What wines for turkey time

Monday, November 5, 2012

Fran Harris, a facebook friend who may or not be related to me asked me the question of which wines I would recommend for Thanksgiving.  I have on this in the past and definitely some of my selections are going to be the same as before, but there might also be some new ones as well.  I am going to break this down into wines for the meal, and wines after the meal.  I will leave out blush wines, but add in some fruit wines.

Cranberry Sauce – this dish allows for so many things that could pair with it, but here I would stick with sparkling wine, fruit wine, or white wine.  In sparkling wines, I would go with a brut Prosecco (Anna Spinato is my favorite, or you can go with an organic Monetto), a nice blanc di blancs (Domaine Ste Michelle is great and inexpensive), a sparkling Shiraz, an extra dry (Gruet Extra Dry would be my choice) or go for the stronger aspect of strawberries with a nice blanc de noirs such as Gloria Ferrer.  If you can find it, the Gloria Ferrer Royal Cuvee would be great.  Oh, I am loving this Juve y Camps Milesime Reserva and will tell you to try that as well.  Another aspect would be to pair fruit with fruit and do either a blackberry, blueberry or raspberry wine.  Both Alba and Tomasello in New Jersey make some that are wonderful.

Now, the funny thing is that everything else pretty much consists of the meal itself and whatever side dishes.  In [part of] my family, they go with not only turkey, but lamb, roast beef, ham and even chicken.  For this, I would either stick with a sparkling wine, or move on to white and/or red wine – why can’t you do both. 

For white wines, I would defer to Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Viognier and white wine blends such as Evolution.  A classic Chenin Blanc-Viognier mix might work as well. For Pinot Gris, I would stick with something from Alsace, preferably Willm or a Gentil by Hugel et Fils; both of these will be resplendent with pear and peaches.  For Chardonnay, I would go with a Kendall Jackson Grand Reserve – do not get the Vintner’s! – or something from Hess.  Another favorite of mine is Beringer Napa Valley Chardonnay. 

Now, there are only so many Viognier wines that I like, and I would still defer back to Christine Andrew which is put out by Ironstone Vineyards.  But I almost forgot that there is also the Vision Series Viognier by Cono Sur and also The Innocent by Shinas Estate.  Warning, the latter might put people out faster than the trytophan in the turkey.

For reds, we open up the potential to go many ways.  If you want the same old that you have probably already been accustomed to, then you can go with Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot as well as blends.  If you want to be wowed, then go with Zinfandel, Primitivo, Ripasso, Barolo, Barbera, Brunello and Amarone.

A good classic Bordeaux blend would work, and for me, the most recent that I had is Don Tiburcio which should be around $13 a bottle and is great.  You could go higher with wines such as Oculus (Mission Hill – Canada) or Alpha M (Montes – Chile), but now you’re talking some serious coin.

And again, we come back to Shinas Estate with The Guilty and The Verdict, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon respectively.

Cabernet Sauvignon, I would go with Cannonball or Grayson Cellars.  If you want to step up the game, but not too expensively, Chateau Ste Michelle’s Cold Creek Cab is truly juicy and decadent.

For Pinot Noir, if you can find it, Rio Seco Reserva Pinot Noir would be an inexpensive best bet. Also, Root 1 makes a nice one.  And speaking of Root 1, they have an awesome Carmenere.

Merlot, I would go with Benziger or with Columbia Estates Grand Reserve Merlot; the latter can be had for about nine dollars a bottle.  There is another great Merlot that escapes my mind right now; I hope that I remember it for you.

For Zinfandel, outside of some great ones from Rosenblum Cellars, I have to talk about Lapis Luna Romanza, which is 87% Zinfandel and 13% Great Valley Sangiovese; if you can find some, save some for me.

If you want to serve a bunch of people, look at Big House wines, which have some great quality and won’t break your wallet.  They have Syrah, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Each bottle will run you around eight dollars, so you can really take care of everyone with this.

I want to bring up one grape which you will rarely see by itself, and that is Petit Verdot.  Actually, Eagle Eye out in California made one and I have to have a friend ship me out a few bottles.  What’s so special about this grape is that it imparts a depth of smokiness to any wine that it is part of.  It is one of the crucial components of the Bordeaux blend and I have seen it also used in Italy as well.

