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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!

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!