By Celia Strong
Well, hopefully, the review we did last week of white wines was helpful. Or will be helpful. I know it was a little early, especially for those of us who live in the world of “last minutes.” The LONG weekend of Thanksgiving, or simply the LONG as we call it now, is a great opportunity to leave things to the last minute. Unfortunately, our discussions on wines for the LONG have to be a bit more planned (press deadlines and such) but the choosing and shopping can all be left to the very last minute. But, in case this hadn’t occurred to you, wine bought at the last minute can’t be drunk until the last minute. So, this week, just to help in your planning, and hoping you get some earlier rather than later, we will continue with our review. Red wines this time. Last minute or not is entirely up to you.
Again, let’s do our list in alphabetical order. Our first, perfect for Thanksgiving dinner red wine is Beaujolais Nouveau. This is a French wine, from the southern tip of the Burgundy region While Beaujolais wines are available all year long, the Nouveau wines are the first wines of that year’s harvest and are legally released for sale, around the whole world, on the third Thursday of November. How convenient, French AC wines laws looking out for our special American holiday. Beaujolais is made from the Gamay grape — a very thin-skinned variety. This wine has few tannins, especially the really young Nouveau, and more acidity than most reds. Acidity needs chilling to freshen it, so this wine should be chilled for about 30 minutes. Both turkey, and duck, and ham, and so much more are happy when paired with Nouveau. This year, we’ll have three Beaujolais Nouveaux wines to choose from, all about $12.
The second wine is Catena Tahuan Malbec. A long time favorite for many of us, this wine is smooth and mellow and rich. It is full enough to go well with dark and white meat turkey, duck, or any other poultry you might have. Coming from Argentina, the Tahuan Malbec is a superb example of what a Malbec can be. And how lovely these wines can make your meals. Like we discussed with our white wines last week, a great wine can be enjoyed all day long and all weekend long. Remember, the holiday weekend is the LONG, and wine in your glass is necessary. For $14.99.
Chandon Pinot Meunier is our third wine. It’s been several years since we talked about this wine, but it’s is still one of the very best. It comes to us from the sparkling wine company in Napa, Domaine Chandon. Pinot Meunier is the third of the three grapes used to make Champagne in France, and Chandon sparkling wines in California. It is a cousin to Pinot Noir, has the same basic flavor profile, and is a bit heavier bodied. Red Pinot flavors include red and black berries, coffee and truffles (chocolate and earth-grown). The weight of this wine is extremely well balanced with turkey and game birds. For us, because we’re special, this wine, at $19.99, is at least $10 dollars off the winery price. Nothing’s like a holiday meal with an extra special wine!
Some of us, for this holiday of all holidays, like to drink red Zinfandel. Part of the reason for this is the fact that our Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday and red Zinfandel wines are uniquely American (California) wines. So, the two go together. Decoy Zinfandel is one of my all time favorites. Made by the well known Duckhorn Vineyards in Napa, this is a Sonoma County wine, 100 percent Zinfandel. Mild tannins in this wine mingle with dark fruit flavors (blackberries, black cherries, plums), hints of pepper spiciness, and mocha. Great with turkey and game birds for sure. While pretty full bodied, this wine is not too heavy for the meal. $19.99.
Our next wine, is not red, but a rosé. And we did just discuss it only a week or two ago. Even then, we said it would be a wonderful choice for the LONG. (We weren’t calling it the LONG that week, though.) It is the JCB No 69 Crémant de Bourgogne Rosé. Made from 100 percent Pinot Noir, this wine is festive, pretty in your glass (flute more correctly), and really, really good. Those of us who’ve had a glass or two in the last couple of weeks know how good, and how well priced it is for how it drinks. $17.99. And, you did note that it is another Pinot wine? Getting any basics here? Besides being a perfect variety, bubbles go with ham perfectly, pink wine goes with pink meat. This is so hard, all these choices. This is a favorite, too. Thank goodness it’s a long weekend. More time for all these wine choices.
Italy is the source for La Maialina Gertrude. This is a Tuscan red wine, kind of a baby-Tuscan. A term that refers to not expensive wines from Tuscany that do not follow the legal formula for Chianti. About 20 years ago, producers in Tuscany thought they could make better, actually great wines, if they broke with tradition, and their DOC wine laws that were totally based on century old traditions, and blended grapes as they saw fit. Originally, these new wines were called Super Tuscans; they were very good and very expensive. In time, lower priced versions of these wines (baby-Tuscans and even mid-Tuscans) were created. With great success. Gertrude is a blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. It is medium-bodies with intense red cherry flavors and some natural acidity. Yep, a bit of a chill on this one is good, too. Maybe 15 minutes. With the slight chill, this wine is clean and crisp and refreshing. And delicious. And a great match for turkey and fixings. For $12.99.
From California, we get Orin Swift’s California. On the label, you just get “Ca.” This wine is part of the “Locations” group from Dave Phinney. Each wine in this series is labelled for its place of origin, so the “Ca” label is just another simple piece of paper on a bottle. In keeping with the Orin Swift style, the “Ca” is very full bodied and will pair with heavier game birds and other dinners. Or, it will satisfy the Cabernet drinkers in your group and still keep others happy, as well. This wine is a blend of several varieties, mostly Tempranillo. Yes, a completely American wine. The Tempranillo was grown in California. Rare and extraordinary. For $24.99.
Rusina Zinfandel is another Zin for our list. It’s that American wine for an American holiday thing. This wine comes from the Lodi area, south of Napa and Sonoma, where some of the oldest Zinfandel vines in California still grow. This is a smooth, juicy textured wine, not too heavy, a crowd pleaser. Softness and subtleness mark this wine in your glass. As easy drinking as this Zin is, this can be an excellent choice for a larger group of diners. Even those new to drinking red wine have liked it. At $11.99 you can keep some set aside for yourself. A private stash.
Finally, our last red wine is Thorny Rose Red Blend. A Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Syrah mix from Washington state, Thorny Rose is terrific. Medium bodied, with dark red and black fruit flavors and a punch of baking spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla) on the finish, I find this wine is a good choice for many meals. At the table, of course, but while you’re cooking, and while you’re cleaning up, and when you’re relaxing in a tub afterwards. It’s a great set of flavors. At $5.99, the sky’s the limit on how many you decide you’ll need.
Now, at this point, all we have to do is start deciding which wine, red or white or pink, and how many we’re each going to need. And thank goodness the LONG is a long weekend. More time to drink more choices. Happy Thanksgiving! Enjoy them all.