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November 24, 2009


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I don't have a fancy website like Lenndevours, but what I do have is an online hockey league I run with 16 owners. As part of my league I write a newsletter summarizing the events of the prior week. And for fun, I also provide them (subject them to?) my "Wine Tip of the Week". Here is what I gave them this Monday:

Thanksgiving is always a time when every newspaper and wine magazine and TV news channel gives tips on pairing turkey dinner with wine. Why? Because there isn't a tried and true natural pairing for the mish-mosh that is turkey, potatoes, stuffing, gravy, casseroles, etc. Big Steak? Red wine with good tannin. Light White Fish? Fresh, vibrant white wine. Thanksgiving? Take your pick.

From a white wine perspective, it is usually accepted that Riesling is the far and away best pairing for Thanksgiving…. But while I really like dry style Rieslings, there are many people I dine with who don't like that wine - - - often it is a love it or hate it varietal. Therefore, I usually go with a Pinot Gris from the US (usually Washington) as my white wine of choice. It is cleaner, brighter, and usually more balanced than most Chards and therefore is easier to pair with a variety of foods.

On to reds (because once the appetizers are over, so is my allegiance to white wine). On turkey day, I usually go with 1 of 3 choices. From a sentimental perspective, Zinfandel is a patriotic choice simply because it is considered America's grape and Thanksgiving is America's holiday. If you want to go the Zin route, I highly recommend Ridge or Frog's Leap; they will cost you $25 or so, but they are so much better than the $10 heat bombs that most of California pumps out.

My next red choice would be Pinot simply because it is so versatile and can be paired with so many different foods from red meat to poultry to fish. It is a natural chocie to go with a dinner that usually has a wide ranging menu.

And finally - - - the red wine I reach for most on Thanksgiving - - - Rhone Valley reds, especially the Cotes-du-Rhone. While I love Pinot I sometimes feel that it can get buried with the richness of some dishes (and especially the gravy). I like the Cotes-du-Rhone because it has enough backbone to stand up to a hearty gravy, but is it is usually well balanced enough to not dominate any other part of the dinner.

Bonus Red Pairing: I think Cab Franc would make a great Thanksgiving pairing too though they are often hard to find in many wine shops as it is really only readily produced in the Loire (France) and in New York (Long Island and (to some extent) the Finger Lakes). If you have the chance to put out a Raphael Cab Franc or a Lieb Cab Franc (both from Long Island and recommended because of their sub-$20 price tags), I think you and your guests will be pleasantly surprised.


A box of wine. That's what I'm bringing. Every year we bring wine and every year it gets set aside and our glasses are filled from the 1.5 liter bottle of Yellow Tail. So, this year I'm going to try bringing decent wine disguised as a communal spigot to see if I can get something pleasant in my glass. Yep, totally selfish reasons. ;) The trick is finding a good wine in a box. My local packies aren't exactly the front runners on this up and coming trend. :)

Dave -

Well said. Three of the five Finger Lakes reds of the year are cabernet franc, and I believe two of them retail for south of $20. Tremendous stuff.

Taster B -

Brilliant. However, I was expecting you to say that you took several good bottles, uncorked them, transferred them to box, and found a way to re-package it safely. Now THAT would be the solution!

good call on Sylvaner. Perhaps I will hit up some of that this t-day.

I will be bringing Hennepin for snacking, football, the post Thanksgiving feast, and maybe even the meal itself. I will be bringing 2007 Cuvee Romaine Cote Du Rhone and 2007 Manzone Dolcetto for reds. Both delicious, food friendly, and very resonably priced. And a LI chardonnay if I catch a Striped Bass tommorrow in the Ocean. Hoping to have to bring a chard:)
I am going to a place with zero emphasis on wine and food pairing so I wont be cellar poaching. Im basically bringing wine for my wife and I for the few days that we are up there.

Lenn- interested to know where you get your German Sylvaner.

I still need to talk to the chef to finalize, but I was planning on bringing an Alsace Sylvaner, Gamay from Touraine, a Chignin and a Mondeuse from Savoie, Maume Bourgogne and Hamptons Pinot, and Francs from Chinon and the North Fork.

Dave reminded me that I have a truly american varietal in my cellar, Norton! There are also a couple of French American hybrid varietal wines so those might get the call too!

In the past I've enjoyed local unoaked chardonnay, riesling, and pinot noir - three of Niagara's best grapes - at Thanksgiving. But this year, Grandma has just turned 93 and though she has three boyfriends, drinks Mike's Hard Lemonade at lunchtime, and still does her own gutters, she's not so keen on cleaning the house, cooking, doing dishes, etc. Can't say I blame her.

So we're all going to a restaurant for the first time in Burke history. My original plan was to bring wines from Niagara to the restaurant, but with a $20 corking fee (an issue worthy of its own post!!!) that's not feasible for 8-10 people, so I have to rely on an unfamiliar restaurant in Cincinnati with a wine list that's not posted online. The OCD wine/food pairing geek in me is trying not to freak out.

I believe we'll be having Macari Early Wine and probably some Shinn "Red" (although since we're going to my brother-in-law's house there's a good chance he'll break out something else as well). Just for fun, we're bringing 3 bottles of Brooklyn Oenology wine that we got last weekend at the New Amsterdam Market, because how often does someone show up with wine made in Brooklyn?

Julia... call ahead and ask if there is any wiggle room in the corkage policy. Some places will waive corkage on your bottle if you buy one of theirs, too (so maybe you buy 2 or 3 at the restaurant and open 2 or 3 of your own for free).

Julia, even with $20 corkage fee, if it's wine you already have an are willing to "donate" to the cause, $20 for something you KNOW doesn't suck is far better than drinking crap at around the same cost.

