Tag Archives: Thanksgiving Wines

2020 Wines for Thanksgiving

18 Nov

2020 has been an “interesting” year so far. Thanksgiving also looks to be “interesting”. Smaller groups, probably the same people you’ve been quarantined with since March. Maybe a Zoom dimmer with friends?

As our gatherings are smaller, so will be my suggestions!
As far as wine goes, I’m changing up my game. I suggest you do, too! We’re going to think and drink globally

White Wines: Albariño and Rhône white blends!


Whether you pull a wine from the Iberian peninsula (Albariño) or the south of France (Rhône), you will have superb results with Thanksgiving dinner. I find the Rhône blends more savory, but both of these styles will be able to handle anything from appetizers to soup to salad to shellfish to the main dinner, and be a total success with turkey and pork, providing a zesty and fresh palate after every sip.

 

If you are asking, “What’s Albariño, JvB?” Here’s the quick answer: from Spain’s Rias Baixas wine region, these are dry white wines, lighter in body, with excellent acidity. Common flavor profiles include lemon, grapefruit, nectarine, and melon. It’s your hip wine alternative to Sauvignon Blanc, and it has a huge bang for the buck, and prices usually range from $12-20/bottle. 

Typical examples of Rias Baixas Albariño. Tremendous flavor and value! 

 

If you are wondering “Rhône who?” it takes a little more work, as there are a bunch of awesome white wine grapes that are unique to France’s Rhône valley and they can be a little confusing. My choice is Acquiesce Winery’s Clairette Blanche (13.5% ABV. $28/bottle SRP), a wine that is actually made in California but uses Rhône grape varieties. It has a similar high acidity, but gentle fruit balance of peach, pear, and a hint of fennel, with a gorgeous floral nose, and a savory body. This is the rounder, fuller wine that is your alt-chardonnay choice and is a huge secret weapon for both crowd-pleasing and palate-pleasing skills. 

 

Whether single variety like this Clairette, or a blend of Rhône grapes-
the wine inside is even more beautiful than the lovely bottle and label seen here. Acquiesce Winery, Lodi California. 
 

 

Rhône grape types often sound exotic and may be challenging for some Americans to pronounce: bourboulenc, clairette blanc, grenache blanc, marsanne, muscat blanc à petits grains, pinardin, picpoul blanc, roussanne, ugni blanc. While you can search to find some single vineyard wines that are stunning, many of the wines that arrive in the USA are blends that showcase the best of the region, and can be found in the $10-20 range. The high end summits with rare vintages of J.L. Chave Hermitage Blanc, so be wary if your browser search sorts with “price high/low” and don’t be frightened off by the sticker shock! There are amazing values to be found from bottles with exquisite expression and flavors. If Acquiesce is a little above your price range, the most easily found white Rhône blends are Famille Perrin Côtes du Rhône 2019 Blanc Reserve or Guigal Côte du Rhône 2018 Blanc, which both have shockingly low street prices right now, in the $10-15 range.  

 

OK, Ready for Red? 

 

Red Wines: Cru Beaujolais and Pinot Noir!


“What’s a Cru Beau?” You may be thinking. Here’s the scoop: 

Think of the red wines of Beaujolais in three tiers: Entry Level (Beaujolais Nouveau), Mid-Level (Beaujolais Village) and Top Tier (Cru Beaujolais). The good news is you can find excellent top tier bottles in the twenties and thirties in terms of cost, while the Nouveau is in the teens, and Village bottle cost spreads across the middle range.  

Buying tips for Cru Beaujolais: there are ten designations  based on and named by their region, you can click the link and do a deep dive, or take the fast lane: ask your local wine store clerk to point them out. The three I see most often in both online and brick-and-mortar stores are:  Morgon, Fleurie, and Moulin-à-Vent. I find these wines to be so beautiful, bright, fruity, and acidic, perfect matches for the cranberry sauce, with enough acid to work with a roast or to tame heavy gravy or a bitter vegetable side dish. The quality and balance of these wines are a tremendous value in the under $40/bottle range, while the same quality in Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, or Bordeaux blend will tend to cost more in local wine stores. 

 

Left & Middle are Cru Beaujolais, on the right is a quality Village-level wine by a 3rd generation winemaker.  

