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Thanksgiving: What We’re Drinking | Patrick J. Comiskey

You know the saying, “Too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the broth.” But what about too many sommeliers?

The W&S staff plays sommelier at our respective Thanksgiving feasts, a role often complicated by family traditions—some loved, some eagerly forgotten. Or by the food—a subject on which everyone has an opinion. Or, in some years, by the family…. There are those Thanksgivings, in fact, in which we wish we could simply nab our favorite dish and bottle of wine and take them off to someplace quiet to enjoy them in peace. Here are some of our favorite bottles and dishes—and a few recipes to boot.

Patrick J. Comiskey
Senior Correspondent (LA)
North Coast Zinfandel and old-vine mixed blacks

My mother’s the daughter of a chef, so all my life I’ve been spoiled for most holiday meals, and Thanksgiving is no exception. Wine was never much of a focus, however. In fact the first time I paid attention to the wines at the feast was when I was asked to supply them, in 1996, not long after I’d moved to San Francisco, and had just become the wine buyer for the now-defunct restaurant 42 Degrees.

I was dating a woman named Debra at the time who had friends in Marshall, California, on Tomales Bay, and we were invited to their house for the holiday. What I didn’t know was that nearby Point Reyes had just added two new residents, Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson, and they were cooking the meal.

Chad and Elisabeth are now the proprietors of Tartine Bakery and Bar Tartine in San Francisco. They’d just returned from bread-baking and pastry-making stages in France, and were getting ready to build their first bread oven in California.

The meal was a Thanksgiving as only a chef couple can pull off, with a perfectly cooked bird, oyster stuffing made with homemade bread, an array of brassicas from brussels sprouts to lacinato kale, pain de campagne, and pies and sweets so delicious they made you yearn for more room in your stomach.

I’d brought a case of wine, nearly all of it from California, and nearly all of it red, with a number of old-school zins from Ridge, Sky and the oddly named Blockheadia Ringnosii. But there was wine that evening which, as soon as I opened, I decided I wasn’t going to share with anyone but Debra and the chefs. It was an early edition of Sean Thackrey’s Pleiades, his blended wine made mostly with old-vine fruit of old, mixed black varieties like carignane, barbera, zinfandel, petite sirah, cinsault and grenache—a wine whose only purpose, according to Thackrey, was to be delicious. And it was: dark, rich and forward. He still makes it, with many of the same sources, and with the same objective, and I try to have it on hand for the Thanksgiving feast—only I’m more inclined to share it now.

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