Showing posts with label Thanksgiving. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Thanksgiving. Show all posts

Monday, November 22, 2021

Albariño For Tapas-giving, With Recipes

The folks promoting Rias Baixas wines - Albariño, from Spain's northwestern corner - have sent some ideas on how to have a Tapasgiving this year.  They tapped Chef Albert Bevia from Spain on a Fork to curate a Spanish tapas recipe menu inspired by traditional Thanksgiving dishes for the upcoming holiday celebrations with family and friends. 

Chef Albert's Tapasgiving twist on American classics offers the perfect opportunity to shake up the Thanksgiving table, and they pair exceptionally well with a bottle of Albariño.  Click here for more on Albariño wines and for the recipes: Sauteed Garlic Pumpkin, Stuffed Mushrooms with Manchego Cheese and Breadcrumbs and Spanish Garlic Shrimp with Grapes.  Albariño is a great wine for pairing with a variety of foods, so it's perfect for the Thanks - er- Tapasgiving table.  

Paco & Lola Albariño Rias Baixas

The O Rosal part of Rias Baixas is home to Paco & Lola Albariño.  It's a little piece of land butted up against the Miño River to the south and the Atlantic Ocean to the west.  The grapes were estate-grown and vinified to 13% abv.  The 2020 vintage is selling for about $18.  In a nod to their labeling, the winery boasts that they are "the polka-dot wine."

An earthy nose masks the floral arrangement one expects.  There are some herbal elements there, but more along savory lines.  The palate shows apples, peaches and a shovel of the earth of Rías Baixas.  Nice acidity and a pleasantly earthy finish cap a wonderfully different style for the region.    

La Val Albariño Rias Baixas

La Val was founded in 1985.  Most of the grapes they use are estate grown, which is somewhat unusual for Rias Baixas.  Many producers buy grapes from other growers.  La Val winemaker Jose Maria Ureta vinfied this wine to 12.5% abv, and it sells for around $15.

This wine also has an earthy tone to its nose, but not as strong as Paco & Lalo.  The citrus aromas come through nicely and are accompanied by a light floral bouquet.  The palate is loaded with lemon and lime and the acidity is gentle enough to pair with something spicy.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Elegant Anderson Valley Pinot For The Holidays

Four Ferrari-Carano wines were recently featured in an online virtual tasting session, of which I was invited to be a part.  The presentation was hosted by Chelsea Kurnick of McCue Communications and associate winemaker Rebecka Deike. She handles the winery's red wine program.  She started out wanting to be an optometrist, but saw her focus change to a wine career.

The 2014 Ferrari-Carano Anderson Valley Pinot Noir was aged for ten months in French oak and has an alcohol number of 14.5% abv. Online tasters thought the wine would be a natural to pair with salmon, chicken, beef bourguignon and holiday ham. Pinot Noir is often mentioned as a versatile wine that fits nicely on the holiday table, and this one will be quite at home there.

This tasty Pinot surprised me a bit. I approach California versions of the varietal apprehensively, often disappointed with their lack of grace and ham-fisted ways. The Ferrari-Carano 2014 Anderson Valley Pinot gets it right, and it's not the first from the AVA that I have liked. Aromas of black cherry are undercut with a savory cola note. The palate is smooth and elegant, with enough tannin for turkey but not enough to melt the cranberry sauce. The black tea flavor is among the most gorgeous of the kind I've experienced.

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Monday, December 12, 2016

First Wine Of The Harvest

Holiday time always brings on the Beaujolais. If you follow such things, you get that little pre-Thanksgiving kick of the Beaujolais Nouveau release. It happens on the third Thursday of November, every year, giving a small window of opportunity before tastes move on to other delights, like cru Beaujolais.

The Nouveau is a young wine, made from Gamay grapes and meant to be consumed while young. To be blunt, it’s not getting any better in the bottle.  I have always found BN to be a dull, drinkable wine that is often quite grapey, but others seem to revel in its simplicity. Personally, I don’t see the need to rush the wine out the door immediately after harvest, but I understand it started as a marketing ploy, and lives on as that today. "The First Wine of the Harvest."