The other side of things would be the reds of Italy, and here you could get into some trouble [and at the same time some fun] if you branch off into them.

If you want something with a little bit of spice, then I would go with a Salice Salentino.  If you want more dry but still juicy and spicy, Barbera would be the thing and my favorite is Barbera da Vine; it has the lady on the front.  

Barolo and Brunello will be your heavy hitters, though not as much as a great Amarone.  But then again, things like quality and aging come into play here.  These three are all grown folks wines, so it’s not even worth wasting it on those who really have no great appreciation for red wine.  A great introduction to Amarone would be a Mara Ripasso by Cesari – again, and unfortunately, no relation – but in moving up to Amarone, I would throw out Allegrini, Masi and Tommasi.  Now the one thing to know is that we all have different tastes, and all of these wines go great with red meats as well as seriously flavored game as well as poultry.  I would also toss in Villa Chiara, who makes a great one for less than thirty dollars a bottle.

Donna Fugata Tancredi and Sedara are some other great choices, and they utilize the grape Nero d’Avola in these wines.  These are the grapes of Sicily and quite a few folks might slit my throat if I don’t mention this varietal.

This brings us to dessert, and with this we have very many possibilities.  If you want sweet, I would go differently with red or orange muscat (Elysium, Red Electra, Essencia, or Electra by Quady Winery; also, their Deviation is spicy and would be something different).  White port -- Dow’s or Cockburn’s – would also be appropriate for this.

If you want to sit back, be thankful and reminisce about the good times, I would either go with Port or Madeira.  On the latter, my palate likes bual and malmsey versions, and I love Alvada, which is a blend of both.  Now with Port, I would go with a ten year old aged tawny as the lowest one to serve to your good guests; you can give others a late bottled vintage or a ruby.  In either one of these styles of wine, a vintage one would be best, and in the case of vintage port, sit it in a decanter at least one hour before serving.

If you want to be a little more daring than wine, then I would switch you over to amaro, strega and grappa.  Now, the best amaro that I have ever had is made by Meletti, but they also have a number of either liqueur as well.  I also love Amaro Montenegro.  Strega, which means the witch, is a liqueur with an orange aspect.  And this brings us to grappa.  Grappa is made from the remains of winemaking; the stems, seeds and skins.  There are many grappas, and not all of them are good.  You don’t need a lot, and when you drink it, just take a little, and let it sit on your tongue for about twenty seconds so that you can start picking apart the different flavors in it.  Again, this is not to be swilled, gulped or just hammered down one’s throat.

Well, that’s what I am picking for this year.  I am sure that there are some wines out there I didn’t include, and some people might be looking at me cross the next time that they see me, but it is what it is.  My personal slate would be two bottles of sparkling, one bottle of Benziger Merlot, one bottle of Zinfandel, one bottle of Amarone, one bottle of Barbera, one great Bordeaux blend – that Don Tiburcio – one bottle of Dow’s 10 year old Tawny, one bottle of Amaro and one bottle of grappa.  With that, I’d be happy with just maybe a few friends, a few dishes, one turkey and some roast beast.  Yes, that is roast beast, just like the Hoos eat in Hooville.

Now, hopefully your meal will consist of macaroni and cheese, greens and/or cabbage, rice and/or mashed potatoes and all your meats and poultry.  I don’t eat stuffing, nor ever liked it, and I don’t do sweet potato or marshmallows either.  Either way, now you have some ideas of wines to use.  Don’t ask me what I am doing for Thanksgiving, but I am open to a bunch of invites, I might even bring some wine.

Oh, I do have one funny Thanksgiving story -- actually with my life, I have a number of crazy ones -- but one year I happened to meet one woman when I went to the Black Caucus and we reconnected on the phone that Thanksgiving.  She actually invited me to come down and spend dinner with her -- I would have had to drive from Philadelphia all the way down to Arlington, Virgina -- to which I declined because I was headed over to my aunt and uncle's house where the food would be very good.  Well, around the same time, my cousin had just given birth to her little girl and as they were making the rounds, they didn't get home until late.  Well, I come to the house at seven, and while everything was cooked, no one was there but me and their two cats. Instead of hacking into anything, I came home to an empty house and just chilled.  Maybe I should have taken the drive.

Now, I do have an even funnier Christmas story which involves an ex-pimp, but you'll have to wait until December for that one!

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