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Thanksgiving Day Experiences – 2020 Edition

November 28, 2020 2 comments

2020. What a year.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, as it revolves around family, food, wine, and friends. Close friends, who are more a family. Friends we celebrated Thanksgiving together with for the past 29 years. And 2020 managed to put a damper on that too, among a vast array of destruction this year will leave behind. Thanksgiving 2020 was about immediate family, food, and wine.

But even in 2020, the proverbial silver lining can be found. This probably was the most relaxing Thanksgiving ever. The menu was dramatically reduced – the family of 4 doesn’t need much of the elaborate appetizers and a vast array of side dishes, so cooking was mostly stress-free. Mostly, however, is a keyword here, as the cooking of the turkey became an unintended study of the operations of our oven.

I’ve cooked the turkey using most of the possible ways over the years, with the exception of deep-frying – roasted, roasted in the bag, turducken, deboned and roasted, smoked (smoked was the house favorite for the past 3 years). I’m also a big fan of slow cooking when you cook low and slow for a long time, so we decided that this was the way to go this year. Turkey was all buttered up with cavity stuffed with aromatics (garlic, lemon, celery, herbs), and the turkey went into the oven at around midnight at 200°F. Or at least I thought that it was 200°F. In the morning, the thigh registered only 152°F (you really need 185°F there) – this is when we decided to check the temperature in the oven using the same meat thermometer, and found out that it was at least 20 degrees lower, barely reaching 180°F, which greatly extends cooking time. We spent the next 6-7 hours playing with that temperature until we finally reached the desired doneness. 40 minutes at 450°F uncovered rendered a beautiful bird with crispy skin. So as long as you trust your oven, slow cooking is the way to go. Added benefit – the best ever turkey gravy, made from the drippings (here is the link to the recipe in case you need one).

The rest of the food prep caused no heartburn, everything came out quite well. We did the same stuffing for the second year in a row. While the recipe is very simple (but it takes time), the result is simply a delightful dish loved by everyone. One more standout was Nantucket Cranberry Pie, which is incredibly simple to make but yet again, the result is superb.

What didn’t work well at all (every occasion needs a flap, right?) was my attempt to recreate childhood memories. I ordered black caviar from Costco (yes, guilty as charged), which came pre-packaged with Creme Fraiche and tiny blinis (a dollar-coin-sized Russian pancakes). First, the caviar itself was just so-so, both in texture and in the taste. But following the instructions and serving it with blinis was a complete disaster, as those dry nibbles resembling poorly made English muffins were, in a word, disguising, both in the taste and texture, especially the texture. Talk about disappointments… But as I said, this was the only flap.

And then there were wines. Over the years, I developed an “All-American” approach to my Thanksgiving wine selection. 2020 was not an exception, and I decided to open definitely more than we could drink, but still have fun with the wines.

Two out of four wines came as part of the mystery pack from Last Bottles which were offered during Thanksgiving. I always missed that deal, but this year I managed to grab the 12 bottles for $144, which made it a great deal. So far I tried 5 bottles out of those 12, and they were all excellent, so the white and Rosé were coming from that set. Vinum Cab Franc was a sample that I received as a preparation for the upcoming #CabFrancDay celebration. I also managed to get cellar-aged Cayuse as part of this year’s offering (directly from Cayuse), so I decided that it might make the Thanksgiving celebration quite special. And yes, it did…

For what it worth, here are my wine notes:

2017 Casino Mine Ranch Vermentino Shenandoah Valley (14.1% ABV)
Light golden
Honeysuckle, white flowers, inviting
Delicious. Whitestone fruit and tropical fruit, a touch of honey undertones, Gewurz-like spiciness, good acidity, good balance.
Should play well with food (pre-dinner notes)
8-, it was good with food

2018 Azur Rosé Napa Valley (12.5% ABV)
Gold with a copper hue
Similar to the previous wine, honeysuckle, ripe strawberries
Good acidity, strawberries all the way, fresh, vibrant, full of energy. Excellent.
8-/8, tremendous acidity on the second day. Worked well with food.

2016 Vinum Cellars The Scrapper Cabernet Franc El Dorado (15.18% ABV, $35, 26 months in 2 year French Oak)
Dark garnet
Red and black fruit, a touch of black currant
Black currant, dark chocolate, sweet cherries
8, good balance, well-made wine.

2011 Cayuse Syrah En Cerise Vineyard Walla Walla Valley (13.9% ABV)
Dark garnet, almost black
Liquid rocks, a touch of barnyard, iodine, can’t stop smelling
Liquid rock, tart cherries, tar, pepper, iodine, firm structure, layers and layers of flavor. Wow.
9-/9. Surprising pairing – worked amazingly well with Nantucket cranberry pie. Worked well with turkey as well.