‘Tis the season, anyway. So I tried the Georges Duboeuf 2016 Beaujolais Nouveau with no anticipation at all. Never having enjoyed a vintage of the style, I was fully prepared to be nonchalant about it. The 12% abv wine shows a Rieslingesque "dryness scale" on the back label that indicates this one comes in as "medium dry."

The wine looks very dark and smells it, too. Blackberry aromas dominate the nose and palate, with a fair amount of complexity in the forms of minerality. A grapey taste stands front and center with shades of earth showing nicely. The finish is plain and unfettered by nuance. It's good this year, but it's still not a wine to think too much about, it's a wine to absent-mindedly swirl and sip over good conversation.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Gift Ideas For Your Wine Lover

Every holiday season, we see our email inbox fill up with gift ideas for the wine lover in your life. Really? Do you know what gift a wine lover really wants? Wine! Or a gift card with which they can buy wine. If you must go the novelty gift route, here are some suggestions for this holiday shopping season. But, really, it’s wine they want.

This online shopping site - and aren’t we all shopping online as much as possible, if only to save the trip to the post office? - offers home bar accessories and gifts designed to please men. The company’s slogan - “Dare to be awesome” - strives to sound hip, while actually sounding kinda kitschy. It works, though, in a weird way. The male-centric gift items come from all over the world, but custom printing and engraving is handled at the company's home in Oklahoma City.

The company’s website states, "Giving back to the community and the military that protects the American heartland lies at the cornerstone of the company's business model." As such, they offer a 10% discount on all military orders shipping overseas.

The Sonoma personalized wine serving tray holds four stemmed glasses and a bottle. It also can have your own personal inscription added to the bamboo wood.

The Rack’Em Up Billiards Shot Glass Set features 15 glasses in a triangular tray. Perfect for the pool room, or for keeping track of how many shots you’ve had.

Beer Cap Maps of the US - or your own home state - let you fill in the holes with bottle caps from your favorite breweries. I've done it. It’s actually more fun than it sounds. At least, accumulating all those bottle caps is fun.

The Green Room Social has a wide range of gift items, and tons of them are tech-oriented.

Zipbuds are "Tangle-free earbuds created with patented Zipperless Zipper Technology™ providing premium sound and unrivaled convenience."

I love the Zipperless Zipper Technology™, but it's the low bass response I'm really after.

Fizzics offers the "world’s first personal beer dispenser that delivers expertly poured draught beer." I like to rely on professionals for that service, but then I usually agree when the warning says "do not try this at home." Reports say that this home bartender is 100% safe! and you don't have to tip it.

Bottles & Wood is a trend-setting eco-design company headquartered in San Diego which has a creative selection of sustainably chic gift ideas. Handcrafted, repurposed jewelry, serveware and home décor use locally-sourced materials.

For the beer lover: A four-glass set of Bottles and Wood’s beer tumbler glasses are made from recycled bottles featuring both national labels and some of San Diego’s favorite craft beer names.

For the wine lover: Bottles and Wood’s reclaimed wine glassware offers a set of tumbler glasses, a nut dish or a cheese plate crafted entirely out of repurposed wine bottles.

For the tippler: Bottles and Wood’s liquor-inspired tumblers, vases, dishes and shot glasses  are made using recycled liquor bottles.

For the jewelry lover: Accessorize with Bottles and Wood’s new line of tastefully upcycled jewelry. Earrings, bangles or a unique necklace are made from liquor, wine and beer brands.

 Vinturi Champagne Stopper

Don't let your celebration go flat. Vinturi says the "spring-loaded design of the Champagne Stopper effortlessly seals your champagne bottles, maintaining the pressure equivalent of the original cork – to ensure your bubbly lasts and lasts." It's available at Williams-Sonoma.

Books for the wine lover...

The Wine Bible (Workman; October 2015), Karen MacNeil answers questions we all need help with from time to time: What bottle to bring to a party? Which wine do I serve with Christmas dinner? Bubbles for New Year's Eve that won't break the bank. Lots of food pairing tips, too.

