Leading into the Thanksgiving holiday, as sales reps try to sell me wines that are good for the meal, I am reminded once again how important vintage is. J. Lohr produces a Gamay style red called Wildflower made from the rare grape Valdiguie. Normally I would consider this an excellent compliment to the traditional holiday meal and bought a few boxes for display However I asked for a sample bottle before I pulled the trigger. It is the ’16 vintage and let me tell you it is nothing like the ’15 or ’14 vintage. Normally very plum driven with a hint of licorice and raspberry, this baby tasted like black tea and earth. Not only that, it lacked any sort of its normal complexity. There were parts of it I liked and parts I didn’t. I am sure that most of my wine customers would be disappointed if they put this out for themselves or their company. That being said, if you like black tea with a little dirt thrown in, by all means grab a bottle. Vintage can make all the difference in the world, especially with a winery like J. Lohr that is honest in their wine making, not manipulating the juice to fit a certain flavor profile they are looking for. Rest assured, I will always taste a wine before I recommend it, especially for an important meal like Thanksgiving.
Speaking of wine for Thanksgiving…Is there a perfect wine? The answer in my opinion is absolutely not. As subjective as everyone’s palate is, it would be impossible to peg one wine as the perfect match. As a wine steward, I can guide you to what I think will work based on past experience. Let’s face it, if you don’t like Pinot Noir, and I recommend it, you are not going to buy it no matter how passionate I am about the pairing. I have recommended Zinfandel many times in the past and lately have become disenchanted with this common turkey wine. Why you ask? For the past few years, I have popped a Zin for the occasion. Every time, I found the Zin to be too much for the food. Yes, it was jammy, perfect for the savory. Yet, for some reason it was too jammy. Next time, I went for a less “jammy” version and found it to be too tannic for the subtle flavors of the meal. On top of all that, Zin is notorious for being higher in alcohol than most other wines. With all the food and alcohol, I just wanted to go and curl up in my bed, instead of cleaning up and socializing. Bottom line, I no longer pull out a bottle of Zin for the occasion. I love Zinfandel, but now save it for the Superbowl or the BBQ.
This is not going to be a long story short sort of issue. My point of all this is don’t always feel you have to go with a certain type of wine with Thanksgiving if you’ve found that it didn’t work for you in the past. I’ve read where some wine writers slash critics have recommended Chianti for the meal. Well, it better be a damn good Chianti or you are going to get a ton of acidity and rust and dirt in your wine. Granted, there are a relatively few out there that like that style. If you want a Chianti that works, you most likely will have to spring for more than you budgeted. Last year, I went through more than five bottles of wine with the group that came to my house. If each of those bottles cost around twenty-five bucks, that’s a lot of money to spend on vino. Needless to say, if I poured an inexpensive Chianti, I probably could have kept the consumption down, and at the same time creating doubt in my families mind as to my future in the wine world. Chianti would not be my choice. The problem with wine folks like myself, is that we like to experiment and that’s fine for us, but not for the average consumer just looking for a wine that is cheap and cheerful and good with the turkey meal.
Are you waiting for me to give some ideas? It is Monday, and many of you are going to start your wine search soon. Here are a couple of thoughts, but never let a wine professional tell you what you should drink. Stay true to your palate and if some of my ideas stink to you then ignore them. Pinot Noir is a classic Thanksgiving wine, but I always caution people to be careful of thin, acidic versions. Gamay is also nice, but once again unless you are fond of acidity, be careful. Beaujolais Nouveau, which is a baby Gamay seems to work for a lot of people. Recently I have found that Grenache works very well. It seems to have the fruit to match the savory, but at the same time is not over-powering. Many versions will even have a little spice action which is really nice with the meal. Be careful with Grenache from Spain which they call Garnacha. I say be careful, because some versions can show a lot of rusticity which may turn you off. Stick to the new world on this one and I believe you will be happy. GSM blends can work quite nicely if they are Grenache dominate. GSM stands for Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and they are very popular now. You will not have a problem finding one at your local wine shop, just ask for some help. Whites seem to be the easiest for most. Riesling is classic as well as Gewurztraminer. Try a Moscato D’Asti if you want something new or just Moscato since you can get some nice ones for a prayer. Try a Rhone style white blend that has a fair amount of Roussanne in it, or just a straight up Roussanne if you can find one. Writer’s Block from Steele Wines out of California does a nice one for around fifteen bucks.
I wish all of you a fantastic Thanksgiving and if you feel motivated, please share with me your wine experience during this celebration. I would love to hear from you, so please comment on this blog or send me an email. I love feedback. One last thing. If the Hawks can beat Atlanta tonight without Cam or Sherman, we may be on the road to the playoffs once again. GO HAWKS!
Stan The Wine Man