As you can tell, the wine program was a complete success – and I definitely can’t complain about spending the holidays with just the closest family

That’s my Thanksgiving story. Hope you have fun too!

Thanksgiving with Smith-Madrone, And a Few More Delights

December 9, 2018 4 comments

Holidays are all about pleasure. The pleasure of the company. The pleasure of food. The pleasure of wine. As the very least, they should be.

Let me tell you about the pleasures of my recent Thanksgiving – in one picture:

Turkey with Smith-Madrone wines

If this would be an Instagram, I could end my post here, but in this blog, I can add a few words, right?

Let’s talk about the wine first. Everyone has their ideas as what is the best Thanksgiving wine. Some talk about how difficult it is to pair any wine with the Thanksgiving table, due to the large variety of dishes and often prevalent sweet flavors (this is not universal, of course). I have a very simplistic view of the wine and food pairing – give me tasty food and good wine, and if they don’t work together – no problems, I’m happy to consume them one by one. Difficult or not, pairing is not the focal point of my Thanksgiving wine selection. I really have only one strong preference for the Thanksgiving wines – they should be all American. Thanksgiving we celebrate here in the USA is all about this country, and so the wine should match that. And thinking about American wines, you understand how easy it is nowadays to have all-American wine experience.

How many of you heard of Napa Valley? Okay, I see that look, this was a stupid question, I know. But let me go on. How many of you heard of Spring Mountain District? Okay, I see your facial expression changing to say “hmmm, I’m not so sure”. And the last question – how many of you heard of Smith-Madrone? Okay, don’t feel too bad, at the end of the day it is one of the about 400 wineries located in the Napa Valley, so of course, one can’t know all of them. But – this is why I’m talking about it – this is the winery you might want to get better acquainted with.

Smith-Madrone is one of the oldest wineries in Napa Valley, started by brothers Stuart and Charles Smith in 1971. Smith-Madrone property is about 200 acres, with some parts of the vineyards planted more than 100 years ago, all located near the top of the Spring Mountain in Napa Valley. The name Smith-Madrone combines the family name with the name of the evergreen Madrone trees, prominently growing at the property. Well, instead of me trying to regurgitate the past and present of the Smith-Madrone winery, let me direct you to this article – it is a good story, well worth a few minutes of your time.

Smith-Madrone wines

When was the last time you had Napa Valley Riesling? If you answered “never”, it could’ve been my answer too – until I discovered this Smith-Madrone Riesling. Riesling is simply not a common grape for the Napa Valley, but Smith-Madrone produces the absolutely beautiful rendition of the famous grape. It might be due to the mountain fruit – all the Smith-Madrone vineyards located at the altitude of 1300 to 2000 feet, with slopes reaching 34%. Sustainable dry farming and winemaking practices also play a role, but one way or the other, the 2015 Smith-Madrone Riesling Spring Mountain District Napa Valley (12.9% ABV, $32) was just delicious. varietally correct both on the nose (honeysuckle, a touch of tropical fruit, lemon, apples) and the palate, which was beautifully balanced with golden delicious apples, a touch of honey and acidity. To make me ultra-happy, the Riesling is sported a distant hint of petrol, which is my pet peeve.

2015 Smith-Madrone Chardonnay Spring Mountain District Napa Valley (14.4% ABV, $40, 10 months in French oak) was equally beautiful. Again, the wines of that styling I call in my book “classic”. A touch of vanilla and apples on the nose, a distant hint of butter, continuing with the same vanilla and white apples on the palate. Clean acidity, noticeable minerally undertones, restrained, balanced – a very classic example of “how to do chardonnay right”.

With the risk of sounding very boring and repetitive, I have one more classic wine for you – 2014 Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon Spring Mountain District Napa Valley (13.9% ABV, $52, 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc, 7% Merlot, 70% new French oak, 30% one-year-old French oak for 18 months). How classic was this wine? Bordeaux-classic. The mountain fruit was shining, showing great restraint. This was not an exuberant typical Napa Cab – lean, tight, well-structured, with cassis both on the nose and the palate, the wine was very enjoyable now, and it will be equally or more enjoyable in 30 years.

So that was my main wine story on the Thanksgiving day. The rest was about the food – starting the smoker as 9 am in the 21°F weather (about -6°C), and then watching the turkey slowly getting to the right temperature. The silver lining of that cold weather was the fact that instead of 4-4.5 hours in the smoker, it took about 6 hours to get that big bird to the right doneness – and slower cooking results in more tender and more flavorful meat. A glass of Smith-Madrone Riesling was adding to the cooking enjoyment.

After celebrating Thanksgiving at our house, we went to see our close friends in Boston. What I love about that house is that there are always a few of the older wine bottles laying somewhere on the shelf. You never know what you will find in the older bottle, but that is what makes it fun, isn’t it?