Tangled Vines: Greed, Murder, Obsession, and an Arsonist in the Vineyards of California (St. Martin’s Press, October 2015, Hardcover, eBook), Frances Dinkelspiel goes back in time to uncover the California wine industry’s dark and bloody past. From murder to enslavement to controlling monopolies, California’s "elixir of the gods" has had many unsavory moments in its history. She also looks back at a time when Southern California dominated the wine making business. For fans of true crime, history and of course, wine, it is a gripping tale best savored with a glass of vino in hand.

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Monday, November 23, 2015

Lodi Wines: Outside The Box For Thanksgiving

Pairing wine and food is easy, but many people feel they don’t have adequate skills to select the perfect wine for a holiday feast. It can be as simple as “drink what you like,” or as difficult as you care to make it. Wine is an expansive topic, and it will take up all your extra time if you let research get just a little bit out of control.

For those who don’t have the time - or inclination - to become heavily invested in wine and food pairing minutiae for the holidays, the nice folks at the  Lodi Winegrape Commission put together a virtual tasting experience which examined a few “outside the box” wines for Thanksgiving. The social media event took place on the BrandLive platform, and I was invited to participate.

The tasting session was hosted by Stuart Spencer, owner and winemaker at St. Amant Winery and Program Manager at the Lodi Winegrape Commission, and featured Layne Montgomery, winemaker at m2 Wines,  Susan Tipton, owner and winemaker at Acquiesce Winery & Vineyards and Adam Mettler, general manager/winemaker at Michael David Winery.

The wines tasted were:

Acquiesce Winery & Vineyards Viognier 2014
Michael David Winery Symphony 2014
m2 Wines Alicante Bouschet 2013
Mettler Family Vineyards Petite Sirah 2013

These wines are available from the respective wineries, and also as a set from the Lodi Winegrape Commission’s online store. There is a special price of $80 for all four wines when purchased from LodiWine. The recipes for the pairing suggestions are also available there.

Acquiesce Winery & Vineyards Viognier 2014, paired with Roasted Butternut Squash Bisque

Susan Tipton fell in love a white Châteauneuf-du-Pape, and from that point on, she was a white wine fan. Her Acquiesce Winery produces only white wines and rosés of the Mokelumne River appellation.  Her wines are all about the grapes - handpicked and whole-cluster pressed - with no influence of oak to alter what nature has given.  The '14 Acquiesce Viognier retails for $23, carries an alcohol number of 13.5% abv and comes bottled under cork. The cuttings from which her vines started are from Tablas Creek, which originated in the vineyards of Château de Beaucastel, in the Rhône Valley. By the way, you may find it hard to throw away or recycle Tipton's pretty, French bottles.

During the virtual tasting event, @MsPullThatCork referenced the soup recipe which was paired with this wine. "We made the bisque," she tweeted. "Great roasted squash, spice, creamy flavors and texture." @Fiery01Red loved the "surprisingly vibrant acidity w/a grape that tends to be low in acidity. Very nice Viognier!" @ThisMyHappiness summed it up with, "Elegant #wine!" Couldn’t agree more.

The Acquiesce ‘14 is one nice Viognier. This is Susan Tipton's calling card. Mellow yellow gold in the glass, the wine gives a beautiful nose of apples and lemons with a floral accent. The palate is as refreshing as you would want a wine to be. Citrus-y apples, a nice savory streak and a strident acidity are a complete joy.

The roasted butternut squash bisque recommended by Lodi Winegrowers is a great match, and so is my wife’s rustic potato, carrot and cabbage soup. Peel and eat shrimp would be fantastic, as would a Cobb salad.

Michael David Winery Symphony 2014, paired with Peach Cobbler and French Vanilla Ice Cream

A true California grape, Symphony was created by UC Davis viticulturist Dr. Harold Olmo. He began the 35-year process of crossing Muscat of Alexandria and Grenache Gris in 1948. The grape was made available commercially in 1981, patented in '83. It registers a low 11% abv on the alcohol scale - Mettler says it is closer to 10% - and carries a retail sticker price of $15.

