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Saturday, November 18, 2017

Flipping You The Bird: Improper Wines For Thanksgiving

There is this weirdly compulsive thing these days to pair wine with your food, as if searching for and experiencing the “perfect pairing” is tantamount to Indian Jones discovering the Covenant of the Ark. Yes, I admit I’ve written about that too (uh, the pairings, not the Ark), and certainly wine and food are crucially important – not to mention I’ve reviewed restaurants professionally for a decade. The point being…drink whatever the hell you want with whatever the hell you want to eat. No more elusive pairings and “ideal” wine for turkey day. Having said that…I would like to see these wines on your table.

2014 IL Tascante
Soft and quiet, this is not a loud wine; it’s understated and you’ve probably never had this grape before – Nerello Mascalase. Grown on volcanic soils on the north-east slope of the volcano Mt. Etna in Sicily, there is an earthiness, a mineral note, a chalkiness with this wine. There is muted raspberry, cranberry, and rhubarb with back notes of Bing cherry. Though aged in Slovenian oak barrels for 18 months, you hardly notice any oak at all, more a testament of the lithe but structured fruit. And it is this subtleness that makes this wine so compelling. Well, that and the fact the family has been doing the wine thing for two centuries. ($50)

2015 Sonoma-Loeb Pinot Noir Dutton Ranch
Out of the Russian River Valley the good folks at Sonoma-Loeb turn out a lot of great wine and this Pinot, from a well-established vineyard is part of a great lineage. All Pinot all the time this make-up of clones 667, 777 and 115 was fermented using native yeast and aged for just 11 months in French oak. 11 months is correct because you don’t want this beautiful fruit to get lost in some kind of cedar box. Black cherry, red currant, candied cranberry, star anise, cola and soft baking spices round out this rich, but pure iteration of Pinot. Great acidity and mild tannins make this work with damn near whatever you put on the table, or, better yet, get some cheese and have at it. ($40)

2016 Ritual Chardonnay
Chardonnay, again, really? Yes, really. This bright crisp Chardonnay from Chile is expressive, young, and fresh with a tanginess and food-worthy acidity. You’ll easily pick up on the lemon curd, kiwi, gooseberry, lime kefir, and green apple notes, and more subtly the hazelnut, mango and quince. The fruit hails from the Casablanca Valley, just 18 miles from the coast, and is whole cluster fermented in concrete eggs (which helps immensely with viscosity) and then gets a wee bit of oak time, so you’re left with a robust white wine that plays well with others. ($21.99)

2016 Steele Viognier
Viognier, the odd named grape most people mispronounce, is one of those, cool-if-it’s-done-right wines. And Jed Steele does it right. All the way from Lake County, this offers lychee, honeysuckle, Meyer lemon, lime curd and sugared almond. A beautiful viscosity and silkiness makes the floral components of this wine that much more provocative. It’s fermented in stainless steel so it retains a bright buoyancy but is not too heavy and flowery. A mere four month of oak time allows this wine to achieve a balance of fruit, acidity and wood. ($19)

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