 

Pinot Noir: In this day and age, you MUST know about Pinot Noir by now. Even if you never saw “Sideways”, you probably know that pinot noir is a delicate grape, requires so much more than simply the labor of love to produce a formidable wine. Pinot is the opposite of the hearty cabernet sauvignon grape. When cab is a Fastback Mustang, pinot noir is the Ferrari Dino 246. It’s the Pappy Van Winkle of the wine world. If Cabernet is Travis Scott, then Pinot Noir is Marvin Gaye. 

More importantly, while the powerful cabernet sauvignon is a go-to for steak, pinot noir’s delicacy and bright fruit are a no-brainer for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday meals. Pairing is not only easy, it’s perfect.  


As an admitted French wine snob, yes, I love my Burgundy as well as great American and New Zealand pinot noir. There is an abundance of great pinot noir in the $25-$50 range, and stellar quality in the $50 and up range, with some awesome values in the under $25 range. But there are so many great buys in pinot noir around the world, and the wine pairs beautifully with a holiday meal. You can find truly stunning pinot noir wines from California, Oregon, and France across the spectrum. While I may lean towards the $50+ bottles, I have my share of $9-15 as well. Everyone needs a weekly bottle, a special event bottle, a birthday bottle. 

The best regions in the USA for pinot noir are: the  Willamette Valley in Oregon (and it’s six sub AVAs) and from California: Anderson Valley, Russian River Valley, Santa Lucia Highlands, Santa Rita Hills, and Sonoma Coast. Or you can hop off the American continent to visit New Zealand’s Central Otago and Marlborough regions. Or yet another option:  Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect $200 and head straight to Burgundy! Much depends on the size of your table and your budget. But know you can find excellent bottles from all of these regions. Here’s an example or two…

 

Some great examples of tremendous value in Pinot Noir

Take advantage of the killer values offered by these: 2017 McIntyre Pinot Noir  from Santa Lucia Highlands, Domaine Boussey Volnay 1er Cru,  and District 7    Estate Grown Pinot Noir which has been an editor’s choice year after year; I fell in love with it doing the pandemic. These punch well above their weight classes and each shows something different about how sexy and precise pinot noir can really be. 

If you want to change it up, you can look at these awesome selections from Ken Wright  or Evesham Wood  from Oregon, or the delicious, glamorous flavors of Gary Farrell  from the Russian River Valley. If you want to Go Big or Go Home, see if your local wine store carries Merry Edwards 2017 Meredith Estate Pinot Noir   from the Russian River Valley in Sonoma- I’ve had an ounce of this stunning  wine and am trying to get my hands on a bottle. 

 

If you’re worried that you might be all by yourself (and depressed as hell) on Thanksgiving, I STILL have a pinot noir to treat yourself for the holiday! Crémant d’Alsace Brut Rosé from Lucien Albrecht  is a sparkling rosé of pinot noir that is unrelentingly delicious.  

 

SRP is $20 and I’ve seen from $14-22 in stores. It always over-performs and is simply delicious.
So put that in your back pocket, it’s an Ace in the hole! 
Better yet,  you can easily find this bottle at
Total Wine, Costco, and many of your local wine stores. 

 

 

Last but not least- 
Should you or your holiday table prefer a more powerful style of red wine, then ask your local wine store for a great bottle of Carmenere, Rioja, or Old Vine Zinfandel. Each of these wines are powerful food-pairing options, and you can find older bottles that drink beautifully at reasonable prices. 

 

 

 

Have you noticed what everything has in common? Brighter fruit and higher acidity, which is a great match for Thanksgiving because it’s still getting the best out of late summer and early fall. This combination just works, much like the afternoon sun with a fall chill in the air gives us perfect sweater weather. 

So, get out of your comfort zone and try something new. Please reply below, and let me know what you do!
I promise I’ll do my post-mortem on what I drank on Thanksgiving, as always! 


#WIYG? 

 


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!

 

 

 

 

Letters from Readers: Thanksgiving Host/Gift Wines

17 Nov

It’s a popular time for questions from readers. Just after my last week’s post, an email arrived looking for the next step in Thanksgiving Wine:

 

“Hi JvB,

Enjoying your blog! We have tried a couple of the wines you reviewed and see why you like them so much.  I liked having my first rioja, and my wife loved the rosé you suggested.

This might be something you get asked a lot, but here’s a Thanksgiving wine question. What wine would you suggest to bring for the host, knowing the host might open it to serve with the Thanksgiving meal, or hold it as a gift and hopefully  appreciate at another time? With one son away this fall, there are three of us going, so I am willing to spend a little more than my normal  limit of  25 dollars a bottle. What can you suggest? “

 

Good question, TS.

