Would You Like Some Turkey With Your Wine?

– By Frank Blaise – 

If one of the many perilous facets of your in-laws are their refined taste in wines, Thanksgiving may have you stressing over vintages you should bring to show you care and are sophisticated enough to impress? Or perhaps your sister is a crunchy tree hugger who will only drink organic wines? Or maybe your brother is climbing out of his man-cave to join the family dinner for the first time in years, and you want to choose a wine that might just keep him from his worldwide video game domination until the turkey is ready for the soup pot.
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Where do you start and how can you eliminate the stress and the madness of the holiday season?
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First, remember that wine is meant to be fun and enjoyable; keep that as your mantra. The second rule of thumb is to consider wines that will work well for the foods you are pairing. The classic rule is that red wines go with red meat and white wines go with fish and chicken. Although some sommeliers are now suggesting that such rules are stuffy and unnecessary, it is still worth bearing in mind that wines should neither overpower nor underwhelm the food they are served with. Winemakers are always pushing the envelope by planting new vines and growing new varietals in almost every growing region. They blend different grapes and create new hybrids in both reds and whites.  All this makes it easier to find wines you might enjoy outside the realm of the basic whites of Burgundy or reds of Bordeaux.
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Since Thanksgiving is a traditional American holiday, I advocate for serving a traditional American wine. The growing regions of Napa, Sonoma, the Central Coast, Oregon and Washington are overrun with grape crops producing some of the best wines in the world. And for those fearful of disappointing guests who do not like a particular wine they are serving, Thanksgiving offers so many courses, that the ambitious hostess can match the course and the wine.
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Sparkling
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Sparkling wines work well as an aperitif; and because of the balance of acid and sugar, sparkling wines match with everything from pastries to pate to vegetable crudités. A few to try from the California region:
Out of Oregon, your ‘must buy’ selection should include:
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Still Wines
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For the non-bubbly wine aficionados, I suggest Rieslings, Viogniers and Pinot Blancs among other Rhône varietals, which tend to work best with hearty fruits and vegetables and sweeter herbs. These blends usually have less of the toasty oak flavors, and are perfect for the “crunchy sister,” as many organic winemakers, like Horse & Plow, are growing and blending Rhône varietals.  Trefethen, though not organic, is legendary in California, and offers a 2010 Dry Riesling from the Oak Knoll region of Napa, which has more of a mineral and shale quality with just a hint of peach and lime.  Some organic Thanksgiving selections include:
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The Big Spender
And for the Rolls Royce of the Thanksgiving table, I suggest a Pinot Noir from the
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Each of these wines are world class, which will render them difficult to find, as well as pricy. However, Thanksgiving comes but once a year!

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The Conversation Starter

As for the man-boy climbing out of the man-cave, Orin Swift Cellars is your magic potion of conversational and physical longevity around the turkey table. Orwin Swift Cellars is a vineyard that first brought the world “Prisoner(shown at right), a mysterious Zinfandel blend that has maintained a devout following since it’s inception. Although more accessible than it once was due to extreme demand, Prisoner is still flying off the shelves, along with other devilishly-named bottles from the winery, like “Abstract”, “Papillon”, “Saldo”, “Palermo” and “Mercury Head”.  To find one of these elusive labels, your best bet is heading to your local wine bar or shop.

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You’re never too full for something sweet

And as a final note—don’t forget dessert! A couple perfect picks are Port wines from Roxo Port Cellars and Charbay Wine’s and Distillery’s (their Pomegranate Dessert Wine is an extra-special Thanksgiving must). For the cocktail portion of the evening, Charbay also offers natural flavor vodkas.
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Where To Shop

Although the internet provides an excellent resource for those strapped for time, remember that what you save in time you will pay for in shipping. However some to be noted are:  Club W, a members only site that allows users to purchase wine from boutique wineries, and K&L Wine Merchants, a site which offers thousands of  bottles from around the world, and even offering a selection of old and rare vintages (keep in mind, shipping is limited and depends on your location).  Your best bet may be to find a local wine bar or shop, get familiar with a knowledgeable clerk and taste test, which will help you become more comfortable with the maze of wineries, winemakers and vintages. And if you’re feeling especially adventurous, there are always auctions. After all, remember, wine = fun and enjoyable. Happy Thanksigving!
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Wine Shops of Note:
In NYC:

In Los Angeles:
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Frank Blaise is a wine connoisseur and mysterious recluse.  He is believed to live somewhere on the West Coast, and has been spotted with an odd looking dog, rumored to be called “Jona Fox”
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Feature image “Thanksgiving” by Danny Roberts is available for purchase in his Etsy shop.
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