Wines for Thanksgiving Day and Throughout the Year
It is Thanksgiving Day and many wine shops are closed. You, consumer, were so busy making sure you ordered the fresh turkey, picked up the Parker House rolls, the cranberries, the sweet potatoes, the relatives from the airport and set aside time to create the perfect brine to bathe the bird overnight, that you forgot to pick out the perfect wine to pair with your blessed bounty.
First, there is no perfect wine. You will no doubt find hundreds of recommendations, from “serious wine writers” in big glossy magazines and flipping picture posts, to humble or not-so-humble writers of blogs, but there is no “perfect” wine for everyone.
Nor should there be. Because then you would cease trying new varieties and vintages and life would become boring.
Second, if you’ve prepared the aforementioned traditional turkey dinner there are numerous choices, but the two varieties most often recommended for dinner are Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Countless blogger friends of mine have recommended their easy-to-find favorites.
For a primer on pairing wine with the Thanksgiving meal, without recommending any particular wine label that you may not be able to find, Meg Houston Maker as penned an excellent post, simply entitled Best Thanksgiving Wines.
The wines we recommend here you cannot get at the grocery store, or yet at most local wine shops. Our procrastination is your preparation, we’re recommending wines for next year.
Every year we recommend Kalin Cellars to our friends and family. It is a small winery in Marin Country, California, that produces roughly 7,000 cases per year by traditional European methods. We often serve it at our own Thanksgiving table as well. We discovered Kalin Cellars at Emeril’s Delmonico in New Orleans about this time of year in 2009, when served the Kalin Cellars “Cuvee DD” Pinot Noir Sonoma County 98′ as guests of Harrah’s for a NOLA media event.
Said John Hanvy, Delmonico’s assistant sommelier back in 2009, when we contacted him to get information on the winery, “I really enjoy it when my guests understand what they are eating and drinking. I love what Kalin Cellars does with their wines. I can’t sell it to just any one. I don’t want to risk giving such a unique and limited release wine to someone who might not appreciate it.”
Kalin Cellars does not have a fancy website — it looks a bit like 1995. Which, in fact, is the current vintage of their most recent Chardonnay release; the Kalin Cellars 1995 Cuvee W, Livermore Valley, available here.
Kalin Cellars 1995 Cuvée LV Sonoma Chardonnay
We purchased the 1995 Cuvée LV Sonoma Chardonnay in early 2013; grapes are sourced from Long Vineyards located in the West Dry Creek area of Sonoma County. That vineyard is planted with the low-yielding Wente clone. We couldn’t wait for Thanksgiving and opened it over Labor Day Weekend to enjoy with some Maryland Crab Cakes. Rich, smooth and round with the perfect amount of acid to have aged 10 years. Even our 20-year old noticed its difference from some of the younger California Chardonnay we’ve served at dinner, proclaiming it “creamy.” Not in that big over-oaked Butterball way that should only be reserved for turkey versus wine. Notes of orange marmalade, fresh tangerines, a bit of star jasmine. Not shy on alcohol for a white wine, it is 13.8% ABV. Terry (aka Dr. Fermento) may have some left, but you need to get on his list or inquire to purchase. Release price was $36
Kalin Cellars 1999 Cuvee DD Sonoma County Pinot Noir
Mt. Beautiful Wines North Canterbury NZ
We’ve all heard of the crisp New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs, but North Canterbury is also home to some easy drinking Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. We discovered Mt. Beautiful through our friend Lisa Saunders, USC Trojan fan and California State Sales Manager for Mt. Beautiful. We first met Lisa through her blog Wine Diver Girl, and she invited us to a wine tasting at the newly opened tasting room of Cornerstone Cellars where we met Craig Camp. Lisa has since traveled the globe representing several wineries from her home base in Napa Valley, California. We keep up with her mainly these days through Fit Bit and our weekend warrior walking challenges.
Opened in 2010 by native New Zealander and U.S.-based economics professor David Teece, Mt. Beautiful Wines sits in North Canterbury, a region different in climate and soil than other growing regions in New Zealand, giving its wines distinct characteristics that appeal to the U.S. wine drinker. They produce certified-sustainable, estate-grown wines from Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Mt. Beautiful North Canterbury Pinot Noir 2013
With a light ruby rim, and ruby core, the 2013 Mt. Beautiful North Canterbury Pinot Noir offers notes of strawberry, cherry and cola on the nose and palate, with a hint of clove and orange peel flavors, which work well with cranberry sauce as well as your roasted turkey. Fresh with balanced acidity, and a hint of graphite, you can also pair it with baked salmon, Brussels sprouts with bacon and corn on the cob. 3,000 cases produced, the wine was aged in French barrels, 25% new, giving it elegant tannins. Only 13% alcohol by volume, it is a wonderful value at only $28. For more information about Mt. Beautiful Wines visit their website here.
