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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?

Expectations: Thanksgiving Dinner

November 25, 2010 1 comment

Thanksgiving day – friends, family, lots of food and wines. Culinary delight is definite part of the holiday – every possible ( and impossible) web site is full of new recipes to try and recommendations on what to serve.

I would love to write the blog post right after the dinner – but this would be literally impossible, as desire to sleep after a big meal will interfere. Therefore, let me just share my quick expectations. The staple dish for tonight is turducken – chicken inside duck inside turkey, all de-boned, of course, except turkey legs and wings. That is already in the oven and holds a big promise of the tasty meal ( pictures and details – in the later posts). There will be a lot more of traditional fall flavors – squash, pumpkin, sweet potatoes – all taking part in the feast.

Variety of flavors is expected of the food, and it is hard to tell which wine will work the best. Therefore, when in doubt – experiment! We plan to have Beaujolais Nouveau ( Joseph Drouhin), Barolo, Zinfandel and Claraval (Spanish red).  Which one will pair the best? Hopefully one of the wines on the table. And if not – wine program for tonight also includes Rivesaltes 1936 and Bruichladdich 12 – expectations, expectations…

What will be on your table tonight?

Until later – Happy Thanksgiving!

Daily Glass: Claraval, Another Dangerous Wine

October 9, 2010 2 comments

ClaravalIn one of the previous posts, I came up with the term “dangerous wine” – the wine which is so smooth and so good, once you start drinking it, you pretty much can’t put the glass down until the wine is all gone.  Here comes the second wine from Spain which I also have to declare “dangerous”.

It is called Claraval and it is coming from the Calatayud region. This wine is a blend of four grapes – Garnacha (50%), Tempranillo (20%), Cabernet Sauvignon (20%) and Syrah (10%). The wine has sour cherries on the nose, and it opens up into a beautiful array of spices and fruit, with earthy notes coming through, all complemented by balancing acidity and tannins. If anything, this wine is reminiscent of good Southern Rhone wines (which is not surprising as it shares the same main grape, Grenache, known as Garnacha in Spain), but it definitely has its own character. Judging by the mid-palate weight and tannins, this wine will also do well in the cellar – and I was glad to see that Robert Parker think the same, giving this wine 91 rating and saying that wine will evolve all the way into 2020.

So, how much do you think such wine should cost? Nope, it is not $30, which would not be surprising at such a level of quality, it is only… $11.99, so it definitely has very high QPR. This is definitely the wine to buy by the case.

And now, it is time for the verdict (of course you already guessed it):

Drinkability: 8

What is next? The trip to Long Island wineries, which is almost a annual tradition by now – a trip to Long Island wineries in the Fall, when it is already not hot, and still very beautiful. Off we go (well, the team members have to wake up first). Report to follow…

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