Perfect Turkey Day Wines

It’s hard to imagine that Thanksgiving is just a few days away. But here it is and here we are fleshing out those important meal plans. How do we brine the turkey this year? Is there a way to improve on an already great mashed potato recipe? How do we please that picky aunt who doesn’t like to try something new?

Then, of course, there is the wine. We believe lots and lots of wine is mandatory on Thanksgiving. How else would you be able to balance so many combined dishes on one (or two!) plates?

When planning for these wines, it’s important to realize that most friends and family who gather together don’t have the same verve for obscure grapes or unusual flavor profiles. Recognizing this fact, we tend to gravitate toward cleaner profile wines. Most of these are lighter and medium bodied (or at least balanced by a powerful acidity), making them versatile in taste and able to cut through some of the inevitable glut.

For our post this week, we feature three choices, including an unusually light Barbera, a New York Pinot Noir, and a classic but nervy Chenin Blanc from France.

Al di là del fiume Dagamò Amphora Red, 2017

Al di là del fiume, Dagamò Amphora Red 2017

Our first wine comes from Emilia Romagna in Italy. Barbera, which is one of the most widely planed grape varietals in Italy, gets a bit of a makeover from Danila Mongardi. Using long maceration of several months and amphora aging, he is able to bring both refinement and depth without dragging the wine down, even as it clocks in at 13% ABV. It is precisely this unassuming complexity that intrigued us the most.

The wine features a deep, almost inky purple color as you swirl it in the glass. The initial notes of juicy cherry build into similarly tart red fruit notes on the palette, which would intermingle well with fatty foods. As the wine opens up, streaks of minerality start to build into a structured mid palette free from most tannins. We had it open on the second day and earthy notes softened some of the fruit, but it retained its lithe minerality at the same time.

Bloomer Creek Vineyard Pinot Noir, 2016

For our second wine, we had quite a lot closer to home, heading to the Bloomer Creek in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. Pioneers of natural wine practices in the state, their unfined and unfiltered wines are carefully grown and aged to thrilling results.

With their 2016 Pinot Noir, they managed to extract many classic French characteristics sure to please parents and friends alike who are looking for a more grounded red. On the nose, you get forest floor and lightly mushroomed notes. On the palette, quite concentrated, dark, and dry fruit is present in balance with acid upfront. There are some tannins but the wine really highlights the soil, with softer earthy notes threading themselves in as the wine opens up. By the third day, a long, elegant finish had developed.

If anyone is looking to “buy local” for Thanksgiving, we can’t imagine supporting better winemakers.

Benard Baudry Chinon Blanc, 2017

Benard Baudry, Chion Blanc 2017

As Pascaline Lepeltier would say: #chenincheninchenin. What is not to love about this grape that pairs well with virtually everything? What is not to love about its well wrought tension that, at its best, balances itself neatly on a pin?

In the $30 and under category, we have a wonderful, youthful example from Bernard Baudry, located just outside of Chinon in the Loire Valley. In the glass, the wine has a pale straw color with a decidedly complex nose of pear, apples, rose water and a lightly waxy lanolin quality. These pear and apple notes are quite rich on the palette, making it the heaviest of the three wines, but a slyly powerful and chalky acidity creates that implicit tension we love from Chenin.

The more we drank the wine, the more we noticed a subtle malolactic creaminess to soften up the mouth coating qualities. A bit of crunchy earth added extra depth into the finish as well.

Featured Producers from RAW Wine

It’s hard to imagine that just a couple weeks ago RAW Wine made its way to Brooklyn. One of the biggest industry events of the year saw dozens of winemakers and distributors from around the world showcasing their latest and greatest vintages at the Knockdown Center.

While everyone knows the heavy hitters – like Frank Cornelissen, Gut Oggau and Fruktstereo – there were many producers that you probably missed because of the crowded booths or lack of time. This week we want to highlight three of these producers (and their wines) to showcase some of the underrated highlights of the fair and inform your next wine purchase.

Two Shepherds, Carignan Trimble (2015)

Two Shepherds, Carignan Trimble (2015)

Two Shepherds, like many other small California producers, leases various plots around the state to grow an array of grapes, both white and red. From Trimble Vineyard in the northern Mendocino County comes their Carignan from a 2015 harvest.

Carignan is a notoriously fickle grape, with high acidity and tannins that can make producing an elegant wine difficult. In Two Shepherds’ hands, however, they managed to find that finesse, producing a deeply purple wine that is considerably lighter on its feet than it looks. At under $30, it is also a great way to experience single varietal California wines without breaking the bank.

Driven by lovely acid, it features wispy strawberry fruit interlaced with juicier stone fruit. There is a firm, driven structure into the mid palette with a grip of tannins bringing the wine earthward but not overwhelming it. It features quite a dry finish with the hibiscus notes on the end providing a welcome, subtle tartness. It is lovely fall and winter companion to heartier fare but is also easy enough to drink on its own whenever you want just a glass or two.

Domaine de l’Ecu, Janus (2015)

Domaine de l'Ecu, Janus (2015)

When it comes to natural wine production in the Loire, Domaine de l’Ecu is one of the earliest adopters, having produced certified organic wine for 40 years and certified biodynamic wine for 20.

Perhaps best known for their Muscadet production, they also produce Chardonnay, including the Janus featured here. From a 2015 harvest, this wine is a steal among Loire vintages that can easily go for $50 or more per bottle. l’Ecu creates a biodynamic, zero sulphur delight that manages to bring out the zestier Chardonnay qualities due to its aging in concrete tanks.

Yes, there is that honeyed whiff on the nose with a complimentary saline quality. But the palette is all about the chalky minerality with lime zest and hints of soft lemon woven in. The wine is sapid with a hint of metallic iodine into the mid palette. As you would expect from a Loire Chardonnay, there is a long, coating finish that showcases the subtle power this wine holds. It obviously drinks well now but we imagine it could be aged for even longer.

2018 Kontozisis – “A-Grafo” Roditis

2018 Kontozisis - "A-Grafo" Roditis

Greek wines are increasingly becoming popular in the United States, fueled in part by the rising popularity of skin contact wines. Though many of the grapes remain foreign to American palettes, we have been excited by these challenging wines, which tend to balance delicate fruit notes with surprising depth.

Roditis is Greek grape known for its ability to maintain its acidity and vibrancy growing in traditionally warmer Grecian Mediterranean climate. Kontozisis challenges our assumptions of this grape by doing a month of skin contact aging that adds even more structure and depth than we had thought possible.

Straw yellow (verging on a light orange) in the glass, it has notes of nectarine and apple when first opened. These qualities develop on the palette with a hint of residual sugar sweetness. But the slightly candied notes soon become secondary to a driving acidity that builds into a medium bodied, almost vegetal structure. The mouthfeel is full, with the dense fruit notes and acidity lingering into the finish. This would make a great pick for a group blind tasting.

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