Tuesday, November 25, 2008

More Thanksgiving yumminess.

Since I've given you the wines that the SPinC and I are planning to serve with Thanksgiving dinner, here's the rest of the menu:

First Course:
  • Roasted Tomato Basil Bisque
Second Course:
  • Clementines, jicama, toasted pumpkin seeds, and grilled red onion on bed of arugula and cilantro
Third Course:
  • Medallions of Pork Tenderloin with Linden Cherry Reduction
  • Pan roasted fingerling potatoes with pancetta
  • Bulgur flavored with roasted nuts and dried apricots
  • Blanched snow peas mixed with shavings of roasted carrot
Fourth Course:
  • Autumn Pear and Cranberry Crumble

Hope it'll be good eatin'...

What's that? You still want more options for your Thanksgiving table? Have I got a deal for you? Head on over to Michelle's place. She's put together a couple of "tables" full of folks from the local wine retail community and the Cincinnati metro blogverse (the latter including yours truly) to give some suggestions for good Thanksgiving pairings.

Of course, with Thanksgiving comes leftovers, and we've got you covered there, too. Kevin Keith from Liquor Direct is having a "Holiday Show" tasting this Friday and Saturday. In K2's own words:

The weekend after Thanksgiving, when you are sick of turkey, sick of your in-laws, and sick of holiday TV programs, come out to Liquor Direct for our final wine tastings of the year, presented in two parts with the first half being featured at our Covington location on Friday and the second portion of the program at our Fort Thomas locale. Saturday we’ll reverse the wines, which will be as follows:

Part One:
Marc Herbert Brut Tradition Champagne NV
Mischief & Mayhem Chablis 1er Cru 2006
Thelema Chardonnay Stellenbosch 2006
Mirabile VIognier Sicily 2006
Philippe Delesvaux Anjou Authentique Loire 2005
Lemelson Pinot Noir Thea’s Selection 2006

Part Two:
Ramirez de Ganuza Rioja 2002
Papapietro Perry Pinot Noir Charles Vineyard 2006
Mirabile Tannat Sicily 2005
Mollydooker Shiraz Blue Eyed Boy 2007
Chateau Monbousquet St.-Emilion 2003
Pedestal Merlot Columbia Valley 2005

[Prices range between $20-$55 per bottle]

Enjoy! Many happy returns -- and I'll see you after Turkey Day with some new stuff...Cheers!

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Give us any wine, we'll take it...

The Naked Vine now has a sprout some distance north. The good folks at Express Milwaukee -- the online home of Shepherd Express, Milwaukee's home for arts, dining and culture -- have decided to make the Vine a part of their regular online features. Many thanks to them, and a hearty welcome to my new Wisconsinite readers! Pull up a chair, grab a glass, and join the fun...

(I promise, the title of this post will be my last Laverne & Shirley reference.)

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Monday, November 17, 2008

...The (almost) Perfect Wine for Thanksgiving dinner

"OK, smart guy," the email began, "Nice suggestions for wines to bring to someone's house -- but what would you suggest for the actual meal? You know, the whole reason that everyone gathers in the first place?"

A challenge I'm more than happy to meet head on, thank you very much.

While there are always countless gatherings and parties through the months of November and December, there's something about Thanksgiving that brings out the madness in everyone. Financial stress, family stress, travel stress -- you name it, and this long weekend's got it.

Because of all this, Thanksgiving dinner simply begs for wine. So does Thanksgiving dinner prep, and Thanksgiving dinner cleanup, and football, and...well...you get the idea.

The trick, I've found, is to stay flexible. (At least when it comes to choosing your wines.) You're usually going to be drinking much more than normal, for all the reasons I've mentioned, so I think it's best to have some wines that not only will complement the meal you're having, but will be good enough to have on their own, and not so expensive that they're going to break the bank. After all, you're probably going to be topping off the recycling bin when all is said and done.

You're not going to find a "perfect" wine to have with dinner. There are usually too many flavors laid out in front of you: meat, sweet, wine-killing vegetables, starches of various sorts. In my opinion, your best bet is to find reasonably food friendly wines that people will enjoy on their own. Don't worry too much about the pairings. After the first couple of glasses, no one's going to care much, anyway.

So, here's what's going to be uncorked around VineLand for the feast:

Whites: I decided to go with a double-barrel of Washingtonian goodness. Chateau St. Michelle has long been a solid "when in doubt" fallback for me, and I've got enough folks around the table this year who like wines on the slightly sweet side that I figure I can't go wrong either way. Both CSM's 2007 Riesling ($7-9) and 2007 Gewurztraminer ($8-10) are excellent, food friendly selections. The Riesling is a classic Washington Riesling, full of apples and honey. The Gewurz has a little more residual sugar than many others, but I think, especially for wine novices or folks who just want more in their glass, that it runs a strong middle-of-the road path. There may be more interesting Gewurz's out there, but for the value and for the overall quality, it'll do just fine.

Rosé: Thanksgiving dinner just isn't thanksgiving dinner at our place without a dry rosé on the table. I went through several tests before settling on the Juno 2007 Cape Maidens Rosé. ($8-10) This wine is South African, made from a blend of 50% Syrah and 50% Pinotage. The resulting wine is a fruity concoction with a full, floral nose and flavors of cherry and green apple. The finish is crisp and dry. (I honestly wish I'd discovered this wine in the summer -- it would have been fabulous with salads and such.) I think it's one of the more interesting rosés at this price point. I also think it will be a great conversation starter thanks to the myriad angles one can use to look at the movie of the same name. However, I take no responsibility for any unplanned pregnancies after overconsumption of this wine.

