Pairing wine with Thanksgiving? Don’t forget these two things!

 

imageFor Thanksgiving dinner, pairing wine with all of those beautiful Thanksgiving plates can be a tricky endeavor. Look for wines with high acidity and fruit to complement that wonderful Thanksgiving dinner! Acid can cleanse your palate, and fruitiness can withstand all of that sugar and salt.   Here are three essential Thanksgiving wines that are sure to please everyone.

Champagne or Sparkling Wine

This wine goes with practically anything, and I mean almost anything. Not only is it a naturally celebratory wine with its bubbles and pop, it is a wine that is sure to please everyone at the table.

For Bubbly, my favorite go-to-wine is Argyle Brut Sparkling Wine.  Made of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes, it is not too dry but just perfectly dry enough to make even the dry wine drinkers rejoice.  At $26 a bottle, one can probably buy two bottles to share, one at the beginning of dinner and one at the end of the meal.

Perhaps you are interested in trying some Cava or a French Cremant? Most Cava and Cremant are made with the same champenoise method as Champagne, undergoing the same rigorous aging and bottling process in order to make them as miraculous as the better-known Champagne from France.  While indeed the majority of Cava and Cremants employ the same method, some use different grape varietals to make their sparkling wines. They are most definitely worth a try, especially at the much lower price point.

For Whites, you will want a white wine that has a little bit of residual sugar, emphasizing the fruitier side, like the 2012 Hyland Estates Riesling. This wine is fruit forward and has that perfect touch of residual sugar that makes it the perfect complement for Thanksgiving.  It has a beautiful pear, white peach, petrol, and green apple mouth with vibrant citrus and kiwi finish. It’s available online for $28.

Another favorite white of mine is 2010 Schlossberg Alsace Grand Cru AOC Riesling, by far one of the best Rieslings I have tasted to date.  At $35, it is a wine that is sure to please. It is generous and balanced, and it shows beautiful minerality and petrol–all the qualities I look for in a Riesling. It has been rated 91 points by Robert Parker, 93+ by Stephen Tanzer, and 92 points by Wine Spectator.

For Reds, pick a high-acid, low-tannin Pinot Noir, with bright cherry and cranberry flavors over rich spices.  One such is the Southern Oregon wine 2008 Brandborg Love Puppets Pinot Noir.  This wine shows such freshness, with ripe raspberries and strawberries, tha you think you have a beautifully baked pie in a glass. It has some rustic notes that enable it to to stand its ground and complement even the most exuberant side dishes. It is available for a very reasonable $30 online.

Another favorite of mine is a Pinot Noir: 2010 Lemelson Meyer Vineyard Pinot Noir.  This Pinot Noir has been one of my favorite vintages to date, and it comes from the great winemaker, Anthony King, who has consistently made some gorgeous wines. This 2010 reminded me of a springtime fresh fruit basket of raspberries and strawberries, with a touch of light tomato stem giving it that great structure, acidity, and length.  It would be another great pairing to consider for this Thanksgiving weekend!  It is available in 2012 vintage for $48, and if you are lucky, you might find a 2010 in a magnum (a 1.5-liter bottle).

(A secret:  The larger the format bottle, the better the maturing capability of the wine because less of the wine is in contact with air.  In other words, the same wine purchased in a larger bottle will generally taste better.)

I hope you have a wonderful and very thankful Thanksgiving. I am very thankful to have you as readers and I hope that I can continue to provide you with the kind of stories you find interesting and useful.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sabering the Moment…

Labor Day is not just a day off but a day that is dedicated to social and economic achievements of American workers. This Labor Day should be celebrated with a proper bottle of sparkling wine and friends. Let’s “Saber” the Moment!

I got back from the Wine Bloggers Conference with a newfound appreciation for the art of Sabering…yes, it is written correctly…Sabering is the act of removing the top of a champagne, or sparkling wine, bottle off with just about anything. Generally, a knife, like a Arabian style of knife, is used to remove the top of a bottle off by what looks like slicing it off. The saber is slid along the seam of the wine bottle to break the entire neck away from the bottle, leaving only the base of the bottle open and ready to pour. The force of the blunt side of the blade hitting the lip breaks the glass to separate the collar from the neck of the bottle.

In order to do this, you must 1) have a bottle of sparkling wine, 2) make sure the bottle of wine is very, very cold, 3) a blunt object, not necessarily a knife, it could be a wine glass, a bike wheel, a Ganesh figurine, or even a golf club…

Next, you need to find the seam of the sparkling wine bottle and pointing away from you, and those you love. Then use the blunt object to slide along the seam in a rhythmic manner to pop off or rather, saber, the top off the bottle of wine.

