Clos Fornelli “La Robe d’Ange” Rouge 2020

Distributor and Importer: Potomac Selections Inc.

regular: $22.99

SALE: $17.99

One of my favorite things about the Thanksgiving holiday is the table’s transformation into a diverse, sprawling, culinary playground. Plentiful dishes of varied or diametrically opposing texture, flavor profile, and richness are presented at once - a multi-course tasting menu served in synchrony. As far as pairings go, the challenge is to select wines capable of accompanying this delicious display of chaos. My repertoire for Thanksgiving wine picks is a lengthy one, but a show stopping Corsican red has risen to the top of my list this year.

The Clos Fornelli property is located on the eastern side of Corsica, above the town of Aleria on the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea. Josee Vanucci and her husband Fabrice Couloumere own and operate the property which spans 45 hectares, 18 of which are planted to vines. Organically farmed, the vines are nestled in the clay and alluvial soil along the Bravone River in the Castagniccia mountain range. Deep soil provides good water retention even during dry summer months, and cooler nights thanks to the seaside mountainous location preserve freshness of fruit and aromatics in the grapes. These factors, along with intentionally low yields and Josee and Fabrice’s minimal intervention winemaking techniques, result in incredibly expressive, pure wines.

The 2020 “La Robe d’Ange” Rouge is produced from 100% Sciaccarellu fermented in tank with wild yeast, then aged 7-10 months in concrete vats before bottling. It pours a lovely pale ruby in the glass, and reveals aromas of red cherries, strawberry, violets, raspberry preserves, figs, persimmon, and thyme. The palate is light and vibrant, with an underlying minerality and bright acidity that makes it a great option for the Thanksgiving feast. This wine is a charmer. It will hold up to bold flavors, but won’t overpower more delicate ones. It can easily be enjoyed on its own while you’re chopping veggies and debating just how much butter to put into the mashed potatoes. This is simply a fantastic wine regardless of set and setting, so grab a few bottles for your holiday meal and keep one on hand for leftovers the next day.

-Lauren Loeffler

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Calstar Cellars ZaZa Zinfandel 2017

Distributor: Atlantic Wine & Spirits

regular: $19.99

SALE: $15.99

For me, the most important part of Thanksgiving is the people. The coming together of different generations, demographics, and walks of life for one big meal is beautiful, but can create challenges when I’m deciding what wine I want to bring (and as anyone in the wine industry can tell you, Thanksgiving is one of those holidays where you are expected to shine). You need to bring something cool, but not so out there that you scare everyone away. This year I’ll be bringing the Calstar Cellars ZaZa Zinfandel.

This wine has it all: its friendliness allows it to appeal to the entire guest list, while those more wine-centric minds may find a delightful amount of savory, herbal complexity that isn’t often present in Lodi Zinfandel. This is because owner and winemaker Rick Davis set out to create a Zinfandel made his way. He didn’t want to fall into the over-extracted, fruity, jam juice trap that catches many Zin producers.

The grapes come from old vines located in the Stokes Vineyard of Lodi, and a blend of Hungarian and American oak is used in production. The wine has flavors of juicy wild raspberries and gooseberries that is balanced by an herb garden of mint, sage, and thyme. Fresh acidity and velvety tannins lead the way in a long finish that keeps your palate refreshed between bites. Bring this to your Thanksgiving dinner,

as it’s a wine that has something for everyone at the table.

-Jake Groenke

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Domaine Cheveau Saint Amour “Villa Violettes” 2018

Distributor: Potomac Selections Inc.

Importer: Rosenthal Wine Merchants

regular: $29.99

SALE: $23.99

This year, my Thanksgiving wine selection is from the most northerly Cru (Village) of Beaujolais, Domaine Cheveau Saint Amour "Villa Violettes". In my opinion Beaujolais is one of the most versatile and food- friendly wines in the world. It is soft enough to not over-power Turkey, and fruity enough to work with everything else. This 100% Gamay is slightly darker than many of its counterparts. Aromatic notes of dark and brambly berries, smoke, mineral, violet, and spice. The palate is also delightful with a perfect balance of ripe, fresh cranberries and mild tannin. Grab a bottle and Gobble Gobble it down! Cheers!

-Danny Zetlmeisl

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Belle Pente Pinot Gris 2015

Distributor: Roanoke Valley Wine Company

regular: $22.99

SALE: $17.99

Thanksgiving cuisine calls for an expressive and autumnal wine. Alsatian white wines are often bandied about as the perfect pairing for unique blend of flavors and textures that Thanksgiving dishes provide, but what if you want to consume something domestic for this uniquely American holiday? Enter Belle Pente Pinot Gris, floral and inviting with a gentle, gossamer texture.

Pinot Gris (or Pinot Grigio, as it is more commonly referred to) can be insipid, blousy, and bland at times, but Belle Pente is decidedly none of the above: a unique bouquet of white and yellow flowers, poached pear, and yeasty, cidery goodness (almost reminiscent of the autolytic, biscuity notes of a Blanc de Blancs Champagne). The palate is generous and round without sacrificing subtlety nor verve.

The vinification process is methodical and patient. After fermentation, half of the wine is moved to large, used oak casks, while the rest remains in stainless steel on the lees. Here it will remain for a year until, the night before harvest the following year, it is bottled and cellared. Then, it is given ample time to mature in bottle before finally being released years later.

