I couldn’t help but notice the panoply of “here’s what I’ll be drinking (and here’s what you should be drinking) at Thanksgiving” postings from various and sundry of my fellow wine bloggers this year. In spite of the inherent American nature of the holiday, I fall squarely in the Franco-Prussian camp when it comes to pairing wines with the meal. Nonetheless, I didn’t post my choices ahead of time because I didn’t decide what I’d be drinking until the moment. Well, maybe I had a couple of ideas, but nothing totally concrete. Spending the day with my wife and a few of my more wine-devoted friends, suffice it to say I knew there would be no shortage of corks popping. So, without further ado, here’s the retrospective from Thursday’s festivities.
Le Cidre du Pays d’Auge NV, Christian Drouin
If there’s a holiday that calls out for Normandy cider, it’s Thanksgiving. Whether pomme or poire, a brut cidre makes for a lovely fall aperitif, particularly given the mid-afternoon start time for most folks’ Thanksgiving get-togethers. I’ve enjoyed Drouin’s cidre, as well as his fantastic Calvados, many a time in the past but I think something was amiss with this bottle, most likely heat damage. There were still plenty of apple skin aromas along with the pithy texture typical of Drouin’s brut; however, there was a sour, funky cheesiness dominating the nose and front palate, making this bottle a little less pleasurable than anticipated.
If there’s another beverage that sometimes seems inexorably tied to Thanksgiving, given its release date one week prior to the holiday, it’s Beaujolais Nouveau. I’ve given Nouveau the pass the last few years as I rarely find it worth the time to go as far out of the way as is necessary, living in PA and not selling any where I work, to find an example that’s even remotely interesting. However, one of my fellow diners had picked up a couple of potentially worthwhile bottles on a recent trip south of the Mason-Dixon Line. We opted to sample them both.
Beaujolais Primeur, Pierre-Marie Chermette 2007
Lean for a nouveau, this was slightly tangy and faintly suggestive of sweet cherry fruit. Though in possession of a tad more character than the usual mass market suspects, this was still, as fond as I am of Chermette’s real Beaujolais, essentially forgettable if quaffable juice.
$14. 12% alcohol. Synthetic closure (Nomacork). Importer: Weygandt-Metzler, Unionville, PA.
Beaujolais Nouveau, Domaine Dupeuble Père et Fils 2007
In hindsight, this made the Chermette seem pretty tasty. Slightly green fruit along with a chalky mouthfeel and an unmistakable flavor of aspartame combined to make for a less than pleasurable experience and also suggested rather heavy-handed chaptalization.
$17. 12.5% alcohol. Natural cork closure. Importer: Kermit Lynch, Berkeley, CA.
On to more invigorating subjects, I’ve found over the past several years that I’m drawn again and again to pouring dry German Rieslings at TG time. Few whites seem to possess as much grace, range and flexibility with the hodge-podge of dishes on the table.
Mittelrhein Steeger St. Jost Riesling Kabinett halbtrocken, Weingut Ratzenberger 2003
If you’re among the camp that thinks no good white wines were produced in the hot, dry 2003 season in the European theater, think again. Ratzenberger’s 2003 is just beginning to come into stride, rounding out in texture yet remaining delicate and precise on the palate with a wonderful balance between acidity, ripeness, fruit and minerality. All slate and white fruits on the nose and in the mouth, with hints of gooseberry, white peach and rainier cherry. It was quite steely and plenty lengthy on the finish. Wonderful with an appetizer of Maryland style Old Bay steamed shrimp.
$15. 11% alcohol. Natural cork closure. Importer: Petit Pois, Moorestown, NJ.
Nahe Monzinger Frühlingsplätzchen Riesling Spätlese trocken, Emrich-Schönleber 2001
Wow! Intensely vinous, fleshy and in possession of a powerful spine of acidity, this 2001 proves indeed that Werner Schönleber is turning out some absolutely great dry Rieslings. Baking spice, melon, grapefruit oil, peach and slate all come through, after some time for development and assessment. And I somehow smell the color blue. At a warmer temp, the wine turns lush and develops a big, tongue twisting texture. This has a long, long way to go. It was a bit too powerful for a place on the main table but man was it a treat to taste.