The Fort-Ross Seaview American Viticultural Area (AVA) sits above the fog line on the edge of the Sonoma Coast appellation near the Pacific Coast. Rather than contiguous land, the AVA statute limits plantings to land 920 feet above sea level or higher, where much of the land is unfarmable due to its dramatic, jagged terrain. Out of 27,500 available acres (or 43 square miles) only 555 are usable. Sitting about the fogline gives the appellation a unique ecosystem. While the lingering coastal fog in the valleys leaves the vines cool, the vineyards of Fort Ross-Seaview enjoy a region that is warmers, sunnier and dryer than others in Sonoma County.
The Wayfarer Estate, situated in this elevated maritime climate, with its coastal cool, and a mere four miles from the Pacific Ocean, is ideal for growing single-vineyard Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Within the 70-acre estate, less than half is planted to vine in 1-acre blocks: 24 acres of Pinot Noir and just 6 of Chardonnay. Each block is dedicated to a single clone best matched to its slope and sun aspect in 100% Goldridge soil — 16 distinct clones in all. One of the more interesting marketing pieces I’ve seen, the Wayfarer brochure includes a drawing of the vineyard showing the single-acre blocks with corresponding numbers that identify which grape and clone is planted. Six wines in total a bottled — 1 Chardonnay and 5 Pinot Noir, and each wine description features the specific clones, and the blocks from where fruit is gathered.
Napa winery owner Jayson Pahlmeyer found the property for sale through his winemaker Helen Turley in 1998, when it was Wayfarer Farm, a small organic fruit and vegetable farming operation owned by Dorothy and David Davis who sold organic produce to San Francisco Bay Area restaurants such as Chez Panisse. He began planting in 2000, and bottling after the first harvest was in 2005. Pahlmeyer released its first two Pinot Noir selections in 2007, and fruit from the Chardonnay blocks went into the Pahlmeyer Sonoma Coast Chardonnay. With the 2012 harvest, Pahlmeyer proclaimed the fruit exceptional, and ready for its own Wayfarer label. Jayson and daughter Cloe, released the first estate Wayfarer Vineyard wines in the fall of 2014.
Cleo has taken on Wayfarer as her own — sharing the passion, introducing the wines and telling the story. “I must be my father’s daughter,” she says, “because like him, I have naturally gravitated to Pinot Noir. Wayfarer is a very special place for me personally. It has a soul that can only be felt by breathing in its air, walking on its soil, feeling its warmth. Now, we can begin to share this extraordinary vineyard through our Wayfarer wines.”
The wines are stunning and extraordinary. Winemaker Bibiana González Rave’s study and work in the vineyards and cellars of Burgundy, Côte-Rôtie, Bordeaux, Alsace and Cognac shaped her approach to winemaking – especially the Burgundian method where vineyards tend to be quite small and are ardently managed by a single winegrower.
Prices run $80 for the Chardonnay, a blend of Mount Eden, Berlenbach Old Wente, Dijon 95 and Hyde Old Wente clones, $90 for the 2013 Pinot Noir Wayfarer, which is a blend of all 12 Pinot Noir clones (1,200 cases made) up to $150 for the Wayfarer 2013 Pinot Noir The Traveler, made from the fruit of a single clone from Block 9 — only 120 cases made. the 2013 Pinot Noir Golden Mean, 2013 Pinot Noir Paige’s Ridge and 2013 Pinot Noir Mother Block are each priced at $115.
We’ll be posting individual tasting notes for the wines in the coming weeks. But in the mean time, you might want to head over to the Wayfayer website and sign up for their list. Wayfarer vineyard is located in the far northwestern hills of the Sonoma Coast near Cazadero, California. As the vineyard site is extremely remote, they are unable to host visitors, but plan to share their wines at select tastings and events around the country. You can also learn a bit more from this video:
Start planning for next years, by contacting these wineries now!
Happy Thanksgiving to you all!