Paul, what stuff from Brooklyn Oenology did you pick up? Alie makes some nice wines...even if they are actually make out here on the North Fork (sorry to lift up the curtain LOL). Enjoy that "Red" from Shinn...always a good value. The new Early Wine is a bit delayed they tell me...but we may see it in the next week or two!

Man, the boxed wine angle is a GREAT idea - cheap, easy-drinking, and decent quality. And if it gets totally tsunami'd by the crazy side dishes, it's no loss.

Bravo, Taster B!

Oh and Adam...the Sylvaner is 2007 Robert Karcher Sylvaner “Harth” that I picked up a whiel back from the Garagiste email list. Are you on it? Great deals on (mostly) European wines, sometimes oddballs too.

This was $10/bottle.

Julia -

$15 is standard. You absolutely should call and chat with one of the restaurant bigwigs and explain the situation; most will handle it with understanding.

I'm covering 4 dinners with the following:
Wed - CA sauvignon blanc
Thu - AUS sparkling shiraz, CA & OR pinot noir, FLX riesling
Fri - probably pizza for dinner, a zinfandel and an Italian (Puglia) red
Sat - T-day leftovers, a Provence rose', FLX riesling and possibly any leftover pinot
also will have a mixed bag of FLX dessert wines that I'm not sure when they'll be used: Standing Stone vidal ice, Prejean late harvest vignoles and Leidenfrost Encore.

Traveling somewhat the opposite of Lenn - leaving Pittsburgh Wed headed to Auburn in the FLX. Planning to make our first visit to Heart and Hands on Friday. Looking forward to that after reading many kind words about them on NYCR. Also planning a stop at Ithaca Beer Co on the way up Wed to pick up some of the CascaZilla red ale for our son for Christmas.

Dana, I could go for some CascaZilla myself. Maybe I need to get some before I head west.

I've had all kinds of wines at Thanksgiving from year to year, and the one theme that erupts every time is that all kinds of wines work for all kinds of dishes, especially depending on the particular cook.

Also, some years I'm really into turkey, others I'm all about stuffing or potatoes, and some years I use gravy sparingly while others I pour it on. I don't think my plate is balanced equally from one year to the next. That makes a big difference.

I think those magazines Lenn refers to want to make an assumption that they are making a suggestion as if 300 million Americans are eating approximately the same thing. That's simply not the reality.

So, whatever works, I guess. Gobble!

Dana -

Let me just stress that you should call ahead to H&H... We've heard of several folks who failed to do so recently! Appointments can save the day. Cheers!

Evan - thanks for the warning about Heart and Hands, but I'd already emailed them to check and they plan to be open Wed, Fri, Sat and Sun. Their response said possibly open a few hrs on Thu too, but that seems crazy to me. I hope they don't do that - unless someone else is doing the cooking and they just need to show up.

If somehow they end up not being open, we'll just limit ourselves to King Ferry and Long Point.


I have also heard good things about Bet the Farm, which is somewhere around Aurora. Haven't been there yet myself, but highly recommended by friends and winos.

Lenn, we got 2 reds and a white from BOE, but for the life of me I can't remember which. The reds are I think are the blends, the white I think one of the chards.

And I know they're really made out East, but the labels are fun (and they're colorforms to boot, so we can peel 'em off and stick 'em someplace else after dinner) and it's the illusion we're after anyway.

Hi Dana,
Heart & Hands will be open on Friday from noon - 5... special holiday hours for those who want to escape the mad hordes of black Friday shoppers!

Tom & I look forward to meeting you and sharing wine... and you are in luck: the 2008 Pinot Noir labels arrived today, so you will be among the first to taste the latest vintage!

I second Tom Mansell's comments about Bet the Farm... Lovely place with tasty wines. This Friday, it is the proprietor's birthday and they will be serving sparkling wine in honor of the occasion! This will be our first stop after clsoing on Friday!

Cheers and Happy Thanksgiving!
Susan Higgins

as for Thanksgiving pairings... I'm very happy to be bringing a pie to a good friend's home this year...

As for wine, we started moving our downstate collection upstate to the FLX, so...tomorrow morning, I'm looking forward to sorting through the mystery boxes and making some selections.

Oh... and the host shares my passion for Scotch, so I'm hoping to enjoy some smoky / peaty Lagavulin fireside at the end of the day!

We had Cloudy Bay Sauv Blanc and Grapes of Roth 2001 Merlot with our brined turkey, oyster dressing, hashwee (Lebanese dish made of ground lamb with rice and pomegranate seeds) spinach, carrots, and riced potatoes (I made the taters}.

We had the 2006 Heart and Hand Pinot (speak of the devil). Also Red Newt Cellars 2008 reisling was very nice. Those were the wines I brought and stuck close to them.

The others brought a mish mosh including the Johan Santana Merlot which I ran from and some Columbia Crest Reds, which weren't half bad.

My wife and I and my brother and his wife had wonderful stop at Heart and Hands on the Friday after Thanksgiving. The wines were all delightful and Susan was a most gracious hostess. Our experience backs up Evan's post for Nov 25. One of the pleasures of visiting FLX tasting rooms is the chance to visit with the winemaker and/or owner. Thanks to Susan for making our visit so enjoyable. I look forward to our next visit some time in 2010.

Per Susan's recommendation,we did stop at Bet the Farm arriving in time for some birthday bubbly. We also enjoyed several of their wines. Worth noting that besides their wines, they sell quite a range of wines from other FLX wineries. They are on the short list of places you can pick up Shalestone wines outside of the winery. Since Shalestone wasn't open when we were in the area in Oct, I took the chance to pick up a bottle of the 2007 pinot.

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