Wines for the Thanksgiving Table 2017

by artfuldiner on November 1, 2017

in Artful Diner Review, Breaking News, Opinion, Special Celebrations, Special Events, Wining and Dining

Thanksgiving Wine Quick ReferenceAlthough it hardly seems possible, Thanksgiving is fast approaching. And so the big question – at least from on oenological standpoint – is, once again: What wines will best complement your holiday feast? And, once again, I will mention that the very centerpiece of your sumptuous celebration – namely the turkey – should have very little to do with you ultimate libationary choices. I say this because turkey is completely neutral and will undoubtedly go with any wine you’d care to serve with it… That’s the easy part.

Things do become a bit more difficult, however, when you attempt to choose wines that marry well – or at least don’t alienate – a complicated variety of side dishes. Many traditional holiday sides, for example, have a decidedly sweet component to them: cranberry sauce and sweet potatoes come immediately to mind; and even stuffing may be festooned with dried fruit and/or apples. So a Thanksgiving wine needs to be versatile enough to go with any (or all) of these sides… as well as the ubiquitous green bean casserole that inevitably manages to sneak into the mix.

The art of pairing wine with food is really very much a matter of personal preference. On the other hand, there are several fairly safe amalgams – both white and red – that come to mind. With white wines, the pairing priority is finding vintages with well-balanced acidity (ponderous, over-oaked Chardonnays, for example, are definite no-no’s). When it comes to reds, you want wines with fairly subtle tannins that will support the flavors of the food rather than overpowering them. Keeping that in mind, noted below are a few of my recent favorite reasonably priced wines for the Thanksgiving table…



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2016 The Furst… Riesling, Alsace, France, $15.99: The Furst… wines are produced in the picturesque town of Kayersberg, the birthplace of Albert Schweitzer, at the foot of the Vosges Mountains. The wines are made by Cave Vinicole de Kietzenheim-Kaysersberg. The Cave is a small consortium of wine growers, most of whom own their own small vineyards, averaging 3 to 5 acres in size. The 2016 The Furst… is a quintessential Alsatian Riesling with powerful aromas of ripe fruit and hints of rose and spice. Subtle and fragrant on the palate, its refreshing acidity is the perfect match for items such as sweet potatoes, turkey, and herb-laden stuffing. Available at Pennsylvania State Stores, the price is right… and Dan Steffan’s intriguing label is bound to be a conversation starter.

2014 Vincent Stoeffler Sylvaner, Alsace, France, $14.99: Sylvaner or Silvaner is a variety of white wine grape grown primarily in Alsace and Germany, where the official name is Grüner Silvaner. This Riesling-like grape is both underrated and overproduced, which inevitably leads to bland inferior quality wines. On the other hand, when grown on good sites with skilled winemaking, Sylvaner can produce exceedingly elegant wines. And the 2014 Vincent Stoeffler Sylvaner, certainly a case in point, is produced from certified-organic grapes that are naturally fermented. The wine is matured on the lees (expired yeast cells) in 80-year-old vats, which adds marvelously creamy notes. In the glass, the wine delivers apple and lightly smoky aromas. The palate is awash with layers of grapefruit backed by fresh acidity and minerality. Like the Riesling noted immediately above, this wine is a perfect match for the various foods that grace the Thanksgiving table.

Elena Walch & Daughters2016 Elena Walch Pinot Grigio, Alto Adige, Italy, $14.99: Born in Milan, Elena Walch had been an architect before marrying into a winemaking family in 1985 and moving to the Alto Adige region. When she first arrived on the scene, she was considered something of an oddity: “Twenty-five years ago,” she laughed in a recent interview, “being a woman in winemaking was very suspicious.” The philosophy of her wine estate is dedicated to its terroir – the idea that wines must be the individual expression of their soil, climate, and cultivation in the vineyard – and that this must be maintained according to principles of sustainability. Her 2016 Pinot Grigio shows character, elegance, and great personality. The wine is light- to medium-bodied and framed with hints of pear backed by a delicate acidity. More than reasonably priced at $14.99. However, if you wish to go a bit more upscale, I highly recommend the 2016 Elena Walch Castel Ringberg Pinot Grigio, $21.99. Most of this Pinot Grigio is fermented in stainless steel tanks; but 15% is fermented in French oak barriques and is allowed to experience a partial malolactic fermentation, which adds extra body and richness. Both wines are available through PA State Stores.

2015 Villa Pozzi Grillo, Sicily, Italy, $7.00 – $14.00: Villa Pozzi is located in Sicily, Italy’s largest wine producing region in both acreage and production. Originally constructed in 1860, Villa Pozzi’s modern winery was completely rebuilt in 2000. While other varietals offered by Villa Pozzi are widely distributed – Pinot Grigio and Nero d’Avola, for example – Grillo (pronounced GREE-lo) is a fairly recent addition to the U.S. wine market. Grillo is an indigenous Sicilian white wine grape traditionally used to make Marsala wines. Despite the decreased interest in Marsala, Grillo is still widely planted and is now standing on its own, producing crisp savory wines that are slightly reminiscent of Sauvignon Blanc. The 2015 Villa Pozzi Grillo, which I first encountered on the wine list at Mistral in King of Prussia, is straw yellow in color, slightly floral on the nose, and rife with fresh fruity notes on the palate. Like a Pinot Grigio, it has well-balanced, delicate acidity and a persistent finish. If you’re looking for something different to jazz up your Thanksgiving table, this just might fill the bill. Not yet available in PA State Stores, Villa Pozzi Grillo may be purchased online from a variety of sources.