The first bottle I opened was 2007 Tishbi Cabernet-Petite Sirah Shomron Israel (12% ABV, 70%  Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Petite Sirah). Judging by the pronounced brickish, almost orange, color, my first thought was “this probably fully turned”. And it was not! Complex nose of dried fruit and herbs was supported by plums and prunes forward, but balanced palate. Good amount of acidity, tertiary aromas – this was a very enjoyable glass of wine. Only one glass, I have to say – by the time I wanted the second, the wine was gone.

Without much thinking, I pulled another wine, realizing later that I opened another wine from the same vintage – 2007 Marani Kondoli Vineyards Saperavi-Merlot Kakheti Georgia (13.5% ABV). This wine couldn’t be more different from the previous 2007 – dark garnet color, not a sign of any aging, tight, fresh, blackberries and blueberries on the nose and the palate, firm, fresh and young. I’m really curious about how much longer this wine could’ve last.

One last wine to mention – 2010 Massandra White Muscat Crimea Ukraine (16% ABV). Massandra winery roots go back to the old Tsar’s Russia in late 1800, but their cellars hold wines from the 18th century (if you are not familiar with Massandra wines, here is an article by Jancis Robinson). Massandra is best known for sweet fortified Muscat wines, like the one we tasted. To me, this 2010 was most reminiscent of a Sherry, and not necessarily an ultra-balanced one. But then the same Jancis Robinson’s article says that Massandra wines require 45-60 for the full maturity, so I guess the wine tasted within the expectations…

Spring Mountain District in Napa Valley, Israel, Georgia, and Ukraine – not a bad wine play for the holiday, what do you say?

Here you go, my friends. I will leave you with some beautiful wines to look for. And how was your Thanksgiving, if you still remember it? Cheers!

Thanksgiving Day Experiences

December 3, 2017 5 comments

Thanksgiving is one of my most favorite holidays. It revolves around food. Before you beat me up, of course, it is about family, friends and lots and lots of good reason to be thankful – but still, the food is at the core of this family gathering. This makes me double-happy – I get to spend time with the family and cook my heart out – and let’s not forget the extra bonus – I have a reason to chose special wines.

Since this blog started, there was only one year when I didn’t post about Thanksgiving. Otherwise, I did my best to talk about food and wine experience of this special day, sometimes even with few posts on the subject (you can find those posts here). This year, I had two resolutions for my Thanksgiving dinner. First, it will be simple – which means no Turducken, for instance. Second, I will serve only an American wines – to be more precise, only the wines from California. As Napa and Sonoma greatly suffered from the recent fires, this was only logical to embrace Californian wines to support the people there.

Thanksgiving Wines 2017

First, let me say a few words about the food. Turkey is a cornerstone of Thanksgiving – at the same time, it is hard to cook a whole turkey in really an exciting way. Over the years, we tried lots and lots of different recipes – with stuffing and without, turducken, smoked, deep fried, deboned… Some were definitely better than the others (turducken is typically a standout), and some of those preparations can be very laborious. Thus this year, I decided the smoked turkey is the way to go.

This was not a random decision – earlier this year I discovered so-called PBC (Pit Barrel Cooker), which I absolutely fell in love with. In the past, I had to spend literally a whole day, dancing around my simple smoker, trying to maintain the temperature and still ending up cooking all the food in the oven. PBC changed that dramatically – no need to precook ribs anymore, just start the fire, hang your piece of meat and come back in a few hours to enjoy. Based on all the prior success, smoking the turkey was simply a done deal.

This might be the simplest turkey I ever have done. Buy already brined turkey (many stores sell pre-brined turkey, which greatly simplifies your life), rub it generously with PBC All-purpose rub, start the fire and just hang it inside the PBC – you can estimate the cooking time based on the size, and of course, use the meat thermometer to make sure the turkey is cooked through.

Thanksgiving smoked turkey

Another dish I want to mention is the dessert. I got a recipe from a friend, many years ago – however, it was also a while since I made this dessert. I wanted to find a similar recipe online, just to use it as a reference – but failed. So here is the recipe without the usual ingredients and measurements, as here you can make everything approximately. Let’s call this dessert

Crepes Napoleon with Wine-poached Pears and Cranberry sauce

You will need the following:

  • 4 firm pears, I recommend Anjou, carefully peeled, halved and cored
  • 10-12 crepes (can be more, can be less, depending on how many layers do you want)
  • 1 lb cranberry sauce (canned is fine, fresh is better)
  • 1 bottle of port – you can use red wine too, but then you would need to add sugar.
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Put peeled, halved and cored pears into the large pot, cover it with wine, add cinnamon stick and nutmeg, and put it on the stove. Once liquid started boiling, reduce heat and let it simmer for about 30 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and let peras to cool off completely in the wine, preferably overnight (when cool enough, put the whole pot into the refrigerator). Next day, thinly slice pears and put aside. You can also reduce the wine for a later use – it is quite delicious.

