Celebrating the Harvest: America’s Great Grapes! November 2015 Wine & Cheese Club

November 2015 Wine & Cheese Club

Thanksgiving: Celebrating America’s Great Grapes

For most of us, a traditional Thanksgiving meal is a mash-up of dishes, with a complicated array of courses, flavors, and textures. Unless you’re one of the few in complete control of all the dishes, you need a wine that pairs with your lovingly prepared turkey as well as Aunt Suzie’s lime jello with cottage cheese and raw onion. (Yes, this really is a dish from Chris’s family!) The best strategy? Simply throw up your hands and declare “drink whatever you like.” Truly- don’t stress about it!

That being said, we prefer to drink American wines on this American holiday. We pull out some special bottles, and like to tout some of the iconic domestic wine growing regions.   These wine club selections will be right at home on your Thanksgiving table. If you don’t want to wait that long, they will also taste great during those long hours of kitchen prep in the weeks before!

Garnet Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2012
Many people confuse Sonoma Coast with the more general designation of “Sonoma” or “Sonoma County”, but it is its own AVA just like Russian River Valley or Dry Creek. You’ll typically notice a high proportion of Sonoma Coast Pinots on our shelves. Although closer to the sea, Sonoma Coast is characterized by higher elevations and cooler climate, which results in a bright, glossy style. They are consistently excellent, and often better values than some of their more inland neighbors. A generalization could be made that Sonoma Coast is “silk,” and Russian River Valley is “velvet,” as one California winemaker puts it.

In a sense, winemaker Alison Crowe treats this particular Pinot like a blend. Although it’s 100% Pinot Noir, they select particularly good fruit from a combination of vineyards to achieve the desired results.

We recommend getting a taste right after you open it- there are some ephemeral earthy, petrol-like qualities that are really fascinating, but they dissipate after the first few minutes. Then, let it open up over the course of an hour or so- it comes in from the outdoors, so to speak, and puts on a fresh coat of lipstick and rouge.

Cheese Pairing: Wensleydale with Cranberries
Cranberry is a note not uncommon in Pinot Noir, although it isn’t one we overtly discern in this particular wine. When this cranberry cheese is paired though, we find that it amplifies this note in the wine. The tartness builds little bit, bite by bite, sip by sip. The cheese becomes a bit earthier, the wine a bit fruitier. It’s not an orthodox pairing, but it works!

Red Club: Decoy Sonoma County Red Wine 2013
25% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Zinfandel, 15% Cabernet Franc, 11% Petite Sirah, 9% Petit Verdot, 5% Malbec

Like the Thanksgiving table, this wine has a little bit of everything, and everyone will find something to like in it. The legendary Duckhorn Wine Company, founded in 1976, was one of the first wineries to put Napa on the map. Their early dedication to Bordeaux-style blends is echoed in their Decoy Red Blend. They’ve also added some Zinfandel and Petit Sirah to make this a bit more fruit-driven, crowd-pleasing blend. I’m not going to give a wordy description of this one- it’s delicious, so just enjoy it!

As we all know, California has been experiencing a drought the past few years- but 2013 was the second in a string of fantastic vintages in Sonoma. Grapes thrive under challenging conditions, intensifying and ripening to perfection. These grapes are sourced from Duckhorn vineyards across Sonoma, who own some of the finest properties in the area.

Cheese Pairing: Raclette
A good, funky cheese is a nice contrast to this rich and fruity wine. One of our go-to cheeses, Raclette, fits the bill perfectly.  Typically, Raclette is paired with a white wine- a crisp white serves as a fairly neutral canvas, and cleanses away the soft funkiness. It won’t work with just any red wine, but in this case the flavor profiles stay out of each others’ way, and the contrasts compliment one another, not clash.

Four Graces Willamette Valley Pinot Gris 2014
Speaking of vintages, Four Graces proclaims that 2014 was “about as good as it gets. Some saying it could be the best season in more than a decade…” This is all hand harvested fruit from the Willamette Valley, Oregon’s premiere wine growing region.

This is the grape that we all know by two names: When it is grown in Italy, it is known as Pinot Grigio and is typically a bright, zesty style best consumed on a hot summer day. As Pinot Gris, softer melon and stone fruit dominate, and it has a lush/custard-like texture. It’s all in the particulars of how the grape is fermented and aged. We think of Pinot Gris as the best way to bottle sunshine for fall and winter consumption! It is one of our favorite whites- a pleasing paradox of crisp and lush.

Juicy and ripe, there are aromas of honeydew and cantaloupe, stone fruits and honeysuckle. The mouth is plush and round, with fruit forward flavors including kiwi, apricot and key lime. A gentle lift of acidity gives it a clean, fresh finish.

Cheese Pairing: Naked Goat
Salty and rich, this cheese gives you a new perspective on this wine. On its own, the wine is creamy, with stone fruit dominating. With the cheese, it’s like we lift the hood on this wine, intensifying the minerality that lies underneath.  When you go back to tasting the wine on its own, you can now taste an extra layer that was perhaps masked by the lush flavors that you notice on first tasting.

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