Thanksgiving 2013

Hello friends. It’s that time of year again; time for our Greatest Holiday of the Year offer:

Oh Thanksgiving: take one part solemn occasion to step back with friends and family and give thanks for all we hold dear, one part excuse to drink heavily in the company of loved ones; add a dash of 3am Black Friday shopping; add a pinch of salt and a half cup of heavy whipping cream; stir.

Our uniquely American paean to gluttony, Thanksgiving is, indeed, The Greatest Holiday Of The Year. I spend about as much time choosing wines for the Thanksgiving table as film-stars spend choosing outfits for the red carpet. The hemming and hawing, the emotional outbursts, the prima donna behavior: it’s all there.

But what could be more fun?!

Generally, wines for Thanksgiving should display the following characteristics:

1. Low alcohol.
It’s a marathon, not a sprint. You want to be buzzed enough that Uncle Bruce’s jokes are funny, but you don’t want to be passed out before the cranberry sauce slithers out of the can.

2. High acid.
Have you seen the horrors of the Thanksgiving table? Turkey dark meat next to green bean casserole; corn-bread-sausage stuffing next to sweet potato-marshmallow casserole; Red Hot Jello “Salad” (an optimistic term if ever there was one) next to mashed potatoes. It’s almost enough to make a trained wine professional turn to beer. Or whiskey. But no! Said trained wine professional will then remember that the hallmark of a versatile wine is acidity, and if high versatility is needed on Thanksgiving, then high acid is needed on Thanksgiving, enough acid to cleanse that battered palate right out and prepare it for the next round of culinary atrocities.

3. Moderate price.
Thanksgiving is, statistically speaking of course, the most likely day of the year to host someone who will drop an ice cube (or two) into their wine, someone who will mix their wine with Sprite, and/or someone who will mix their red and white to make “moonshine rosé.” This is not the day to bust out the Grand Cru Burgundy; this is the day to seek out values.

Given all that, here is this year’s mix of Thanksgiving wines (with another handy-dandy map to get you oriented). Open these on that magical fourth Thursday, and you’ll end up with as much Thanksreceiving as Thanksgiving, amirite?

2011 Pierre Henri Muscadet Sevre-et-Maine

An incredible value Muscadet, from the fourth generation of the Gadais family to farm Melon de Bourgogne in Saint-Fiacre. The family’s vineyard holdings include plots planted in 1929 and 1957, and even within a value-garden category like Muscadet, this is a real standout. The nose combines lemon and apple fruit with seashell and salt air. This smells very much like something grown near the Atlantic. On the palate, we find lovely lees-inflected fruit overlain with the salty-mineral tang that only Muscadet can provide. A bottle that plays a magic trick; it is somehow intense and delicate at the same time. A lovely aperitif, and a versatile food-pairing wine (although nothing works with Muscadet better than oysters).

2011 Collestefano Verdicchio di Matelica

Most Verdicchio that gets imported to the US is Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi, but there is a second DOC in the Marche for Verdicchio, and that’s Matelica (yes, pronounced like the band). Further inland and at higher altitude, Matelica is just one-tenth the size of Castelli, but the quality is considered better, due to lower permitted yields and better hillside vineyards. This particular bottle is kind of a ghost. The only reviews I could find were from Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar, where Ian D’Agata gave the 2007 vintage 93pts and the 2012 vintage 94pts, ending his review with “Let me be clear:  I think it is probably Italy’s single greatest white wine buy.” Yikes. Nice to see someone else who was as wowed by this wine as I was. The complexity of the 2011 (which was not reviewed by anyone, far as I can tell) is stunning, bringing nuance of celery seed and chicken stock to a core of peach and apricot fruit. I loved the savory greenness here, the celery and sweet pea notes to pair with vibrant fruit and a lightly saline character. Like Gruner-meets-Chardonnay-and-then-touches-a-live-wire. Tremendous quality for the tariff, and this one is a bit limited, so we may need to allocate.

