by Rick Riozza
Now that the elections are so over! Thanksgiving fever has hit hard here in the CV. So let’s cool down and relax with a glass of festive bubbles!
Whether big families or small, prep time early Thursday morning can be as fun and exciting as sitting and enjoying the big turkey meal itself. Sometimes it’s the only time of year that families get to work on something together—and it’s all about the food & fun! And there is no better “prepping wine” to keep that morning fueled-up than Prosecco sparkling wine. Fresh and very light on the alcohol, Prosecco is a festive wine that keeps everyone happy and enjoying their tasks.
It’s really tough to beat the effervescent Zonin Prosecco at $6 a “pop!” at Trader Joe’s in Palm Desert; it’s the wine I’ll be picking up. You may wish to stock up on this bubbly—it won’t go to waste; Depending on your crew, chill up a few bottles and have some for the start of your meal.
Now if you’re having a rather formal dinner that demands careful wine matching—even to the point of having a specific wine with each course! well then the secret to success here is “focus”. Other than the turkey, what is the most important dish or flavor on the table? Will it be predominantly meaty, fruity, herbal or spicy? Focus on the key flavor and complement it with the wine you like with that dish.
The Thanksgiving table with all its flavor charms of buttery mashed potatoes, rich and gooey yams, tart cranberry relishes, savory & exotic herb, sausage or oyster dressings, along with the dark and the light meat of the bird can cause you to do a troubling turkey trot of what to do and what to serve. No problem here: Keep your really fancy subtle wines back in the bin and bring out the interesting and not-so expensive wines to the table.
With all the palate of flavors, both red and white wines work, and, bright fruity Rosés, sparkling or not—really work! If you run out of time shopping for wine, look for our favorite Cava Rosé, the Juame Cristolino Brut Rosé for around $6 at Vons/Pavillons or Bristol Farms. This sparkler is cleansing and flavorful and matches well with about everything on the table—it can get you through the entire meal.
But it’s always fun to have a couple of reds and some whites to choose from. Open all the bottles at once and serve them family-style, letting your guests select at their leisure and pour to their heart’s content – they will be thankful.
There are two schools of thought when it comes to holiday wine: Last year, NY Times wine guru, Eric Asimov wrote, “First, they need to refresh and satisfy over the course of a long and fatiguing meal. That means they need to be light rather than heavy, agile rather than powerful, moderate in alcohol and versatile enough to complement the hodgepodge of dishes on the table. In wine speak, the key words are lively acidity, the quality that gives wine energy.”
The other point of view is that the theme of the Thanksgiving meal is “Hey! We want all the flavors over the top!—that Thanksgiving is one meal where the food almost wants to be overpowered by the wine.” And generally this group wants a big red wine experience such as full bodied full-throttled California Zinfandel, like the $25 2009 Four Vines “Biker” Zinfandel, Paso Robles,or, an ultra-rich and multiflavored Cabernet Sauvignon, such as the $40 2009 “Kathryn Hall” Cab. These are tasty picks and I can appreciate the red sentiment but that leaves some good white wine out of the picture.
From the first time I tried a German Kabinett Riesling, with its rose petal scents, green apple & slate flavors, it has been one of my favorites this time of year. A delicious $20 white wine with great acidity and a smidge of sweetness that goes great with much of the meal. Check out 3rd Corner Wine Shop & Bistro in Palm Desert or Desert Wine & Spirits in Palm Springs for their Kabinett selection.
The other tried and true whites, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, do well with Thanksgiving when they are on the richer side—oak works very well this time of year with its traditional buttery and vanilla notes. The Kendal Jackson or Edna Valley Chardonnay are $9 a bottle when you buy four at Stater Bros.
It’s always fun to bring out a “new” type of wine to the table; I’d recommend a Viognier [veeoh-NYAY]. This white, French or California, carries many autumn fruit flavors.
I think it was some marketing firm that got the rivalry going between Pinot Noir and a Zinfandel as the consummate Thanksgiving red. With so many types of red wine out these days, I think the rivalry has fizzled out due to all the players in town. Especially with medium bodied wines such as Argentinian Malbec, Spanish Rioja, and the French Beaujolais.
Look for the good deal at Cost Plus/World Market, La Quinta & Palm Springs, with their Castle Rock Central Coast Pinot Noir at $8, and, the Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Villages at $9. A great pair for the table!
And if you have the occasion for a delicious Thanksgiving wine treat, try the 2009 Hall Merlot, at around $30 ( Winery:707.967.2626), and/or the 2009 Stoller Pinot Noir Dundee Hills at $25 (Winery:503.864.3404). The Hall Merlot has vibrant tannins with flavors of sweet baked plums, black currents, cocoa, and dried rose petals. The Stoller Pinot Noir is Stellar! Beautifully ripe and awashed with sweet cherry & berry flavors. This spicy Pinot is one of Oregon’s best for the price.
For dessert, one can usually find Graham’ Six Grapes Port at most big markets around town for about $15 or less. It’s known as the “baby brother” to Graham’ Vintage Port: It owns a seductive rich perfume of ripe plums, sweet tobacco and cherries and a burst of boysenberry on the palate to match rich, nutty or chocolate desserts.
Here’s toasting to the Lord’s bounty—Cheers!
Rick continues to host & entertain at wine tasting events. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org