Skin-contact white wines, commonly referred to as “orange wines” or “amber wines,” saw a major rise in popularity over the past few years with oenophiles clamoring to get their hands on these flavorful, personality-packed bottles. In addition to a darker hue, the presence of the grape skins imbue orange wines with deep, nuanced flavors and a hint of tannins. This creates engaging pours that pair excellently with a wide range of dishes, including a classic Thanksgiving spread. According to natural wine sommelier and orange wine expert Doreen Winkler of Orange Glou (a wine club dedicated to skin-contact bottles), “Thanksgiving is the best holiday meal to pair with orange wine. Roasted turkey, brussels sprouts with bacon, and sweet potato casseroles all bring out interesting notes from orange wines, and vice versa. Orange wine is often more complex than many white wines, but it doesn’t overwhelm lighter dishes the way some red wines would.”
If you’d like to give orange wines a try this Thanksgiving, consider these 5 American-born bottles, all personally recommended by Winkler.
AmByth Estate Coquelicot Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc O.W. 2019 ($28)
An orange wine hailing from Santa Barbara, California, AmByth Estate Coquelicot Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc O.W. 2019 features a medium body and a beautiful (and very autumnal) amber color (see photo above). Winkler tells us that this wine “is not what you expect Sauvignon Blanc to be like. It is rich and medium-bodied, but, at the same time, airy and extremely juicy with aromas of apricot skins, kiwi, lychee and ripe peach. This makes it a great match for sweet potato fries, oven-roasted turkey and many other dishes on the Thanksgiving table. The texture of the wine works with the oven-roasted turkey and the beautiful fruit notes make the sweet potatoes shine, showcasing their sweetness more.”
Donkey & Goat “Stone Crusher” Roussanne 2018 ($36)
The Roussanne grape, a varietal native to the Rhône Valley in France (but also grown in the United States), produces full-bodied white wines with appealingly floral and herbaceous notes. Winkler tells us that Donkey & Goat, a vineyard in El Dorado, California, “started making skin-fermented Roussanne back in 2007 before the term ‘orange wine’ was even coined. It was initially made this way in hopes of driving the natural fermentation to completion, but by 2009, founders Jared & Tracey Brandt decided the potential for such a wine—especially with food pairings—was extraordinary, and they never looked back.” The 2018 Stone Crusher is the eleventh vintage in this series, and Winkler considers it an ideal choice for Thanksgiving dinner: “The wine is medium to full bodied with aromas of juicy apricot, jasmine tea and a little smoke. It also really shines at the Thanksgiving table, especially with mashed sweet potatoes and oven-roasted vegetables like rainbow carrots. It brings out the natural sweetness of the vegetables.”
Jolie-Laide Pinot Gris 2019 ($28)
Jolie-Laide in Sonoma, California specializes in small-batch releases made in a meticulous fashion with painstaking attention to detail. Winkler says that in order to craft this orange Pinot Gris, “whole-cluster grapes are picked early to preserve acidity and [are] crushed by foot. [Then, the grapes] cold-soak for 3 days, which adds phenolic texture while also lending a beautiful rosé Champagne-like color. [The wine] wild ferments in a combination of stainless and neutral oak, then is aged all in neutral barrique.” The result? “[A] Pinot Gris [that] is medium-bodied, with aromas of bergamot (citrus), makrut lime, and apricot. The tannins are super soft and the wine’s texture is very layered. This will go very well with roasted turkey breast with gravy and cranberry sauce. The wine balances the earthy notes of the gravy and turkey, while the cranberry sauce brings out the wine’s fruit flavors.”
Los Pilares “LaDona” Muscat 2019 ($26)
When it comes to wine trends, this sparkling Muscat from San Diego is both an orange wine and a “pétillant naturel” (pét-nat). Los Pilares LaDona undergoes both tank and bottle fermentation, and the wine isn’t filtered before bottling, so you’ll find sediment settling at the bottom of the bottle. “The wine is medium-bodied with tiny bubbles, and [it] has aromas of grapefruit, citrus oil, mango, passion fruit, wild honey, freesia and ginger. This is a great start to the Thanksgiving meal or pre-dinner snacking, especially with cheeses like manchego and goat cheese, and grapes. The wine is sort of ‘creamy;’ it melds with the goat cheese and can stand up to the more flavorful manchego thanks to its rich texture,” explains Winkler.
Bloomer Creek Skin-Fermented Gewürztraminer Pétillant Naturel 2019 ($33)
The Finger Lakes wine region in upstate New York has an illustrious history of producing remarkable vintages, particularly those involving grapes that thrive in cooler temperatures. Gewürztraminer, a white grape native to Germany, serves as a prime example of Finger Lakes viticultural success. Bloomer Creek Vineyard in Hector, NY uses Gewürztraminer to make a pét-nat that Winkler describes as “light-bodied with minerality, [with]tiny but very consistent bubbles [and] aromas of rose petals, ginger, yeast and salted mango. This wine will go well with crispy latkes with salmon roe for a festive Thanksgiving appetizer. The bubbles cleanse the palate while the beautiful minerality balances the saltiness of the salmon roe. The first release of this pét-nat was just a couple months ago. It is wild yeast fermented, unfined and unfiltered, not disgorged and [made with] zero SO2 added.”
Taylor Tobin is a Brooklyn-based food, beverage, and lifestyle journalist with bylines at HuffPost, Insider, Wine Enthusiast, Observer, and Chilled Magazine, among others. When she isn’t eating, drinking, or writing, she enjoys riding her bike, hanging out with her dog Marty, and watching reality shows (the sillier, the better!). Twitter: @teetobes. Instagram: @tee_tobes