The holiday season will be a bit of an odd one, to say the least. Fewer people will be traveling, and gatherings will be significantly smaller, but that doesn’t mean we can’t rally little holiday spirit. And if you’re still planning to serve up a Thanksgiving or holiday feast this year, be sure to serve some great wine. As Thanksgiving is an all-American holiday within itself, it’s only fitting that we look to the many regions of the country producing some truly exceptional wines. From California to Virginia, New York to Arizona, and everywhere in between, opting for a few of these selections will no doubt offer a welcome distraction from our “new normal.” Though you can pretty much find a wine being produced in all 50 states, here are a few top suggestions from 11 of them, plus one not-so-American selection that has earned a seat at the table.
So, this is technically breaking the rules right off the bat. Still, considering we just celebrated Beaujolais Nouveau Day, which seems to have become more of an American Tradition than a French one, this wine serves as an exception to this all-American lineup. We have the late Georges Duboeuf, in particular, to thank for this annual tradition. His love for the American market prompted him to focus this style of wine towards the Thanksgiving holiday, particularly when he was expanding his brand beyond Beaujolais more than five decades ago. You can count bright, red fruity flavors, hints of lush floral gardens, and a little touch of spice on this friendly, easy-drinking wine. Santé!
Nothing sparks conversation more than a wine that looks a little less than conventional and tastes like a newfound friend. Frank Family Wines has been making exceptional red and white still wines in the Napa Valley for more than 30 years. But considering the winery is housed in this historic Larkmead Winery, which began as a sparkling house, it’s no wonder that the Frank Family traditional method sparkling releases are always playful and fun, yet serious at the same time. Made from a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, the former of which spent an extended amount of time on the color-rich skins, this red-hued lovely offers a rush of bright red cherry and strawberry aromas in the glass leading to a juicy palate of cranberry, orange peel and spice that dances on the palate with delicate effervescence.
From America’s “Third Coast” growing region as it has often been called thanks to the moderate-to-cool climate that extends from Lake Michigan, the Leelanau Penninsula of Michigan is worth noting for its sparkling wine potential in particular. This wine is a perfect example of why. Made in the traditional méthode champenoise, this wine spends 16 months en tirage. Chardonnay is the dominant grape variety, accented by a touch of Riesling for added floral and fruity aroma. Characteristic notes of bread dough and citrus lead the aroma profile and transition to a full, lemony palate with hints of white grapefruit, almond paste, and hazelnut revealed through firm yet flirty bubbles.
From one of Arizona’s premier producers, this versatile wine shows the Petit Manseng grape’s strength, which originally hails from southwest France, in the Arizona soils. Broad and rich with tropical fruit and lush lemon, this grape has retained a nervy acidity that leads from the tip of the tongue straight to a juicy, lengthy finish.
One of Pennsylvania’s shining stars, Galen Glen, has been growing beautiful quality wines in Andreas (northwest of Philadelphia) since the early 1990s. Among their specialties is Grüner Veltliner. Based on the region’s cooler climate, similar to what you might find in this grape variety’s home of Austria, this grape develops beautiful ripeness as well as vibrant acidity and depth. Bright, crisp, and deliciously food-friendly, this wine should be a go-to on the holiday table as it goes with pretty much everything.
Whether you prefer the sunny weight and cheerfulness displayed in Alsatian Riesling or the lithe, racy nature of Mosel Riesling, you’ll love this wine. Grown on the Western slopes of Colorado’s cooler West Elk’s AVA, the Riesling from The Storm Cellar is grown at 6,000 feet, one of Riesling’s highest elevation sites in the world. This wine is a welcome guest at any table. Generous with aromas of ripe stone fruit, summer peach blossom, and fleshy lemon, the palate is vibrant with notes of lemon pith, subtle apricot, and stony minerality.
The Sonoma-based Moon Mountain vineyards, which grow this elegant Sauvignon Blanc, are located at 1,600 feet along the western slopes of the Mayacamas Mountain. Boasting well-draining volcanic soils, cooling Pacific Ocean breezes, and an excellent sunny aspect, the vineyard’s Sauvignon Blanc has found a happy home here. Fruit aromas are subtle and fresh with notes of apricot, fragrant jasmine, and lemon zest. This wine leads with an energetic vibrancy that also delivers a soft, textural finish.
