Napa Valley is alive and well.

Napa Valley is alive and well.

Friday, November 17, 2017

A Time to Really Give Thanks.


Thanksgiving Day is but a few days away, and this year I have a much different mindset about thankfulness.  I am thankful our home escaped the devastation wreaked by the October 8th Wine Country wildfire.  I am very thankful, that while some of our friends lost their homes, they did not lose their lives. And Helga and I are very grateful that we can now edge back into a more normal lifestyle.

However, it seems a rather silly exercise to write about something as unimportant as wine while several of our friends, who lost their homes and all personal possessions, are struggling ahead with their lives.
How to go forward?  Stay and rebuild?  Sell and move away?  Dinner at our house for a few couples made for interesting, moving, and sometimes comical discussions on those issues.  Everyone was upbeat and not the least bit teary-eyed.  I was surprised by that.

But life goes on. The Holiday Season is upon us, and it is time for a not-so-crucial decision: which wine to serve on Thanksgiving Day?  Much like any other food/wine pairing decision, it begins with the food on the table.
In the last few years, turkey and ham have been our main course food, and the side dishes usually include the following family favorites: sausage and chestnut stuffing, creamy mashed potatoes, red cabbage and brussels sprouts, homemade cranberry sauce and lots of savory, wine-spiked gravy to pull it all together.
The conventional wisdom on choosing an acceptable wine (nothing, by the way, is ever the perfect or ideal partner), typically hinges not just on the main course by itself, but on the main course as enhanced by herbs, spices, gravy as well as flavor and textural aspects of the supporting side dishes.  As you can see from the above food menu, and I’m confident your menu does not differ significantly from ours, there are a lot of flavors going on. 
What kind of wine can comfortably traverse all those aromas and flavors and still deliver its own statement to the occasion?  And further, should the food be center stage with the wine as supporting player?  Or should the wine be center stage, with the food as background music?  

While I have often fussed over which wines to pour with food, I have not typically put them at center stage. I was a foodie long before wine seized my interest, and the appearance, aroma and flavors of recipes moved my spirit much more often than wine.  As such, my approach has always been to aim for synergism between the two.


In my early wine enthusiast years, we poured easy drinking California whites, most likely California Chenin Blanc. In subsequent years, moving up the complexity ladder, I experimented with Dry French Rosé, Beaujolais-Villages, Zinfandel, red Bordeaux and Syrah-based Cote Rotie. 
Of late, I have focused on California Pinot Noirs, especially high quality, single vineyard offerings.  All have been satisfactory partners, but since I’m always on the hunt, I’m not sure if that will continue with the Pinot Noir, or if I will try an eclectic mix of Sparkling wine, dry French Rosé, Beaujolais and Pinot Noir.  A little variety to match the diversity on the table seems like a civilized thing to do, no?  
In closing, I wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving, and if I may suggest, a few minutes of introspective evaluation about what you should be grateful for—family, friends and the good health of each—will help make the day a bit more than a mere prelude to the day’s football games.  Cheers!