Red: This year, it's going to be Zinfandel. Specifically, De Loach 2005 Zinfandel. ($9-11) I think this is a really interesting wine. It's a "bridge Zin," in my opinion. The Sweet Partner in Crime said that it "could pass for a big pinot." It's not as big, inky, or powerful as a lot of Zins. What it is -- fruity without being cloying and big without being overwhelming. Lots of cherry and blackberry flavors on both the nose and body, with a slightly smoky finish. I found this wine on sale locally. At $9, it's a bargain. At the $7 I found it for, it's stealing.

If you haven't noticed, there's a "cherry" theme to these wines -- which I'm banking on complementing the cherries we harvested this summer. We're going to use those cherries in sauces for roast turkey and pork and in desserts inspired by our cross-alley neighbor, Christine (the Pie Queen). I'll let you know how it all turns out...

Feel free to share in the comments what you're planning to open when the family walks through the door. I'd enjoy comparing notes with you. And Vine recommendations are always free.

In the meantime, prepare for eating, drinking, and merrymaking; do your best to stay reasonably sane; and remember -- there's always another bottle somewhere...or at least there should be.

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Sunday, November 02, 2008

"The Perfect Wine to Bring Home for Thanksgiving"

Sometimes, a column unexpectedly falls into your lap.

On a day that found me wracked with a horrid case of writer’s block, a ray of sunshine flashed across my flat screen in the form of this email from Sarah at the Foster School of Business at the University of Washington:

Every month, we produce a small newsletter, “Wine Notes,” for the University of Washington Business School. This month, we’re featuring an article on “The Perfect Wine to Bring Home for Thanksgiving” and were hoping we could get your advice. We’ve come up with four somewhat comical but very real situations that many of us will be facing this November:

  • Aficianados...what? -- An impressive choice that the wine enthusiast would take note of.
  • "I Want to Marry your Daughter" -- A great wine for those who have no honors diploma from WSET.
  • "I'm home. Is the game on?" -- An average wine that your kid brother wouldn't make fun of you for.
  • Frat-Brother Reunion -- Would serve well as a fifth bottle...or a sixth.

We were hoping you might have a suggestion for each situation. Our audience is price sensitive and has a preference for Washington/Oregon wines.

Aside from my excitement at learning that I had some readers down on The Ave, I got a chance to start thinking about my own Thanksgiving selections. (Those will, not surprisingly, be another column.) But, for the good folks at UDub and anyone else who might sympathize, from least to most expensive

Fraternity brother reunion: Pine & Post 2005 Washington State Merlot ($5-6). Since you're looking for a wine you're going to pop and drop by this point in the evening, run with this one and have people say, "Dude! You busted out the good stuff!" It's certainly nothing that you're going to have to think about too heavily, but if you actually decide to take more than a moment before gulping (if you're capable), you'll find a darned decent wine here. This merlot is robust and ripe, with plenty of blackberry flavors. Very easy to drink on its own, but you could also have it with whatever snacks you might still have lying around as the evening wears on.

"I'm home. Is the game on?" -- Hogue 2006 Gewürztraminer ($7-8). You want to impress your little brother with your wine savvy? Breaking out wine with an umlaut always makes you look cool. Not only is “gewürztraminer” just fun to say, but you can rest assured that the wine will complement whatever he might have open to eat around the house. It's a full-bodied wine with plenty of that classic traminer pepperiness. It's very fruity and a little sweet, with a nice crisp peppery finish. Hogue's a dependable brand at this price, so you can play it safe with whatever varietal you choose from them if you don't feel quite this adventurous.

"I want to marry your daughter." -- Belle Vallée Single Cluster 2007 Pinot Noir ($15) will fill the bill. As any astute wine buyer knows, Oregon and Washington have upped the ante in the pinot noir arms race. In my experience, pinots from the Pacific Northwest stand shoulder to shoulder with many of the best California offerings, but are almost always available at a much lower price. This “entry level” pinot from Belle Vallée in Corvallis is an absolute steal at around $15. (You could also splurge for five or six more bucks and get their Willamette Valley pinot, which is just dynamite.) This is a great wine to pop open and have with good conversation around the living room. It’s a light-styled pinot, full of smoky fruit flavors. It’s one of those wines that you take a sip of, enjoy, then on the second sip – will make you cock your head to one side, look at the glass, and realize that you made a good choice. I don’t know if the alcohol content is high enough for a marriage proposal, however.

Aficionados...what? – For the higher end stuff, I consulted with Danny Gold, a wine acquaintance of mine who sees wines across the spectrum. For his money, he recommends the Stoller 2006 JV Pinot Noir. Also an Oregon product, Danny said that this wine is the "best in its price range" – which happens to be right around $30. His tasting note reads: "smokey volcanic soil is prevalent with dark blackberry & cherry flavors. Smooth tannins and silky finish." I’d definitely take his word for it. He’s not steered me too far astray yet.

So, there you have it – wine for every occasion. My own Thankgsiving selections will be coming down the pike shortly. Until then, start bracing yourself for the onslaught of relatives, stock the cellar, and start doing your gullet-extending exercises...

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