The '14 Michael David Symphony is frizzante in the glass, showing some fine bubbles around the rim. The golden color looks nice, while the nose gives up some muted apricot and lanolin notes. There is a savory aroma that cuts right down the middle. On the palate, things get kinda sweet, with apples and lemons - but the acidity is fresh and zippy. The finish brings to mind a margarita, go figure. Layne Montgomery quipped during the event that the wine "smells like Thanksgiving in a glass."

You can pair this with spicy dishes - maybe chicken enchiladas or pork in a chipotle sauce. Thai and Chinese food will also serve it well. I would like it with an anchovy Caesar salad. LodiWine likes it with peach cobbler and French vanilla ice cream.

m2 Wines Alicante Bouschet St. Jenise’s Vineyard, 2013, paired with Marinated and Smoked Paprika Grilled Pork Tenderloin

With its roots in France, the Alicante Bouschet grape was widely planted in California in the early 20th century. Winemakers loved the deep pigmentation and used it to add color to wines that appeared too thin. After Prohibition fell, the grape became less popular and it is now a novelty item in just a few California vineyards. Varietal examples that do not limit Alicante Bouschet to the status of a blending grape are pretty rare.

Montgomery explained that "the vines are only six to eight years old, but the wine drinks a lot older." On social media, @camron94 gushed, "Alicante is truly a beautiful and interesting wine that is underutilized as a stand alone varietal." Couldn’t have said it better myself. On the panel, Tipton likened the wine to "a Pinot Noir on steroids." It also reminds her of Sangiovese.

The back label indicates, "this is not a wine for the faint of heart." Robust and meaty, the wine shows only moderate alcohol, 13.7% abv and sells for $26. When asked what he tells his customers to pair with this wine, Montgomery showed his entertainer roots with a fast comeback, "Another bottle!" That’s a pretty good suggestion, too.

The '13 m2 Alicante Bouschet St. Jenise's Vineyard is as dark as dark gets. The inky indigo color does, indeed, look like it means business. On the nose, you get aromas of cassis and a fistful of spice - clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom and anise play into the profile. The palate shows monstrous black fruit - blackberry and plum - with plenty of spices getting plenty of play. The spicy character lasts into the finish and stays awhile.

If a rib roast is on your holiday table, this should be, too. It will pair with lamb just as nicely. The Lodi Wine folk say they like it with a smoked paprika pork chop, and now I want some of that.

Mettler Family Vineyards Petite Sirah 2013, paired with Slow Braised Beef Short Ribs on Creamy Yukon Gold Parsnip Potatoes

Back in the 19th century, French botanist François Durif had a home nursery of different grape varieties, including Peloursin and Syrah. Those two vines cross-pollinated, resulting in a grape that was named Durif, which we know today as Petite Sirah. The US government recognizes the two names as synonymous, although the grapes are technically different. In fact, it is noted that the majority of Petite Sirah plantings in California are actually Durif. It was revealed during the tasting session that the Lodi appellation is the number one producer of Petite Sirah in California.

On Twitter, @wineandgoodfood chirped, "The @MettlerWines Petite Sirah is super rich and ripe," while Montgomery threw out another one-liner:  "If purple had a flavor. this would be it." @winebratsf got all eclectic on us: "It tastes like an AC/DC velvet blanket wall hanging." Kudos, by the way, for the descriptor of the evening.

Six generations of Lodi winegrowers can all be proud of this varietal wine. The ‘13 Mettler Petite Sirah shows very dark color and very dark aromas. Black and blue fruit gets help from a savory streak full of leather, tobacco and black olives. That savory feel carries over onto the palate, which is as dark as the color and smells have advertised. This is a beautiful and complex example of Petite Sirah, sometimes fancy, sometimes rustic. It’s an elegant wine masquerading as a roughneck. It hits 15.5% abv and retails for $25.

This wine will pair well with the short ribs suggested, as it will with any type of beef dish. I would love it with a beef stew on a wintry day.

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Friday, November 6, 2015

A Blend By Any Other Name Is A Cuvée

On the heels of Cornerstone Cellars new line of single-vineyard bottlings on their white label, comes a cuvée. Cuvée is really a fancy word - well, a French word - for a blend.