You can buy crepes or you can make crepes. If you will decide to make them, Alton Brown has an excellent recipe – this is what I used.

Crepes Napoleon

Once crepes are made and cooled off, you are ready to start making the Napoleon! Take a plate you will serve the dessert on. Put the first crepe on the bottom. Thinly spread cranberry sauce. Cover with another crepe. Now take slices of pear and put them around the crepe in a single layer. Cover with another crepe, spread cranberry sauce, cover, put pears and continue the process until you will be satisfied with the overall height of the Napoleon. I recommend a round of pear slices on top with cranberry sauce in the center, but of course, you can make your own decoration. Cover (plastic wrap will do) and put it in the cool place for the flavors to be absorbed into the crepes. Later on, slice and enjoy!

Time to talk wines!

Holiday celebration should start with the sparkling, isn’t it? Finding tasty California sparkling wine is really not a problem. One of my favorite California producers, Field Recordings, offers an interesting selection of the sparkling wines, with most of them packaged in the cans (yes, cans). I had a can of NV Field Recordings Methodé Aluminum Edna Valley (11.9% ABV, 100% Pinot Noir), and it provided a perfect start for the evening – fresh, supple, with good body weight and a nice touch of a fresh bread – definitely was a crowd pleaser.

I wanted to have a full California wine experience, so next, we moved on to Rosé – 2016 Conundrum Rosé California (13.1% ABV). Truth be told, I’m not a fun of Wagner family wines – Conundrum, Meiomi, Caymus – doesn’t matter, they generally don’t work for my palate. So I threw in the bottle of this Conundrum Rosé simply because it was available – I thought we will open it, taste it and move on. Boy, was I wrong. This wine had beautiful strawberries all the way on the nose and the palate, supported by tons of herbs – lavender, mint, basil. Perfect mouthfeel with very good presence, but not overwhelming and with good acidity – this wine was enjoyed to the fullest.

We drink with our eyes first – thus the label on the 2014 Durant and Booth Blanc California (14.6% ABV, $36, blend of Chardonnay, Grenache Blanc, Ribolla Gialla, Roussanne, Greco di Tufo) was extremely drinkable and very promising (the label represents the art technique called water marbling – you can read more here if you are as intrigued as I was). I brought this wine from California after attending Wine Bloggers Conference 2017, where this wine was presented to us at the Napa Valley Vintners lunch – I plan to write a separate post about this event).

As you can tell, this wine is made from quite a few grapes, and I’m typically a bit concerned if the chorus will sing harmoniously. Oh yes, it was  – starting from the beautiful touch of butter and vanilla on the nose and the palate, then immediately offering silky plumpness of Roussanne with a gentle touch of butter and tropical fruit on the palate – this delicious wine was gone in no time.

Next, it was the time to move on to the red wines. We started with 2014 Acorn Alegria Vineyards Cabernet Franc Russian River Valley (12.5% ABV, $38, 93% Cabernet Franc, 2% Malbec, 2% Merlot, 2% Petite Verdot, 1% Cabernet Sauvignon and Tannat). All Acorn wines are made from a co-fermented blend of grape varieties which are growing at Acorn’s Alegria Vineyard. This Cabernet Franc had a beautiful open nose with a touch of mint and cassis – the same continued on the palate with more cassis in a smooth, round package, supported by some herbal notes and perfect acidity. It was unmistakably Cabernet Franc, but also unmistakably California Cab Franc, without much of the green bell pepper presence and fruit dominant, but perfectly balanced.

Our last red was coming from the California region I was not really familiar with until now – El Dorado County (it is not only gold you find there, yep). 2015 Boeger Barbera El Dorado (15% ABV) was another wine I brought back from California after the same wine bloggers conference. I tried few of the El Dorado wines at the conference and was not very impressed, so I looked at it as an interesting experiment. Another score! This wine was dense and brooding, with tar and tobacco on the nose, and surprisingly polished dark fruit on the palate with sweet tobacco undertones. To make things even more interesting, I can tell you that we didn’t finish the wine during dinner, so I pumped the air out using the usual Vacuvin, and put the bottle aside almost for 10 days. After 10 days, the wine was still perfectly fresh and enjoyable, which makes me wonder how long this wine can actually age.

Time to finish our Thanksgiving dinner with the dessert. As our planned dessert had cranberry sauce in it, I decided to go with Cranberry wine for dessert. Tomasello Cranberry Wine New Jersey (9% ABV) was a perfect pick for it – good acidity, tart cranberry profile, it played perfectly with our dessert – while the wine was not from California, it still provided a perfect finish for our celebration.

