Bet Noir

There may be some overblown myths attached to the Thanksgiving holiday, but that bit about the Pinot Noir and the turkey dinner is not one of them. The Burgundy works with the bird and all the heart-burning miscellany that surrounds it on the table.

Still, those of us tasked only with choosing the right bottle of wine for the feast really owe it to those others, who are laboring over hot stoves and hand-stuffing the posterior cavities of large, dead birds, to put in a little extra effort and bring variety to the table.

You’re going to want a butterball on the table, and I’m not talking about the turkey. Unless you’re having an unconventional meal of white fish with a squeeze of lemon, that unoaked, lean style of Chard may not cut it. Go big. Go butterball, or go Chalk Hill 2013 Estate Chardonnay ($42). It’s got a good hit of quality oak and butterscotch, a sweet, round palate sensation, with juicy lemon and apple flavors that steer it well of cloying.

You want real apples, so try ACE Blackjack 21 ($15.99). This all-Gravenstein, limited edition is unlike other ACE ciders on the market; the color is deep gold, the aroma hints at cinnamon bark, and the flavors are deep with papaya and baked apple. Rich, full-bodied and fairly dry, this is aged in Chardonnay barrels. Aged in rye whiskey barrels, Tilted Shed’s new release of 2014 Barred Rock barrel-aged cider ($18) is a craft cider that promises a bit of that sweet whiskey flavor on the finish.

The best wine pairing for this holiday may be sparkling red wine—once you taste it, it’s not as oddball as it sounds. It’s festive, it’s red, it’s light on the palate, and it’s hard to find, but not if I tell you where to look: try Korbel Rouge ($14.99) or, if you’re up for a field trip, Mumm Sparkling Pinot Noir ($34.99) in Napa Valley or Harvest Moon 2013 Sparkling Pinot Noir ($42) and Zinfandel ($48) from Russian River Valley, available only at the winery.

As for the right Pinot Noir, it’s like picking a horse by her name alone, and I did OK with a bottle of Maggy Hawk 2012 Jolie Anderson Valley Pinot Noir ($65). From Jackson Family Wines, each wine in this series is named for a thoroughbred related to owner Barbara Banke’s favorite, Maggy Hawk. The medium-bodied Jolie shows muted aromas of mixed berry potpourri, rose hip tea and orange peel, and soft tannins texture the tang of cherry-cranberry fruit wrap just so.