I am sitting out here by the fire pit roasting turkey gizzards and throwing crumpled articles that I have written on wines to have for this most predictable of wine holidays. Thanksgiving wine suggestions are “back like vampires at full moon” (thank you, New York Times). Probably the most boring of the lot is Beaujolais Nouveau. If you must serve it, make sure you have your favorite ABBA tunes at the ready to cheer you up as you motor your way through your tofu or turkey. It is time for new thoughts.
Thanksgiving is an event for either the many (I call them “the peeps”), or the few, the swanksgiving people (two to four in number). We will look at wines for each group as they usually differ in style, taste and budget. Food, costume and décor are always optional.
Prosecco has become a yawner, switch to a Spanish Cava. It is fun to say and is far more interesting. Segura Viudas Cava, Brut, $10.00-$12.00 bottle. Serve it chilled in a flute or wine glass or add some cranberries, lemon wedges and orange slices for festivity.
Hattingley Classic Reserve Brut. $50.00-$60.00 bottle. Tastes like the world’s finest tiny bubbled croissant lightly coated with minerals. It is the classic grape mixture of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier. The original people who made wine here around the era of ca. 400’s A.D. had “weirdly tonsured heads (shaven in a band from ear to ear but leaving long flowing hair) and tattooed green eyelids” (thankyou, Monks and Wine by Desmond Seward ). This is a bottle of BRITISH BUBBLES. It is new, hot and awesome- symbolic of the new, young royals, having their own little “royalettes” every 15 minutes or so. Look out Champagne!
A to Z Wineworks, Newberg, Oregon Pinot Gris, 2016, $15.99 bottle. The operative words here are juicy, aromatic and loaded with flavors of ripe apples. This is a total “peep pleaser”. Everyone will be sloshingly happy. I used to live in this town in the ‘70’s just outside of the other Portland. There were few wineries. I was sales manager of one of them. Lots of filbert nut groves. Things have changed. The filberts are no more.
Empire State Dry Riesling, 2016, Finger Lakes, $20.00 bottle. Its flavor is like “Riding along a streamlined river of acidity” (thank you, Wine Enthusiast.). Swanksgiving wines are more to drink and contemplate than the wines for the “peeps”. This is one you think about when you gnaw on your turkey leg and genuflect on just how tough it is to grow grapes in the Eastern U.S. The early guru of New York vines, Dr. Konstantin Frank, once planted vines in places that “where when we spit it froze before it hit the ground”.
Il Roccolo Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, $10.00 bottle. It is So Misunderstood. This isn’t Vino Nobile di Montepulciano (different place, different grape, different meal- pass the lasagna). This is the fruity, delicious Montepulciano grape from Abruzzo in Southern Italy that can wash down giblets with the best of them. Only problem here is to pick a producer like Il Roccolo, Cataldi, Valle Reale or Zaccagnini that are simply showcasing this wonderfully drinkable and enjoyably priced wine and not trying to over entertain your taste buds with their cellar full of new oak barrels. It happens.
I think that the ultimate swanksgiving wine must coincide not only with the taste of foods but the feeling of the change of the seasons. Having been born and raised in Los Angeles, our only change of seasons was baseball and football surrounded by palm trees. In Portland, Maine the seasons really are seasons. Autumn here is a feeling and a sensation.
After a whole lot of tasting (the tough part), reflecting, and generally looking at brightly colored and changing leaves, one wine best captures this moment: Produttori del Barbaresco, Piedmont, Italy, $45.00 bottle. It is a medium bodied red that resembles violets and hints of truffles, and if there is a game bird on the table it reaches perfection. The Produttori is a co-op whose members own around 40% of the vineyards of the region. There is a longstanding tradition of quality here. The problem is that their native Nebbiolo grape needs bottle age to reach that perfection. Purchase 6 bottles and have one every year with your swanksgiving people.
Savory and James NV Deluxe Quality Cream Sherry, Spain, $12.00 bottle. Don’t knock it ‘till you have tried it. Created by Norton Cooper, President of Charles Jacquin Co. in Philadelphia. Mr. Cooper is one of the great tasters and inventors of alcoholic beverages in our time. He created Chambord Liquor! Rich, complex and savory (just like the name).
Alvear NV Solera 1927 Pedro Ximenez, Montilla-Moriles, $30.00 half bottle. Unfortunately, some wine writer wag gave this little stupendous under the radar dessert wine a 100-point rating and zippo chango the price roared upwards. It is still one of the world’s great dessert wine deals. The grape Pedro Ximenez is still underrated as is the region in Southern Spain. The wine is essence of Nutella in a glass. A little bit does go a long way. The 1927 refers to a barrel in the solera system but the wine is admirably aged and ancient.
It is time to come in from the fire pit. The turkey gizzards are all reduced to a fine cinder ash as are the older cliched thanksgiving wine and food pairings. Hope all of this helps with your group large (“the peeps”) and small (“the swanksgiving folks”). Have a joyous thanksgiving.