In spite of my sentimental ruminations of yesterday, Thanksgiving is more to me than a time for melancholy reflection. It’s also a holiday that holds an important place in my heart for bringing together friends or family to share in the pleasures of good wine, good food and good company. This year’s feast was shared with dear friends and paired with delicious food and a little more than our fair share of good wine.
We wasted no time in getting to the highlights of the day, sitting outdoors on a bright, chilly November afternoon, shucking oysters, sautéeing mussels and warming our hands by the fire. Both wines we kicked-off with worked wonders with the shellfish.
Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie “Le L d’Or de Pierre Luneau, Cuvée Médaillée,” Domaine de la Grange (Pierre Luneau-Papin) 1995. $25. 12% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Louis/Dressner, New York, NY.
How’s that for an overwrought wine name? No matter, this was fantastically fresh. Drinking it gave me the sense of cool rain water leaching through the limestone and schist soils in Le Landreau. Marrowy and broad, intensely mineral, slightly saline and hinting at its age only via its dark aromatic profile, it was naturally stellar with the oysters.
Vouvray “Clos Baudoin,” SARL Vallée de Nouy (Poniatowski/Chidaine) 2004. Around $20 on release. 13% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Petit Pois, Moorestown, NJ.
I also really dug the 2004 Vouvray “Clos Baudoin” of François Chidaine, produced during the period when he was farming and making the wines at Prince Philippe Poniatowski’s estate. (The “Clos Baudoin” now belongs to Chidaine). Fully sec in style and medium golden in color, its richer flavors were not as automatic a pairing with the oysters, but the match created some finishing flavor combinations that were really magnifying and haunting. And its pear nectar and sunshine-laced fruit worked handsomely with sweet, juicy mussels picked straight from the fire.
Palette, Château Simone 2006. $70. 12.5% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Neal Rosenthal, New York, NY.
As hard as the first two wines were to follow, the most exciting white of the night was the 2006 Palette from Château Simone. It was my first experience with wine of any color from this tiny AOC located just southeast of Aix-en-Provence. I’d never thought Provençal white wine could be this good – sweetly herbal, dry but generous in its texture and braced by clean, refreshing acidity and apple tinged fruit. Poured alongside a Vietnamese preparation of pan seared scallops and a slaw of napa cabbage and mirin-spiked shiitakes, the wine did far more than stand its own. Its price, though, forces the wine even further into the realm of curiosity than does its obscure AOC.
Alsace Grand Cru Wiebelsberg Riesling “La Dame (Partager Avec Toi),” Domaine Marc Kreydenweiss 2004. $20. 13% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Wilson-Daniels, Saint Helena, CA.
This was the only dim bulb in a lineup of otherwise luminescent whites. The wine was perfectly sound and palatable but more or less bereft of any liveliness or depth, not living up to its Grand Cru status or to my hopes based on a positive write-up of the Domaine in Monty Waldin’s Biodynamic Wines (Classic Wine Library). I suppose there’s a reason why it was on closeout for $20….
Meursault “Clos des Mouches,” Domaine Henri Germain 2002. $46. 13.5% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Petit Pois, Moorestown, NJ.
Not to be confused with Beaune “Clos des Mouches,” the Clos des Mouches in Meursault is a monopole vineyard owned, farmed and planted to Pinot Noir by Domaine Henri Germain. This took the honors for red of the night, at least in my book. Its nose of macerated cherries and white truffles was followed up by silky, lithe red fruit, with flavors of buttery lucques olives, vanilla-laced cherries and sweet English thyme all dancing across the palate. Firm of texture and fresh in acidity but delicate, delicate, delicate, through and through. Really lovely red Burg.
At this point, my note taking and wine geekery took a back seat to the spirit and timing of the meal. The size of our party didn’t merit a whole turkey, besides which I don’t think anyone wanted to spend the afternoon at the oven door. Instead, our hosts prepared duck two ways, with braised duck leg served atop walnut oil-dressed mashed potatoes and seared duck breast set alongside my wife’s dish of curried lentils and sweet potatoes. After thoroughly enjoying Germain’s Meursault Rouge with all of this, we popped and tasted a couple of other reds of potential interest. Thierry and Pascale Matrot’s 2006 Blagny “La Pièce sous le Bois” is already drinking nicely, with dark, crunchy fruit and good structure, but will definitely benefit from further slumber in the cellar. After the two Burgundies, Smith Haut Lafiitte’s 1998 Pessac-Léognan seemed dull in comparison.
When it comes to pairing wines with traditional Thanksgiving desserts – pies of pumpkin, apple, pecan and mince meat – it’s the stickies of Southwest France that often come first to mind. I don’t think the delicious 2004 Jurançon from Camin Larredya made it past the cheese course, though. Our dessert compartments weren’t cooperating that night. A brisk walk and, for me at least, a wee nap were in order before pie could even be considered.
When it comes to traditional Thanksgiving meals, this evening’s menu may have been something of a departure. But it was a welcome one, offering more than plenty for which to give thanks.