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Archive for November, 2010

[5 Wines For Thanksgiving]

I don’t understand why wine columnists lament having to write the annual Wines to Pair with Thanksgiving article.  To me, tackling the subject of America’s most culinary holiday from the perspective of wine should be looked forward to!  It should be a time to synthesize all that you’ve learned about wine over the past year and offer a fresh take on what might elevate your turkey feast to sensational new heights.

Of course, every Thanksgiving Wine article must end with a version of this obligatory statement: “The most important rule for wine pairing at Thanksgiving is to drink the wines you love.  After all, the holiday is about taking stock of the blessings of family, friends and abundance, and the wines you bring should reflect a gratitude for being able to share them with the people you care about.”  But to me, that should be the rule for every holiday.  Hell, that should be the rule for every Tuesday.  Wine is a beverage of thought and reflection, of community and conviviality.  You don’t need a holiday devoted to those principles to make wine special.

Wine pairing for Thanksgiving is slightly an exercise in lunacy.  It isn’t like a normal pairing, because you’re looking for a wine that will be good with potentially a dozen different dishes.  And if you’re bringing wines to a Thanksgiving dinner, you’ll have only a rough idea of what the dishes will be or how they’ll be prepared [side note, Mom, let’s not have a fiasco like last year and just keep the marshmallows in the fruit salad, k? thx].  What makes it easy, however, is that since no pairing will be perfect, you’re really just aiming for crowd pleasing wines.

So, yes, drink the wines you love this Thanksgiving.  But if you’re not sure what you love, I humbly offer five areas of suggestion to help guide you:

1) Sparkling Wine. Bubbly is a no brainer on Thanksgiving, or any holiday for that matter.  Mumm Napa Brut Rose (Around $20, widely sold) would be a great starter.  Roses in general would be a good flavor match for T-day (think cranberry sauce).  Another good sparkling pick would be the Saint-Hilaire Blanquette di Limoux [$13.99 at Surdyk’s] – it’s light, yeasty and apple scented.

2) Viognier. Of course, you can’t go wrong with Chardonnay for Thanksgiving, but let’s give some love to different fuller bodied white.  Viognier just tastes like autumn – creamy and musky with tart apricot flavors.  The La Forge Estate Viognier I blogged about earlier this year would be a good one.  Pine Ridge’s Chenin Blanc-Viongier blend is an ever-present, budget conscious bottle worth consideration as well.

3) Rhones. Red wines from the France’s Rhone Valley are an excellent match to stand up to the array of rich foods you’ll be faced with.  These Grenache-Syrah blends are round and robust, and provide refreshing acidity and spice.  If you don’t usually splurge on wine, a $30 Chateauneuf-du-Pape would instantly endear you to everyone at your Thanksgiving get together.  Though, there are great examples of Rhones to be had under $20.  Ask Russell at Cork Dork Wine Co for a recommendation, he has a great selection of Rhones. For widely stocked Rhones, you can’t go wrong with any $15-20 Rhone (usually styled Cotes-du-Rhone) from E. Guigal, Perrin et Fils, or Jaboulet.  Surdyk’s has all three. 

4) Pinot Noir.  Pinots are a perfect match.  Especially if your Turkey is on the dry side, you don’t want a red wine to be choking you with tannin at the T-day table.  Pinot Noir will complete a nice balancing act against all your dishes with its earthiness, light body and tart flavors.  Burgundy, as opposed to domestic Pinot Noir, is especially good.  They’re more restrained than your jammy strawberry Pinots from California.  They have more fungal (in a good way), rustic flavors that are already at your table.  I’m going to bring a 2000 Arthur Barolet Chassagne-Montrachet I bought at a ridiculously discounted price during Haskell’s Summer Sale in July.  They have a great selection of Burgundy at all their locations.