2012 Domaine Grand Corbiere Sable de Camargue IGP

A relatively recent IGP, Sable-de-Camargue sees vineyards grown on the marine sands of Camargue’s coastal plains. The focus here is on rosé, and especially the Gris-de-Gris versions. This comes mostly from Grenache Gris, which (like Pinot Gris), has enough pink-gray pigment in the skin to provide a delicate pink color to the finished wine. There’s some Grenache Noir in the mix, too, and again we find ourselves with a wine expressing its maritime home via salty, brackish tang. Clean strawberry fruit and chalky minerals fill in the remainder of the picture. This is juicy, vibrant, intense rosé, a perfect pairing for the big bird.

2012 Lorelle Pinot Noir

It is so difficult to produce good, clean Oregon Pinot at this price point. Or, at least, I think it is, given how many gawdawful versions we try. But this is the second vintage in a row that John Albin has put together a lovely Pinot under the Lorelle label (a label made for John’s Seattle distributor, in hopes of developing a strong Pinot glass-pour option for restaurants). Entirely from Laurel Vineyard, a cool-climate site in an under-loved corner of the Willamette, it was planted in 1981 and is farmed by the Albin family. So basically we’re looking at estate-grown, single-vineyard, Chehalem Mountains Pinot Noir from 30-year-old vines. For like fifteen bucks. Not bad. “Perfect roast chicken wine,” was the consensus around the tasting table for this one (we can sub turkey, right?). A zesty, spicy Pinot from a terrific vintage, this mixes raspberry fruit/brambles, black cherry, and earth, with dustings of espresso and cayenne for good measure. It’s an energetic vin de soif.

2011 Abbazia di Novacella Schiava

I wanted to bust out of the Pinot/Gamay rut this year and offer another Thanksgiving red. Schiava is a perfect candidate. Novacella is serious alpine country, in a part of Italy that is closer to Munich than to Venice. Abbazia has been around since 1142, an Abbey founded by the Augustinian Order of Canons Regular, and they’re justifiably famous for a series of piercingly beautiful white wines. But my oh my, is their Schiava impressive. Pale red in the glass (this looks very much like a member of the Pinot/Gamay family), it starts with a gorgeous, airy nose of pomegranate, cranberry, and rose petals. The palate is ultra-refreshing (especially with a light chill), drinking something like Gamay (with its mix of fruit and rocks), but with fruit moving more towards strawberry and with softer/suppler texture.

2010 Trenel Chiroubles

Okay, but I didn’t want to bust out of the Pinot/Gamay rut entirely. I have tons of Cru Beaujolais in my cellar, as I mentioned during our recent Lapierre offer, and there’s more 2010 there than 2009 (an argument could be made for both vintages, but I prefer the crystalline purity of 10 over the brooding muscularity of 09). Chiroubles is the highest-altitude of the Beaujolais Crus and so tends to make laser-precise wines. Jancis Robinson calls Chiroubles “perhaps the most archetypically Beaujolais of all the crus.” I love, love, love wines from Chiroubles, and the only reason we haven’t offered more of them is that they’re really hard to find. When I asked the importer of this wine why that was, he said something along the lines of “because the [darned] French keep it all for themselves.” He then proceeded to talk about meals in Lyon restaurants involving Chiroubles being pulled from barrels tapped within the bistro, and when I regained consciousness, I was in a puddle of my own drool, amidst dreams of saucissons and Gamay.

2012 Cascina del Santuario Moscato d’Asti

You can either start or end the day with this one. Or both. Get the bottle nice and cold; it still won’t put a dent in the aromatics, which come screaming out of the glass, all flowers and grapes and mint leaves. Lightly fizzy, with sweet grapey fruit, loads of inner mouth perfume, and just enough grapefruit-peel bitters to keep things from becoming too one-note, this is way too easy to glug. I know it’s still not that cool to dig Moscato, but Thanksgiving isn’t about being cool; it’s about pleasuring the senses, and this Moscato will light up all sorts of sensory receptors.

We have our Heyday Farm Standard Bronze reserved, and I intend to spend the early part of the day watching some combination of the NFL and the Godfather marathon on AMC, the middle part of the day cooking/drinking/eating/drinking/being thankful/drinking/chatting/drinking, and the end of the day falling asleep to a holiday-themed comedy (Plains, Trains & Automobiles and Dutch have made appearances in recent years). It should be quite the day.

First come first served on all of these with no upper limits (the only exception is the Collestefano, which may need to be allocated if orders come in hot). All the wines should arrive within the next week or two, at which point they will be available for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

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