty mineral.  As a friend says, “Buy cases and serve it fearlessly over the holidays!” 

Joseph Phelps Vineyards
2013 Chardonnay, Freestone Vineyard
Sonoma Coast

Every year this Chardonnay is at the top of my rankings, demonstrating that meticulous care in both the vineyard and winery add up to excellence in the bottle.  As the wine opens up, it reveals superb complexity with notes of pear, honeysuckle, Meyer lemon and vanilla. The secret is the indescribable sense of balance and structure that is at once tantalizing and captivating – a superb match to almost any elegant lighter fare. 

2013 Chardonnay, Bin 311
Tumbarumba, Australia

On the next hill over from Wagga Wagga in New South Wales lies the hamlet of Tumbarumba – a high altitude, cool climate viticultural district.  Penfolds has worked with Chardonnay from Tumbarumba since the early 1990s.  This wine delivers superb flavor and structure on the palate, showing lemon-lime and grapefruit with mineral and hints of vanilla and toast.  As Penfolds’ chief winemaker Peter Gago says: “Beguiling and elegant.” 

Sea Pearl
2014 Sauvignon Blanc
Marlborough, NZ

Sea Pearl is crafted from grapes grown in the southern Wairau River valleys of Marlborough, within close proximity to the sea.  The wine is a milder, more oyster-friendly style than the wine above, offering grapefruit, guava, melon and notes of grassy herbs – good value and a great lighter wine for those who drink dry. 

Saget la Perriere
2014 Sancerre
Loire Valley, France

I discovered this special wine during my oyster wine tastings, and it also pairs well with lighter holiday foods.  This wine awakens the ‘bliss factor’ for wines that accompany turkey and all the trimmings.  Look for aromas and flavors of gooseberry, flinty mineral, citrus and tropical notes – and so much more.

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All rights reserved.  Last revised: 11/20/2015