Yesterday's Thanksgiving dinner reaffirmed my feeling that no two varietals are more flexible at the table than riesling and pinot noir. It helps when the wines are ample in build, complex in flavor, and sharp in acidity, as these were.
In addition to a traditionally roasted turkey, the dinner included a stuffing rich with bacon and sweet with caramelized pearl onions, two kinds of cranberry relishes (one spicy with jalapeno chile peppers, the other zesty with orange), mashed sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts with coffee-glazed macadamia nuts, carrots with Moroccan spices, a spinach salad with persimmons, and whipped white potatoes with a gravy I oversalted. That range of flavors and textures is a lot to ask of any wine, but both the riesling and the pinot noir had the muscle and fruit to not only hold their own but enhance each dish, except for maybe the gravy.
The wines were the peachy and applely Madrona Vineyards 2005 El Dorado "Black Label" Riesling (sold out; just 23 cases were made) and the Merry Edwards Wines 2005 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir ($39). That was a very good year in Northern California, to judge by the complexity and balance of both these wines. In fact, as I flip back through my tasting notes for 2005 pinot noirs from California appellations - Santa Lucia Highlands, Anderson Valley and Carneros, as well as Russian River Valley - the vintage looks to have been especially strong throughout the North State, something worth keeping in mind by anyone looking to please a pinot-noir fan with a year-end gift.