Local Chefs On Why Riesling is the Best Thanksgiving Wine

By: 
Leslie Kelly
Duhnam Cellars 2009 Late Harvest Riesling and Poet's Leap 2008 Riesling took the prize for "Best Sweet Wine" (in their respective price points) in our 2012 Best Washington Wine Awards

Wine is my absolute favorite condiment on the Thanksgiving table; it's an important supporting character at the feast, but not necessarily the star. After many years of searching for that perfect complement to all the diverse flavors at the mother of all traditional meals, Riesling from Washington State has become my go-to wine on the third Thursday of every November. Just like cranberry sauce, it’s a little bit sweet but has a snappy kick to it, too.

I took a poll of a few chefs and beverage wranglers and – hooray – found solid validation for my choice. Here are the pros' juicy Riesling picks for Thanksgiving dinner:

Renee Erickson (The Whale Wins, Boat Street Café, The Walrus and The Carpenter) is a big fan of COR Cellars in little old Lyle, Wash., down Columbia Gorge way. She gives a thumbs up to both their Riesling and the Alba COR, a blend of Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer from Celilo Vineyard. 

Thierry Rautureau (Rover’s, LUC): “Chateau Ste. Michelle’s Eroica is very balanced, has a nice floral nose and beautiful long finish. Serve it cool but not too chilled.”

Jason Wilson from CRUSH: “I swear by Poets Leap Riesling from Long Shadows. It's made by Arman Diehl. It’s a great, versatile wine, so perfect with the whole dinner at Thanksgiving.”

Adam Chumas, beverage director for Tom Douglas restaurants: I’m a big fan of the Efeste Evergreen Riesling and the Kung Fu Girl Riesling. They both have zippy acidity and are low on residual sugar. Not to mention, Kung Fu Girl is a super value at $12. The Efeste costs a few more bucks, I think around $18 retail, but is a beautiful example of what Washington can do with Riesling. The Evergreen site where the fruit is sourced from is cool, so the fruit doesn’t get overblown. The wines come out pleasantly aromatic and textured on the palate.”

Anthony Polizzi, chef de cuisine at Steelhead Diner: “When looking for a Riesling, I prefer one that has a little sweetness to it. Considering its partnership with a Thanksgiving Feast, I think it is important however that the wine has a some acid to stand up to the richness of all those mashed potatoes, candied yams, gravies, stuffings and, of course, turkey on the table. And for that, Chateau St. Michelle's 2011 Eroica Riesling, from the Columbia Valley, rocks! What makes this even more special is that St. Michelle, which has a 40-year history of growing diverse Rieslings in Washington State, partnered with Ernst Loosen, a highly regarded German Riesling producer for this project.”

Brian Scheehser, executive chef from Trellis: “I have two that I like a lot; Chateau St Michelle Eroica and Long Shadows Poets Leap both from the Colombia Valley. I’ve already put a couple of bottle in the fridge.”

Craig Serbousek from Crow and Betty: “I tend to drink Rieslings from Germany and Alsace (my wife is a wine importer; she gets to chose the Rieslings), but have found Dr. Loosen's Eroica to be a good Washington state Riesling.”

Rachel Yang (Revel, Joule): I just love Two Mountains Riesling. It has a hint of hay, green pear and wild flowers combined with incredible tastes of ripe citrus, green apple and wonderful minerality with a light, dry finish. This wine lasts forever on your tongue and makes you remember why summer is so great!"

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