Give thanks for so many excellent wine choices

November 19, 2022

Best wishes to all for a wonderful Thanksgiving. Even with all the folderol and brouhaha, most of us in the USA have a lot to be thankful for. 

I was asked about smoked turkey and wine. I got my start in the “cookin’ and wino” business as an apprentice in a German restaurant. Chef Juergen Darstein was my mentor. He told me toward the end of my training, “Yahnny, all who gain the toque must learn to make Vurst und the schmokehaus.” This is not Deutsch but kitchen pidgin Germglish. We then proceeded to clean, brine and smoke 82, 30-lb. dressed gobblers in a rotary smoker that did 30 at a time. While waiting for the slow-smoked turkeys, we made wurst, and Herr Darstein taught me about wine. Smoked turkey requires a smoky wine. I suggest Marietta Old Vine Red, $15; Hahn Central Coast Syrah, $18; Charles Smith Boom Boom Syrah, $18; or Murphy-Goode Syrah, $18. Some Napa Cabs work also; check out Recoltant 2018s. The 90-point Napa Valley Cab under $38 is good value. Dark fruit, pie spice and vanilla aromas; fruit flavors continue on a bright mineral acidity/tannin frame leading to a long finish with chocolate, cola and black pepper notes. Go upscale to Recoltant Coombsville label for a more complex Cab around $70, 93 McD. Dark purple with ruby rim, opens with a swirl to cassis and blackberry aromas, with graphite, tobacco, violet and chocolate back notes. Considering its color, I was surprised how approachable it was. Crushed gravel and earth flavors ride a balanced mineral frame with supporting, nearly integrated dusty tannins. I was expecting more grippy tannins. Finished long and clean with subdued floral notes. Approachable now and will improve for several years. Many Malbecs are a good choice also. 

Deep-fried turkeys are birds of another feather. Most food mavens claim sparklers, especially Rosé, with elevated acidity are the best choice. Since I recommended quite a few in recent columns, I will only add Lucien Albrecht Crémant d’Alsace Brut Rosé, $16, 88 McD, ripe apple nose opens to apple, lemon and hints of rye flavors. Here are three more Cali Chenin Blancs that are excellent, will appeal to a broad spectrum and amp up a Thanksgiving gathering. Lieu Dit Winery Chenin Blanc Santa Ynez Valley 2019, $24, 92 McD is rich, full-bodied, creamy, with a slightly buttery texture that only malolactic fermentation provides. This is the process where tart malic acid converts to softer, creamier lactic acid and may release some carbon dioxide. Look for almond, chamomile, pear aromas with sage accents, very slight CO2 spritz. The 2020, just hitting the shelves, also rates 92. Lieu Dit provides a wide spectrum of wine. At a recent tasting, my lowest score was 88. The 2019 Sauv Blanc rated 91 around $25. Fans of SB, which resembles Sancerre with its grassy, lime, chalk aromas and citrus acidity, will enjoy these. Great with shellfish also. Foxen Ernesto Wickenden Vineyard Old Vines Santa Maria Valley Chenin Blanc 2020, 91 McD under $25, was a different look that will appeal to those who prefer steely, minerally Chenin Blanc. Peach, melon, lime and grapefruit aromas, lime zest repeats through palate with chalk and pear, supported by crisp acidity through a long, bright finish. Supports shellfish, salmon and spicy foods also. Those who moved to heritage turkeys will have noted most have less white meat and are gamier. These match well with Chateauneuf du Pape, Spanish Priorat, or buy American with Martinelli Zinfandel. Big-buck buyers, you ain’t lived until you tried their Jackass Hill or Jackass Vineyard Zin. Read carefully, those are two distinct labels.

Try to secure a few bottles of Nino Costa Langhe Nebbiolo 2021 from Piedmont, Italy, an Alex Knechel Plucky Wines recommendation. Light ruby-colored, with violets, crushed raspberry, black tea, orange zest and mineral aromas. On the palate, deft balance between fruity-floral freshness and earthiness, supported by soft tannins and appropriate acidity. I also sampled the 2020; same color but entirely different profile. It is obvious the winemaker allows the juice to speak. Currants, cranberries and spice, supported with firm tannins and vibrant acidity. Both rated 90 McD, under $20 add 2 price points. 

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