Tag Archives: Thanksgiving Wine

Thanksgiving 2017 Postmortem

25 Nov

Plan: To pair Thanksgiving Dinner with 1) an all-American group of wines, 2) from the wines currently in my cellar.

Challenge Accepted! Since I am an admitted former old world/French wine snob, my cellar does not lean towards a lot of American wines, but I was certain I could do this. I did not give myself time to worry, think, or shop, as I mix the live PA portion of NBC’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and spendthrift  96 hours prior to the meal totally obsessed with the broadcast, not the meal or wines.

READY?

 

GO!

 

Pre-game: something light with a hint of sweetness. Searched my cellar for a bottle of Nimmo or Nuvola from Markus Niggli, but resorted to a great standby from NY State: Dr. Konstantin Frank.

KICKOFF! To begin the meal I wanted a sparkling rosé for a toast, and my guests who would rather drink sparkling the entire meal. I recently touted and planned to serve a great sparkling wine from Sonoma County. I searched my cellar and was lacking American sparkling (I failed twice in a row? Am I getting old?) But a beautiful charm-method Prosecco, a spumante rosé blend of pinot noir and raboso by Carpene Malvolti came to the rescue, and served some of our guests throughout the entire meal! 

2nd Quarter: After the toast, we began a vegetable/beef soup course which features very fresh, sweet vegetables. For this, I wanted a white wine with high acidity that could pair with the savory beef. In replacing my historic Bordeaux blanc blend, I considered viognier & chardonnay, but finally settled on a Rhône clone of Grenache Blanc from Acquiesce featuring a full-bodied mouthfeel and great acidic backbone.

 

 

HALFTIME! As the main meal was being served, I poured first rosé of pinot Vicarious Rosé from Modus Operandi Cellars, and then moved on to the more full-bodied Grenache Rosé from Acquiesce. Both of these are small allocation wines that sell out immediately: Jason Moore of Modus only makes one barrel (25 cases) of his rosé at the demand of his longtime fans; Sue Tipton, owner/winemaker of Acquiesce, sells out her rosé as soon as her club allocation is fulfilled. These wines are quite different but share some similar qualities:  both have the perfect balance of  red fruit and soaring acidity, beautiful freshness and tremendous  vivaciousness. Each represents the grape from which it is made, and the rosé of pinot is delicate, creamy and floral in flavor and palate, while the Grenache rosé has bold fruit, more acids and tannins, and a fuller mouthfeel. Both wines are tremendous at pairing a meal comprised of savory meat, a cornbread stuffing with cranberry and brussel sprouts, green beans and slivered almonds, a rich and savory sweet potato casserole, and fresh cranberry sauce.

 

 

3rd Quarter! As the meal progressed, some wine drinkers automatically start looking for red grapes. So the next set of wines are obvious: pinot noir! I have been thinking about this meal all year long, and changed up my game. On the lighter side, the perfumed nose and delicate mouthfeel of Harmonique’s 2009 vintage The Noble One Pinot from Alexander Valley, while compared to a just-released, full-bodied, more heavily structured Sonoma Coast 2015 pinot noir from Rivers-Marie, hailing from Calisotga, Ca. Simply delicious, each one hit a slightly different series of notes with food to serve the palate wonderfully. While I poured small tastes and then full glasses for some guests, others like myself wanted short pours to be able to change up sips of heaven between bites of dinner.

 

 

On The Bench/Special Teams:  Bold red wine! I had a big, bold red wine from a Napa producer on reserve at the serving table, but ended up not opening it. Even my big, bold red wine lovers were satisfied with the two pinot noir offered. But for special teams, with dessert we enjoyed a stunning mulled wine (Cabernet Sauvignon mulled with brandy, spices and fruit) made by a wine & spirits specialist who graced our dinner and brought this our delight. YUM! Extra Points!

 

Postgame: my plan had some flaws.  Not having a brut rosé from California was a major sticking point, I had to dock myself 12.5%.  But the food & wine pairings and guests drinking pleasure were both great successes, which received full marks! I give myself a B+  on this challenge. 

 

What did YOU drink this year for Thanksgiving?

 

à votre santé!

Prepping for Thanksgiving 2017

22 Nov

Thanksgiving. It’s that time of year. When my in-box fills up with questions about what wines people should serve with dinner. But I’ve spent the last several weeks in a whirlwind of one-off specialty shows for work, road trips, and trade shows. I’ve been lax  in both my tasting and writing, so apologies while I catch up.

Perhaps you’re expecting me to roll out a re-hash of some fan favorites for Thanksgiving, like

“Prepare with Pinot!” , or

“Thanksgiving Wine Street Exchange with a Beer Drinker”

I have posts dating back seven years. It’s fun to see posts from 2010, talking about how well the ’05 and ’06 wines were drinking, and what I was buying for $10/bottle. For me, it’s even more fun to see how much I’ve learned about world wines, and the US-based wines and winemakers I have come to adore and respect as much as the old-world I’ve honored for decades.

