For this week's edition of What We Drank, our contributors share some of their favorite libations from the Thanksgiving weekend. As per usual, it's a diverse grouping of delicious sips.
My actual Thanksgiving meal could be charitably described as "underwhelming". Grandma insisted on our first-ever restaurant Thanksgiving, and the place we chose lost points quickly in my book for having no New York wine (or any really interesting wine), mediocre food, and -- unforgivably -- no cranberry sauce.
My immediate family being one to make lemonade out of lemons, we had our own Thanksgiving as soon as we got home: I whipped out the local wine, my sister and I made some grilled cheese sandwiches, and we all proceeded to get drunk together and watch Home Alone.
Representing the Finger Lakes I chose a 2006 Heart & Hands Pinot Noir. Raspberry/cherry notes and incredibly subtle oak -- a rarity in FL pinot, in my experience -- made this a delightful lighter-bodied red for those intimidated by the Frontenac.
Watching my family sipping and enjoying the efforts of winemakers I've actually met, I was thankful to live in a state with a dynamic wine industry, and the lousy meal was long forgotten.
This wine reached in all directions and pulled in everything it could find, weaving it all together seamlessly. "Long" wouldn't begin to describe it; it's not quite the War and Peace of wine, but close. I have even discovered an online retailer offering bottles for half price as it tries to move inventory - ding a ling ding. Happy Thanksgiving indeed.
Just a plain old root beer?!?! Not at all.
I live for this stuff. Every
time my wife and I are at the grocery store, I beg for a six-pack like
a little kid.
Saranac is a line of beer and soft drinks made by the Matt Brewing Company, located in Utica, NY. The company traces its history back to 1888 and was known for a long time as the maker of Utica Club beer. The Saranac line is appreciated among beer drinkers, and the various styles range from okay to pretty darn good.
I have tried all kinds of craft root beers from all over the place, and I have never found one that is as good as Saranac. It has a creamy resonance, a distinct root beer taste, and just a hint of cane sugar backed by vanilla. Some bars in Syracuse have this root beer on tap -- talk about responsible drinking!
Normally, give me wine or beer or just plain water. I don't love soda. This Saranac root beer is my exception.
There were a great many wines opened, tasted and consumed during the four days we spent in western PA visiting my family for the Thanksgiving holidays. We had everything from Hudson Valley Frontenac to Chilean Carmenere to Touraine Gamay to Long Island Gewurztraminer to several Finger Lakes rieslings -- this 2006 reserve from Red New Wine Cellars standing out from the crowd.
It didn't quite make it to the Thanksgiving table, though. We did a bulk of the wine drinking leading up to the meal, sitting in the living room, nibbling on cheese and bread, laughing as our two year-old entertained the family.
This one stood out because of the minerally vein of acidity that ran from start to finish. That acid cut through the richness of the cheese magically and refreshed the palate with each sip.
Plus, drinking a wine from Red Newt reminded my aunt and her husband of the trip they took to the Finger Lakes a few years ago after they got married -- because they went there and enjoyed it quite a bit. They also enjoyed telling me about a restaurant not far from there that they adored but couldn't remember the name of -- even though they ate there twice during their visit. "It was a woman's name I think," my aunt said.
"You mean Suzanne Fine Regional Cuisine?" I responded, followed by a broad smile crossing her face.
Yes, she meant Suzanne and I have to agree, it's a fine fine restaurant. I was thankful that something as simple as a wine I pulled from my cellar could conjure up great memories for my family.
When you're traveling for Thanksgiving, sometimes you have to roll with whatever your host has on hand.
In this case, I stayed at my cousin's house one night and was treated to some Thanksgiving leftovers: turkey and filling (which is distinct from stuffing and generally much more delicious).
I was not equipped with any wine of my own at the moment,
so I checked out the fridge. My cousin apologized for not having any
"real" wine (speaking of the Arbor Mist), but I zeroed in on the
screwcapped bottle on the door.
This bottle of Lake Erie Niagara from PA had been in the fridge for who-knows-how long, but I gave it a shot anyway. And you know what? It was ice cold and really delicious. Yes, it was grapey, but also very fruity in general, with some mixed berries. Nice acidity and palpable sweetness was really refreshing after a long day of traveling. Low alcohol helped that, as well.
But the coolest thing about this bottle was what came out as I poured the last glass (see picture). A rock-candy-like formation that could only be some kind of super tartrate crystal. I guess all that time in the fridge was ideal for growing this huge crystal. It was like finding a worm at the bottom of a bottle of mezcal. No, I didn't eat it, but I did take a picture of it. This was my most memorable thanksgiving wine experience.
Some consumers might have been turned off by such a thing, but as you may know, I find these kinds of things incredibly cool.
Dessert wines stole the show at my Thanksgiving dinner as I chose a local vidal ice wine and this TBA made by a friend of mine at a local winery.
The grapes for this botrytis-blessed wine were all hand sorted, grape by grape, from a late riesling harvest conducted by me and my friend.
This 187ml bottle was just one of four I took home from the whopping 2½-gallon carboy of TBA made. At least ten hours went into sorting the grapes and countless other hours went into fermenting and finishing this wine for bottling.
In the tiny glass, the wine showed an impressive gold color with concentrated aromas of apricot and peach. On the palate it had super rich body and balanced acidity.
Poured side by side with the ice wine, the TBA showed more complexity and sweetness. It didn’t need the raspberry tart I paired it with, as it was dessert enough by itself.