$28 on release. 12% alcohol. Natural cork closure. Importer: Petit Pois, Moorestown, NJ.
In spite of my general avoidance, mentioned above, of Beaujolais Nouveau, I’ve happily turned in many a year to the wonders of good Cru Beaujolais for the Thanksgiving meal. This year though turned out to be a Pinot fest, as we sampled several young red Burgundies plus a curious ’03 from the Loire. The only problem is that, by this time in the day, kitchen and table duties were at their peak and my note taking essentially ended – completely. So please excuse the rather vague notes and missing data. It’s tough trying to taste, cook, talk, snap photos, and have fun all at the same time.
Bourgogne “Pinot Noir,” Domaine Henri Germain et Fils 2005
I’ve enjoyed many a white from Germain over the last few years, plus the occasional rouge from Beaune-Bressandes or Chassagne-Montrachet, but this was my first exposure to his basic Bourgogne rouge. It was a pleasure. Soft, feminine, sweet black cherry fruit with a silky, round mouthfeel and gentle acid/tannin balance. With time in the glass – this was already day two for the bottle – it became sappy and showed just a faint, pleasant hint of forest floor aromas. $25 seems to be the new median price point for Bourgogne rouge; it’s a shame, as if this were in the teens it would make for a great case buy.
$25. 13% alcohol. Natural cork closure. Importer: Petit Pois, Moorestown, NJ.
Bourgogne Hautes-Côtes de Nuits, Domaine A-F Gros 2005
This would have been better placed, in terms of tasting progression, before the Germain rouge. Light, bright and simple, with the griotte flavors and slightly smoky, herbal aromas typical to the Hautes-Côtes. A decent sip but, overall, the least remarkable wine of the Pinot flite.
$35 to 45. 12.5% alcohol. Natural cork closure. Importer: New Castle Imports, Myrtle Beach, SC.
Nuits-Saint-Georges “Les Damodes,” Domaine Philippe et Vincent Lécheneaut 2004
Classic dark red Nuits fruit, with good concentration and structure, lovely color and plenty of finesse. Good stuff – certainly the best wine of the group. My first experience with a wine from this estate.
Price unknown. Missed the alcohol level. Natural cork closure. Importer: unknown.
Sancerre Rouge, Edmond Vatan 2003
Vatan’s Sancerres, both red and white, tend to be wild and this was no exception. Oddly for a Pinot from the northern reaches, it reminded me of the flavors I’d experienced when tasting 2003 Bordeaux from barrel in February 2004. Torrefaction notes of nuts, coffee and cocoa. Similar flavors, along with a vein of stoniness, came through in the mouth. Yet the wine was lean, sinewy and firm, quite in contrast to the ripe, roasted flavors of the hot vintage. It seemed to be a sound bottle. But it was definitely a little wacky. Would anyone else out there like to share a tasting note?
Price unknown. Missed the alcohol level. Natural cork closure. Importer: Weygandt-Metzler, Unionville, PA.
Finally, it was time for something sticky to close out the evening. I’m usually not much for pairing Sauternes with sweets but, when rooting through my cellar for a good candidate, this just seemed to jump out at me.
Sauternes Premier Cru Classé, Château Suduiraut 1997
When last tasted, around three years ago, this was showing hot, fat and a bit one dimensional. It’s now somehow come back around, unctuous yet lively, with plenty of honey, sweet marmalade, warm spice and tree blossom notes. And it actually did pair pretty nicely with some of the desserts, particularly the delicious apple dumplings which the daughter of our host made from a colonial-era recipe.
Price unknown. 14% alcohol. Natural cork closure. Importer: Unknown.
It was a Happy Thanksgiving indeed, shared with great friends!