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Wines to Serve with Turkey

by Jean Yates

The weeks before Thanksgiving are prime time for Northwest wine releases. Most wineries have finished with harvest and moved on to preparing for the holidays. From the dozens of wines we've tasted, here are our choices of those we'd recommend to serve with Thanksgiving turkey.

Rosé - Dry, Pink and Perfect

Ask an Oregon winemaker what they're serving wth turkey dinner, and chances are, they'll say Rosé. Oregon Pinot noir makers have produced "pink wine" from Pinot noir for years for their own consumption. It is typically made from the "free run" juice that comes off the grapes first. Winemakers reward their workers with bottles of the wine, or keep it for themselves.

What you might not know is that many Pinot makers' preferred everyday wine, served cold, is a dry Oregon Rosé, often their own. The last of the Rosé each year gets saved for Thanksgiving, and it pairs perfectly with turkey and all the trimmings.

Oregon Rosés are dry, and offer fresh fruit flavors of strawberries, cherries, and raspberries, with hints of ruby red grapefruit, watermelon, and spice flavors like thyme, cinnamon or ginger. A good rosé will have a nice acid balance with delicate fruit flavors. The clean, fresh flavors are followed by a crisp mouth feel. Rosés are excellent food wines due to the balance of acidity and fruit and a light to medium body.

Rosé wines are best served slightly chilled, similar to a white wine. A good Rosé focuses flavors and complements the richness of dark meat, gravy, and butter.

Over the last few years, Northwest Rosé has increased in popularity, and much of the best is grabbed up in the late spring, when it is usually released. We've tracked down a few of the best that are still available and they're listed at right.

Territorial Rosé of Pinot noir 06 $11.47/$12.75 HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Most popular dry Rosé at Avalon's store, year after year. Immediate room-filling aromas of grapefruit, tangerine and Rosé petal, followed by crisp fruit flavors and a pleasing, palate-cleansing acidity.

Great on its own as a chilled, before dinner quaff, and a wonderful food companion. So refreshing and delicious with roast turkey, duck, or cornish game hen.

White Wine - Popular for Thanksgiving

Oregon Pinot gris is extraordinarily popular with turkey dinner in the Northwest. It's a local specialty, and fits well with a holiday designed to celebrate harvest and bounty. And it's fresh; look for a 2005 Pinot gris, as the wine sports bright, clean, fruit-driven flavors when young. Styles vary, of course, but you'll usually find fruit flavors of apple and pear, peach and mango. The best bottles spend extra time aging in oak, which adds a creamy texture and a refreshing minerality.

Northwest Pinot gris is more substantial than Italian Pinot grigio, with riper fruit, but it delivers the same lip-smacking acidity, which really sets off food flavors. An Oregon Pinot Gris, as compared to an Italian Pinot grigio, (which is the same grape, but from a different country) has significant weight in the mouth, is much fuller bodied, and adds a ripe, spicier note that melds well with both turkey and the trimmings.

Oregon Pinot gris has a lot of bright, fruit flavors of apple and peach, with searing acidity and mineral notes that pair well with all kinds of Thanksgiving foods from creamed onions to sausage and herb stuffing.

Capitello Pinot Gris 07 $16.16/$17.95 HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

I nominate Capitello for the best new Oregon winery that no one knows about. And we're thrilled to have the wines, and hope that after Ray reads this, he'll save us some when the reviews come out and everyone wants them.

This delectable Pinot gris is made by Ray Walsh, who was winemaker at King Estate from 1995-2005, Ray made perhaps the best known Pinot gris from Oregon, the King Estate Pinot gris and Reserve. He brings years of expertise with the grape to his own winery with lovely results.

The Capitello Pinot gris 05 has a beautiful pale straw color, while offering aromas of peach, nectarines, passion fruit, and an intense floral-perfume, honeysuckle notes.

In the mouth, this wine is bright, round, balanced and explodes with fruit flavors of peach-pear and apple with traces on grapefruit on the finish.

Ray uses a technique he learned in New Zealand, frezzing the grapes during processing to enhance and intensify flavors. He chooses to pick at the moment of "psychological ripeness" as he calls it, when he finds the grapes to offer the most complex aromatics and flavors, rather than the "physiological ripeness" so popular today.

Territorial Pinot Gris 06 $13.45/$14.95

The Territorial Pinot gris' style is unusually rich, combining a honeyed, viscous mouthfeel with balanced, well delineated acidity and an intriguing, ocean-scented minerality. Juicy citrus flavors mingle with hints of pear, crisp apple, and honey. Have with oysters, crab, halibut, or perhaps a salad nichoise. Made from Estate fruit.

From the winery: "This wine is what a Pinot Gris, as in the grape, is all about. Pure varietal aromas welcome the palette to layers of pear and citrus. It is flawless, engaging and unhurried in the mouth, with a clean, lingering finish. On the strength of mature fruit and gentle handling, this wine is a monument to balance and varietal fidelity."

Oregon Pinot noir and Turkey go Together

Oregon chefs buy up medium bodied, fruity Oregon Pinot noirs to serve at Thanksgiving dinner. The bold flavors and balanced acidity coax the best out of this sainted bird. Pinot noir is a high-acid, low-tannin wine with loads of red-skinned berry notes to complement not just the turkey but all of the usual side dishes: your potatoes, your sweet yams, your cranberry sauce.

