Monday, November 22, 2010

Wine Picks for Thanksgiving

Over at Swirl’s wine headquarters, we drink a lot of wine during the Thanksgiving weekend. Not just during the meal, but the whole weekend. We’ve taken pictures of the numbers of bottles we’ve gone through and it’s simply embarrassing and nears a call for counseling if it weren’t known that the adults present treat the weekend as a vacation while the grandparents monitor the six children wreaking havoc.

Just as Thanksgiving dinner is as much of an excuse to overeat as it is to give thanks, drinking wine during Thanksgiving weekend is a reason to pull out the good bottles each of us wine loving adults has been saving all year in hopes of impressing the other wine drinkers in the house and secretly wishing our choices are the ones most loved. As for during the meal itself, choosing wine to go with the wide array of dishes traditionally served on this holiday dedicated to eating (my favorite kind) can be challenging. Yams, turkey, cranberry, mashed potatoes, pies, and whatever greens manage to sneak their way in – with the exception of dry sparkling wine, no one wine will work perfectly with all of these dishes.

Instead, choose few food friendly (i.e. good acidity, dry and not overly tannic) wines on the more affordable size. Don’t be afraid of trying a bunch of different wines. Think of Thanksgiving as a testing ground for what you want to serve during the December holiday season. Check out the suggestions below:

St Michael-Eppan Lagrein, 2008, Alto Adige, Italy – I’m having an Italian (wine) love affair currently and Lagrein from Alto Adige makes for an irresistible lover. The smooth tannins and blackberry and earthy plum notes are backed by fine acidity. ($16)

Rocca Sveva Valpolicella Ripasso 2007 Italy – The love affair continues with the Valpolicella Ripasso style of wine that has somehow managed to stay under the mass radar but is loved by foodies. It’s tart, dried cherries and shows just enough earthiness not to be dusty. Very easy to drink throughout the meal. ($21)

Quinta de Roriz, “Prazo de Roriz”, 2008, Douro, Spain – You could drink this wine into the next day if you didn’t already have a headache. Not overly complex or opulent to take away from dinner but is supported by bright acidity that makes it infinitely drinkable. An excellent value. ($16)

Pali “Riviera” Pinot Noir 2008 Sonoma Coast, CA – There are nearly zero Pinot Noirs from the US I would recommend under $15 but this slightly heavier than normal Pinot gets an enthusiastic thumbs up for just a few dollars more. (Found as low as $18 online)

Biltmore Estate, Blanc de Blanc Brut Sparkling Wine NV, CA – Made in the traditional Champagne method, this delightful sparkling wine can be drunk throughout the entire meal. An excellent value compared to most Champagne. Green apple and lemon flavors shine through. ($25)

Luigi Bosca, Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2009, Argentina – An aromatic nose of honeysuckle and a touch of lemon; it’s fresh tasting but without the mouth-puckering acidity like so many Sauvignon Blancs on the market. ($21)

Veramonte, Sauvignon Blanc Reserva, 2009, Casablanca Valley, Chile – Another crisp Sauvignon Blanc to try that doesn’t sear your mouth with tartness but instead has nice lemon sweet grape flavors. A “Best Buy”. ($9-$11 online)

Cantina Terlano, Gewurztraminer, 2009, Alto Adige, Italy – A delightful, medium bodied white wine with a spicy finish and enough acidity to keep it fresh tasting. Marshmallow topped sweet potatoes anyone? Yes, a near perfect pairing. And if you’re one of the adventurous ones who buck tradition, this wine is for you and your spicier dishes. ($25)

1 comment:

Dina said...

this is a great list -- thanks for the recommendations!

How to Pick a Summer Wine: The Gentler, Lighter Side of Wine

Summer’s soaring temps beg you to step away from heavy Cabernets and check out the gentler, lighter side of wine. When choosing the perfect summer wine for your outdoor engagement party or wedding, think light, crisp, refreshing--and because people tend to drink more in the heat--lower in alcohol. Nothing more prettily suggests summer than a dry (i.e. not sweet) rose. Avoid the simple, syrupy versions and try French roses from the Mourvèdre grape or roses made using the Saignee method for more complexity. Pick wines from countries where you imagine the locals sipping leisurely at sidewalk cafés while basking in the sun, like Spain. A Spanish fave is Albarino from the Rias Baixas region. Made to drink young, Albarino is a crisp, white wine with intense fruit, lively acidity and generally a lower level of alcohol. It pairs perfectly with summer foods from seafood to grilled vegetables. But you don’t need to swear off red wine for summer. Look for light bodied wines like Pinot Noir from Oregon or a Valpolicella from Italy, both capable of standing up to barbequed foods. And don’t be afraid to put a slight chill on your red wine. It is summer after all!

