Consider Practicing "CPR" for Thanksgiving

Sunday, November 22, 2009

I wasn't planning to write a "what wines to drink with Thanksgiving" post, but when I thought of the acronym I knew it had to knock this one out. It seems that as many publications are recommending you "drink what you like" as are offering up Thanksgiving wine picks this year.

I'm not much of a wine pairings guy. Perhaps this stems from the fact that the majority of wine I consume is as a cocktail- served after the work day ends and before we sit down for dinner. I've heard this is a terrible way to drink wine- that drinking wine before a meal increases your appetite. It would be great if I had that kind of restraint- sometimes I'd like to have just a glass with dinner- but most of the time it just doesn't work out that way.

So what am I planning to crack open this Thanksgiving? CPR: Cab, Pinot, and Riesling. Here's why:

Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon is like Mexican food for me: I always have a taste for it. It's also the first variety that comes to my mind when I think of special occasions. I find my guests that enjoy wine are enthusiastic about Cabernet Sauvignon, and when you share a nice bottle many people appreciate it. And that's what it's all about, right? Giving people what they want?

Cab on Thanksgiving is, I think, a bit of a strange call. I don't think many people would recommend Cabernet with dinner- but there's lots of wine to be had before dinner, right? And not many people would recommend going full-bodied to light either but it's a long day with plenty of time to cleanse your palate between wines.

In terms of specifics, I'd personally look to labels that have historically run over $50 but have fallen down into the mid-$30s if you shop around. Brands to consider: Groth, Chateau Montelena, Lewelling and Chappellet. In Massachusetts, try Wine ConneXtion in North Andover or the Wine Cellar of Stoneham for value plays in this category.

Want to splurge? Crack open a Cakebread or a Caymus. Always solid picks. I'm tempted to try a 1994 Robert Mondavi Reserve Cab I recently picked up.

Want to keep the cost down? Hands-down my go-to $10 supermarket recommendation you can find in any grocery store in America is the Columbia Crest Grand Estates Cab. Such a great line of wines across all varieties.

An alternative play here is Zinfandel. Look to Buehler, Seghesio and Ridge as great producers in this category in particular.

Top pick that's ready to drink? 2004 Lewelling Cabernet Sauvignon

Pinot Noir

With it's soft tannins and approachable flavors, Pinot Noir is a classic pairing with so many foods. When it's time to sit down for dinner it's my go-to wine.

For Thanksgiving, I like to pick something on the lighter side of Pinot with lower alcohol if possible. Don't want to get in the way of the food, right? Perennial favorites around here include Elk Cove, Siduri and Carmel Road.

Want to splurge? So many good Pinots to choose from. Last year a Goldeneye was our feature wine. This year, I'm thinking of cracking open something from a trip to Sonoma earlier this year. Perhaps Keller Estate or Adobe Road. Don't forget last year's WWP Wine of the Year Zepaltas -or- Clary Ranch as well.

Want to keep the cost down? A great play for Goldeneye on a budget comes from J. Mauceri. Same winemaker, one-third the cost, great wine. Another to consider is the obscure August Cellars. Castle Rock and Mark West are always good plays closer to $10.

Top pick that's ready to drink? 2006 Elk Cove Vineyards Pinot Noir


The great thing about Riesling is that almost everyone can agree on it- wine geeks and those new to wine as well. It's also versatile. Depending on how sweet you like your wines, I think a Riesling can serve as a dessert wine -and- a wine served with dinner. For your guests that don't like red wine, they can start on the Riesling earlier and/or enjoy it with dessert as well.

One tricky thing with Riesling is taking a recommendation and acting upon it because there's so many variations on similar wines even from the same producer. German wine labels are very descriptive, but they can also be very confusing. That being the case, I'd recommend you find a local wine retailer you trust and/or buy a $15-$20 German Kabinett Riesling and I'd bet you get a good bottle. If you're in the Boston area, Steve Grant at Blanchards in West Roxbury is a great resource. I've hit him up for a couple of Riesling recommendations and I've been blown away.

Want to splurge? One great thing about Riesling is that top wines don't break the bank. Best Riesling I had this year? I remember like it was yesterday. This summer, after mowing the lawn on a hot summer day I came in and opened a 2007 Stephan Ehlen Erdener Treppchen Riesling Spätlese. It was so absolutely delicious and perfectly suited to the occasion. I'd give it a try this Thanksgiving if I had some around.

Want to keep the cost down? Consider going domestic with a bottle of Firestone -or- consider one of these 5 Freaking Delicious Wines including a late harvest Riesling pick from VinoDivino in Newton, MA. Heck- even the Dr. L they sell at Trader Joe's is pretty good.

Top pick that's ready to drink? 2007 Stephan Ehlen Erdener Treppchen Riesling Spätlese (but don't sweat it if you can't find this particular one). Another I've enjoyed is the 2007 Weingut Max Ferd. Richter Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett.

Question of the Day: What are you thinking of drinking for Thanksgiving?


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