Don’t forget the wine when planning year-end festivities By Mike Dunne
November 07, 2018 06:00 AM
Of all the year-end holiday gatherings, none is apt to be more diverse in food and the mix of celebrants than Thanksgiving. It’s often more than a gathering of family as the welcoming embrace widens to include colleagues from work or school, neighbors, friends.
Given that reach, this is no time to limit the choice of wine to one varietal or one style. To help hosts put out a few choices to surprise and delight such a variety of guests and to accommodate a broad assortment of dishes, here’s a suggested shopping list, based on the more impressive wines I’ve tasted this year and running largely to selections that can be found hereabouts. The list was drawn up principally with Thanksgiving in mind but also is fit for other seasonal parties:
The host who likes to surprise his or her guests with wines not only polished but out of the ordinary has an increasingly rich selection from which to choose. One of the more startling lineups in wine I tasted this year came from an entirely new source to me, the cooperative cellar Cantina Kurtatsch, which draws grapes from high up in Italy’s Alto Adige, not far from Austria. Indeed, the finesse and focus of Austrian wines resonate in the Kurtatsch selections.
Corti Brothers stocks several of them, my favorite being the dry, lean and zesty Kurtatsch 2016 Sudtirol Alto Adige Graun Muller Thurgau ($24). Muller Thurgau is the grape, a cold-resistant cross between riesling and madeleine royal developed in Germany in 1882. Graun is the high-elevation district where the grapes were grown. The vivid, spicy and peachy notes of the wine show a bit more sass in the 2013 vintage of the same wine, also carried by Corti Brothers ($36).
California’s Lake County is recognized largely for cabernet sauvignon, sauvignon blanc and petite sirah, but keep an eye out for cabernet franc from the area, in particular the Steele Wines 2015 Lake County Cabernet Franc ($19). It’s a great buy, running to the cherry/berry side of the varietal more than the herbal, with a beckoning floral aroma, a compelling thread of licorice, and the kind of frisky acidity to make it versatile at the table.
As with pink wines, this was the year when wine-shop shelves and restaurant wine lists saw a surge in blended red wines, particularly atypical blends. A standout in that respect is the fresh, juicy and exceptionally complex Sean Minor 2014 North Coast Nicole Marie Blend ($22), based half on merlot but also including petite sirah, petit verdot and zinfandel from several appellations, including Mendocino and Lake counties.
Grenache is another offbeat black grape gaining traction on the American wine scene. Many are light and straight-forward, but the bright, perfumey and sweetly fruity Iron Hub 2014 Shenandoah Valley Estate Grenache ($25) stood out for its uncommon complexity. That could be for the insinuation of 9 percnt mourvedre that brought threads of earthiness and licorice to the chipper grenache. That the wine was aged for nearly two years in French and Hungarian oak barrels also helps explain its layering.
Wine critic and competition judge Mike Dunne’s selections are based solely on open and blind tastings, judging at competitions, and visits to wine regions. He can be reached at [email protected]