You would rightly be skeptical of 6 year old Pinot Grigio under other circumstances, but Belle Pente is designed from the ground up to benefit from this extended ageing process. Far from being a dusty, old, and tired white wine, the 2015 is current vintage for this Pinot Gris. For a wine of this maturity, there is still a truly impressive amount of freshness to balance out the complex, tertiary flavors that have evolved in concert. A wine that is captivating in its uniqueness, but nonetheless approachable and fun for a broad spectrum of tastes and preferences.

-Andrew Sayers

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Envínate Albahra 2020

Distributor: Potomac Selections Inc.

Importer: Llaurador Wines

regular: $22.99

SALE: $17.99

I know what you are thinking: “How could Dre possibly find a wine to pair with the immensely complex kaleidoscope of flavors that he will masterfully create through artisanal cuisine on this year’s autumnal turkey day?  What wine could be medium bodied, rich in texture, have a mineral brightness as well as juicy and spicy palette? Could a wine of this caliber even exist?” The answer will shock you: Yes. Albahra from Evinate fits these criteria.  Juicy and fun with a serious side, this wine is a blend of Garnacha Tintorera and Moravia Agria from the southern tip of Castilla-La Mancha, Spain.  Pairs well with anything turkey day has to throw at you, including that awkward talk about politics with your extended family.  Gobble Gobble!

-Andrew Thorp

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Champalou Brut Vouvray

Distributor: Presitge-Ledroit Distributing Company

Importer: Kermit Lynch Wine Merchants

regular: $29.99

SALE: $23.99

When bring wine to a holiday meal with family and friends, I like to bring something that goes with many dishes. Something that is fun to drink by oneself, as well as enjoyable for a diverse crowd. Sparkling wine is a great way to enjoy the overindulgence of the Thanksgiving meal, and to celebrate and be thankful for sharing this time with the ones we love. Looking outside of Champagne to other well known wine regions of France, such as Alsace and, in this case, the Loire Valley, is a great way to find high quality French sparkling wine at a great value. There is nothing like bubbles to settle an overstuffed belly, and this fruity-yet-dry Chenin Blanc should please the whole crowd.

This 100% Chenin Blanc wine is grown in clay and limestone soil using sustainable farming practices. Secondary fermentation takes place in bottle (traditional method), aged on lees for two years, then disgorged and recorked. This wine offers a nose of white flower, ripe gold apple and pear, and hints of stone. On the palate, ripe apple and tropical fruit are on the forefront with a touch of minerality. This a brightly acidic and juicy wine that should seamlessly pair with all of your traditional and non-traditional Thanksgiving Day fare. Happy holidays, cheers, and thank you.

-Matthew Supik

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Bellenos Heritage Red 2020

Distributor: Winebow

Importer: Loosen Brothers

regular: $17.99

SALE: $13.99

Burgundy is expensive. Burgundy is also perfect for Thanksgiving, due to its lighter body and classic flavors of red berries and earth. Yet, there is no need for despair- Burgundy is still (but just barely) home to delicious and affordable wine. The region is associated with the Pinot Noir grape, which is difficult to both grow and make wine from, and is thus usually expensive. However, the Gamay grape (of Beaujolais fame/infamy) is also grown in Burgundy, and it is much easier to grow and vinify, resulting in less expensive wine. By combining Pinot Noir and Gamay, winemakers can create bottlings that truly express Burgundy without breaking the bank.

The 2020 Bellenos red blend (Coteaux Bourguignons) is a perfect example of this: a blend of 80% Gamay and 20% Pinot Noir, it marries the best qualities of both grapes. The Bellenos is soft, dark, and juicy (the Gamay showcasing Burgundy’s granitic soils), while remaining light and lifted with tannin and acid (the structure coming from Pinot grown on limestone). Notes show ripe plums with red and black cherries and faint smoke, leather, and earth. It is light enough to pair with the diversity of flavors that make up a Thanksgiving table, but substantial and fruit-forward enough to stand on its own. And unlike 99% of tasty Burgundies, it costs $13.99 a bottle!

Side notes: The Bellenos is a project of the excellent Burgundy producer Nicolas Potel. If you would like to experiment with other Burgundian Pinot/Gamay blends, we often carry Passetoutgrain; French for “all the grapes pass”. Passetoutgrain features both red grapes, but it must have a higher percentage of Pinot Noir. These are thus more expensive (usually starting around $30 a bottle) and are often a bit more austere and less fruit forward than the Bellenos.

-Kasimir Bujak

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COS Frapatto 2020

Distributor and Importer: Roanoke Valley Wine Company

regular: $29.99

SALE: $23.99

Thanksgiving, simplified, is an appreciation of the land's bounty. The winemakers at Azienda Agricola COS make their wine with a similar appreciation by respecting what nature offers and not asking for more. Founded by three friends in Vittoria, Sicily, Azienda Agricola COS follows the principles of biodynamic farming in order to help the vines find and maintain a balance with nature in order to be able to express their true character and that of their terroir. Biodynamic practices not only use organic farming methods, but holistically tends land and the vine. Their wines are fermented spontaneously with native yeasts and aged in neutral vessels (amphorae) as to not impose any uncharacteristic qualities. 

The Frappato from Azienda Agricola COS is my pick for Thanksgiving this year. Let's face it: turkey can be pretty dry, so the super light body and bright juicy red fruit of Frappato is just what I want to wash it down with. The nose of crunchy cherry, strawberry and raspberry is followed by low tannins and a medium acidity that makes this wine fresh and glou glou. So go ahead and pour yourself another glass to go with your next round of helpings I know I will!

-Sheena Callage