 

You definitely want to make sure you have wine that would work with the meal, and that will also shine at another time. It’s quite smart to spend a touch more than usual, as this is a very special meal that families like to share people close to them.

Now… If you were a guest at my home, I’d be thrilled if you brought two bottles, a white (or pink) and a red. On my table this year, there will be a bottle of Jason Moore’s Modus Operandi Pinot Noir ($50) and a Modus Sauvignon Blanc ($35). Moore’s saingée rosé completely changed up my game and convinced me to add a killer, high-end rosé to my Thanksgiving wine list. People LOVE it. The sauvignon blanc has all the best features and none of the negative ones we associate with SB, and has an impressive pedigree- white wine drinkers will adore it. Likewise, the pinot is simply outstanding and pairs gorgeously with the entire meal.

And you can use this fun vision to remind you:

prepare

Because you love wine, you are intelligent and have a sense of humor. Come on, the image at least made you smile, right?

Now, you have options if Modus isn’t available and you aren’t a subscriber. But promise me here, keep the American Holiday with US wines. I was blown away by Lodi wines this summer which are such an easy, delicious, and reasonably priced option we’d be fools not to consider them.

Like me, you might love French, Italian, German, NZ, Australian, South American, and Spanish wines like I do. But we are taking a stand and we will use American wine for Thanksgiving. Americans don’t import rare European cranberries, or South American turkey for this meal. Similarly, we should use the beautiful wines from the USA! So I ask you to look at Lodi, Santa Barbara, Sonoma, Napa, Paso Robles, Walla Walla Washington, Willamette Valley, NY’s Finger Lakes or Charlottesville, Virginia.

You can easily find great wines from these regions to fit any of your Thanksgiving wine needs. I challenge you to join me and promise to serve American-made wines this holiday. And why not? We have killer values and just about every varietal you could ask for whether it is a bold cab, a citrusty sauvignon blanc, a traditional german varietal, a European classic. We’ve got them, and they are SO GOOD!

If you want to be a great guest, just remember that you don’t want to be super cheap on the bottle. I can tell you, I have pinot noir, cab franc, riesling, sauvignon blanc, and chardonnay all from the USA standing by in my cellar, from local regions like Yamhill County OR, Lodi, Napa, Sta Rita Hills CA. They are beautiful wines. And I have a stash of Modus, because any wine lover would be a fool to ignore the stunning quality available from the independent wine makers. These are small production, intense attention to detail, and beautiful wines, simply put.

 

In case you are not convinced you can find great, American wines if you only like European varietals, well, first you aren’t looking very hard. Go back to the wine store. Second, do a tiny bit of research. More than just Lodi… stunning versions of these grapes are grown right here in the states. There are classic, brilliant American wines that will impress the heck out of your holiday table. Here’s a brilliant piece by Maggie Hoffman showcasing some brilliant American Wine Options on Serious Eats:

I hope this gives you some food for thought. Feel free to email me at jvbuncorked@gmail.com, or @jvbuncorked on twitter if you want to discuss more.

And I hope you have a very happy, wonderful Thanksgiving! Make sure you tell me what you chose and how you like it!

 

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.

t wine 1

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.

t wine 2

What wine is going on your Thanksgiving table this year?

À vôtre santé!

 

 

That Time of Year: 2014 Thanksgiving Postmortem

29 Nov

For lovers of the grape, “holiday” means wine time! When chance put a perfect Halloween wine in my hands, I wrote about it (here). But this fall, I found myself somewhat reluctant to write about the biggest food holiday we celebrate: Thanksgiving. Every year I write about what I’m serving, and make suggestions to the myriad friends and lurkers who have come across me in person, at a wine event, on Facebook, WordPress, or via the ‘net. So why was I reluctant to talk about my plans for Thanksgiving wines this year?

*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. -JvB UnCorked

What would my four wines be thus year? Last year I had six wines, (one held in reserve for a guest who didn’t make the meal after all) but this year was a serious question. I’ve had some great wines over the summer and fall that made me re-think my choices.

