Guidelines for Serving Wines at Thanksgiving That Will Keep the Holiday Stress-Free

November 25th, 2014

Serving wines with Thanksgiving dinner? Just follow a few simple guidelines and the selection process can be as stress-free as opening a can of cranberry jelly.

First and foremost, offer variety. I harp on this every year, but you can hardly go wrong if you use this as a starting point. With a variety of wines at the table, say, a sweet or off-dry and a dry white, and perhaps a light to medium-bodied red, you’ll cover all your bases.

Second, don’t fret over precise food and wine pairings. A traditional Thanksgiving dinner usually isn’t heavy on the seasonings and spices. That makes more wines easily adaptable to the basics of turkey, potatoes and gravy, and stuffing you’re likely to serve.

Third, ask others what they like. Don’t assume that just because you’re a big fan of chardonnay, others will be too. Here again, variety is the key.

Finally, don’t be too skimpy on cost. A bargain wine or two? No problem. Every wine at the table under $10? Come on, it’s Thanksgiving! Splurge a bit and use this as an opportunity to show off your wine-buying prowess to family and friends.

In keeping with the variety theme, I’d like to offer some European wine recommendations from France, Italy, and Spain that should be a welcome addition to your Thanksgiving Day meal.

nullLa Gioiosa Non-Vintage Prosecco DOC Treviso Spumante (about $11) – An outstanding sparkling wine for starters, this tasty Prosecco features luscious ripe pear and honeydew melon flavors with a creamy texture that hints at lemon custard. Guaranteed to be a crowd-pleaser with its faintly sweet finish.

Domaine du Tariquet Classic (about $11) – This refreshing, four-varietal white wine blend offers citrusy and herbaceous aromas and flavors while the finish is clean and green and reminiscent of a vinho verde. It makes a nice pairing with seafood, shellfish or oyster stuffing.

Marchesi de Frescobaldi 2010 Nipozzano Riserva (about $19) – This incredibly well-priced, sangiovese-based Chianti is a great example of how practical it is to serve a red wine for Thanksgiving. Hints of licorice and spicy cherry on the nose, bright red currant and cranberry flavors on the palate, and supple tannins on the finish combine to provide a great compliment to dark meat.

Bodegas Shaya ‘Habis’ 2010 Old Vines Verdejo (about $26) – From Spain’s Rueda region, this stunning white wine opens with aromas of fresh peach and green herbs. Generous tropical and stone fruits fill the glass with a gentle kiss of ruby red grapefruit on the finish. My only quibble: it’s so good you may not want to share it with anyone else.

Damilano 2010 ‘Lecinquevigne’ Barolo DOCG (about $35) – This nicely complex nebbiolo is both elegant and muscular with floral aromas of rose and violet, red cherry flavors, and a splash of green tea on the finish. Grippy tannins are softened with a bit of aeration and decanting or easily complemented with an after-dinner cigar.

Stemmari Offers Pinot Grigio and Intriguing White Blend

September 28th, 2014

nullOriginating in Sicily, Italy, Stemmari Winery has a couple of white wines I recently tried for you to consider.

Their 2013 Pinot Grigio (about $10) has some nice, true-to-the varietal flavors of lemon and white peach, and good acidity that lends itself to the wine’s crisp finish.

The wine should pair well with a variety of seafood and shellfish dishes and it’s also reasonably priced.

The 2012 Dalila (about $14) is a blend of 80% Grillo and 20% Viognier.

There’s definitely a tropical note here, some very gentle citrus flavors, and a distinctive trace of spearmint on the finish.

Not unpleasant, and certainly an intriguing combination.

Wine Flavor Profile Affected by a Number of Factors

August 19th, 2014

One of the fun things about wine tasting is comparing and contrasting the flavor profile and characteristics of the same type of wine made by a different winery.

If you’re relatively new to wines and haven’t tried this, your first reaction might be, doesn’t one merlot pretty much taste like any other merlot?

To that I would say, you are mistaken, grasshopper.

There are a multitude of factors that can affect how a wine tastes, and today, I’ll give you what many consider to be among three of the most important.

First, vintage. Like any other agricultural crop, wine grapes can fall victim to poor weather conditions. As you might suspect, wetter and cooler than normal growing seasons don’t allow the grapes to fully ripen and develop their signature flavors. The resulting wines can be higher in acidity, lower in alcohol and lacking in character.

nullSecond, geographic region. The climate, soil conditions, and even the specific vineyard in which the grapes are grown can have a profound impact on the wines they produce. For starters, know that grapes grown in cooler climates generally result in wines with brighter, leaner flavors while those in warmer climates yield more full-bodied wines.

