Wines for Your Thanksgiving Day Table

Every year I get so many people asking me what wines they should serve for Thanksgiving. After all, with so many dishes, from sweet to savory, appetizers and desserts, there’s obviously not one single wine to fit an entire meal. But who said you only have to serve one wine????

Bubbles

Sparkling wine or champagne is my go to apertif for Thanksgiving as there’s nothing more inviting when you walk in the door than to be handed a glass of bubbles. I’m a huge fan of sparkling rosé, which actually pairs well with the Thanksgiving meal. Be sure to have a few bottles on hand for those people who want to keep on sipping!

Montenisa Brut Rosé, Franciacorta, Italy $39

This elegantly-styled dry rosé qualifies as distinctive AND delicious. Hailing from the Lombardy region of Italy, Franciacorta is an area designated to make top-quality sparkling wine in the traditional method. It ranks alongside top California sparklers as well as those from the French region of Champagne.

 

Loimer Brut Rosé, Niederosterriech, Austria $30

If you’re an adventurous fizz fanatic like I am, you are always seeking out new sparklers to enjoy. This unique bubbly crafted by iconic winemaker, Fred Loimer, is made in the traditional method of ageing in bottle. Floral aromas and red berry freshness make this stylishly dry rosé one to sip as an aperitif or with lighter dishes.

 

 

Barone Pizzini “Animante” Brut, Franciacorta DOCG, Italy$37

Barone Pizzini has been producing wine since 1870 and this classically crisp, dry bubbly is crafted with Chardonnay, Pinot Nero (Pinot Noir), and Pinot Bianco (Pinot Blanc). With a streak of refreshing minerality and citrusy freshness, it’s sparkling wine that will impress.

 

Aromatic Whites

Thanksgiving is the day to set aside your typical Chardonnay in favor of lighter, more aromatic whites. With a mix of dishes, the buttery, oaky quality of Chardonnay overpowers the meal and doesn’t do the wine justice. Instead, look for wines like a medium-dry Riesling or Gewurztraminer (an excellent Turkey day choice), a Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon or Viognier. If you’re hell bent on Chardonnay though, look for an un-oaked version to complement the varied dishes on the Thanksgiving table.

 

2015 Ritual Sauvignon Blanc, Casablanca Valley, Chile $15

This version of Sauvignon hails from the cool climate Casablanca Valley, which is home to many of the country’s top whites and Pinot Noirs. Ritual’s version of Sauvignon Blanc is crisp and fresh with a ping of vibrant acidity and marries layers of complexity with affordability and versatility. Stock up as it will become a household favorite.

2015 Amavi Semillon, Walla Walla Valley, Washington $24

I have long adored the wines of Amavi Cellars in Washington’s Walla Walla Valley. Their focus on sustainability and quality is unmatched. This Semillon – a white variety known in the Bordeaux region of France – showcases how well the grape has taken to Washington’s sunny yet cool climate. Like its European brethren, Amavi blends a touch of Sauvignon Blanc with Semillon to balance its richness. Flashing a generous amount of ripe melon and citrus fruit character on the nose and palate, it also teases with minerality and brightness. A white with class and style.

 

2015 Wittmann Riesling Troken, Rheinhessen, Germany$20

As a Riesling lover, I’m constantly searching for bottles that showcase the best of the variety. This mineral-laden, citrus-scented, dry-styled beauty is one to seek out. Pick up a few bottles to pair with your variety of Thanksgiving dishes. You, too, will fall under the spell of Riesling.

2015 Acquiesce Viognier, Lodi, California $24

This Viognier captures ginger and orange peel aromas with a supple texture, much like the classic examples from Condrieu. It’s beauty in a bottle. You can join the mailing list at their website or visit the property and indulge in their wine and food pairings. *Current release is 2016

 

2016 Emiliana “Natura” Un-Oaked Chardonnay, Valle del Bio-Bio, Chile $11

On several of my trips to Chile’s wine country, I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Emiliana. It’s a stunning, but low-key property devoted to creating wines focused on the principles of organics and biodynamics. Their label “Natura” is one I recommend frequently for its affordability and drinkability. Sure, it’s made with organically grown grapes, but the wines are just plain delicious. This oak-free style of Chardonnay is crisp with bright citrus and green apple notes and a smack of mouthwatering acidity.