So let’s talk about Thanksgiving. I’ve said this before: The meal is decidedly American. So I urge you to serve American wines! For years I simply served what I liked (French wines) before having the (obvious-to-all-but-me) realization that the uniquely American holiday really deserved local wines. So I hit the cellar (or the wine store) and pull bottle after bottle of tremendous American wines, as I hope you will do. And here’s what you want to look for:

Rosé, Pinot Noir, & Sparkling.  

Drink pink. Why not? The meal is full of savory dishes that need a wine with acidity but not an overpowering fruit profile. This has both the delicacy of white wine with the muscle and linearity of a good red. Pairing? Turkey or ham, yam or Idaho potato, stuffing, gravy, you name it- you want a wine with high acidity that can stand up to the cranberry sauce! The world finally fell back in love with rosé- and again, why not? It’s great juice to enjoy, it’s relatively easy (or fast) for winemakers to create compared to some other wines, and you can get great rosé wines for lower prices. Most importantly, it pairs beautifully with the meal.  

Three of my personal favorites are from California: Jason Moore’s Modus Operandi Rosé of Pinot, Sue Tipton’s Acquiesce Grenache of Rosé (now sold out thanks to a great Wine Enthusiast Rating)  and Iconic Wine’s Secret Identity.

Look, a bunch of people make really good rosé, but the three I’m listing are simply great. They are stunning wines, and a tremendous value if you’re willing to spend the time to source them. I certainly do, and plunk down my credit card whenever I can to get more. If you taste them, you will likely do the same; as they are amazing rosés that just one taste will make you a believer.

 

Pinot Noir. Tiny grapes that are hard to grow and don’t produce much juice. Oh, but the juice they produce! Light to medium in body, beautiful aromatic nose, gentle flavors, regal in their acidity and tannin. The grape that is probably the most flexible in food pairings. I’m madly in love with this as a wine to pair with food of all types that have delicate flavor profiles as opposed to massive ones, like a rib eye steak or smoked brisket. So I look at pinot from all over California,  Oregon and Washington State. Some of my personal favorites include Sanford Winery,  Gary Farrell, Balletto Vineyards, Domaine Serene, Evening Land, Anne Amie, and Panther Creek Cellars.

Sparkling. It goes with everything. Great acidity, delicate flavors, perfect palate cleansing, and fun. What’s not to like?
All year long I spout about Cava, Prosecco and Champagne, but here in the USA we also make stellar sparkling. Gloria Ferrer, Schramsberg, Argyle, and Roederer Estate are just a few fabulous makers of sparkling here in the USA worth your hard-earned dollars.

And if I could only serve ONE bottle of wine for Thanksgiving? It’s extremely difficult. Normally I serve around six wines, for a table of 15-20 who have varying tastes. But I tried VERY hard this year, and finally picked three bottles out, that would serve the meal, and the wine lovers, to perfection:

Acquiesce 2016 Grenache Rosé  
Balletto 2016 Sexton Hill Pinot Noir, 
Gloria Ferrer 2014 Brut Rosé. 

And if there can be only one, the winner is:

Gloria Ferrer 2014 Brut Rosé

 

But I’d be damned if I couldn’t figure out a way to sneak the other two bottles in with me. Trust me… where there’s a will, there’s a way!

Stay tuned for my annual Thanksgiving postmortem,  where I discuss what wines I served, how the guests responded, and how well the food & wine pairings worked!

 

à votre santé!

 

 

 

 

My 2015 Thanksgiving Wines

24 Nov

It’s been a while since I was a guest at someone else’s home for Thanksgiving. But this year that’s our plan, to visit my wife’s sister upstate, “far, far, away”.  It’s such a trip that I actually have to fly there Thursday evening after I’m done working (I am an audio engineer on the NBC/Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade). It’s also a little weird that the East coast is unseasonably warm this time of year, and in general I expect the wine drinkers to be either into full-bodied reds or moderate whites, so my standard approach is definitely out. So here are the wines I’m sending up for Thanksgiving:

Sparkling/Delicate White: I’ve had two sparkling wines on standby but I’m shifting gears and going instead with the gently effervescent Vale Do Homem Arinto Vinho Verde ($8). Light on both the palate and in alcohol, it’s an easy, delightful wine for an appetizer or the non-wine drinkers who want a taste of something they will enjoy but rarely drink a full glass. I’ll know we’ll have three people who fit this category at the table this year.

Full-bodied White: This year, I’m dropping down from full-bodied white Bordeaux to a gentler Sancerre. 2014 Les Fossiles Domain Phillipe Raimbault Sancerre ($18) is refreshingly crisp of bright citrus and has smashing acidity. It’s  a white wine drinker’s dream in weather like this, gentle on the palate by itself but enough strength to cut through the savory and heavier dishes that dote the thanksgiving table. I expect it to be a crowd pleaser.

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Rosé:  Lelievre  Gris De Toul Rosé 2014 ($17). My readers know I love to serve a high end rosé, and this one is a great value. Superbly clean, crisp, and wonderful at cleansing the palate with nice acidity, delicate fruit and a nice mineral finish, from the Lorraine Valley.

