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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