Here we are, my friends. How was your Thanksgiving? Did you enjoy more the turkey, the wines or the company? Cheers!

 

Lodi Thanksgiving – Wine Notes (There Was A Turducken Too)

December 10, 2016 8 comments

Yeah, I know – it’s been more than two weeks since Thanksgiving… Well, okay – let’s still talk about it.

I gave you some ideas about the Thanksgiving wines and food with my earlier post, so let me just start with the “prep” picture again:

thanksgiving prepAll the birds you see in this picture were converted into a Turducken – chicken inside the duck inside the turkey, all fully deboned except the legs and wings of the turkey. The dish was conceived in the 1980s in the South, popularized around the country in the mid-1990s, and now freely available for order most everywhere (or at least this is my impression).

Deboning takes a bit of a skill, but nothing impossible. There are different schools of thoughts as to how to assemble the birds and what to put between the layers – I used two different types of sausages – you can see them in the picture above. Overall, I tried to follow the recipe on Serious Eats, which is one of the very best “turducken how to” instructions you can find – “tried” is the best way to put it, as I made a few essential mistakes (not cooking the chicken fully first), which led to slightly overcooked dish – nevertheless, it was very tasty, and I would gladly do it again, despite the need to put in the work. Here are my “step-by-step” pictures, from the deboned chicken to the final dish:

There was plenty of other dishes at the table, but turducken was a star.

Now, let’s talk wine. As you can imagine, Thanksgiving gathering is a not the right place to take detailed notes on the wines. Therefore, I’m sharing here my general impressions.

The day before Thanksgiving the Fall shipment arrived from Field Recordings, and the first bottle which caught my attention was a California Pét Nat:

Pét Nat is a short for Pétillant-naturel, a sparkling wine made with méthode ancestrale, when the wine is bottled before the first fermentatoin is finished – very different from traditional méthode champenoise, where the sparkling wine is made with secondary fermentation in the bottle, done with addition of yeast and sugar. Pét Nat are typically fresh, unfiltered and unpredictable, which makes them even more fun than traditional Champagne. This 2016 Field Recordings Pét Nat Arroyo Grande Valley (100% Chardonnay) was delicious – fresh, creamy, with aromas of toasty bread and fresh apples – an outstanding rendition of Chardonnay.

This wine was the only deviation from Lodi. Our next wine was 2015 LangeTwins Estate Grown Sangiovese Rosé Lodi (12% ABV). While cold, it was crisp and loaded with cranberries, perfectly delicate, without any excess of sugar. As it warmed up, the strawberries took over, mellowing the wine out and making it slightly bigger in the body – and delicious in a whole new way. In a word, a treat.

I can’t describe 2013 Borra Vineyards Heritage Field Blend Lodi (14.5% ABV, 70% Barbera, 10% Carignane, 10% Petite Sirah, 10% Alicante Bouschet) with any other word but riot – tar, tobacco, roasted meat, herbs, dark, muscular, yet round – unique, different and irresistible  – the bottle was gone in no time.

2013 Bokisch Vineyards Graciano Lodi (14.5% ABV) was yet another treat – bright, clean, with a good amount of red fruit, herbal underpinning and firm structure. I’m very particular to Spanish grape varietals, and this Graciano rendition was definitely a world class, reminiscent of the best classic versions of the same from Rioja.

NV Lucas Late Harvest Zinfandel Lodi (15.8% ABV) happened to be an enigma. When I tasted the wine at the winery, the wine was mind boggling – rich, concentrated, and perfectly balanced. This wine is quite unique as it is made using the appasimento process, with the grapes partially dried under the sun for a few weeks to concentrate the flavor, before pressing. The bottle which I brought home, was a poor relative of the one I had at the winery – it was not bad, but was completely lacking the opulence and depth of the one I had at the winery. Oh well – this is still one of the pleasures of the wine drinking – you never know what you will find in the bottle.

That essentially concludes the report from our main Thanksgiving celebration. Next day, however, we left to see our close friends in Boston, and at their house, we had two unique wine encounters. One was 1993 (!) Nissley Fantasy Sweet Rosé Wine Lancaster County Pennsylvania (made out of Concord grape). The expectation was that the wine already turned into a vinegar, but instead, we found a port-like wine, with lots of sweetness and also some acidity, so well drinkable overall.

The last surprise was 2006 Yellow Tail Reserve Shiraz Australia (14% ABV), which was still well drinkable, with good concentrated dark fruit, touch of spices, good balance and full body. Well-drinkable 10-years old red wine shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone – but this was actively ridiculed by all the aficionados “creature label” wine, which is not expected to last that long. The bottom line – this wine still delivered lots of pleasure.