"Essentially all wines are cuvée blends to one degree or the other," writes Cornerstone Cellars managing partner Craig Camp. "Unless a wine comes from a single barrel or tank that passed from fermenter to bottle with no additions, all wines are are blends. They’re either blends of barrels or vineyards or varieties or all of the above."

After kicking off the White Label series of single-vineyard wines - to allow those sites to "sing in their own voice" - Camp explains that, "sometimes even the finest singers love to sing with others, finding a new harmony and complexity in blending the textures of their voices."

From that notion, Cornerstone Cellars' Michael’s Cuvée was born. Camp states the wine is "a selection from our finest vineyards and varieties, a unique expression of the best of each vintage brought together in a new and distinctive harmony." The wine is named for Cornerstone's founder Dr. Michael Dragutsky.

The 2012 Cornerstone Cellars Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Michael’s Cuvée is 91% Cabernet Sauvignon and nine percent Merlot. The grapes were taken from the Oakville Station Vineyard in To Kalon, Kairos Vineyard in Oak Knoll and Ink Grade Vineyard on Howell Mountain. The wine's alcohol tick 14.9% abv and less than 250 cases were made.

The '12 Michael's Cuvée offers an inky appearance and a beautiful set of aromas - blackberry, currant, pencil lead and a touch of violet. Expectations are high after one whiff. The sip delivers on the promise of the nose. Silky smooth and rich - and it's a young wine - it echoes the dark aromas and complexity of the nose. This wine, at $75, might be a luxury for you. Rest assured, you get that for which you pay. The wine is luxurious, the tannins are supple and the finish seems like forever.

Pair this wine with steaks - of course - beef stew and the roasted vegetables of the fall. I would not hesitate to place it on the Thanksgiving table. Be forewarned, your guests will expect you to have it next year, too.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Creta Roble Ribera del Duero 2009

A lunch at a favorite restaurant for the wife and I prompted me to order a Tempranillo wine.  Spanish grapes have long been at the top of my list, but I usually order wines from near the area where I live.  In Southern California, I love finding a good Santa Barbara County wine in restaurants.

A hunch told me to break ranks and try the Creta Roble 2009 from Spain's Ribera del Duero region.  It's 100% Tempranillo, sourced from a 40-year-old vineyard, tank fermented and aged in used French oak for four to five months.  The by-the-glass price was around $10, while I have seen it in wine stores locally for $13.  At this price, it's an astounding value.

Medium dark, the wine's color is intense enough to color the glass.  A nose of blackberry, cigar box, sage and nutmeg is completely enticing.  On the palate, similar big notes prevail.  A spicy melange of black fruit and savory, meaty notes are set off by big tannins and great acidity.

I paired this wine with a tomato sauce pasta dish, which was fine, but after a sip I wished I had gone with something a bit more substantial.  Something tells me I'll love this spicy, fragrant wine over the holidays, particularly with Thanksgiving dinner.

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Muga Rosé 2011

A good rosé is an awesome thing.  Bodegas Muga makes an awesome rosé, which is a very good thing.

Many wine novices think that rosé wine is made from mixing red and white grapes.  Actually, rosé is usually made by limiting the skin contact when the grapes are crushed - a grape’s color is in the skin.  In Muga’s case, there is a 12-hour period when the juice is in contact with the skins.

This Spanish wine from Rioja, however, is made with both red and white grapes:  60% Garnacha, 30% Viura and 10% Tempranillo.  The wine is fermented 25 days in American oak and aged two months in same.  It cost $8 by the glass at Tender Greens.

The color is quite pretty, showing a very pale salmon hue.  A whiff of watermelon and cherry is in the forefront, but the oak does not come forward.  On the palate, flavors of melons meet an herbal quality, a sort of greenness.

I paired it with the herb-brushed albacore, grilled Brussels sprouts, spinach salad with feta and hazelnuts and mashed potatoes.  The Muga rosé was a worthy match for all the food on the plate.  By the way, a nice, dry rosé is a great thing to have around the house if you are expecting to serve any sandwiches.  Sandwiches made from leftover turkey and ham are what I am thinking about right now.