Third, winemaker style. A winemaker has a host of options to exercise that can help him or her arrive at the wine they’re trying to achieve. For example, the use or non-use of oak during the aging process, as well as the length of aging time, can affect the wine’s flavor, color, and aroma.

nullSide-by-side tastings can help you discern the differences that these and other factors have on a wine. Have fun with this by organizing a group tasting or simply make notes on your own for comparison purposes.

Here are my tasting notes on a chardonnay and a pinot noir produced by two different wineries. The first, Stoller Family Estate in Dayton, Oregon, was Wine Press Northwest Magazine’s 2014 Pacific Northwest Winery of the Year. The second, J Vineyards & Winery, is located in Sonoma County, California.

The Stoller 2012 Reserve Chardonnay (about $35) is the leaner of the two, with aromas and flavors of green pear, Fuji apple and citrus throughout and a finish suggesting lemon chiffon. The J Vineyards 2012 Russian River Valley Chardonnay (about $28) is bigger and rounder, with baked apple flavors accentuated by a touch of orange zest and toasted vanilla.

The Stoller 2012 Dundee Hills Pinot Noir (about $25) is a sensual delight, with floral aromatics, red berry and cherry flavors, and an almost sultry, inky finish with hints of baking spice. The J Vineyards 2012 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir (about $37) displays gentle raspberry and strawberry fruits with an underlying note of lavender. It’s delicate, beautifully balanced, and a pleasure to taste.

Pinot Grigio

May 31st, 2014

nullDouble Blind 2013 (about $15) – This Italian Pinot Grigio falls squarely in the medium-bodied white wine category, so if you don’t like your pinots too lean or too heavy-handed this wine will make an excellent choice.

Green melon, lemon/lime and Granny Smith apple flavors fill the glass, with a borderline creamy note to the otherwise crisp, bright finish. Perfect with a light salad of fresh greens or pasta.

Celebrate Malbec With Affordable Choices From Argentina

April 8th, 2014

These days there’s practically a special day for everything. World Smile Day, World Pasta Day, World Left-Handers Day … even World Malbec Day.

Did somebody say Malbec Day? Now that’s a day I’ll celebrate.

World Malbec Day was established a few years by an organization called Wines of Argentina (think Washington Wine Commission as a regional equivalent). April 17 is the day for this year’s events, which include tastings around the globe in recognition of this red wine grape that has really taken off during the last 20 to 25 years.

Malbec has shown promise in Washington State as well, but production has been nowhere near the quantity coming out of Argentina. You’ll find Washington malbec primarily as a component of a red wine blend or, if it is bottled as a single varietal, frequently costing somewhere around $25 to $30 a bottle.

That price range can be a bit steep for some people’s wine budgets, although I’d say that many Washington malbecs are well worth it.

But if you’re trying to be a bit more cost-conscious, look no further than Argentina for solid, reliable malbecs. It’s relatively easy to shop locally and find Argentinian malbecs that fit nicely within the $10 to $20 a bottle category.

nullWhatever the source, it’s good to know that malbec is an excellent wine to have on hand at the dinner table. It pairs well with most everything beef (prepared in practically any style) and also complements lamb, barbeque pork ribs, and roasted chicken.

Here are some Argentinian malbecs from the country’s critically acclaimed Mendoza region that I’ve tasted as of late for you to consider:

Árido 2011 Malbec (about $12) – This wine jumps out with black olive, pepper and dried herbs along with adequate acidity and somewhat firm tannins. Enjoy it with a juicy, medium-rare pepper-encrusted steak.

Argento 2012 Malbec (about $14) – A sip of this malbec is almost like sinking your teeth into a savory berry pie. Juicy blackberry fruits, with melt-in-your-mouth buttery, caramel and herbal accents on the finish. Fun, but sophisticated, this wine is a pleasure to taste.

Tomero Wines 2011 Malbec (about $19) – Understated boysenberry and blueberry flavors lead off, with a nice meaty texture in the mid-palate and a trailing hint of smokiness. If you like your malbecs more reserved without all the fruit-forwardness, this is the wine for you.

Argento Reserva 2011 Malbec (about $19) – Stunning violet and plum aromas are followed by perfectly balanced black currant, blackberry and black plum flavors. The nicely structured finish glides endlessly on a velvety note of bittersweet chocolate. This malbec is the complete package and one of the best I’ve tasted in quite some time.

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