Giving thanks – and wine recommendations

Gratitude is soul food and among the many things that I am grateful for, I'm thrilled to share my Thanksgiving wine recommendations... 

I’m thankful for my family and my children’s limitless curiosity that insists I experience the world anew. I’m thankful for my husband’s laughter because it fills our home with playfulness. I’m thankful for the telephone because it allows me to speak with my mom on a daily basis and for the smallest of reasons.
I’m thankful for my friends, for the ones I’ve had since kindergarten and those I’ve made this year. I’m thankful that I enjoy cooking – when my hands prepare food that feeds my loved ones’ bodies and souls, I am happy.
And I am thankful for wine – for the conversations I’ve had over it, for the celebrations I’ve toasted with it and for the way it is a living thing that changes with time.
I try to give thanks year-round, but on the last Thursday of November, our grand celebration of gratitude takes place – and I’m already preparing.
To help with your Thanksgiving endeavors, I’ve reached out to local wine experts again this year to gather wine recommendations for your feast-family-and-friends-filled table.
Thanks: For guests bearing cheese boards and California wines
When my brother and sister-in-law showed up last year with a cheese board and pre-dinner nibbles glorious enough to launch ships, I was elated but slightly unprepared. I didn’t have the perfect wine to pair with the deliciousness.

This year, I’ll be ready. I’m going to stock up on Robert Mondavi Winery’s 2013 Napa Valley Fumé Blanc ($20). The vibrant and ultra-fresh wine is loaded with citrus zing on the palate and tender blossoms on the nose. Made primarily with Sauvignon Blanc grapes and just a wee bit of Semillon, this wine boasts loads of mineral attributes and a finish that goes on and on.

I look forward to serving it alongside the goat cheese, oysters and herb dip that will arrive at my house on Thanksgiving.

I’m also looking forward to serving Zinfandel this year. My Zin of choice is the 2011 Quivira Vineyards & Winery Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel ($22).

Unlike many Zins, this wine is not overly jammy but rather shows great finesse and delicacy. Zinfandel finds its way easily to the Thanksgiving dinnertable because the varietal is often considered the “all-American” grape – so much is grown here. Quivira’s 2011 offering deserves a spot at your table for more reasons than just national heritage.

It’s an exciting wine with a burst of black cherry on the nose. Enjoyed alongside turkey dinner, it is laden with plush cranberry notes, light pepper and spice. The long-lasting finish will keep your mouth happy between bites of the feast.

Thanks: For chicken apple sausage stuffing and leftovers
“It’s going to be a turkey basted with apple cider and butter gracing our table,” said Stacy Ahrweiler, Wine Department manager at Draeger’s Market in Los Altos.

Alongside the turkey, Ahrweiler plans to serve a sourdough, chicken apple sausage stuffing.

Her first wine recommendation is the 2013 Brassfield Pinot Gris from Lake County ($17.99), a medium-bodied wine with a small amount of oak.

“The well-balanced Pinot Gris is full of minerals, melons and gorgeous fall apples,” Ahrweiler said. “No wonder it is perfect with my apple-cider-basted turkey.”

Ahrweiler can’t say enough good things about the 2012 Husch Pinot Noir from Anderson Valley (on sale for $19.99).

“There’s a reason Pinot Noir is consistently recommended for Thanksgiving dinner – it’s the perfect wine to have with the meal,” she noted.

This wine comes from a cooler climate, which results in luscious cherry, plum and earth flavors with just a touch of pepper spice.

“Not only will I drink this on Thanksgiving,” Ahrweiler said, “but I’m already looking forward to having a glass alongside a leftover turkey sandwich covered in homemade cranberry sauce.”

Thanks: For cooking with family
Sarah Covey, assistant store manager at K&L Wine Merchants in Redwood City, considers Thanksgiving one of her favorite holidays.

“I love to cook for my family,” she said. “Each year, I take on the task of finding the perfect wine pairings to go with our time-honored dishes. It’s one of the yummiest challenges of the year for me.”

Covey’s family makes a turkey roulade, which is the breast pounded out, filled with stuffing and then rolled up, tied and roasted. She said her wine recommendations go just as well with a traditional bird.

“Our stuffing is the real show-stopper,” she said.

The recipe includes dried cranberries, dried figs (simmered in calvados), sausage, fresh sage and thyme. But these varied flavors don’t intimidate Covey, who proclaimed her wine choices a “slam dunk.”

Her first recommendation is the 2013 Kloof Street (Mullineux Family Wines) Chenin Blanc Swartland South Africa ($19.99), a versatile and crowd-pleasing white.

Covey said the old-vine Chenin Blanc grows in decomposed granite soil, which gives the wine its fabulous mineral qualities and zesty acidity. Classic Chenin Blanc notes are pear, citrus, honey and mineral. This choice includes all of those characteristics and provides a great balance for the flavors of the day.

Her second recommendation is a red wine from Italy – the 2012 Remo Farina Valpolicella Ripasso ($14.99).

“Most people hear ‘Valpolicella’ and think ‘Amarone,’” Covey said. “Amarone is a red wine made with dried grapes, which make it sweet.”

Covey described her recommendation as “Amarone’s little sister.”

“Ripasso is made using an ancient technique where the wine is refermented with the skins and pips of pressed Amarone or Recioto,” she said. “This process adds depth and character.”

Dried cherry, plum, fig, spice and leather with a good amount of acidity and soft, easy tannin make this red a super match for Covey’s stuffing as well as the cranberry sauce she’ll be making. The leathery notes work well with the turkey as well as the stuffing and cranberry sauce.

Thanks: For wines from France and Italy
Certified Sommelier and Mountain View’s Savvy Cellar owner Jennifer Ayre is a French Wine Scholar. For her, Thanksgiving is all about wines from France, with a fun Italian sparkling red thrown in for good measure.

Her first recommendation is the 2013 Chateau Coupe-Roses Minervois ($29).

“Youthful and earthy, this Rosé makes an excellent companion for the cranberries and herbal flavors you might be featuring at your Thanksgiving,” she said.

A Cabernet Franc from France’s Loire Valley will add elegance to your meal. Served slightly chilled, the 2012 Domaine de la Chanteleuserie Bourgueil “Cuvée Beauvais” ($31) is light enough to happily sip throughout the evening without taxing your taste buds, Ayre said.

If you’re looking to serve something totally unexpected, Ayre suggests the NV Pederzana Lambrusco “Gibe” ($27), an Italian sparkling red wine that is “bright and fizzy in all the right ways.”Happy Thanksgiving!
(written for the Los Altos Town Crier)  


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