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Sunday, November 13, 2011


Holiday Wines

Thanksgiving is the wine-drinkingest day of the year in America.  Pity those poor Pilgrims, piled up on Plymouth rock with nothing more than pumpkin beer to help them celebrate themselves.

Today, we have wine, glorious wine, to help bring out the 1,001 flavors on the Thanksgiving spread.  Some folks wring their hands and wipe their fevered brow over what to put in the empty wine glasses.  It doesn't have to be that hard.

In these liberated times, old-line wine rules are embraced by fewer people than ever, as the new guard advises "drink what you like."  It's the best advice I can give you, too.  But, if you'd like a little guidance as to which aisles of the wine store to navigate for Thanksgiving, here it is.

The most important feature to consider for your Thanksgiving wine is acidity.  That's what really makes a wine food-friendly and helps it to pair well with all the different flavors on the table.  Acidity is most important for white wines, while in red wines the tannins are usually what make them pair well with food, particularly food that's full of protein and fat, like meat and cheese.  Too much tannic structure, though, can make a wine overpowering.  You still want some acidity with red wines, too.  For a big meal like the one you may have planned for Thanksgiving, you may want to concentrate on higher acidity and lower tannins for the reds.  That will make the wine lighter and easier to drink while you're gorging on all that good food.

White wines which generally sport nice acidity include dry RieslingSauvignon Blanc - including Sancerre from France's Loire Valley - Roussanne and Chenin Blanc.

Reds which tend to have nice levels of acidity include Pinot Noir - particularly Burgundy -TempranilloSangioveseSyrah and Grenache.  Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignoncan work, too, but they can be quite high in alcohol, particularly California versions.  Try to keep an eye on the alcohol content - it's a long feast.

I think it's a great idea to have a few bottles of rosé on hand, especially for those leftover turkey sandwiches you'll be enjoying the rest of the long weekend.

For dessert, Sauternes is a great choice if you really want to make an impression, although they can be a bit pricy.  A late harvest wine will probably show the sweetness you want while also coming through with some acidity.

Sparkling wines make a festive occasion even more so.  You can spring for Champagne, or shop for bargains with a nice Prosecco (Italian) or Cava (Spanish) sparklers.

If you'd like some specific recommendations, allow me to cite a few I wouldn't mind having on my Thanksgiving table.  These are all wines I've encountered during the past year or so.

White Wines

Dr. Konstantin Frank Finger Lakes Riesling 2009 - New York's Finger Lakes region is known for their Riesling wine.  $13

Chateau Ste. Michelle Dry Riesling 2008 - This Washington state winery is the biggest seller of American Riesling.  $8

Sauvignon Blanc
Hippolyte Reverdy Sancerre 2009 - Flinty minerals and razoer blade acidity.  $21

Stepping Stone by Cornerstone Sauvignon Blanc Cuveé Musqué 2010 - Very aromatic, with a bracing acidity.  $15

Bogle Sauvignon Blanc 2010 - A little spiciness shows on the apple flavors.  $9

Domaine de la Becassonne Cotes du Rhone 2009 - I bought this at random when it was the only Roussanne in the wine store while I was shopping for one.  It was a great buy.  If you are not into dessert wine, this would work well with your pumpkin pie, by the way.  $13

Stolpman L’Avion Santa Ynez Valley 2008 - The floral nose attracts, the acidity serves.  $34

Bonterra Vineyards 2006 - Organically farmed Roussanne from northern California.  $21

Chenin Blanc
Dry Creek Vineyards Chenin Blanc 2008 - Great acidity and Meyer lemons mark this Clarksburg white.  $13

Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc-Viognier 2010 -   Slight off-dry, but with nice acidity.  $12

Foxen Chenin BlancErnesto Wickenden Vineyard “Old Vines” 2010 - Great minerality goes on forever.  $22

Red Wines

Pinor Noir
Row Eleven Vinas 3 Pinot Noir 2009 - Cranberry flavors, fairly low alcohol and a nice minerality.  $20

