When you’re starting out the day of Thanksgiving, there is a hilarious amount of preparation to do; mostly involving food. At some point, you might want something to sip on, but not something that will put you out of commission. Crisp, refreshing Gruner Veltliner, particularly THIS Gruner, is an excellent candidate. This is a landwein (country wine) from the Osterriech, which encompasses three of the four Austrian quality wine regions. Despite its “lower” standing, this has all the fun varietal notes you expect from Gruner, starting with a pale straw color with pale yellow hues. The nose offers lively notes of citrus, green apple, white pepper, and snow pea. The palate features a light body, high acidity, and a little bit of leftover SO2. Notes of lime and peppercorn bounce off the palate, making this a crisp wine to enjoy while preparing for the big feast.
You’ve had Grenache Noir (Or just Grenache). You have probably Grenache Blanc in a blend, you might have even had a variety-labeled Grenache Blanc, but have you had Grenache Blanc (Garnacha Blanca in this case) from its original home? It’s true; even though France (particularly the Languedoc and Rhone) accounts for most Grenache Blanc plantings now, it is a Spanish variety (or clone if you prefer to look at it that way). Like it’s red counterpart, Garnacha Blanca thrives in continental wine climates, like Navarra, and tends to ripen with plenty of sugar; which leads to moderate-plus to high levels of alcohol. In this case, we are dealing with a “light” version, but one that delivers all the same. The wine pours a light yellow, and offers aromas of citrus, pear, and tart stone fruit. The palate displays a light + body, with high acidity and a slightly creamy texture. Lemon, peach, and bread-y notes dominate the palate. Try this with creamy cheeses and bright salads to try out contrasting and complementing pairings respectively.
Like Rioja, Navarra’s climate supports delicious, food-friendly versions of Tempranillo and other red varieties. Though we generally think Tempranillo as a wine that reacts favorably to lots of oak and time in bottle, you can also find fresher, quaffable versions. The ‘Ars in Vitro’ is an excellent example of that, displaying a medium ruby color with some garnet hues. Aromas of strawberry, red pepper, and cinnamon compose the aromatic profile, with the 10% of Merlot offering some tart plum and floral notes. The palate displays a medium body, with light tannins, and medium + acidity. The bright ripe strawberry on the nose dominates the palate while being supported by pleasantly green notes of black peppercorn. Try this as a Turkey wine alternative or with some roasted ham.
Carignan, like many varieties, sees most of its action as a blending variety. Whether it’s in the Southern Rhone under Carignan, in an old vine field blend in Lodi under Carignane, or in Rioja under Mazuelo, Carignan is a true 6th man in the world of wine. However, true to the analogy, Carignan has had issues standing on its own as a varietal wine. It generally displays high yields, intense tannins, and abundant phenolic compounds, which makes it tricky to work with. There are ways around this such as carbonic maceration, but that brings up its own issues regarding complexity and quality. Undaunted, the winemakers at Domaine La Manarine, an amazing winery located in the Southern Rhone Valley, have come through with an excellent example. This wine pours an intense ruby color with purple hues. The nose offers red and blue fruit, black pepper, and cured meat. The palate is full bodied with medium + tannin and medium acidity. The palate is full of ripe, opulent fruits accented with intense savory baking spices. This is a quintessential food wine and should be paired with the richest meats you have the table.
This is the first of two wines we will be featuring from the Cherry House line. Though we generally try to avoid featuring two wines from the same producer on the same list, sometimes a producer just fits the theme so well that we cannot help ourselves. The Cherry House white is modeled after Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc which is, albeit less popular, modeled after the same model of richness laid out by their red counterparts. This wine is a 50/50 blend of Clairette and Grenache Blanc, with the Clairette going through 100% malolactic fermentation and time in 10% new French Oak and the Grenache Blanc through partial malolactic fermentation and time in neutral oak. The result is an opulent, but balanced delight. The wine pours a medium gold color. The nose offers baked apple, Bosc pear, and spicy and sweet oak-derived notes. The palate features a medium – body, and medium acidity. Big ripe pear and other orchard fruits explode onto the palate with a balanced richness brought on by the oak. If you are feeling white but need something to stand up to the richer fare on the Thanksgiving table, this is the choice.
I am generally apprehensive about bringing Burgundy (white, red, or anything in between) into the bar. It can be a difficult region to understand, and great examples across the various appellations can often be prohibitively expensive. However, it’s a treat when we can expose everyone to the truly great wine regions of the world without annihilating their wallet, and I am happy to report that this wine does just that. As 2018 was an uncharacteristically warm year across Burgundy, the wines are showing incredibly out of the bottle and can be enjoyed as soon as it’s in the glass. The Dubreuil Hautes-Cotes de Beaune comes a village within a larger region (Cotes de Beaune) more well known for it’s Chardonnay, but this is quintessential Burgundy Pinot Noir. The wine pours a pale ruby color, and offers aromas of black tea, bing cherry, star anise, and hints of cola. The palate is medium - bodied, with silky tannins and medium + acidity. The bright red fruits continue to the palate and get riper and riper as the wine finishes. This is as “turkey wine” as wine gets, so stock up!
As Pinot Noir is generally considered to be the apex of “turkey wine”, it seemed only fitting that our marquee wine for the club be a special Pinot. Martin Woods is Willamette Valley producer that specializes in single vineyard Pinot Noir in addition to limited bottlings of varieties that are not commonly planted in Oregon (Cabernet Franc, Gamay, Gruner Veltliner, etc.). The Havlin Vineyard is located towards in the Van Duzer Corridor AVA (established in 2019) and is among the latest ripening vineyards that Martin Woods sources from. This provides stress on the vines, which leads to structure-driven cool climate PN. This wine pours a medium ruby color, and offers aromas of cherry, boysenberry, and rhubarb accented by fragrant potpourri notes. The palate displays a medium body with medium acidity and gorgeously seamless tannin. The fruit and spice notes on the nose continue to the palate and develop as the wine aerates, which makes for an unequivocally exquisite-feeling wine. This wine will elevate anything on the table and is a can’t-miss bottle.
To round out our main list, we return to Cherry House, who happens to have an excellent red modeled in the Chateauneuf-du-Pape style. This is a blend of Grenache, Carignan, and Mourvèdre that sees time in neutral oak, opting to let the fruit shine. This wine pours a rich ruby color with purple hues. The nose features dark chocolate, rich red fruits, savory baking spice, and slightly smoky notes. The palate is full-bodied, with medium + tannins and lower acidity. Rich, ripe red fruits are accented by star anise and floral notes, making this an excellent pairing for the heaviest Thanksgiving fare.
The bonus wine tradition returns! We all need something sweet and fun to enjoy with desserts and to appeal to those in the family that prefer their wine on the sweeter side. For those purposes, we brought in an excellent, off the beaten path wine from Lombardy. Sangue di Giuda, also known literally as "Blood of Judas" or more simply Blood Wine, is a DOC and wine sourced from the Oltrepo Pavese region in Pavia, which is one of the largest production regions of domestically consumed Italian wines. This wine is most often a blend of Barbera, Croatina, and Rara Uva, and goes through the partial fermentation method used in the production of other sweet wines such as Moscato d’Asti. The result is an easy-drinking, semi-sweet, aromatic frizzante red that can be paired with dessert or enjoyed with an aperitif. This wine pours a ruby color with purple hues and offers aromas of cherry, plum, bubblegum, and banana. The bubbles on the palate are soft and fun, with juicy red fruits and licorice. This is the perfect end to a large wine tasting OR a large meal.