Eight wines perfect for Turkey Day
Some people are intimidated by cooking the Thanksgiving turkey. Others are intimidated by picking which wine to sip while eating Thanksgiving turkey. You’re on your own for the former, but let’s make the latter simple and painless. And not just painless, but downright wonderful. This year, you can either go with some old favorites – Chardonnay and Pinot Noir – or try some different and new varieties, like Verdeho, Semillon, Garnacha and Nebbiolo. Let us begin.
• 2007 Lincourt Chardonnay, Santa Barbara County ($20). This Chardonnay is a great balance of silky oak and crisp acidity. The hazelnut, pear and spicy oak flavors do not get flabby, due to the clean finish. The relatively cool Santa Barbara County climate gives elegance and balance to the wine, so the toasty oak doesn’t overpower the dry banana and pear fruit.• 2008 Kenwood Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley in Sonoma County ($17). This is classic California Pinot Noir, with fruity raspberry and light toasty oak flavors, and clean acidity on the finish. The cool Russian River Valley gives this acidity, and a brambly feel to the wine. The Kenwood is medium-bodied, with a silky finish, and just enough grip to hold up to ham or lamb.• 2007 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay, Napa Valley ($50). Yes, this is the winery that won the white wine section at the Paris tasting in 1976, with their 1973 Chardonnay. Well the 2007 is still a Burgundian-style, which means it is not so buttery and oaky. Sure, a little oak is present, just enough to augment the body and add a touch of spice to the mix. But the keys to this are the minerally umami finish. Remember this thought, you will see this appear again with the other white wines that go with turkey, etc. This finish is similar to the finish of an aged Parmesan cheese, more texture than flavor. This Chardonnay will open up quite a bit, so treat it like a young red wine. Maybe pop the cork and leave it off 30 minutes before serving and keep it in the fridge until ready. For future purposes, Chateau Montelena Chards age well – they will last/improve for 5 to 10 years easy.• 2006 Mount Eden Estate Pinot Noir, Santa Cruz Mountains ($50). This winery is south of San Francisco, in the Coastal Mountain Range at about 2,000 feet. Founded in 1945, Mount Eden Estate makes wines that are crisp and built to last. The 2006 Pinot is clean, with cranberry, light toast, earth and white pepper flavors. Light tannins give the wine some bite, and the 12 months in 50 percent new French oak barrels give the wine some extra silky body. On the finish, light acid, chalk and a little hazelnut show, making it just perfect to pair with turkey and lightly spicy dishes.
• 2009 Scholium Project Verdelho Naucratis, Lost Slough Vineyard ($20). The vineyard is north of Lodi in the Sacramento River Delta. This is your starter wine, a fairly crisp white to go with crab, shrimp and light appetizers, but still has the stuffing to hold up to turkey. No oak here, and just a touch of residual sugar, but it tastes as dry as any of the other whites recommended here. Verdelho is the grape, originally from Portugal and Madeira. Naucratis was a Greek city in Egypt way back when, but literally means “city with the power over ships.” Good stuff. Another curiosity: Abe Schoener, the owner and winemaker, points out the possible flaws in his wines on the winery’s website! He experiments with his wines, hence the “project” moniker, and tells you when he thinks he has not met his own expectations. The 2009 Naucratis certainly exceeds mine.• 1998 Kalin Cellars Semillon, Livermore Valley ($32). Terry Leighton’s wines are like not others. This lovely white wine is the current release. Yes, a 12-year-old white that’s 75 percent Semillon and 25 percent Sauvignon Blanc, mirroring many white Bordeaux. Like those wines, the Kalin Semillon ages beautifully, with almond, dry lemon, mineral and beeswax. A lightly honey-umami finish (I told you to look out for this) shows its strength of body. The almost tawny color is correct, do not be afraid. The grapes are from 90-year-old vines on the Wente Estate, and the wine was bottled in 1999. The Leighton’s hold their wines until they believe they are at their peak.• 2008 Bodegas Borsao Tres Picos Garnacha, Campo de Borja, Spain ($18). Some of you may know this wine already, but have you had it with turkey? If you want a darker red wine, this Garnacha is it, with black cherry fruit, white pepper spice and just enough acidity on the finish to keep it clean. The earth and dark oak certainly show the heft of this red, but the silky fruit and graphite edge are warm and fuzzy. Maybe have this at the end of the meal, or if you like nothing but dark meat, sip it throughout.• 1999 Rocche dei Manzoni Bricco Manzoni ($36). This wine is from Langhe, the region surrounding Barolo and Barbaresco. Unlike those two small regions, where the wines named such must be 100 percent Nebbiolo, the more general Langhe classification allows for some playing. That is what Valentino Migliorini did in 1976, when he introduced the Bricco Manzoni, a blend of Nebbiolo and Barbera. The 1999 is 80 percent Nebbiolo and 20 percent Barbera. The Nebbiolo gives the unmistakable nose and body of a Barolo: Rose petals, light mocha, leather, dried cherry and sun-dried tomatoes. The Barbera softens the wine just a touch, and adds a little more fruit to the wine. This 1999 is great now, and its medium body and nice acidity will pair well with turkey, ham or duck.Jarrett Osborn is the wine buyer at Riverwalk Wine & Spirits in Edwards. E-mail comments about this column to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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