Fess Parker Pinot Noir Parker Station 2009 - A good Pinot for how much?  $12

Riverbench Mesa Pinot Noir 2009 - Great acidity and minerals.  $48

Beronia III a.C. 2004 - described as a "Super Rioja," blending Tempranillo, Graciano and Mazuelo grapes.  Pepper, leather and tobacco notes adorn the cherry fruit.  $62

Four Brix Winery Temptress - This Ventura County producer uses Central Coast grapes in this blend of Tempranillo, Mourvèdre, Grenache, Petite Sirah and Zinfandel.  $28

Protocolo Tinto 2008 - This bargain producer is getting some notice for their quality.  $9

Frescobaldi Nipozzano Chianti Riserva 2007 - A table full of aroma and flavor in a bottle.  $20

Niner Wine Sangiovese, Bootjack Ranch 2008 - A fun taste that brings candy to mind, with the acidity needed for the meal.  $24

Palmina Alisos Santa Barbara County 2009 - Sangiovese and Merlot made for the table.  $30

Frey Syrah 2009 - One of the best Syrahs I’ve had.  $14

Holus Bolus Octobrist Santa Ynez Valley Syrah 2006  - This wine made my Valentine lunch special, and it can do the same for any meal.  $26

Happy Canyon Vineyards Chukker 2009 - OK, so there’s only a smattering of Syrah in this mainly Cabernet Franc/Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon blend, but I think it’s a great choice for the holiday meal.  A little like Beaujolais Nouveau, but with more punch.  $13

Verdad Rosé Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard, Edna Valley 2009 - I had this Grenache rosé at Thanksgiving last year, and it was great with the turkey and stuffing.  $16

Borsao Tinto 2009 - A really amazing Spanish Garnacha, considering the price.  $8

Guigal Gigondas Rouge 2007 - Full-bodied and luscious.  $28

Roxo Port Cellars, Paso Robles - These folks craft some delicious Port-style wine from various grapes varieties grown in California.

Eden Vermont Ice Cider - I discovered this little jewel from the northeast as part of my Wine Country series.  Amazing stuff.

Santa Julia Tardio - Argentine Torrontes and Viognier, all late harvest. Very sweet with a very clean finish.

Il Conte D’Alba Stella Rosa Imperiale Moscato - It’s on the sweet side, but it’s bubbly and delicious.  It’s Italian, but marketed by San Antonio Winery in downtown Los Angeles.  $9

South Coast Winery Brut 2007 - A very aromatic sparkler from Temecula.  $18

Segura Viudas Brut Reserva NV - This Cava is easy to drink, and easy to find.  $10

Korbel Sweet Rosé NV - Lip smacking good and light on alcohol.  $12

For this holiday in particular, it might be nice to serve something from the area where Thanksgiving began, New England.  I can recommend mead from New Hampshireapple ice cider from Vermont, a hybrid blend from Cape Cod and, soon, several other wines from Massachussets, all discovered in the Now And Zin Wine Country series.

Monday, November 1, 2010


Holiday Wines

A couple of Sundays back was a genuine fall-weather day in Los Angeles.  There was chilly rain and a foggy grayness outside.  Inside, thanks to Denise, there was the aroma of a beautiful lentil soup, then a gingerbread experiment.  She didn't think the gingerbread a success, so I won’t detail it.  I was, however, plenty happy to be the guinea pig.

While we were enjoying our "inside day," there was an old "Twilight Zone" episode showing on TV.  It was the one in which the actor starts to think he's actually the character he's playing.  Ultimately, he chooses to live in the pages of the script rather than on the streets of Los Angeles.  Wouldn't it be nice If we could all have a choice like that?  I think I might choose to spend that chilly, rainy Sunday as the guy who writes about good wine choices for the upcoming Thanksgiving feast.

Turkey is the popular favorite for serving as the Thanksgiving dinner centerpiece.  Pinot Noirgets high recommendations for pairing with turkey, turkey dinner and gravy.  Pinot Noir is also a good choice with ham, particularly smoked ham.  The earthiness of mushrooms also dovetails with the darker expressions of Pinot Noir.

