Check out what the W&S staff like to drink on Thanskgiving.
Tara Q. Thomas
I’m supplying the chicken liver pâté—Suzanne Goin has a fabulous recipe in her A.O.C. Cookbook cranked up with thyme and pancetta. She likes it with Prosecco, and so do I: The bubbles and the earthy, orange-citrus notes of Maschio dei Cavalieri’s Rive di Colbertaldo Prosecco will play well off the sweet, creamy richness of chicken liver, and it’s a fun way to kick off the meal.
But after a trip to Western Styria in Austria earlier this year, I’ve become obsessed with Schilcher, a brightly acidic red from the blauer wildbacher grape. Sparkling versions like Strohmeier’s Schilcher Frizzante are especially refreshing with anything fatty (the classic pairings are pork, pork and more pork, plus fried chicken.
I’ve also been saving a bottle of Tetramythos 2008 Black of Kalavryta from Achaia in the Peloponnese for this dinner. At about $15 retail, with dark, supple fruit flavors, it’s not something most people would age. But when Brent Kroll, a fellow Greek wine fan and sommelier at Iron Gate and Partisan in DC, came to NY last month to join us for a tasting, he brought me a bottle, knowing how much excitement I find in Greek wines—especially those made from varieties the country is just rediscovering.
We’ll need more than one red, and, given the wide range of tastes at a table for 20, it’s got to be something not too funky. After attending our annual Sommelier Scavenger Hunt last month and tasting through the picks from the McLaren Vale team, I’m totally sold on the greatness of McLaren Vale grenache. Bottlings like Jauma’s Alfred, from one of the highest points in McLaren, has all the juicy red fruit flavor you could ask from grenache, but with a light, gauzy texture and plenty of palate-whetting sappy spice. I haven’t the slightest idea what dishes guests are bringing to the dinner, but I know this wine can match just about anything.
I was last in Spain in August of 2004, before I’d discovered Sherry, and have ever since kicked myself for fighting the heat of summer in Andalucia with cheap, mediocre beer rather than chilled Fino and Manzanilla. So I’ll keep an eye out for a good unfiltered Fino en Rama for a Thanksgiving aperitif with boquerones and/or jamón.
While in Barcelona, it would be a shame to not drink wines from Catalunya. First and foremost, that will mean Cava—or maybe the Raventos i Blanc De Nit from Penedès, a creamy yet delicate sparkling rosé that gets its pink tint from a small addition of monastrell. (A few years ago, Raventos left the Cava D.O. to create its own more strict designation: Conca del Riu Anoia.
I’m not an expert on Catalan reds, but I recently had a frisky trepat from Succés Vinícola in Conca de Barberà. The grape is normally used to make Cava rosada, but when vinified as a still red wine, it’s a perfect Beaujolais stand-in with a Spanish accent. (Midway through writing this list, a Facebook post from a friend in Barcelona tags a 2015 Trepat “Novell” from Carles Andreu. Apparently they are way ahead of me…)
Some of the first wines I really liked, in college, were the cheap, plump, fruity Spanish garnachas that Eric Solomon was bringing in. Especially because I’ll be putting the finishing touches on a story about old-vine Barossa grenache while I’m in Barcelona, I’ll keep an eye out for more coastal renditions of the grape from Catalunya.
Then, I hope, relaxing in the decanter, a savory, autumnal, traditional Rioja. On the young side, maybe the 2002 R. López de Heredia Viña Tondonia Reserva—a tough vintage, but a bright and lively wine, and to my palate more accessible right now than the more ageworthy and grand 2001. (Otherwise, it would be great if I can find a decently priced Rioja from 1981, my birth year, which was a spectacular vintage in Rioja—and, apparently, nowhere else on the planet.)
For dessert: Palo Cortado! I’m partial to the relatively supple Palo Cortados from Gonzalez-Byass—their cellarmaster Antonio Flores seems to have a particularly graceful touch with the style. The vintage-dated Añada bottling is routinely awesome, but their 30-year-old Apostoles blend, sweetened with some PX, might be better with pumpkin pie.
