Thanksgiving Wine: Gran Moraine, Pinot Noir, Yamhill-Carlton, Oregon 2013

Thanksgiving can be hell.  What wine will work?  Food pairing is not the problem. It is people pairing (read here).  In past posts, I have leaned on my French crutch of Beaujolais (here and here).  Both a good Nouveau or Village will slide seamlessly along with all that salt, fat, and regret.  But this is silly.  Just because Nouveau releases a week before Turkey Day does not merit its place on the table.  Also, most Beaujolais are too tart and lean for most guests.

Thanksgiving is an American holiday.  The food is American.  The people usually are too.  We should drink something American.  What better way to match local, bold, rustic foods than with wine from home?

I am from Oregon, but I rarely review our Pinot Noir.  Oregon Pinot can have enough complexity and concentration, without being too tannic, heavy, or alcoholic to kill the meal. So, let us show thanks this holiday with something safe.

Gran Moraine, Pinot Noir, Yamhill-Carlton, Oregon 2013


Now, Kendall Jackson planted Gran Moraine Vineyard in 2005 . Local feeling is mixed over KJ’s invasion of Oregon.  But Gran Moraine was slated to become condos with slices of their own vineyards.  It could have been worse.

They sit on the Western fringe of the Yamhill-Carlton AVA. Cool breeze, rain, and classic Northwestern cloud cover keep ripening gradual.  The soil is rich, red, and volcanic.


KJ also hires right. Winemaker and Estate Manager, Eugenia Keegan knows her Pinot. She interned in Volnay and Puligny-Montrachet, made wine at local Four Graces, and consults in Russian River Valley and the Roussillon.  She has managed to bridge the gap for Oregonian KJ haters.


Eugenia Keegan (

2013 started warm and dry but ended with cool, wet, classic, Oregon weather. Harvest delayed into early October. After a hand sort and gravity feed into open tanks, the various lots went through tailored cold macerations and fermentations. Ten months followed in 41% new French Oak barrels.

So, what might your guests expect?

APPEARANCE Clear, medium intensity purple core, with limpid clear ruby rims

AROMAS Medium intense, young, dense cranberry syrup, red cherry, orange peel, gingerbread, dried rosemary, iron shavings.

PALATE: Dry, medium plus acidity, edgy, woody medium plus tannins, medium alcohol, medium body.

FLAVORS: dried cranberries, gingerbread, ginger, orange peel, dried tobacco leaf, rosemary that lasts a medium plus length.

Gran Moraine’s 2013 Pinot Noir is compact, young, but hardly heavy nor cumbersome.  It has food hungry acidity and tannins.  Yet it feels lush and smooth (for Oregon) enough to please most American palates.  I would advise decanting it an hour or two prior to the feast.   Its flavors scream Fall harvest.  At around $45, it is very good (4 of 5) you get what you pay for.   My wife admits, “it tastes expensive”.

So, this Thanksgiving you will not please everybody but do try. Think local. Think interesting but approachable. There will be enough to fight over. Let wine smooth out the creases.


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