Grenache and Merlot, with their fruit-forward tendencies, also get good marks as a turkey mate.
For smoked turkey you might find the big jammy fruit and peppery spice of Syrah attractive.  For an American holiday celebration, why not an American grape?  You can't go wrong with a livelyZinfandel on the holiday spread.

If you’re in the mood for a white wine to serve with holiday turkey, try a wine with some interesting aromatics to offer.  Riesling and Viognier come to mind and Chardonnay is a perennial favorite.  Feel free to get crazy, though, and go with an Albariño or Torrontes if you are hosting adventurous types.

I think an imperative purchase for the Thanksgiving - and Christmas - holiday is a dry rosé.  For my money, nothing pairs better with leftover turkey sandwiches than a bone dry rosé.

Don't forget that Beaujolais Nouveau arrives a week ahead of Thanksgiving, on the third Thursday of November (the 18th in 2010).  For the uninitiated, Beaujolais Nouveau is a freshly made wine of the Gamay variety - from Beaujolais - which some eagerly await each year and some decry as not worthy of all the marketing attention it gets.  Finding it fruity and almost completely devoid of tannic structure, I’m in the latter camp.  Each year I marvel at how wrong 60-million Frenchmen can be.  Each year I also find myself picking up a bottle, then swearing I’ll not do it again.  Fortunately, Beaujolais Nouveau is cheap.  You can, however, pick up aBeaujolais Cru and join the party with a fully mature wine of substance.

The wine website Snooth listed the top five most-searched-for wines for Thanksgiving 2009, and there were three Pinot Noirs, a Chardonnay and a Cabernet Sauvignon.

Here are some specific suggestions to make your Thanksgiving dinner even more special:

Hitching Post
 Pinot Noir Bien Nacido Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley offers the flavors of cherry and spice that are always at home over the holidays. 

Cambria Winery struck gold with their 2007 Pinot Noir Julia’s Vineyard.  They say their ‘08 offers “red fruit, vanilla and cinnamon balanced with subtle earthy flavors.”  

Bonny Doon Vineyard says their '09 Contra red blend pairs especially well with turkey.   Food and Wine Magazine likes the "abundance of savory and peppery notes" of Bonny Doon's '07 Le Pousseur Syrah for the Thanksgiving table.

The Palmina '06 Nebbiolo Santa Barbara County sounds like it was made for the entire holiday season.  From Palmina's website: “A deep molasses thread, interlaced with an entire cadre of spice that spans the spectrum of cinnamon to allspice to clove.”

Niner Wine Estates has a Paso Robles entry cited by Guyot as one of the top wines for Thanksgiving.  Guyot says of the ‘07 Bootjack Ranch Merlot, “it begins with aromas of raspberry tart, violets and white pepper with a hint of lavender.  Flavors of cherry cocoa are backed by chewy tannins.”

Wine critic Edward Deitch has suggested the Viognier from Zaca Mesa Winery in the Santa Ynez Valley of Santa Barbara County.  Viognier’s aromatic floral notes appeal to him.  He describes Zaca Mesa's Viognier as “gorgeous, with notes of melon, honey, vanilla and touches of cinnamon, butterscotch and minerals," and thinks it would pair beautifully with Thanksgiving meal featuring many different flavors.

One of my favorite rosés is Panky, from Fontes & Phillips Wines.  Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah from Camp 4 Vineyard in Santa Ynez, CA brings the flavor of all those grapes in bone-dry fashion.  It’s great with turkey sandwiches.  

La Quinta Crema Marsala has a nose of raisins, spice and honey.  It could serve as dessert on its own, but you wouldn’t want to miss tasting it.  A sherry-like flavor of candied fruit pairs well with the assortment of pies you're likely to find over the holidays.  This brown-colored, fortified wine is 18% abv and would be right at home after a big Thanksgiving meal or Christmas dinner.  From San Antonio Winery in Los Angeles.

Is there anything I've missed?  Feel free to leave a comment if there's a favorite Thanksgiving wine tradition you'd like to share.