Columbia Crest Winery - Exterior2015 Columbia Crest Grand Estates Syrah, Washington State, $12.00: In 1978 Ste. Michelle Wine Estates recognized the potential of the Horse Heaven Hills as a wine region and began the most intense planting schedule in Washington State’s modern wine history. The winery, designed by Seattle’s Howard S. Wright as a French country manor house, opened to the public in June 1983. For over three decades, it has been known as Columbia Crest, home to the Pacific Northwest’s largest winemaking facility. In 2009, the Wine Spectator unveiled its annual top 100 wines of the year. At number one was Columbia Crest’s 2005 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon… a $25.00 wine. The news turned the wine world on its ear. Since the beginning, Columbia Crest was envisioned as a winery that produced value-minded wines; and it has stayed that course through the years. Just recently, for example, the Wine Enthusiast named Columbia Crest’s 2015 Grand Estates Syrah as number one in their top 100 best buys of 2017, noting its “compelling sense of texture” and “exquisitely balanced fruit and savory flavors.” And there is absolutely no question that this wine is an absolute steal at $12.00 a bottle.

Tasca d'Almerita Winery2014 Tasca d’Almerita Lamùri Nero d’Avola, Sicily, Italy, $14.99: Tasca d’Almerita is a fine wine producing estate in Sicily with an aristocratic background. It was founded in 1830 and has been a point of reference for ultra-high quality wines for over 100 years. Both indigenous and international grape varietals are planted… from the omnipresent Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon to flagship Sicilian varietals such as Nero d’Avola, Nerello Mascalese, Catarratto and Inzolia. In addition to the wines, the estate is self-sufficient, producing vegetables, fruits, wheat, olives, cheeses and meats. There is also a culinary school on the premises, considered one of the best in Italy, which has inspired culinary professionals from around the world, including Julia Child and Alice Waters. The 2014 Lamùri Nero d’Avola is a truly outstanding vintage. Made entirely from hand-harvested grapes, after fermentation, the wine is aged in French barriques for one year to add extra finesse. The wine was highly praised by the Wine Enthusiast, British wine writer Jancis Robinson, and Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, which bestowed 92 points and noted: “The Tasca family hits a home run with this fabulous value wine.”

2014 Ridge Vineyards “Three Valleys” Sonoma County Zinfandel Blend, California, $26.00: As I mentioned several months ago, Ridge Vineyards is one of my favorite California wineries. Founded in the 1960s, it specializes in premium Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, and Chardonnay. Winemaker Paul Draper, who has seen Ridge through 47 harvests, recently retired at the age of 81, but remains Chairman of the Board. As one astute wine writer noted: “As one of the foremost ambassadors of American wine, Draper leaves behind a rich legacy at Ridge going back to 1969 and a team that is more than capable of leading the winery into the next generation.” The winery’s flagship is the incredible Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon, a single-vineyard Cab that is robust, yet complex and elegant, and has often been called “California’s first-growth.” The 2014 Three Valleys is Ridge’s entry-level Zinfandel-based red, a blend of 65% Zinfandel, 17% Petite Sirah, 14% Carignane, and 4% Grenache. This is an absolutely delicious wine that is value-priced and ready to drink. There’s plenty of vibrant fruit here, a touch of floral, and a stunning burst of spice. Readily available at your local Pennsylvania State Store… and an exceptional companion to your Thanksgiving Day feast.

Vitiano Rosso 20142014 Falesco Vitiano Rosso, Umbria, Italy, $10.00: Falesco is a winery and vineyard established in Montefiascone, Italy, in 1979. The estate straddles the border of Lazio and Umbria, about 50 miles north of Rome. This state-of-the-art winery is a family affair run by Riccardo Cotarella, his brother, Renzo, and his daughter, Dominga. The sprawling property is comprised of 670 acres; 370 acres given over to vineyards. The winery’s annual production is almost 3 million bottles. Falesco originally dedicated itself to making a good and highly commercial “Est! Est! Est!!! white wine. However, within a few years it expanded its vision and was also making specialty wines. Today, the winery is known for its high quality red wines like the flagship Montiano and the everyday Vitiano. The 2014 Vitiano Rosso is a blend of equal parts Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Sangiovese. It is fermented in stainless steel tanks and then aged in French oak barrels for three months before being bottled. The result is a delicious, youthful, food-friendly red at a terrific price point. The 2014 Vitiano Rosso, which recently received 91 points from wine writer James Suckling, is available at PA State Stores for a mere $10.00 per bottle. An absolutely incredible bargain!

Cheers & Happy Thanksgiving!



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