Furiously working on the broadcast of the Thanksgiving Day Parade, and dinner was (thankfully) not at my home this year, yet the wine is still my domain. Because pre-production and broadcast equates to very long hours of hectic work, I planned to serve wines from my cellar, so that removed a lot of options from contention. I had been deep in thought about the stunning pinot noir wines I tasted from Santa Barbara and Central Otago, New Zealand this year. In SB County I had been impressed by Fess Parker, Cottonwood, Blair Fox, Au Bon Climat, and Ken Brown, -just to name a few of the SB wines. Some specific bottles were so shockingly good they just haunted me, such as the Dominio del Falcon from Sanford  as well as Pipeclay Terrace and Long Gully Pinots from Mount Difficulty, and wines from the Otago NZ crowd like Felton Road, Quartz Reef, Rippon, Amisfield, and Mud House.  

IMG_0463

MtDifficulty

 

I was also spoiled by a hot summer of killer treats, and these wandered into my thoughts as I considered what to serve.

Starting with the reds: the delicate red was in contention. I usually serve a bright and acidic pinot, gamay, or cru beaujolais but I kept returning to this crazy idea of serving an Aussie sparkling shiraz called The Red Brute from Bleasedale Vineyards I tasted earlier this fall. Sometimes I have to take a chance, right?

The serious red has lots of options but can be a tough choice, when you have my wine cellar. I have some nicely aged reds (like the 2000 Pomerol, or 1996 Cos D’estournel, and other earlier delights) but knowing the guests who would attend, I kept thinking that one of the 1.5L northern Rhône bottles I have on hand would pair best. The Pierre Gonon syrah is a juicy black currant delight with tons of darker notes of earth and leather, good acidity, and is a crowd pleaser. While I consider this vintage too young for a red meat entrée, given this meal, it will provide a perfect pairing, and I know people will adore it.

Having waffled on my traditions for those two, I have to sit back and slow down for a moment. There are three more wines I need to consider, one is the delightful rosé from Modus Operandi Wines that blows away most wine drinkers at the table. It always goes something like this:

Guest: “Sorry, I don’t like rosé.”

Me: “No problem, just humor me and take a tiny taste of this, then we’ll move on.”

Guest: “Oh, ok. (sip). Oh. Wow, that’s really good. May I have that?”

Me: “Of course!”

But having enjoyed so many great rosé’s this summer and fall, in my mind even my kick-ass Modus Operandi rosé was in question after being impressed by this inexpensive sleeper rhône rosé, Belleruche Rosé from the Côtes du Rhône just recently. I really enjoyed it, but was not sure it could stand up to the red meat in the soup or the savory flavors on its own. I decided to stick with my gut on this and transferred the Napa 2012 Modus Rosé from the rack in the cellar to the safety of my six-slot wine bag.

I also wondered about the red and white blend from Tess Vineyards that I found on Underground Cellars. It’s a little bit of a lot of things, and its fresh and light yet fruity and fun. But I feared a red/white blend would be too much of a challenge for some of the older & traditional crowd at the meal, so I decided to hold that for a tasting I’ll host  in the next few months.

Tgiving Reds

 

I needed a simple solution for at least ONE of my wines! So the “fun” white was easy: Leitz’ Dragonstone riesling from the Rheingau. It offers great minerality, white stone fruit, a touch of sweetness, and a crisp finish.

On to my final tough choice, the serious white. My go-to here is a Bordeaux blend, and my cellar has some great choices. I opened up a couple of crates and looked at options while thinking about the total wine lineup, and I went with a choice that for me seems out of left field:  I took a bottle of my ’09 Vintage Tunina from Silvio Jermann that is huge, rich and creamy.  I adore this classic IGT blend of white grapes, and I could not think of a better meal to pair it with that Thanksgiving dinner.

Tgiving Whites

 

I finally sat back and was able to breathe. This year’s Thanksgiving wines, all told. Wines from Germany, Italy, USA’s Napa Valley, Australia, and France: a true melting pot, just like NYC.  For me a few surprises, but lots of tradition. Something for every palate, and the only repeat is my favorite rosé.

TgivingWines

 

 

As I had hoped, when the day arrived, the wines were a hit. Everone who tried The Brute sparkling shiraz was surprised how savory, dry and refreshing it was, and both it and the rosé paired amazingly well with the first course, a beef vegetable soup, and the main meal. The Gonon Saint-Joseph was the crowd pleaser I expected, pairing beautifully with the meal, while the non-drinkers enjoyed the riesling and the vintage tunina held court nicely. My wife’s ninety-one year old uncle said to me, “you brought a lot of wine, you might have a little left over at the end of the meal”, but I told him not to worry. Like the leftovers from the meal, I was sure they would not last long.

à votre santé!

 

%d bloggers like this: