Search Results

Keyword: ‘thanksgiving’

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 7 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:

DSC_0581

Finishing up the sewing:

DSC_0599

Done! Better than new:

DSC_0604

In the bag and in the roasting pot:

DSC_0609

Now it is actually ready to eat:

DSC_0646

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

DSC_0647

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:

DSC_0633

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:

DSC_0635

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

DSC_0631

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

DSC_0637

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!

 

Thanksgiving Wines

November 23, 2011 1 comment

Please let me be unique and different and write a blog post about Thanksgiving wines (duh – I meant let me pretend that hundreds of bloggers and wine writers didn’t cover the subject yet as broad as possible). In essence, I’m not planning to offer you any advice. I think the variety of tastes, favors and simply palate preferences at Thanksgiving table is way to wide to be able to do any essential wine and food pairing. Therefore, I would say that there are no limitations to what wines you should have on your table – you simply have to be able to enjoy them with or without food. As far as this blog post is concerned, as I said, I’m not going to offer any advice – I will simply tell you what I have in plans for the thanksgiving meal and why. I will list here way more wines than we will be actually able to consume, but hey, more is better than less, right?

You can definitely start with sparkler, but as I don’t have one ready, 2011 Beaujolais Noveau will do just fine. Why? It should be slightly chilled (let’s say to under 60F), then it is quite refreshing with all the red fruit and mouthwatering acidity – good way to get ready to Thanksgiving meal.

Chardonnay is a must, preferably one from US. Why? Because Chardonnay is one of the great American wines, producing very good results in all different areas from California to Long Island. I would recommend Chardonnay which was aged in the oak barrels and has some butter, vanilla and toasted oak – not the stainless steel-fermented one, which often tastes indistinguishable from Pinot Grigio. My personal choice is 2006 Cambria Bench Break Santa Maria Valley – this is one of my favorites since I tried that at The Capital Grill, and I’m curious to see how it is developing (I still have few bottles left). Besides, I don’t have Peter Michael as my allocation didn’t come through yet.

The next wine is a 2009 Cazar Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. Why? 2009 was a great year for California Pinot Noir, and this particular wine is simply meant for the Thanksgiving table with all the fresh and juicy cranberries and perfect acidity. I simply see this wine being great with turkey and many other dishes.

Amarone? Of course. Why? Simply because Amarone is one of my favorite wines, and every time we drink it, it is a special occasion. 2006 Luigi Righetti Capitel de Roari Amarone della Valpolicella is one of the simpler versions of a great wines ( also inexpensive compare to what Amarone typically costs), so I’m curious if it will work with the meal at all.

There can’t be Thanksgiving celebration without Zinfandel on the table. Why? Zinfandel is unique grape which doesn’t grow anywhere else outside of United States (with the exception of the close relative, Primitivo, which grows in Italy). Zinfandel has a unique flavor profile with lots of fresh berries and lots of power on the palate, which should bode well with the festive Thanksgiving meal. 2009 Turley Old Vines Zinfandel from Napa Valley is simply one of the great California Zinfandels, and I’m glad we will be able to share a bottle (it is not easy to get).

Time for desert. I’m selecting Bodegas Hidalgo Pedro Ximenez Triana. Why? First of all, this is the very old wine – as Jerez is made using Solera method, with new wines constantly blended with the older ones, this wine started at around 1750, so it can definitely serve as historic reference to the great holiday. And the second reason – this wine simply tastes phenomenal. I already wrote about it in one of the previous posts – the richness and the balance of this wine should really be experienced by any wine lover.

Will we drink all of these wines? Probably not. Will there be other wines on Thanksgiving table? You bet. Of course I will report on all the wonderful food and wine experience once the holiday is over, but for now I will be glad to hear what wines do you plan to have on your table.

That’s all, folks. Happy Thanksgiving and Cheers!

 

Thanksgiving Wine Pairings

November 29, 2010 3 comments

As promised, this is follow up post to compare Thanksgiving expectations with experiences.

When it comes to the food, the star of our table was dish called Turducken. First time I read about turducken in the late nineties in the Wall Street Journal. Since then we made it a few times for Thanksgiving. The dish is somewhat labor-intense, but absolutely delicious when done right. The word turducken comes from the fact that the dish consists of partially deboned turkey, with fully deboned duck going inside of turkey, and then deboned chicken going inside of a duck. The idea of enclosing birds into each other during cooking is not new, it had being done in Europe for centuries. Turducken specifically is considered to be originated in New Orleans – and one of most popular cooking styles for it is Cajun.

The process of preparation starts from deboning of chicken, duck and then turkey (turkey is only partially deboned with legs and wings left untouched). Next very important step is brining. As critical as it is for smoking, brining helps to retain the moisture in the meat during long cooking time. Brining typically takes 12 hours, so you need to plan your time accordingly.


After brining, the process of preparation starts from laying down the turkey, adding spices (or stuffing) on top, then putting in the duck, repeat spices again and then chicken, plus you can put any desired stuffing as the last layer (we used smoked sausages in our case). The next step is to sew the turkey together and place it in the oven for about 5 – 6 hours. The resulting bird is very moist and flavorful, and – may I add – very easy to carve.

So what about wine? Turducken and all the side dishes, such as yams, pumpkin and wild rice stuffing, are very flavorful, so it is hard to tell apriori which wine will work the best – therefore it is an opportunity to experiment. We tried Joseph Drouhin Beaujolais Nouveau – this wine was completely lost next to turducken. Next one was Claraval, Spanish Grenache/Tempranillo blend – this wine well complemented the variety of flavors.

The winner was Serradenari Barolo 2005. It was decanted for 3 hours prior to the dinner (as always suggested for classic Barolos), and the wine showed beautiful layers of fruit and earth, which worked very well with turducken and other dishes at the table.

Of course we shouldn’t forget about desert. No, there was no pumpkin pie at the table. Yes, it is violation of the tradition, but when nobody likes the dish, it is hard to justify getting it on the table. Instead, Pecan pie is one of traditional staples of the sweet portion of our Thanksgiving dinners:

You are saying that coffee or tea would be the best match for such a dish? You are right, however, there are some exceptions here. We were lucky to have Rivesaltes 1936, a desert wine produced in Roussillon region in South of France (courtesy of my friend Zak). This is a natural sweet wine, made out of Grenache grape and produced in the same style since 13th century. This wine has luscious layers of nuts, honey, cloves and other spices, without overpowering sweetness of many of the ice wines. It drinks as a very light wine (despite high alcohol content) and perfectly complements many different deserts.

So, I told you what was on our Thanksgiving table. Now, I would love to know what was your most memorable dish and wine?