Medium-Bodied Red: 2013 Lieu Dit Cabernet Franc, Santa Ynez Valley ($29). This wine knocked me out at a blind tasting recently and I thought, “what a killer Thanksgiving wine”. I’m putting my money where my mouth is and going for it, realizing that this knocks out my traditional pinot noir or cru beaujolais, but I’m excited to see how it stands up! I adored this wine at the tasting (and went back for more) and am excited to see how it fares with this meal of meals.

Full-Bodied Red: 2006 Château Larteau Grand Vin de Bordeaux ($18) . A mature, full-flavored red bordeaux blend that demonstrates excellent color, nose, and favor. Cassis, eucalyptus, and a touch of road tar give this wine the full body that red wine drinkers adore, and I know this as a consistent fan favorite in the under $20 range that compares well to wines at twice the price. My brother-in-law will love this wine and I expect we’ll be watching football and finishing the bottle together after the dishes are done.

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What wine is going on your Thanksgiving table this year?

À vôtre santé!

 

 

Thanksgiving Wine, 2013. “One Wine to Serve Them All”

23 Nov

Here’s my 2013 update on Wine for Thanksgiving. And may you be surrounded by loved ones and take time to enjoy and slow down, if only for the one day!

For the past few years I’ve written about my Thanksgiving preference to serve several wines at Thanksgiving, in order to suit both a range of courses over a long meal as well as to cater to different preferences of individuals in large groups. (*See my footnote below if you need a reminder.) Well I’m NOT talking about those today. Let’s talk about a SINGLE bottle of wine for Thanksgiving… not because it’s what I’ll serve, but because it’s what I’m constantly asked about at this time of year.

People regularly ask me to suggest ONE wine to pair with the traditional Thanksgiving meal that all their guests will enjoy. Others want a bottle to bring as a gift to someone else’s home that might or might not be served with the meal, so it should be appropriate for use on Thanksgiving or by the host at a later date.

A Thanksgiving Gift Wine, or One Wine for the Big Meal

If you are OK with red grapes, then you have to make a choice: Rosé or Gamay?
Option One: Rosé
. Relax: this is not the lousy rosé we grew up with that made so many wine lovers turn up their nose at the faintest idea of a pink wine. We shall only consider the well-made rosé wines that will pair beautifully with opening courses, make the cranberry sauce sing, and take your turkey to a higher level. My favorites here would be Modus Operandi’s Vicarious Rosé from California, or from Provence France’s Domaines Ott, Chateau de Selle Rosé. Both of these should have a street price in the $30-$40 range, and are highly worth the price for the religious experience they deliver. For the under-$20 crowd, there are very good rosé wines from Guigal,and locally from  Coppola (a 90 pointer called Sofia), and a good dozen other producers that you can find in most wine stores. Key phrase here is “what is the best rosé you carry that will pair well for the entire meal”? Last year I served the Vicarious Rosé during the soup course and had several guests drink it through to dessert, enjoying it thoroughly the entire evening.

Option Two: Beaujolais Nouveau,  the gamay grape’s fruity, light, fall season ‘fun’ wine. This is my other best option for a wine that can match with the entire meal. George DuBoeuf has the corner on the market, his nouveau wines will run you around $10-12 and are consistent, tasty and good. You can go up the ladder, however, with Domaine du Peuble’s 2012 Beaujolais Nouveau in the $12-16 range, or Jean Foillard Morgon Beaujolais, which runs in the mid $20’s. To give you an idea of the quality of this wine, famed chef Thomas Keller’s Bouchon restaurant in Beverly Hills is serving this with their prix fixe this week. For a few bucks more you can get a big jump in quality, but beaujolais nouveau is always fun to open and a good conversation piece.What could be easier for people who panic and don’t know what wine to bring? Here is your answer: Beaujolais Nouveau.

And for those readers who just don’t do red wine… I haven’t forgotten you. (Yes, Virginia, that rosé is made from red grapes.) For you, I’d suggest you consider whether you prefer either the serious white or a “lighter” white for your gift or single meal wine. In the serious realm, a white Bourdeaux Blend is always appreciated and appropriate for Thanksgiving and any time of year, or a white Burgundy will pair beautifully with this savory meal. You can find white bordeaux blends starting around $10 and up, and Burgundies about $16 and up, into the thousands per bottle… and if you can afford these upper tier wines, please invite yourself to my home for dinner!  Shifting to the lighter side, I often start by suggesting Riesling, and I’ll take that a step further: consider Riesling, Kerner, Gerwürztraminer, or Grüner, many of which have a hint of sweetness on the nose and initial early palate but offer depth in their acidity and minerality,  and often can be found in the $12-25 range. There are countless offerings both Stateside and abroad, but the masters of these grapes are from Germany, Austria, and Alto Adige region of Italy.

Happy Holidays to you! 

à votre santé!

*The four wines are I usually serve are: 1) a fun white, 2) a serious white, 3) a delicate red, and 4) a bold red.

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