Now we are fully done here – this is the story of my Thanksgiving celebration. Did you have any memorable wines this last Thanksgiving? Any unique and interesting dishes? I would love to know. Cheers!

Lodi Thanksgiving

November 24, 2016 14 comments

Thanksgiving is definitely one of my most favorite holidays – maybe because it is so centered on the food. Of course it is about families and friends getting together, and giving thanks for many many things which comprise our lives – we all have a lot to be thankful for. Nevertheless, the food on Thanksgiving is essential, it is a canvas of gathering, and even more importantly so if you are hosting the gathering.

lodi wines

For many years we visited our close friends to celebrate Thanksgiving together with them. This year we are hosting Thanksgiving dinner at our house, which gave me a pleasure of doing a boatload of cooking, and – I’m sure you expected that – to select the wines for the dinner.

Thanksgiving is a quintessential American holiday, so choosing to serve the American wines comes easy and logical. But then America is all about freedom, so of course, you can drink whatever you feel like, I’m just talking about my personal choices. About a month ago I visited Lodi region in California (my second trip there, after Wine Bloggers Conference back in August), and while I was tasting through the line of delicious wines at Bokisch Vineyards, it dawned on me – this year, we should celebrate Thanksgiving with wines from Lodi. Now, as it is almost time to get to the table, this is exactly what we are doing.

Lodi is somewhat under the radar (and believe me – I would love to keep it like that, for it to stay the best kept secret for a few oenophiles only), but totally unique and totally unexpected region, which produces unique and delicious wines. Lodi is a California appellation, yet it produces the world class wines absolute majority would never associate with California. Look at the wines I’m planning to open. Sangiovese Rosé from LangeTwins – yes, an Italian star, Sangiovese, right out of the Central California. Graciano from Bokisch Vineyards – yes, Graciano, the unique grape from Rioja in Spain – this was the wine which prompted this whole “Lodi Thanksgiving” idea. Or how about Borra Vineyards Heritage, a field blend (!) of Barbera, Carignane, Petite Sirah and Alicante Bouschet – here is another core Italian varietal, Barbera. I don’t have a Lodi white wine, this is where Turley White Coat should do, as it contains Grenache Blanc and Verdelho from Lodi. Unique grapes, unique and, most importantly, delicious wines – this is what makes Lodi wines such an easy choice for me.

The Thanksgiving dinner will include the infamous “3 in 1″ bird, the Turducken, and lots of the side dishes – you can see some of the key components in the picture below.

thanksgiving prep

I have an ambitious plan to report on the dinner right after its completion – that might never happen, but I will try. By the way, do you care to guess what wine is hiding behind the wrap? Maybe name the grape, and maybe even the producer? How are you going to celebrate? With what wines? Is there a dish you are looking forward to making or, at least, eating? Happy Thanksgiving! Cheers!

Wednesday’s Meritage – An Award for Women in Food, Thanksgiving Wines, Ageing of the Napa Cabs, Screw Top versus Cork and more

November 26, 2014 Leave a comment

Meritage Time!

Abundance is the word today. Thanksgiving, the holiday which we will celebrate tomorrow in United States, is usually associated with abundance. Lots’ of food and fun. And so is today’s Meritage issue – lots of interesting things to share. Let’s go!

First, I want to bring to your attention an opportunity for an award for the deserving women involved with food. KaTom, one of the largest restaurant supply companies in the world, wants to create a special award to recognize women involved with food, and it is asking for your help with this. If you click on this link, you will get to the KaTom web site, where in the upper right corner you will find the link for the video and a special award survey. Watch the 2-minutes video and then take a short survey – this will greatly help KaTom in their quest to create that special award.

Well, it is kind of late, but still worth a few minutes of your time – W. Blake Gray wrote a blog post which might help you to select the right wine for Thanksgiving. Instead of focusing on the particular wines, W. Blake Gray gives you an idea of the broad categories which might fit well at the Thanksgiving table.

Do you like aged wines? Which wines do you think can age well? If you think about California Cabernet Sauvignon wines as age-worthy, you might find interesting this article written by Lettie Teague for the Wall Street Journal. In the article, Lettie is exploring in depth if California Cabernet Sauvignon wines can actually age as well as many of us think they are. I definitely agree with one of the takeaways – it is hard to predict if the particular bottle of wine will age or not. But – I’m willing to take a chance. Anyway, read the article and let me know what do you think.

In the next interesting post, Jamie Goode, one of the very well known wine bloggers and writers, ponders at the [almost eternal] debate of wine enclosures  – screw top versus cork. This is not a theoretical debate – Jamie actually is talking about blind tasting and comparing the same wines enclosed with cork and screw top. Based on what I see in the post, cork edges the screw top – but read the comments to see all of the outcry about spoiled, corked wines. As far as I’m concerned, I’m willing to take a risk of having a corked bottle in exchange for greatness, versus screw top which just doesn’t allow the wine to age properly – but this is not the popular opinion. Anyway, take a look for yourself.