The dominant flavor of Oregon pinot noir is of fresh, lively red fruit - cranberry, pomegranate, red currant, raspberry and sour cherry are common descriptors, some with an earthy quality as well. With these fruits come uplifting, refreshing acidity. Pinot works beautifully to foil the richness of turkey, Cornish hen, quail, etc. while providing contrasting flavours, especially if herbal, spicy dressing is added to the mix. Before serving it will help to decant and aerate young Oregon pinot for an hour or two, and serve it just a touch cool.


Capitello Pinot noir 06 $30.56/$36.95

A rich, lush Pinot noir for foodies who want a bigger style Pinot noir to go with their turkey.

This Pinot Noir greets the taster with rich aromas of blackberry, cassis, and bright raspberry fruits, while also offering the complexity of the oak, floral and earth tones.

In the mouth, a full display of rich berries and up front tannins coat the mouth with silky-velvet texture. Intense blackberry raspberry and chocolate flavors combined to fill out the mid pallet followed by oak spice and berry taste that linger on the finish.

Made by Ray Walsh, who was winemaker at King Estate from 1993-2005, Ray shows that his winemaking skills extend to the red varietals with this balanced, rich wine that makes good use of ripe grapes in a hot year.

Phelps Creek Le Petit 07 $16.16/$17.95

Another wine made by Sineann's Peter Rosback under a different winery name.

This is Phelps Creek's lighter, fruitier style Pinot Noir. Bright fruit, light body, aged briefly in neutral oak. Refreshing, with a beautiful Pinot nose and black pepper notes from a 5% syrah addition. Designed for the heat of the grilling season. Perfect with grilled lamb sausages or salmon.

Spindrift Cellars Pinot noir 05 $22.45/$24.95

Wine Spectator 89 points: Fresh, light and open-textured, with a rain-on-slate aromatic edge to the blackberry and floral flavors. The finish lingers well against lively acidity, with minimal tannins. Drink now through 2010." H.S.

This wine has aromas of red cherry and raspberry with notes of spice. Flavors of red raspberry, strawberry, and cherry finish with spice, tobacco and soft tannins. A lively, uplifting quality and excellent balance makes this a fresh, pretty Pinot noir at a quite reasonable price.

The winery was formerly known as Sahalie- ownership shifted around and Matt and Tabitha Compton are now owners of Spindrift. Spindrift is our neighbor, just down the road in Philomath and near our fav 720 Cellars (Chris Heider). This is another such up-and-coming Indie winery to watch.

720 Cellars Pinot noir 05 $22.45/$24.95

The nose is filled with Rosés, red cherry and raspberry, pomegranate and subtle cola spice. As one of us put it, "this wine doesn't flirt," meaning those aromas follow through to the flavors. We love the creaminess in the finish - it's just like biting into creme brulee with a touch of cardamom. The 720 is an outstanding food wine; matches well with turkey, goose, or other poultry for the holidays.

The 2004 720 Pinot is 100% Croft Vineyard fruit, even though it doesn't say so on the label (sometimes it helps to have the "insider" connection). And 13.3% alcohol?! We love the restraint and balance!

We love Chris Heider's 720 Cellars wines. He converted his garage to a winery and hasn't looked back. We had the benefit of tasting his 2004 barrels for the last several months but nothing prepared us for the finished wine.

Higher End Pinot noirs - When You Want the Very Best

Dusky Goose Pinot noir 06 $54.95


Full-bodied, yet sumptuously complex, the 2004 Dusky Goose Pinot noir wine has its characteristic candied fruit and dried cherry notes, along with glorious layers of lush black cherries and berries, and hints of dried lavender, dried orange zest, and a high note in both nose and flavor of intensely sweet and concentrated dried fruit. The balance is so good, the wine should cellar well for more than ten years.

Color: Garnet, with hints of dark purple, opaque and dark.

Nose: Very rich scent is present immediately upon opening the bottle. Scents are primarily of candied black cherry, black raspberry, black cherry liqueur, and strawberry, with an undercurrent of toasted cocoa bean. Marcus says it's like experiencing a fresh strawberry covered with dark chocolate.

Hints of dried lavender, dried cherry, dried herbs, and a tiny hint of fresh earth are present in this vibrant wine. There's a freshness to the nose that is characteristic of the 2004 vintage.

Flavors: Layers of fresh fruit explode in the mouth. A plush, deep core of black cherry and black raspberry is entwined with layers of ripe red raspberry, hints of fresh strawberry, seamlessly integrated sweet vanilla bean, spicy plum, and dried cherry fruit ( characteristic of the vineyard).

Finish: The finish just keeps rolling out, offering transparent layers of red and black fruit and silky tannins with notes of toasted cocoa bean, espresso bean, sweet vanilla, cedar, fresh tobacco, and essence of rose.

Balance: Tannins are very supple and well integrated, there's a fresh, uplifting quality to the acidity, and the fruit flavors reappear over and over with ultrarich cherry, black cherry, and dried cherry flavors, intensifying with more exposure to air.

When to Drink: The 2006 is lovely now, especially with an hour or so of decanting. In 6 months to a year, the wine will be much better integrated, so patience will be rewarded. The wine's combination of vibrant, uplifting acidity balanced with sumptuous, lush, sweet fruit shows all the signs of aging well for over ten years.

What to serve with it: Vitaly Paley, of Portland, Oregon's Paley's Place, suggests Herb stuffed Rack of Lamb or Braised Beef Brisket, just click to see the recipes. Vitaly was the James Beard Foundation's "Best Chef in the Pacific Northwest" for 2005.

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