Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Great Wines for Thanksgiving

The second-largest eating day is upon us. Unlike the largest – the Super Bowl – people tend to agree that Thanksgiving is a meal that is best paired with wine. Unless you have reservations to the French Laundry, it is also the only time of the year that people will make a cross-country trip for the purpose of eating dinner.

Given the traditional meal of turkey, stuffing, potatoes, etc., the question really becomes what wine to serve? Pinot Noir has long been popular, and given its versatility, elegance and lighter-body, it is fast becoming the standard for Thanksgiving.

Why Butterball is still the safest bet

Don’t let the fact that this is the most American of holidays deter you from drinking a wine made abroad. New Zealand, Chile and France – Pinot Noir’s home – all make great Pinots that all go extremely well with Thanksgiving. Indeed, wines from these areas range in price, quality and flavor but all can match-up to the turkey and trimmings.

From New Zealand, The Crossings is a very light Pinot Noir. It is easy-drinking with cherries and a nice minerality on the finish. It is a very well-made Pinot Noir, though the tartness of the finish may turn off some people.

If you’re looking for a wine with a little more body and spice, give the Llai Llai from Chile a try. It is a little less expensive than the Crossings and is also a bit more versatile and appealing for crowds.

Speaking of appealing to crowds, we went to Graceland over Thanksgiving last year. Above is Elvis' Jungle Room where The King ate many a turkey leg

That’s not to say that Pinot Noir is the only thing to serve this Thanksgiving. After all, what would a celebration be without bubbles? I find it amusing that sparkling wine producers spend 42 weeks out of the year trying to convince people that sparkling wines are not just for holidays and celebrations. Starting around Halloween, though, the emphasis is on how it isn’t really a celebration or a holiday without sparkling wine.

Marketing aside, sparkling wines make a great addition to any table. Gone are the days when you had to spend a boatload for bubbles. Jaillance produces some of the best sparkling wines that France makes that aren’t from Champagne - though the flavor profiles are very similar. Ranging from toasty, buttery and dry to very sweet, you can find something for every palette for under $15.

If you want to spend even less on something festive, get a few bottles of Cava. These sparklers from Spain offer the best value in sparkling wine – if not wine period – that you can get these days.

Of course, what would this post be without giving a shout-out to Virginia wines? One of the best options to serve something local this year would be Chambourcin. Many of the ones I have tasted recently – from Fabbioli Cellars to Notaviva to Hidden Brook are easy-drinking, medium-bodied and loaded with cherry and cranberry flavors.

Doug Fabbioli of Fabbioli Cellars with his Chambourcin Vines
Whatever you choose to serve this year, make sure you have plenty on hand, and have a happy and safe Thanksgiving. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Le Beaujolais nouveau est arrive!

If you see a lot of drunk French people today, that's because it's the third Thursday of November. Today is the day that the first wines of the 2011 vintage are released.

Go into any store that sells wine today and you will see stacks of Beaujolais nouveau in brightly-colored bottles. A young, light and fruity wine, Beaujolais nouveau is meant to be drunk right away.

And while it's flavor and character is not to everybody's liking - it is damn-near a French white zin - it is an indication of what's to come from the 2011 vintage.

2011 has not been kind to the wine industry in Virginia. Pick up a bottle of Beaujolais nouveau today if for no other reason to see how 2011 is shaping up in France.

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Successful Virginia Wine Month

While there is still dismay that Virginia actually makes wine by the vast majority of the wine-drinking public, the industry as a whole is making great strides towards getting the word out. October was Virginia Wine Month and everybody I spoke with from winemakers to wine reps to sommeliers were enthusiastic about being a Virginia wine evangelist for the month. Wineries hosted harvest festivals and live music, and restaurants offered specials on Virginia wine throughout the month. Overall, the push to raise awareness about Virginia wine was seen as a huge success and one more step on the road to winemaking respectability around the world – or at least the country.

One thing that the Virginia wine industry does have is an active and enthusiastic champion in the Governor’s Mansion. Actually, they have two of them as both the Governor and First Lady of the state have made it clear that they fully support Virginia’s wine industry and are working to see it thrive.

Gov. McDonnell Discusses the Importance of Virginia's Wine Industry.
Later He and My Wife Discussed All Things Notre Dame.
Go Irish!
At a recent Virginia Wine Month event held at Lincoln Restaurant in the District, Governor McDonnell sounded more like a wine geek than a public official when he spoke about the Chambourcin that was planted recently on the grounds of the Governor’s mansion. He told the crowd about his travel schedule which would make Bono blush: India, China, London, etc. to be the face and advocate for the industry. Through his efforts, Virginia winemakers know that they have an ally rather than an adversary that is working to see the industry grow.

And why not? Virginia is producing some great wine and the quality is only getting better. As winemaker and vineyard managers continue to take a more sophisticated approach to what grows well in Virginia’s soil, the quality will continue to increase and the potential to blend different varietals will continue to grow. Many of the wines I tasted at the event had a distinctive, almost Old World, quality about them.

Even though it is no longer October, there are still plenty of opportunities to raise a glass of Virginia - particularly Loudoun – wine and spread the word.