Waynesboro-based Lightwell Survey has made a name for itself for putting out thought-provoking wines. From the vivid label artwork for each selection to the beautifully crafted wines inside the bottle, this producer has helped put Virginia on the map. This wine is less of a rosé and more of an orange wine made from a unique blend of 65% Pinot Gris, 15% Blaufränkisch, 10% Petit Manseng, and 10% Riesling. Brambly fruit, intriguing earthiness, and a particular savoriness on the palate, this wine is an excellent conversation starter.
Evocative of classic Provençal Grenache-based rosé, this wine is delightfully transportive. This is undoubtedly the intent of Rob Hammelman of Tucson-based Sand-Reckoner, who spent a few harvests in the Rhône Valley. Lush and berrylicious with notes of macerated strawberry and raspberry coulis, this wine is bright and zippy with a lovely mineral-driven finish.
From a little growing area just north of Santa Fe, Vivác Winery has staked its claim as a commanding presence in the New Mexico wine industry. This friendly little rosé balances light nuances of summer berries with dried savory herbs, pleasant florality, and a refreshing finish.
For those who like to splurge a little bit for the holidays, this single-vineyard Pinot Noir is a showstopper. Walking the line between fruit-forward with lush notes of black cherry, plum, and figs—a result of partial whole-cluster fermentation—and earthy, elegant structure, with notes of dried herbs and mushrooms, this wine offers a great range of depth. The palate is floral, fruity, minerally, and dusty with a lingering finish of cocoa powder and ripe blackberry. This is a wine built for the holiday table that will undoubtedly inspire engaging conversation.
Planted in the Blue Mountains, just above the east Washington outpost of Walla Walla lies the Les Collines Vineyards. It’s a unique plot selected by Echolands business partners Doug Frost MS and MW, Brad Bergman, and Taylor Oswald as a promising site to show the prowess Syrah can exhibit in this region. Generous with red, black, and blue fruit aromas, this wine is framed by an alluring earthiness and subtle notes of pepper. This wine strikes a fine balance with bright tension and a full body chiseled with complexity on the palate.
Drawing on the warming and cooling benefits of the Finger Lakes, the vineyards for this Cabernet Franc struggle each year with the potential for harsh, damaging freezes. Yet, the resulting wines make this adversity seem effortless. Generous notes of blackberries and currants mingle with earthy notes of fresh tobacco, eucalyptus, and spice. The palate offers a full yet finessed body with fresh, nervy follow through to the finish.
There are rumblings that the 2016 vintage is one of the best Napa Valley has seen in years. This wine from the sunny slopes of Mt. Veeder is a shining example to reinforce that assertion. From one of the region’s most historic landmark producers, this Cabernet Sauvignon is any indication of that. An aromatic cast of characters greets the senses, including dark, brambly forest fruit and high-toned red cranberry followed by dried violet, cocoa dust, and a whisper of vanilla. The palate is powerful yet softened with ultra-fine tannins and layers of structure. This is an incredibly textured wine worth savoring now but will undoubtedly benefit from more time in the cellar.
A rare example of American Sagrantino, a native variety of Umbria Italy, this wine is from one of the few plantings in the United States. Known for its brawny structure and bold flavor, this variety’s true identity shines through in this wine. Intensely rich in color in the glass, this wine exhibits lush notes of jammy blackberry, currant, and ripe pomegranate. Rich and full with elegant, earthy complexity, balanced oak aging has imparted a soft, vanillin character backed by warm baking spices and a friendly, lingering finish. An excellent match for heftier holiday fare. Steak anyone?
This Malbec is rich and elegant, with an alluring earthiness reminiscent of its native roots in the French Cahors region. Finished with a touch of Petite Sirah for a hint of added depth and concentration, this wine is deep in color with aromas of blackberry, cherry, fragrant violet, and wet forest floor. On the palate, the fruit is embraced by tobacco, cocoa powder, and soft tannin. Enjoy with heavier fare such as grilled or braised meats.
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