Sunday, November 11, 2007

Wine for Thanksgiving

Hard to believe it's been a year since the last time I looked at wines for the Most Gluttonous Time Of The Year. Lots of calories under the bridge since then. We're again faced with the same dilemma -- big table, many family members with various issues, wildly varied foods, and a need for wines to please everyone.

Good luck.

Actually, there are a number of wines that would work just fine with almost any table. Since thinking basic is a good idea, there's a lot of decent product that will work. A few possibilities follow. And, like last year, if you find yourself cooking -- I still recommend a flask of Maker's Mark stashed inconspicuously behind the potato masher.

Paringa 2004 Sparkling Shiraz -- Full disclosure -- this was the first alcoholic sparkling red I've ever tried. I'd heard sparkling shiraz mentioned as a flexible wine, and I was quite curious, since I couldn't quite put "Shiraz" and "sparkling" together in my mind. If you drink this wine thinking "Shiraz," you're in for a shock. The strong fruit and slight sweetness of Shiraz gets amplified. While the wine was a little bit sweeter than I usually take, it was still very interesting. The nose is crisp, with a little blueberry. The flavor is soft. It's sweet, but there's a little bit of tannin running underneath. The finish is very crisp for a wine this sweet. If you put it with the typical Thanksgiving table -- roast turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, and such -- it would really shine. There are enough interesting notes in here to echo almost anything you'll find in the food. If you pick it up at another time of year, have it as a brunch wine. Fruits (we had it with cherries and chocolate covered blueberries) match this wine very well. $10.

Covey Run 2005 Gewürztraminer -- What can I say, I'm still a sucker for wines with umlauts. While Riesling is probably more flexible, if you've got a group that wants something a little different or if you're with a group that doesn't know better, bust out a Gewürz. It'll be fun for people to try to pronounce after a couple of glasses, at the very least. This offering from Washington is a really flavorful wine, starting you with a nose of honey and apples. The body is quite full and fruity, and it's not as peppery as many of its cousins. I generally prefer them with a little more spice, but this will be much more accessible to a larger group. More importantly, it does have enough acidity to stand up to most foods. It will compliment almost anything that you might think to cook, unless you're going to do a beef roast or something along those lines. For $8-9, you'll get a bottle you can use either with dinner or as an aperitif.

Louis Jadot 2006 Beaujolais-Villages -- A quick side note here. I wanted to do a Beaujolais as one of the wines, since that's a classic pairing. I was struck immediately when I checked that section of the aisle at the sheer number of Beaujolais cru that were available. If you remember, those are the ones made in particular towns in the region and are supposed to be the "top of the line." Then I noticed -- every single one of them was from Georges Dubeouf. I shouldn't have a prejudice, since his wines are generally very quaffable -- but with this onslaught of cru, I was skeptical. I followed my instinct and took the one bottle of Beaujolais among the dozen or so that wasn't from dear ol' Georges. I wasn't disappointed. A friendly, nice nose of strawberries and cherries. Those scents are echoed in the body of the wine. The tannins are light, and the acidity's not too strong. A good all around red wine to just straight-up drink or that will work with most anything you'll have on the table. Only $6-7, so you can load up and not break the bank.

Gnarly Head 2005 Old Vine Zinfandel -- "Come on, Mike," a friend of mine said, "You do these wines for big groups and parties, and you do things that will appeal to the middle of the road. But Thanksgiving is a big ass meal, so you need a big ass wine. What would you do?" With a gauntlet like that thrown down, you need a red wine where people will know that they're drinking A Red Wine. Still, you have to have appeal for lots of folks, and it does have to go with what you're serving. One wine raises its hand -- Zinfandel. Specifically, big, cranking California Zin. The Gnarly Head fills the bill perfectly. The very definition of a "fruit bomb," this wine announces its presence with authority. Lots of big plummy scents lead you to a huge fruity body. There's a little tannin and a little oak in there somewhere, and you catch hints of it on the finish -- but it's largely a big wine that would pair with big flavors. Most Thanksgiving tables would be perfect. At close to 15% alcohol, it'll liven up any party. $10.

Enjoy the gorging, enjoy the wine, enjoy the football, and celebrate the family. Whether tied by blood or by love, they're what makes us us. Raise a glass.

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