5) Domestic/Local Wines. I throw this in as a general category.  Since it is a harvest holiday, it’s not a bad idea to think local or at least domestic.  I’m bringing the Summerset Frontenac from Indianola, Iowa that I wrote about for Heavy Table, but there are many good Minnesota Wines to bring as well.  For refreshing whites, try the Seyval Blanc from Alexis Bailly or the La Crescent from Saint Croix Vineyards.  The latter would be very nice with pumpkin pie.

There you have it – a few ideas, though certainly not comprehensive.  Everyone will tell you Zinfandel is great for Thanksgiving, so is Gewürztraminer, and same thing with Chardonnay…(you see where I’m going with this).  Just remember, it’s a celebration.  Plan your wine accordingly.

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So, this is happening.

I suppose it’s about time, still can’t help but die a little inside.  No more Lake Calhoun, no more patio at McGoverns.  It’s back to corner booths at the Liffey and my commute now lasting two full podcasts of Planet Money.

Check out my article over at Heavy Table if you get a chance: Lake Wine & Spirits great store in a convenient location for me.  Good thing I stocked up there before the skies opened up.

The 2005 Conde de Valdemar Rioja Crianza is a real nice wine at $13.99.  It’s velvety and soft with vanilla, red berry fruit and wood.  Has a soft spicy nose and a clean dry finish.  A characteristic Rioja at a good price.  Also really liked the 2007 Castello d’Alba Douro Colheita – for $8.99 this Portuguese red gives you some good sweet strawberries and earth in a light body.  A great value wine, one for the Tuesday night DiGiorno.

Stay warm, readers.  Coming up this week, the complete G Sheaves guide to buying Thanksgiving wines.

 

 

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[via Vintage Ads]:

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Sometimes, I really want to like a wine.  You know the feeling – a wine you’ve been saving for a special occasion or just one that you’ve been meaning to try for a while.  When you finally taste it, you know immediately there’s something you don’t like about it, but feel obligated to find a silver lining so you don’t let yourself down.  “Well, it may smell like the bathrooms at the State Fair, but it sure does have a nice color to it…” It’s a tempting crutch that one should avoid when evaluating wine.  Getting a sense of what wines you really like and training your palate to craft an honest evaluation can be hard enough without you trying to fool yourself.

Such was the case with today’s wine, the fifth [and I believe, final] wine on my list of Standouts from the MN Monthy Food & Wine Expereience back in February.  The other two wines on the list have no distribution around here, and unless I find myself in North Dakota or Washington anytime soon, I won’t get a second chance with them.  I had been saving this wine for last because the thought of drinking it in the summer made me queasy.  It’s a big, extracted, boozy Zinfandel – maybe it stood out that day by breaking my palate fatigue.  I remember really enjoying it and waiting eagerly for it to get cold out to try it again.

The 2008 Opolo Mountain Zinfandel [$20.85 on sale at Zipp’s] from Paso Robles is an indulgent monster of a wine.  Beginning with what’s readily apparent about it – 16.7% alcohol.  It packs an absolute punch, but it doesn’t taste overly alcoholic.  Dare I say it’s a well-integrated 16.7%?  The wine has a thick purple color with lighter rims and a fruity nose of plums and violets, with a hint of the alcohol peeking through.  The beginning sip is where this wine looses me.  The attack is sweet, like stewed ultra-ripe strawberry sweet.  The rest of the sip continues on that same path with gobs of jammy berries, molasses and alcohol.  The tannin is subdued in this Zin, I wish it were more present to balance the heft it carries.  It’s full-bodied and rich, but that tinge of sweetness and the fruit flavors that follow, coupled with the booze level equals opulence-overload for me.

I can say, though, that this wine will please a lot of drinkers out there.  During my interview with Dean Langenfeld, he and his wife right away named this wine as a standout favorite in their house.  If you like big wines, if you’re more of a spirits drinker, or if you like getting blitzed right quick, you may like this Zin.

When did it become the holiday season all of a sudden?  I’ve got Food Network wishing me a Happy Thanksgiving already.  I guess I’d better keep pace.  Coming up, picking out your Thanksgiving wines…

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