Thanksgiving wine lists: what Randall Grahm and others in the business are thankful for

There is no shortage of Thanksgiving wine advice out there, so instead of joining the pack, as I have for most of the last decade with my own pronouncements about Thanksgiving wine pairings, I decided to do something different this year. What were some of my friends and colleagues in the wine businThanksgivingess planning to serve or recommend – from wine styles to regions to individual bottles? A set of email queries prompted a quick response and a broad range of possibilities, which included wines from California, Oregon, Washington, many parts of France as well as Italy, Austria, Germany and Chile. If one theme emerged, it is this: when it comes to Thanksgiving, there are very few rules about wine. Like the stuffing or the gravy, everyone’s tastes and preferences are going to be different. I would add (and the responses largely bear this out) that the wines, whether red or white, will work best when they are on the leaner and less  alcoholic side. Beyond that, my friends seemed to gravitate toward wines with finesse and individuality, as you’re about to see.

The most enviable response came from Joshua Greene, editor and publisher of Wine & Spirits Magazine, for which I occasionally serve on tasting panels. Josh said he would raise a glass, in absentia, from Spain, where he will be meeting on Thursday with the owner of one of the great Rioja producers, R. López de Heredia. “Will think of turkey, native Americans and pilgrims,” he said, “as I toast with a 1981 Gran Reserva Viña Tondonia.”

Randall Grahm, the founder and self-proclaimed president-for-life of California’s Bonny Doon Vineyard, put Thanksgiving in the context of his own wine evolution (or is it revolution?). He wrote: “These days – and I’m more or less counting on this being a semi-permanent state of affairs – I’m pretty much only interested in wines that might be called vins de terroir: wines that express a sense of place, but also wines that exhibit a quality of minerality or life-force (two sides of the same coin). As it turns out, I do think that these sorts of dynamic ‘vital’ wines are in fact a great foil to turkey, which is itself, shall we say, somewhat static.” Among whites, Randall is thinking about a dry riesling from France’s Alsace, perhaps an older example from Fréderic Emile, or one from Austria’s Wachau, or a grüner veltliner, perhaps a Prager Grüner Alte Reben. For reds, he said, “it will most likely be infanticide of an ’05 red Burgundy,” perhaps from Fourier, definitely decanted, or maybe a Cornas from the northern Rhône. As an apéritif, he’s going to try to get his hands on some of Eric Bordelet’s Poire “Granit,” a pear cider from Normandy.

Jamie Wolfe, an owner of Chambers Street Wines in lower Manhattan, which specializes in artisanal, organic and biodynamic wines, pointed to a grower Champagne, Larmandier-Bernier’s 1er Cru Terre de Vertus Blanc de Blanc. This all-chardonnay Champagne, produced from biodynamic grapes, is “remarkably elegant and mineral on the palate,” Jamie wrote, quoting from the notes on Chambers Street’s Web site. The wine is also made without dosage (the addition of sugar) “in order to respect its purity from beginning to end,” as Larmandier notes on its Web site.

Jamie’s partner, David Lillie, offered no fewer than half a dozen possibilities, including his own twist on bubbly, Domaine de la Tournelle’s Sparkling Poulsard, a red from France’s Jura. Beyond that, David points to a number of other French offerings, including Domaine Pépière’s 2005 Muscadet Sèvre et Maine No. 3 from the Loire Valley, Bernard Baudry’s 2009 Chinon Les Granges, also from the Loire, Christian Ducroux’s Régnié Sans Soufre (without sulfites) from Beaujolais, Chateau Meylet’s 1998 Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Biodynamique from Bordeaux, Bordelet’s Poire Authentique from Normandy and, from Lombardy in Italy’s northeast, a nebbiolo, Marsetti’s 2005 Valtellina Grumello.

Fred Dexheimer, a New York sommelier and wine consultant, said that some of his favorite Thanksgiving pairings have been with richer-style white wines. “I have found,” he wrote, “that wines that have inherent nuttiness and richness really complement turkey, especially in context with gravy made from the pan drippings.” He cited Rhône blends with roussanne and marsanne, southern Italian whites like Falanghina and Fiano, and white Burgundy. A touch of oak, he said, works well with rich gravies, potatoes and all the trimmings. Among reds he leans toward pinot noir, calling the grape “one of the most versatile for this mash-up of flavors” He suggested the fruit-forward style of New World pinots, say from Oregon or Chile.

Tia Butts, a consummate wine Twitteress and executive with Benson Marketing Group, a wine communications company, plans to do her clients proud by serving a Vouvray from the Loire, a pinot noir, perhaps from California’s Estancia, a Washington riesling from Hogue and maybe a red Corbière or Minervois from France’s Languedoc. She cites their affordability for a crowd.

And Jo Diaz, a partner in her own California PR firm and a blogger, will offer a bubbly from J Vineyards in Sonoma, a couple of Soaves from Italy’s Veneto, Corte Moschina’s 2008 I Tatai and Il Tirso’s 2007 Soave Superiore. She plans to serve two pinot noirs from Oregon’s Willamette Valley, an ’06 from Oak Knoll and an ’08 from Lange, and will finish things off with an ’06 Twisted Oak Petite Sirah from California’s Calaveras County, served with a rich chocolate crème brulee and a pecan pie.

And so, as you can see, when it comes to Thanksgiving, we play by our own set of rules, whether white or red, American or international, opulent or practical. On this quintessential American holiday, that diversity is part of what Thanksgiving is all about, in wine and far beyond.

1 comment:

  1. Vertical of Sokol Blosser Pinots 2006 2007 2008 from Oregon. Tasted yesterday and they're terrific. Off to tour Archery Summit, Four Graces today