Rías Baixas Albariño from Spain, “Exceptional with Everything” Oh Really?

There's nothing we love more than a challenge. It's in our makeup. We're two women, thirties. One Indian. One Filipina. The first, founder and CEO of a business in the arguably male-dominated wine world. The second, building experience to be a future proprietess of a wine store. Add to this: In New York City. So when presented with the opportunity to play wine and food critic for a night—to pair Rías Baixas Albariño wines, proclaimed to be "exceptional with everything" with Mercat’s offerings —it is impossible and simply against every ounce of who we are, to refuse.

Mercat means “market” in Catalan, the language of the northern Spanish region where owner, Jaime Reixach, is from and where the restaurant’s menu draws its inspiration. The albariños we’ll be drinking also originate from the northern region, and so we’re already anticipating more perfect wine pairings than tragic mismatches.

It’s a beautiful warm Thursday night—and we are tasting two Albariño wines: Alba Rosa from Martinez Serrantes and Pazo San Mauro, both 2006 vintages. We take our time with each wine—assessing them alone and then side by side. At the end, we agree that both are delightful: the Alba Rosa is sparkling with surprising depth while the Pazo San Mauro would bring life to our springtime picnic. Further, we imagine that if each wine were to be personified, they might just be these two ladies, described as such:

Alba Rosa Martinez Serantes Albariño | Scarlett Johansson: "Sparkling with surprising depth"

Alba Rosa Martinez Serantes Albariño | Scarlett Johansson: "Sparkling with surprising depth"
This golden blonde hued wine gives an almost effervescent quality that shoots racy brightness into your mouth. It has the usual grassiness and citrus qualities one expects from this wine. The reason why this wine fits Scarlett most is because it has the quality of lightness but comes with surprising depth of character and fullness in body. The comparison would be perfect were the wine to show great legs, but its light-bodied, lower alcohol nature doesn’t allow it.

Pazo San Mauro Albariño | Cameron Diaz: “Livens up your springtime picnic”

Pazo San Mauro Albariño | Cameron Diaz: “Livens up your springtime picnic”
Cameron would be a fun addition to any springtime outing. Her lightheartedness would make everyone smile and this wine does the same. The light yellow straw color gives way to granny smith apples, peaches, melon, and citrus scents that jump at your nose, smelling like springtime in a glass. This wine begs to be explored further. The crisp and pleasantly tart apple is balanced with pear and makes it the perfect brunch wine.
Now, we move on to the heart of our challenge: Exceptional with everything? Oh really? How do these two beauties handle themselves in company? After the three and a half hours of glorious sipping, chewing, and chatting, among ourselves and the restaurant staff, here are our findings:

No surprise, our lovely wines get along splendidly with their classic and traditional partners: we have raves for the nicely seasoned patatas bravas—not too spicy, not too garlicky—and the padrones/blistered shishito peppers, the char and oil offset by the tartness of the wines. One of us goes wild for the Canelons de Verdura/eggplant wrapped spring vegetables, manchego, and cranberry reduction. And then Chef Lowder sends over Trencat d’Ous/mushroom with salsa verde topped with a fried egg, which again, goes splendidly with our wines. Even the suckling pig/Cochinillo, which we think will surely clash, in fact becomes the surprise of the evening. Like the beauty and the beast, our wines and the pig make an unlikely but harmonious pair.

We ask ourselves for the last time: Rías Baixas Albariño from Spain: Exceptional with Everything?

If not for being the gluttonous bottomless pits that we are, we would certainly have answered YES with an exclamation point. But since we order those two desserts—Torrades Sta. Teresa/fried bread with lemon yogurt and Pa Amb Oli Xocolata/bread, olive oil, and chocolate, our answer must be: Almost. These two desserts with our two Albariños — are disastrous.

Rías Baixas Albariño from Spain: Exceptional with almost Everything.

--Anu Karwa and Marie Estrada

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