Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Thanksgiving is Right Around The Bend.....

Thanksgiving Wines

Recently, I received an unsolicited email from Natalie MacLean, who very kindly introduced herself to me with some really good Thanksgiving and Holiday recommendations for wine and food pairings. I contacted her back and thanked her for the recommendations and we have since become email friends! Apparently, Natalie read Oenophobia: A Fear of Wine when internet surfing and liked what she saw enough to reach out with some information that might just help all of our holidays along......

Quick background on Natalie MacLean: Natalie is an accredited sommelier, a wine writer and judge and she is the author of Red, White and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey From Grape to Glass. This book is a chronicle of three years of intensive travel throughout the world with wine as the main focus. It makes for a good read, and an even better Holiday Gift. You can buy the book on her website: http://www.natdecants.com/ which is also a great resource for all things wine.
On to the recommendations............

So you're at your In-Laws house, and the game is getting boring and how many Black Friday sale circulars can you flip through??? Its time for WINE. Who cares that its only 1pm and dinner is not for a few hours!? It's time to crack open that first bottle to get you in the mood for the rest of your day. What do you start with and why?

I like to begin the drinking with something that can stand on its own two feet without complementary food. A big wine that has structure, chewy tannins and lots of round fruit components. Not too heavy on the alcohol, but something that you can work with for a few hours to get yourself into Turkey Time. My pick: 2004 Beckmen Vinyards Purisima Mountain Syrah from Santa Ynez in the Central Coast of California. 93 Pts. Robert Parker. $39 US at Wine Library and other local wine shops. The alcohol is a little high at 14.8%, but the fruit is amazinly integrated with the tannins and the alcohol to the point that you forget about the heat when appreciating the flavor. Take your time enjoying this big, bold, flavorful wine.

Now on to the Dinner Table.......

I'm going to use Natalie MacLean's email to me as a guide here, and will provide some personal commentary along the way. She DID win several James Beard Awards for Wine and Food Writing, so who am I to try to one-up her????

Five Quick Tips for Picking the Ultimate Thanksgiving

Wine Author/Sommelier Natalie MacLean suggests gobbling good wines at http://www.nataliemaclean.com/

New York (October 24, 2007) - "No other holiday celebrates the gift of wine like Thanksgiving," says Natalie MacLean, author of the bestselling book Red, White and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass. "Wine is a taste of the harvest along with all the delicious dishes on the table. But actually choosing a bottle can feel like a thankless task, especially with so many flavors to match." Relax. Have a drink. And try some of Natalie's suggestions for great wines to pair with Thanksgiving turkey and all the trimmings.

In Red, White and Drunk All Over, which has just been published in paperback, Natalie discusses wine and food pairing for Thanksgiving dinner. A new chapter in the book also addresses the five toughest matches for wine: vegetables, spicy dishes, chocolate, cheese, and fast food.

Natalie's free online matching tool at www.nataliemaclean.com/matcher complements her in-depth discussion in the book by allowing you to click on "turkey holiday dinner" to find wines that accompany all kinds of dishes, from roast turkey to turducken, from creamed corn to pecan pie.

Natalie also offers five quick tips for choosing a terrific Thanksgiving wine:

1. Start with bubbly. Sparkling wine is a great aperitif to sip while you wait for the turkey to finish cooking. It adds a celebratory note to the meal and goes well with starters like soup and salad.

2. Consider the turkey. Unlike most poultry and game birds, turkey meat is very dry in texture. So you need a mouth-watering wine to complement it. Good options are crisp whites like riesling and pinot grigio. And yes you can drink red wine with white meat: pinot noir, beaujolais and zinfandel all have juicy, berry-ripe flavors that go well with turkey.

3. Look beyond the bird. The range of side dishes means that you don't have to match your wine just to the turkey. Since Thanksgiving dinner is often a banquet-style meal, with everyone choosing the trimmings, why not do the same with your wines? Offer both red and white, and possibly more than one depending on the size of your group.

4. Complement or contrast. A big, buttery chardonnay from California or Chile can complement the roasted, smoky flavors of squash, chestnuts and pecan stuffing. But if you'd rather have a contrast to the richness of cream sauces and dressings, try a crisp New Zealand sauvignon blanc.

5. End on a sweet note. If anyone still has room left when it's time for pumpkin or pecan pie, offer a late harvest wine or icewine. If you're a chocolate fan, try serving a liqueur with complementary flavors such as raspberry or blackcurrant.

Natalie MacLean has won four James Beard Journalism Awards, including the MFK Fisher Distinguished Writing Award; and she was named the World's Best Drink Writer at the World Food Media Awards. Rex Pickett, author of Sideways, says that Natalie "writes about wine with a sensuous obsession" and is "often laugh-out-loud funny." Eric Asimov of The New York Times notes, "Ms. MacLean is the disarming Everywoman . she loves wine, loves drinking . a winning formula." The Financial Times observes: "Natalie MacLean is a new force in the wine writing world-a feisty North American answer to Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson."

So there you have my new friend, Natalie MacLean's recommendations for how to pick your Thanksgiving wine. Thanks to Natalie, for helping to make Oenophobia: A Fear Of Wine a little less irreverent and a little more relevant.

My picks for Thanksgiving dinner: 2005 Titus Zinfandel ($22), Napa Valley Estate Grown to go with the bird. Lots of jammy fruit and oak spice with chocolate on the finish. Not at all what you'd expect when drinking.

Also, I recommend a white wine to finish dinner. After all of that heavy food, a Sauvignon Blanc with minerality and crispness is a nice alternative to a heavier wine. 2005 Spy Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($12 US) I chose this wine for its diverse fruit flavors, more tropical, less grapefruit and grass. The crispness comes from the minerality and lime, balanced against the acidity on the finish.

Here's hoping you all have a happy, safe and healthy Thanksgiving. I know I have a lot to be thankful for and I'm sure going to let all of the people who I love and care for know how much I appreciate them.

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