Wednesday, November 25, 2009

This is Not a Thanksgiving Post

Thanksgiving has long been one of my favorite holidays. A time to share food, wine and festivities in the company of friends, family and loved ones. Working in the wine trade, though, Thanksgiving is also one of the busiest, most frenetic times of year. Christmas may surpass it as the holiday for which the most wine is sold but no holiday, not even Xmas, drives a single, repetitive mission with such ferocity: "What should I drink with Thanksgiving?" There's not even a need to mention the food, the tradition is such a given.

After days and days of answering the same question over and over again, there are nights when the last thing I want to do is have to think about what I'll drink myself. Or what I'll cook for that matter. I just want comfort. The comfort of familiar surroundings, a simple meal and a wine that I know so well that drinking it is like getting together with an old friend. Funny thing is, what I reached for on just such an evening earlier this week was a wine I'd been recommending all week long for the TG feast. But I wasn't about to cook turkey.

So, without further ado, here's what to drink with Thanksgiving... if you're having pork chops.

Nahe Riesling "Lenz," Emrich-Schönleber 2008
$24. 11.5% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Petit Pois, Moorestown, NJ.
"Lenz" is an archaic German word for the season of spring. Though not labeled as such, it is Werner and Frank Schönleber's halbtrocken offering, a bottling that's replaced several different pradikat and vineyard designated halbtrocken bottlings they had produced before simplifying and reconceptualizing their portfolio along VDP lines a few years back. It's what Lars Carlberg of Mosel Wine Merchant might call a "dry tasting Riesling," a wine that contains a measurable element of residual sugar but finishes with a completely dry sensation, driven home by mouthwatering acidity and an intense dose of minerality.

The 2008 is punchier and seems drier than did the 2007. It's nervous as a tightrope walker in training. Schönleber's wines, even the theoretically simple ones like this, can take years to really show their stuff. They're delicious when young, so much so that it can be hard not to drink the whole bottle. I always get the distinct feeling when drinking them this young, though, that I'm only seeing part of the picture; yet that part carries a distinct imprint of the whole. Like seeing a young girl who's cute in a gangly way today but you just know will be dangerous in a few years. Or like admiring an orchid in partial bloom.

I'm not sure I can really improve on the producer's own cleverly concise tasting note: "Vineyard peach, animating acidity, 'Spring fever' in the mouth."

It was great with pork chops. Salt, pepper, a light rub of olive oil and a quick turn on the grill. A buttered baked potato and a simple salad. Couldn't get much simpler, I don't think, or more comforting. But yeah, it'll work just fine with turkey, too.


Mairead said...

Happy thanksgiving, David. I raised a glass of local tempranillo grenache (All Saints Rutherglen vintage 2008) in honour of all my US friends tonight. Didn't have turkey: do 6 really well-seasoned (in Caribbean style) chicken wings count? cheers ;-)

Wicker Parker said...

I'm much too old to be dangerous in a few years, but if someone described me as giving off a vibe of "Vineyard peach, animating acidity, 'Spring fever' in the mouth" I would be happy as a clam. Happy Thanksgiving, David, and while I'm not sure that Emrich-Schonleber is distributed in Illinois, I will keep this wine in mind for pork chops!

Lars Carlberg said...

Thanks for the link, David.

It's true. The expression "dry-tasting wine" is a coinage -- though not my own -- that I like to use. Last night I was tasting from our portfolio two different 2008 Weingut Günther Steinmetz Riesling that would analytically be considered halbtrocken, i.e. between 9 and 18 g/l residual sugar (RS), but have no designation and seem more trocken (dry). In fact, the one bottling with 14 g/l RS tastes drier than the liter with only 11 g/l RS. So, it's not only a question of residual sugar, much depends on the sites, the ripeness levels, the acidities (various kinds), and the winemaking. Even the arbitrary 9-gram limit for legally-designated Riesling trocken can vary in taste.

Samantha Dugan said...

Man o man do I feel you on this post. What is it about meal driven holidays that make people so nervous about pairing wine? So the funny thing is both of them, (Thanksgiving and St. Patricks Day) are never going to have a perfect wine pairing. The thing that killed me this year was the, "so this will go with turkey?" turkey the problem?! I was thinking the yams and cranberries were the tricky part, had to keep reminding people about that. Well, it's over and it's time to roll on into Christmas!

David McDuff said...

Thanks, Mairead.
As a customer aptly put it the other day, "there's a reason why you don't see turkey on restaurant menus other than on Thanksgiving." So yes, spicy wings seem a viable substitute.

WP Mike,
You're definitely peachy in my book. As for an IL distributor of Schönleber's wines, my first thought went to Candid Wines (Keller's importer in Chicago) but I see they're not in their book. Since ordering into IL is theoretically out of the question, I guess you'll have to head east for a taste.

You're welcome. Thank you in turn for the detailed comment. I really do need to investigate more of the offerings in your portfolio.... I picked up a bottle of Lauer's "Senior" Fass 6 when last at CSW, so I'll do my best to check in with it sometime soon.

Hey Sam,
I'm obviously with you on the holiday shopping phenomena. Yams, cranberries and sweetened nuts are all tricky but I find that even the turkey, given the preponderance of very low-fat white meat, can be challenging. Even my bottle of Cru Beaujo, at a whopping 13% alcohol, came across as hot with some of the flavor combos on our plate. Makes me hate to think of all the folks out there pairing 15% CA Zins and Cabs with their most American of meals.

cashed said...

love the Lenz! Had it practically out of barrel at the estate last spring...immediately earmarked it for the catalog. Tried it again last week, it has started to really blossom, in another 6 months to a year its going to be beautiful.

David McDuff said...


One of the things that I enjoy and respect most about Schoenleber's wines is that even the basic bottlings, such as their QbA trocken and Lenz, develop beautifully in the bottle over the course of not just months but also years. The '08 Lenz is certainly just beginning to hint at its full potential.

On another note, I'm not making the connection between your screen name and your full name.... To what catalog (an importer's, presumably?) do you refer?


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