Even the biggest fans of cabernet sauvignon start seeking out pinot noir for their holiday tables when Thanksgiving rolls around. Is there one wine that pairs better with juicy turkey, sweet potatoes, cranberries, and stuffing than pinot noir? Too bad it wasn’t around for the Pilgrims and Native Americans to toast each other with back at the first Thanksgiving.
Here are 20 good pinot noirs, each quite nice in its own way. They come from around the world and represent a wide range of prices, from under $20 to well into the three digits. Connoisseurs should take a special look at the array of pinots from Napa's Etude winery, which sources great fruit from California, Oregon, and New Zealand for this collection. And for classic Burgundy lovers, Drouhin presents some lean, hauntingly fragrant wines for drinking now or stowing away until Thanksgiving 2020.
Bouchaine Napa Valley Vin Gris de Pinot Noir 2015 ($24). Vin gris — literally "gray wine” — is an old French term for lightly colored pinot noir (in essence, rosé), and this one is a very flexible food wine, very lively, with good strawberry flavors, a crisp finish, and light, refreshing hints of tannins.
Noble Vines “667” Monterey Pinot Noir 2014 ($12). Nice, if not overwhelming, with dark cherry flavor and mild tannins — earthy, a little savory, and full-bodied.
Peter Zemmer Rollhutt Alto Adige Pinot Noir 2015 ($18). Enjoyable wine from northeastern Italy, with some green, herbal notes to go with the spicy cherry flavors.
Marc Mondavi Divining Rod Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2014 ($19). Candied fruit at the beginning with a savory finish.
Leyda Las Brisas Leyda Valley Pinot Noir 2013 ($20). Quite nice in a brisk, tart way with tangy fruit and pleasant bitters around the edges.
Robert Mondavi Carneros Pinot Noir 2014 ($27). Big and full-bodied with ripe, complex, dark cherry flavors and some mild tannins.
Frank Family Carneros Pinot Noir 2014 ($35). A very elegant pinot with haunting fruit aromas and flavors that waft in and out as you sip; light in body, but with a firm presence.
Leyda Lot 21 Leyda Valley Pinot Noir 2013 ($36). Complex and quite nice with flavors of rose petals, dark cherries, hints of vanilla, and cola with refreshing bitters at the end.
Etude Fiddlestix Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir 2014 ($45). A delightful wine of substance with dark cherry flavor, lots of stuffing, and excellent body.
Etude Grace Benoist Carneros Pinot Noir 2014 ($45). Tightly wound and well-structured with raspberry and savory notes, dusty tannins, and a mellow finish.
Etude North Canyon Santa Maria Pinot Noir 2014 ($45). Earthy with dark cherry flavors, lots of stuffing, and a smooth finish.
Etude Bannockburn Central Otago Pinot Noir 2014 ($60). Very good, a lovely New Zealand entry with velvety raspberry fruit, a fragrance of violets, and dusty tannins.
Etude Ellenbach Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2014 ($60). Friendly raspberry and strawberry fruitiness — Burgundian in style — with assertive, lean complexity that promises a long life.
Etude Yamhill Vista Yamhill-Carlton Pinot Noir 2014 ($60). From Oregon. Lean raspberries with lots of earthy, mushroom notes and a mild tang.
Pahlmeyer “Jayson” Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2014 ($60). Very juicy and well-structured with fresh but dark cherry flavor, a hint of cream, and a slightly tangy finish — adorable.
Craggy Range “Aroha” Te Muna Martinborough Pinot Noir 2013 ($69). A delightful wine, creamy with dark cherry flavor, a lean finish, and integrated tannins — a seducer than will grow in complexity with age.
Joseph Drouhin Vosne-Romanée 2014 ($94.50). Lovely mix of strawberry and raspberry fruits, good mouth feel, lean with dusty tannins — quite good.
Joseph Drouhin Chambolle-Musigny Ier Cru 2014 ($106). Definitely a food wine with great raspberry flavor; a little tangy and lean.
Joseph Drouhin Chassagne-Montrachet Morgeot Marquis de Laguiche 2014 ($130). Full-bodied with notes of green herbs, exotic spices, good acidity, and some pleasant toasty flavors.
Joseph Drouhin Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru 2014 ($283). Marvelous nose with complex dark fruits, mushrooms, and other earthy notes and lots of complexity, yet a lean wine with a crisp finish. It would be a shame to drink this wine prematurely — give it another three to five years if you can wait.