Costadila Prosecco Colli Trevigiani—my mother is super into Prosecco, and this cloudy, funky, bright biodynamic bottling will be great next to our fresh Brussels sprout slaw.
L’Ouverture is the entry-level Champagne from Savart, a small producer in Ecueil. Made entirely of pinot noir, its fresh fruit and tight mousse will pair with a wide range of dishes, especially creamy, rich mashed potatoes. Please pass the gravy.
I just discovered the A&M Quenard 2014 Chignin Gamay when it went on sale at Flatiron Wines. With its snappy red fruit and a whisper of smoke, I’m anticipating greatness with cranberry sauce and the roasted sweet potatoes rounds we top with bright green chimichurri.
I could drink chenin blanc with every meal, and Thanksgiving is no exception. Vincent Carême Vouvray 2010 Les Clos is honeyed and mineral but still fresh, and a full-bodied white to decant to allow air and time for its complexities to emerge. I’m hoping it might convince my red-wine-drinking future sister-in-law to embrace the white side of the wine-drinking spectrum.
If I can get my hands on a bottle of Bodegas Tradicion’s Amontillado Tradicion 30 Years, it’ll be a showstopper. Rich yet totally dry, with nutty, salty olive flavors, it will help season the oftentimes over-cooked centerpiece bird.
Instead of Fernet we normally drink after the feast, I’ll be making a drink a bartender friend introduced me to: a shot of half Del Maguey Mezcal (Chichicapa is one of the more available single-village bottles) and half Cappelletti, a bitter red digestive similar to Campari. Sip it or shoot it, either way it helps soothe an over-stuffed stomach.
I’ve got two from a trip to Robert Sinskey Vineyards in Napa Valley this past May: the 2013 Abraxas, a blend of riesling, pinot blanc, pinot gris and gewürztraminer, and the 2013 Libration, a blend of cabernet franc and merlot meant to drink well earlier than his Marcien bottling.
I should also note that each year we make a riesling gravy to accompany the turkey. I will use a trusty bottle of 2014 Hermann J. Wiemer Semi-Dry Riesling to cut through the richness of the turkey drippings and broth. Whatever is left in the bottle after the gravy is done will be a special treat for the cooks.
I’ll also be bringing a sparkling from Franciacorta, the Il Mosnel Pas Dosé. Yeasty, velvety with tangy acidity, it’s a bittersweet reminder of all the delicious Franciacorta that the Italians are keen to keep for themselves.
For whites I’m going with chardonnay—Bergström’s Sigrid Chardonnay from the Willamette Valley, which I discovered at this year’s Top 100; and Castello D’Albola’s 2014 Poggio alle Fate, which I like for its clean, citrusy freshness.
Lastly, and with luck on my side, a bottle of Castello d’Albola 2007 Vin Santo will make its way to my door in time for Thanksgiving dessert.
This Thanksgiving will be a lot more crowded than last year because my grandmother is turning 90, so all of our relatives and close family friends living overseas are flying in.
As always, T-day will be potluck Chinese-fusion style. It’s hard to say what we’ll be eating, but I hope the picture below will give you a good idea.
With such a mixed bag of dishes and desserts, I’ve compiled a wide range of wines, mostly red, mostly Chilean merlots, Australian syrahs, New Zealand blends, and random Italians, with a bottle of Errazuriz Aconcagua Coast Syrah in the stash that I’ve instructed the oldest cousin to not let out of his sight. I only hope he didn’t drink it “by accident.”
Unfortunately, the family isn’t big on dessert wine. If they were, I would most likely pair my mizu-yokan (soft red bean jelly) with a Mosel Kabinett riesling or Tokaji from Royal Tokaji.
While wine is always an important part of Thanksgiving, it has always been difficult to think of a special wine when there are so many people and so many dishes. So this year, I’m focusing on after dinner, and offering a Port, specifically the Quinta do Vesuvio 2013 Vintage Porto, which was recently tasted for our December 2015 issue. While still very young, I am hoping that its “green character” and “red berry notes” will pair well with the various sweets, and the fact that it has “plenty of grip” will mean it’s not too overwhelming and heavy and will provide a useful shock for those folks who still need to get back home.
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