Which country do you think is a number 1 importer of Beaujolais Nouveau wines? Prepare for the surprise, as this country is … Japan! This article from Decanter magazine is exploring the virtues of the Beaujolais Nouveau phenomenon using some numbers. Japan is the biggest importer of Beaujolais Nouveau – it imports more Beaujolais Nouveau than the next 9 countries combined. Definitely some interesting numbers, well worth your attention.

Last but definitely not the least – here is another nudge regarding the the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge #13. The theme is Serendipity, and you really have to start working on it now, if you didn’t have already. No excuses – have some turkey, have some wine, and get to it. Even if you think you can’t write the #MWWC post, believe in yourself, just sit down and write – you can do it! For all the rules and regulations, please take a look at this post.

And we are done here. The glass is empty, but the refill is on the way. Cheers!

 

Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Hanukkah!

November 28, 2013 11 comments

It never happened before, and it might never happen again – but today, on Thursday, November 28 2013, we are celebrating Thanksgiving and Hannukah at the same time.

Thanksgiving si all about family, friends and food – and about being thankful for what we have. Hanukkah, often called the Festival of Lights, in the end of the day is also all about the family and opportunity to be together. If you celebrate one or both, Happy Holidays to you and your families. Even if you don’t celebrate these holidays, you can still get together with your friends and families and enjoy each other’s company.

I just want to leave you with a few pictures – and the report about our festivities will be forthcoming.

Happy Holidays and cheers!

Hanukkah Candles

Thanksgiving Collage

Thanksgiving Collage

Thanksgiving Experiences

December 3, 2012 7 comments

DSC_0572TurkeyWhat, you said, what Thanksgiving? We are counting days before Santa will get down the chimney, and this guy is talking about Thanksgiving? Well, yes, life gets in the way, and we have to simply deal with it – while we celebrated Thanksgiving about 10 days ago, I had no chance to write this post. As this blog also has a function of my personal journal, a life’s scrap book, if you will, I want to keep this little page in it, so here we go.

We have a long standing tradition of celebrating Thanksgiving with very close friends, pretty much a family, who live in Boston. We also share a passion for cooking, so our Thanksgiving dinners never become a routine – every time we need to come up with something else in terms of both main dish and sides. We’ve been through quite a few things in terms of Thanksgiving dinner – regular turkey, Turducken, smoked turkey – probably the only one we didn’t do yet is deep-fried turkey – we  were advised against it as a project, as it involves some work which is actually better be left for professionals.

This year’s ideas was a stuffed turkey of sort, but most likely this is not what you think. The idea was to debone the turkey, leaving only legs and wings. Cut up most of the meat, leaving a layer of about half an inch with the skin. Removed meat then is ground and made into a stuffing with addition of spices, sauteed wild mushrooms with onions, matzo meal and previously fried bacon (large chunks). Then it is all stuffed back into the bird, which is been sewn and then roasted. Here are some of the pictures to illustrate what was happening (pictures are courtesy of my daughter).

Here is turkey ready to be stuffed ( we marinated it for about two hours prior):

DSC_0579 Turkey

The same with the addition of stuffing:

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Finishing up the sewing:

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Done! Better than new:

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In the bag and in the roasting pot:

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Now it is actually ready to eat:

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In case you are curious, this is how it looked inside:

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We had a few sides – sorry about the pictures, but we were actually ready to eat, so my jumping up and down with the camera in search of composition and the lighting were not welcomed – not for a little bit.

First, buckwheat with pine nuts, wild mushrooms and onions ( the same as went inside the turkey) and spicy Andalusian turkey sausage:

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Roasted cauliflower with rosemary and pine nuts, covered with buttered Panko bread crumbs and grated Parmesan cheese (this is pretty much the whole recipe). The picture doesn’t do the justice to this dish, but it was tasty:

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And then hazelnut-sage butter (stick of butter, cup of chopped hazelnuts and about a cup of whole sage leaves):

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On top of roasted acorn squash ( again, this is practically the whole recipe):

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Food was great, let’s talk about the wines. Been the wine guy as I am, I never try to exact the wine and food pairing for Thanksgiving – too many competing  flavors, really hard to nail it. The best thing to do in my opinion is to chose middle of the road wines –  nothing with super expressive taste, no fruit bombs, more of supple and round wines.

