Like the swallows returning to San Juan Capistrano, Thanksgiving brings the return of the annual (anticipated/dreaded) holiday wine suggestions.
And just as there must be someone somewhere who dreads the swallows’ arrival, there are some who roll their eyes and look away when reading wine writer’s personal suggestions for what you should be drinking during the holidays.
A more entertaining duet of conflicting opinions would be hard to find outside of New York Times writer Eric Asimov, a fan of such lists, and blogger Cory Cartwright of Saignee, who feels, well, you can read how he feels here.
I tend to agree mostly with Asimov, that holiday wine lists are mostly well-received by consumers looking for something different and simply a suggestion they might not have considered.
I also think Cartwright has some excellent points to make, particularly his comment “Thanksgiving dinner changes enough from year to year to require us all to sit down and put serious thought into what we’re going to drink.”
Of course, for many people Thanksgiving is a rehash (or maybe that’s what happens with leftovers the next day) of last year’s dinner, which was a rerun of the previous year, which was a rerun of even earlier years.
Even so, if you’re sitting at the table staring at the same old bird, or a new bird in the same condition as last year’s, the probability is you might be looking for something different to drink. Especially if last year’s choices weren’t the hit of the party.
So holiday lists can provide ideas, even if the ideas are some you’ve heard before.
Pinot Noir for the red, Riesling for the white? And plenty of affordable ($15 and under) sparkling wine beforehand?
Whew, that list is finished.
But what if Thanksgiving isn’t the same this year? New York Time food writer Florence Fabicrant responds to a reader’s memorable Thanksgiving dinner here and hopefully your’s, too, will be memorable but in a positive way.
What if the dinner features a roast beast, or goose, or ham? Or all three? Ever heard of a turducken?The same old turkey wine might not be the match you want.
So you peruse various writers and see how they handle the wide-ranging flavors, and wide-ranging guests, to find something, anything, that’s going to please at least some of the guests.
And in the end, you head to the cellar or, if you’re like most of us, the liquor store and see what values are available. You purchase a couple of bottles (or a case if it’s affordable) of something red and something white that you know you can drink and head back home, secure in the knowledge that at least one person will be pleased with your holiday selections.
After all, wine is a personal thing, no?
Here’s something you don’t read every year: A top-quality Napa winery has decided to not harvest its grapes this year.
According to a release from Kathy Jarvis at Jarvis Communications in Culver City, Hidden Ridge Vineyard owners Casidy Ward and Lynn Hofacket have opted to not harvest any fruit from their 60-acre vineyard on Spring Mountain due to what Ward and Hofacket call an “inconsistent growing season.”
Several writers and bloggers have commented on the difficult 2010 vintage for northern California (including Alder here) but this is the first report I’ve seen that someone decided the grapes weren’t good enough to pick. While Ward and Hofacket said it was difficult decision to go without a 2010 vintage wine for their Cabernet Sauvignon the choice is in line with their commitment to produce only the best wines possible.
According to a statement issued by Ward and Hofacket, the fruit simply wasn’t up to their tight standards.
“The wonderful thing about our Hidden Ridge Vineyard is that we’re able to capture the flavors of this rare and special place in a bottle from year to year,” said Ward. “Our vineyard truly expresses each year’s growing season and all of the wonderful variants each year brings. Our wines may not taste the exactly the same every year, but they do need to taste great.”
He said the decision to not harvest was made with the approval of his winemaking team of Marco DiGiulio and Timothy Milos.
Hidden Ridge includes some high elevation (up to 1,700 feet), extremely steep vineyards (up to 55 degrees, according to the winery’s website, which puts them in the almost-as-steep-as-Switzerland category) which even in the best years don’t overproduce grapes.
You’d think this Cabernet Sauvignon would reach the stratospheric prices demanded by other Napa producers but at $40 a bottle, Hidden Ridge remains in the affordable range.
Because it’s so difficult and labor-intensive to harvest the grapes in this remote vineyard in the Mayacamas Mountains between Sonoma and Napa counties (access is by foot, 4-wheel truck or helicopter), the owners and winemakers decided to simply leave the grapes instead of harvesting them and trying to sell them on the bulk market.
While it’s not unheard of for a winery to skip a vintage or two, it must have been a difficult decision in the ultra-competitive world of California Cabernet Sauvignon.
Winemaking is an endeavor where you get but one chance a year to make your reputation.
Ward and Hofacket are counting on their previous vintages, along with the mystique of being daring enough to not make a wine when the grapes aren’t of quality, to keep their reputation intact and their wines in demand.
I’m straying from the wine trail this week to focus on another Grand Valley product – peaches – available in beer form.
Peachfork (the vineyards, not the beer) has long supplied grapes for local winemakers but this time it was their peaches that attracted a brewer’s attention.
“I’ve always wanted to marry the Palisade peach goodness with our brewing style,” said Todd Usry, general manager and brewmaster for the Breckenridge-based brewery. “It seems a natural fit.”
Peachfork Wheat is available on tap locally at the Ale House Brewery and Pub, 2531 North 12th.
Ale House general manager Brian Oliver said the peach beer fits well with his establishment’s buy-local philosophy.
“Buying locally is what we’re all about,” said Oliver. “We try to buy as much locally as we can and finally our (main) company did something using local ingredients.”
Peachfork Wheat isn’t a peach-flavored beer. You have to concentrate to pick up the barest aroma of peaches and you might discern just a hint of peach flavor, way back in the palate.
But it wasn’t meant to a peach-dominated quaff, said Oliver. Like an Oscar-winning supporting actor, the peach is there to enhance the beer, not steal the show.
“The peach sweetens and lightens up the wheat texture,” he explained. “Wheat beers can be a bit heavier by nature and our brewmaster takes the sweetness of the peach and softens the beer.”
Also, it’s an unfiltered beer, and like an unfiltered wine whose cloudy face may initially turn off some customers, that first taste will reveal the difference between an unfiltered beer and a filtered beer.
“There’s so much more depth and layers in an unfiltered beer,” said Oliver, who has 18 years in the bar and brewery business. “You get so much more out of an unfiltered beer and it’s amazing how many people prefer unfiltered beers.”
The new offering is immensely popular, Oliver said, and he had to fight off other Breckenridge Brewery pubs for his share of the much-in-demand special production.
“There’s only a limited number of kegs and I had to go the brewery and argue that I needed the lion’s share because it’s my backyard,” Oliver said. “I got 16 kegs, enough for about a month and a half.”
The Ale House can go through four to five kegs a week (each keg holds about 110 pints) so the supply won’t last forever.
“It’s just blowing out the doors,” Oliver said of the Peachfork Wheat. “This is great time for this sort of thing.”
For those readers still unsure about their beer knowledge, and that includes this writer, Oliver offers a free beer tasting and pairing class the first Wednesday of every month.
“We cook with beer and pair it with different foods and explore it in depth,” said Oliver. Each class includes 11-12 beers, about a third of the 32 beers the Ale House has on tap.
“We have a lot of fun and end up learning a lot about beer,” said Oliver.
The next class is 6 p.m. Wednesday (Nov. 3). Call the Ale House at 242-7ALE (7253) for more information.