My dear friend and fellow wine writer, Jeff, aka the Drunken Cyclist, who I spent lots of time with during the Wine Bloggers Conference in Paso Robles and then in Buellton, California, shows us exactly how it is done in a series of ways with all of the above mentioned tools. However, I wanted to show you first how Leeanne Froese, a proper Canadian wine writer and PR agency owner of Town Hall Brands does it with a sword.

Enjoy this series of sabering attempts!

And now…the wine glass, the golf club, the tire wheel, and finally the Ganesh figurine … Perhaps I should check with Jeff to see if he has a slight obsession with sabering the moment…all the time! Cheers!

With a Wine Glass:

Just a warning, the new few take a while so be prepared to wait a while. Also, I don’t recommend trying to do this with the following items unless you are willing to keep trying, over and over and over again, like Jeff did!  More than anything, I love the commentary. I hope you get a laugh or two out of these, because I did!

The Golf Club:

The Bike Wheel:

And finally…the Ganesh figurine:

Have a great week and don’t forget to “Saber” to moment!

Red wine, White Wine and Bubbles…An Introduction to the Willamette Valley of Oregon

Having been here in Oregon now for about four and a half months, starting with a quick introduction via the Wine Bloggers’ Conference held in Portland in September and culminating with the harvest season, I have had a chance to learn a bit about the wonderful valley that I now live in. While it is not Spain’s La Rioja, with its full-bodied sour cherry and oaky Tempranillos and Grenaches, the Willamette Valley of Oregon has another breed of wine, an American story different from that of California and La Rioja.

Oregon‘s wine country, like its people, is slower-paced, more personal and less pretentious than some other wine regions. Oregon is not a state where you will find extremely large wineries; instead you will find wineries with less than 3000 cases made annually. Oregon is dominated by a mom-and-pop type of mentality and a family-like consensus-driven way of working. Oregon’s wines are mostly hand-grown, hand-harvested, hand-sorted, and hand-made. There are very few mechanically harvested wines in Oregon due to differences in training systems throughout the state. Every step of the winemaking process is touched in one way or another by a human. Oregon is also leading the charge for organic, sustainable and biodynamic viticulture.

Located right at the 45th parallel, the Willamette Valley is considered a cool-climate region for grape growing. This region is primarily known for Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris but has also become home to new varietals such as Gruner Veltliner and even Riesling. The valley is protected by the Coast Range but also benefits from the cool marine air. In Willamette Valley it is believed that a cooler climate is more suitable to Pinot Noir than a warmer one. The valley is also known for its soil conditions and mild temperatures, creating the right terroir for its famed Pinot Noir.

A few good friends from Australia who came to visit me right after the harvest season asked me to give them a tour of the region.  I thought it only made sense to take them to a few places I feel represent this valley for them to see and taste…a little red, a little white and some bubbly.

  1. Eola Amity Hills AVA, to visit Bethel Heights.  We had wanted to make it to Cristom and Saint Innnocent. but unfortunately there just wasn’t enough time. We also toured Willamette Valley Vineyard, which is among the largest in production in Oregon. Ted Casteel from Bethel Heights took the time to talk to us about how they got started in 1977. For more information or to visit them, please visit their homepage at Bethel Heights.

2. Chehalem Mountain AVA, to visit the Ponzi Wine Bar.  Founded in 1970, this is another family-owned business that is now a second-generation-run winery, with Michel Ponzi as the Co-Owner, Maria Ponzi as the Director of Sales and Marketing, and their sister, Luiza Ponzi as winemaker. As there honestly was not enough time to drive all the way up to Ponzi’s main location, I took my Australian friends to the Wine Bar they have in Dundee. We had a bite to eat with a nice tasting of wine to accompany it. I had a chance to try their Dolcetto made from an Italian varietal, which was a nice surprise. They make Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay and White Riesling, as well as Arneis and Dolcetto, two rare Italian varietals. Please visit them at Ponzi Vineyards.

3. Dundee Hills AVA, to visit Argyle Winery.  In my opinion, Argyle Winery makes some of the best sparkling wines (i.e., Champagne style) in the valley. I would highly recommend a visit to this winery to try their POP Flight.  They have a number of 90+ point wines highly recommended by Wine Spectator and Wine Advocate. They also happen to be located right across the street from the Ponzi Wine Bar, so you can grab a bite and then head over there for after-meal sparkling delights.  Please visit them at Argyle Winery.

When you are looking to find some other great places to visit, do feel free to send me an e-mail, and I will do my best to give you recommendations.  We hope to see more of you in the region to taste some of the great wines coming out of the Willamette Valley.

Cheers!