For the whites, in addition to Riesling which is not shown here, we had this two chardonnays:

DSC_0676 Cono Surcounterfit chardonnay

I like Cono Sur wines – they deliver great QPR, and generally are pleasant. This 2011 Cono Sur Chardonnay Chile had a hint of vanilla on the nose, good white fruit on the palate with some hint of butter, good acidity, but overall may be a touch too sweet to my taste (still unquestionably quaffable).  The 2010  Banknote Counterfeit Chardonnay Sonoma County was lighter than I expected – some distant hint of toasted oak and butter, but overall light wine, not very expressive. I wanted to check if this wine was unoaked, but the winemaker’s web site doesn’t even list this wine there. Clearly a counterfeit…

And here are the reds, at least some of them:

DSC_0554 Thanksgiving wines

I previously talked about Beaujolais Nouveau, and I also shared my impressions of Tieare Imperiale CdP. 2011 Hahn Vineyards GSM Central Coast is a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mouvedre. The wine showed a lot of plush fruit, very round and slick, but somehow it lacked the character for me – it was over-engineered, if such terminology can be used to describe the wine. But then I have to tell you – 2010 if you see kay Lazio IGT, the wine with the controversial label, was perfect. This wine, produced by Jayson Woodbridge, the winemaker behind very successful super-rich Hundred Acre Cabernet from California (plus many other successful wine projects), had perfect balance of all components – dark fruit, just the right amount of it, round supple tannins, touch of spices, coffee, and dark chocolate, refreshing acidity and lingering finish. This is definitely the wine to enjoy (in other words – get your bottle).

Before we are done here, I have to tell you about one more wine-related experience – visiting the wine store, to be precise. I found out by way of The Wellesley Wine Press, a blog I’m following, about quite unique wine store in the Boston area, called Bin Ends. As you can imagine from the name, many of the wines in the store come from the actual “bin ends”, last bottles of wines not sold in some other places. As my friends live in a very close proximity to this wine store, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to visit it – I spent about an hour there, just walking around and browsing somewhat small, but very interesting inventory. I picked up some of the interesting wines and looking forward to tasting them at some point:

DSC_0674 Bin's End Finds

By the way, very unusual for me – all the wines above are white.

There you have it, folks –  the Thanksgiving experience. Have a great week and cheers!

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 22, 2012 7 comments

I want to take a moment and wish you all Happy Thanksgiving! Even if you don’t live in US, there are so many things we can be thankful for – you can always raise a glass for that. And for those who are celebrating, all of you who are busy prepping, cooking, getting the tables ready, opening wines, greeting the family and friends – I wish you all great tasting turkey, great wines, and most importantly – great time with families and friends.

Even few days ago, the Fall was still beautiful here in Connecticut. Instead of sharing food pictures with you today, I decided to share again sunshine and beauty. Enjoy!

Happy Thanksgiving! Cheers!

Thanksgiving Experiences

December 1, 2011 Leave a comment

In the last post I outlined the number of wines which we wanted to taste during Thanksgiving dinner – now it is time to report on what was great and what was not.

There was nothing new with both Beaujolais Noveau compare to the previous report – except this time I remembered to chill both of them (light wines, such as Gamay and Pinot Noir usually taste better when slightly chilled). Chilling improved the taste of George’s Duboeuf, but I still like 2010 better.

The real highlight of the lineup was 2006 Cambria Bench Break Vineyard Chardonnay from Santa Maria Valley – it was beautifully balanced, with hint of vanilla, literally unnoticeable oak, hint of white apples and perfect acidity. One word to describe this wine is Elegance – it was perfectly elegant, reminiscent of Peter Michael chardonnays which are definitely my all times favorites.
2009 Cazar Pinot Noir was very appropriate at the Thanksgiving table with its bright cranberries and very good balance. One wine which didn’t happen to work for me was 2009 Turley Old Vines Zinfandel – I understand that it was opened prematurely, but still I was expecting more from it (I have to also mention that it didn’t fully opened even after three days – I guess actual aging in the cellar is in the cards for this wine). Bodegas Hidalgo Triana Pedro Ximenez worked very well with the dessert full of nuts, such as Pecan Pie – layered complexity and nutty profile, complemented by good acidity were essential attributes of this wine.

As this is a Thanksgiving post, I have to mention the turkey. Last year our choice was Turducken (chicken inside of duck inside of Turkey), which was very tasty, but required quite a bit of preparation work. This year we decided to do a smoked turkey, which required mush lesser amount of prep time and effort – here are the pictures for you, before and after:

This turkey spent four hours in the charcoal smoker and 4 hours in the oven. The result was moist and delicious bird with lots of smoky flavor. Another dinner highlight was cranberry sauce, which was modeled after Bobby Flay’s recipe – however, it was modified to exclude sugar. If anyone is interested in recipes, I will be glad to share – please drop me a note.

This completes my Thanksgiving 2011 report – until the next time, cheers!

 

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