Turkey Day Extravaganza 2010

By Sunny Brown

Category: Seasonal Feature

Thanksgiving is the time of year we give thanks- we give thanks for mountains of delicious foods that we are only lucky enough to be around once per year, we give thanks for Grandmothers that don’t know the meaning of “I’m full,” we give thanks for stretchy pants that don’t press on our tender, overstuffed stomachs. And for many folks it is also a time to give thanks for some really good wines.

Thanksgiving to me is as much a celebration of life, family and the love of good food as it a day to watch football through half-shuttered eyelids that grow heavy with the weight of tryptophan. And this love of really good food should carry over to the wine as well. Dad spent six hours basting that turkey, the least we can do is crack open a nice bottle of wine to go along with it, right?

So what to serve on such a glorious culinary occasion? What wines will transcend the square acres of competing flavors and stand out amid Cousin Larry’s bad jokes and Aunt Midge’s peach cobbler?

For me there are a few easy choices. Any day meant as a celebration of all things food and life should be treated to a fine bottle of Sparkling wine to begin. What better way to thank your mom for not calling as much as you should, or to say you are sorry for forgetting your sister’s birthday, or to just enjoy everyone’s company than with a bottle of silky bubbles?

One of the best for the money is the Raventos I Blanc Cava Brut Reserva. The first man to make Spanish wines sparkle via the Champagne method was a Raventos, and the first man to have Cava recognized as an official D.O. was a Raventos, and today, some 500 years after the first Raventos grew grapes on the chalky soils of Northeastern Spain, the family is recognized as being the leader in quality in all that is Cava.

The 2007 Brut Reserva offers rich notes of brioche, caramelized apples, fresh peaches and a long and mineral-driven finish. All this is tied to a backbone of fresh acidity that provides balance and verve to this powerhouse of a wine.

The next step in the line of lovely libations for the feast is a bottle of white wine that can extend itself from the roasted beets through the glazed ham to the grilled zucchini and hit practically everything else in between: the 2009 Melville Inox Chardonnay is a wine of immense minerals, long and ripe fruit notes and bracing, vibrant acidity.

Unoaked and prevented from going through malolactic fermentation, the Melville Inox differs from many un-oaked Chards in that it is sourced from the ripest Chardonnay grapes on the estate instead of the least ripe. The result is a wine of precision and focus that offers an underlying current of fruit and weight that is hard to fathom at first, but that with each moment in the glass and trip across the palate seems to become more profound and expressive. Imagine if the Grand Crus of Chablis were airlifted to Santa Barbara and that just begins to give glimpses of the dynamic nature of this wine.

And finally we need to have a wine that will satisfy the need for something big, red and tasty. While many folks like white wines for their versatility on the Thanksgiving table, I prefer something spicy, rich and Rhone-ish. Case in point is the 2006 Visan V.V. Cuvee Louise-Amelie from Olivier Cuilleras at Domaine la Guintrandy. This is southern France at its finest. While many of the wines from this region have become one-note fruit bombs, Cuilleras’ wines offer fruit, weight, charm, spice, earth, depth, complexity and above all LIFE!

Named for his daughter and sourced from the best vines in the warmest parcel on the estate, the Louise-Amelie is primarily Grenache with a splash of co-planted and fermented Syrah. Dark fruit, ample earth and spice, a lovely perfume that switches from the candied red fruits of old-vine Grenache and the campfire and camphor of Syrah, this wine will stand up to the most flavorful of dishes.

On Turkey Day it can be tough to find wines that will agree with all of the foods and all of the relatives, but these three will make peace across any table. They may not get you out of doing the dishes, but at the very least you will be happier to do them!