Happy (Belated) Thanksgiving!

Let’s start at the beginning. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Why you ask? What could be more pure would be my response. Spending a day and sharing a meal with family and friends with as little commercialism as could possibly be imagined. No pressure to deliver the perfect gift like Christmas. Even Mother’s Day needs a card and likely a brunch spot. Valentine’s Day? Yip! Thanksgiving? Happy Thanksgiving Turkey 2010Just show up, preferably with a big appetite, and spend some time with those near and dear to you. That’s it…

And the meaning of the holiday itself? It serves as a reminder to be cognizant of all that we have to be thankful for. I consider myself to be a self aware individual but yet from time to time still find myself getting wound up in the day to day of things and losing perspective of the bigger picture. Sure maybe I would prefer this house or that car. Or maybe those wines! Those all matter little. I am a lucky man with a beautiful wife I love, two great kids that I adore and so much more. If anything it is a shame that there is only one holiday a year to celebrate that. Anyone want to join me in my efforts to start commandeering other holidays? Christmas could be Thanksgiving II. Valentine’s Day could be Thanksgiving III. Anyone?

If Thanksgiving has a single flaw it may be the pressure that is placed on finding just the right wine to accompany the meal. Article after article of Thanksgiving wine recommendations hit the wire. Recommending this Pinot Noir or that Riesling. Now I know these articles are very beneficial to some and for them I am glad they are available. That said when I think back to yesterday I wonder what could possibly be the “perfect pairing” with the foods I saw on the table. Salad, green beans with bacon, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet yams, cranberries, applesauce, jello mold and of course the turkey. Personally I’m not even sure milk could handle all of these pairings…

Happy Thanksgiving Wine 2010So what do I recommend you ask? An easy decision for me! Pick your favorite wines and share the enjoyment you get from them with those you love. Here’s what was on our table:

The NPA Suavignon Blanc was my selection and was as always “fun”. My 81 year old father-in-law digs it as does my 21 year old niece and everyone in between. The ’97 Navarro was nice but certainly passed its prime. My wife’s cousin brought the 2007 Navarro (<- she’s a keeper) which while young is an already an excellent Pinot. This also offered everyone an exceptional learning opportunity to taste these wines a decade apart. The difference was stark. Starting with the color of the wines, from the nose to the plate and all the way through. The Frank Family was new to me but funny enough had a few family tie-ins. From the same Swiss heritage (my wife’s heritage) to their location near Larkmead where the aforementioned keeper cousin got married. The wine definitely let’s you know that it is a Napa Cab straight out of the gate. Big and bold on the palate this one has firm tannins and just enough acidity to keep it balanced. This wine is certainly full bodied and shows some spice throughout before the oak kicks in on a creamy, vanilla finish.

So there you have it. Now it is time to thank all of you. For following along, letting me know what you think and recommending me your favorite wines. I always enjoy hearing from you and would love to hear what was on your table in the comments below. I certainly hope you and your families had a great Thanksgiving!

2008 Steelhead Sauvignon Blanc

Price: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2008 Steelhead Sauvignon BlancPer Steelhead Wine “This very special wine composed of 100% Sauvignon Blanc grapes features delicious flavors of citrus and grapefruit zest with pleasant mineral character very reflective of its renowned Dry Creek Valley terroir.” — Steven Canter

What I Think:

Steelhead was in a recent Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer and try as I might I wasn’t able to come across the Zinfandel. Given that when this Sauvignon Blanc showed up I decided to grab three bottles on sight. You see these are the products of Quivira Vineyards which I’ve heard many great things about. Steelhead Wines has its own site where you can buy this one today for $16 a bottle. Well kind of… You see you have to order 3 bottles which costs you $48 or the equivalent of 8 bottles at the $6 price tag Trader Joe’s is offering. Again (calm down Jason) another winery disrespecting their most important customer. Let’s get to my notes before the diatribe begins…

(13.5%) 100% Sauvignon Blanc – Typical in color. Clean, nice, zesty grapefruit on the nose. Plush and balanced with cantaloupe on top of a firm mineral backbone which keeps the palate crisp and refreshing. This one is fuller in the mouth than expected with nice citrus fruit on the edges with a pleasant short finish. This one is lacking the overpowering acidity which makes it food friendly and a good choice for the Thanksgiving dinner table for those thinking ahead. I bought three bottles and am likely to grab some more…

Rating: Buy It

What did others think about the Steelhead Sauvignon Blanc? Again I’ll send you over to Jeff’s at Viva La Wino for a different take.

2007 Picket Fence Pinot Noir

Price: $8.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2007 Picket Fence Pinot NoirPer Picket Fence “This wine has an elegant, pure fruit forward style with the brilliant intensity of rich mouthwatering Bing cherry, blackberry and spice. The luxurious density, beautiful structure and velvety texture on the palate are hallmarks of this vintage and make this wine a superlative example of Russian River Valley Pinot.” – Don Van Staaveren, Winemaker

What I Think:

Really? The winery is selling this one for $30 a bottle on their site (see above link). As if that isn’t bad enough they are making you buy 3 bottles at a time. Typically (warning marketing speak ahead) customers that buy direct are your most valuable (and deliver the highest profit margin). They deserve special consideration instead of getting an extra $20 lifted out of their wallet for each bottle. If I am a winery and I have to unload wine I am making sure that I am sharing those same prices with my most loyal customers. I could go on and on about how wrong this is on so many levels. That said I’ll spare you. Let’s get to the wine…

Warm spice and tart cranberry notes on the nose. The palate starts with surprising weight given how light it looks in the glass. This wine is wound tight with cranberry flavors that merge with bright cherry overtones. The mid-palate shows flashes of cola acidity to keep it nicely balanced. From there the barrel notes emerge and lead to a nice creamy, vanilla finish.

Most Pinots in this price range are what I refer to as “on steroids” with heavier grapes (e.g. Petite Sirah) blended in (see Fin, Blue). This one is a very nice example of what much more expensive Pinot’s deliver. Load up (if you can) and pop one open whenever the mood strikes you. Better yet if you are looking for a Thanksgiving wine on a budget (it is November) look no further!

Rating: Buy It <- And I'm not the only one who thinks so. Interested in reading more about the Picket Fence Pinot Noir? Check out what Robert Dwyer had to say over on the Wellesley Wine Press.