 

Elegant Reds

Just like avoiding the boldness of a Chardonnay, try to avoid any “BIG” reds as the oak and the tannin in these wines will overpower your Thanksgiving meal. Instead, look for more well-rounded wines, like a Pinot Noir, or Merlot.

2014 Buty “Conner Lee Vineyard” Merlot/Cabernet Franc, Columbia Valley, Washington $45

When I first tasted the wines from Buty (pronounced beauty) I called them one of Washington state’s best producers. Being lucky enough to sample their wines year after year, that declaration still holds true. This supple, elegant red is two-thirds Merlot and one third Cabernet Franc grown in the famed Conner Lee Vineyard. It’s a wine to age for up to a decade or drink alongside rosemary-infused turkey and mashed potatoes.

2104 Viña Maquis Cabernet Franc Gran Reserva, Colchagua Valley, Chile $20

Cabernet Franc is a red grape variety known as in France’s Bordeaux and Loire regions. There are spots around the globe where small pockets are planted (Napa Valley, for example), but it’s rare to find versions from Chile. This elegant, floral red hails from a winery that just celebrated its 100 year anniversary. Maquis’s Cab Franc is what I call a “twice the price” wine as it delivers quality and character worth double its price tag. Grab a bottle to serve or a case to savor later.

 

2013 Reata “Three County” Pinot Noir, California$35

Reata’s full-bodied Pinot Noir is a blend of grapes from Monterey, San Benito and Sonoma counties. It’s a Pinot with suppleness and ripe fruit notes. Enjoy it as a perfect wine pairing with any of your Thanksgiving dishes.

2015 Martin Ray, Pinot Noir, Green Valley of Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, California $40

This fleshy yet perfumed Pinot Noir showcases the effects of growing grapes in the rich Gold Ridge soil of Russian River Valley’s special Green Valley. Here the fog lingers keeping temperatures cool, which ultimately creates wines of elegance and style. A beautiful red that will surprise and impress.

 

 

 

Dessert and After

Don’t be afraid of dessert wines! Whether you’re serving pumpkin or pecan pie, chocolate mousse or just more wine, a slightly sweet sipper is the best end of the meal choice.

Pizzolato Moscato 2015 ($15)

These bubbles are an excellent way to end the meal or festivities. Served best with dessert, this organically grown sparkling Moscato smells of custard and finishes with a spiced apple finish. Look in the aisles of your local Whole Foods to grab a bottle.

Broadbent Madeira Malmsey 10 Years Old, Portugal $45

Madeira is one of the most famed wines and is undergoing a renaissance in the United States. This Malmsey (name of a grape variety) is an aged, sweet style with toasted almond and toffee aromas layered with bright acidity and lusciously sweet yet balanced flavors. Pour as a perfect complement to an après-dinner cheese platter or dark chocolate dessert.

 

 

 

 

There are so many delicious options for your Thanksgiving table. Give everyone two glasses and let them take their pick, from bubbles to white, reds to dessert wine and ENJOY!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!

 

Must-try Summer Wines: Bubbles, Rosé and More!

Looking for an amazing addition to your pool party, backyard bbq or summertime soiree? Check out my favorite picks then watch my time in the 8 o’clock hour at the Today Show!

Rosé All Day:

Americans have finally discovered the joy of rosé. Drinking pink is one of the hottest trends in wine with double-digit growth. These garnet-hued beauties can be made in myriad styles resulting in wines with a whisper of color or those more intensely pink. Most rosés are dry and crisp, while blush wines and those dubbed ‘white’ (as in white zinfandel) tend to be sweeter. With flavors ranging from delicate strawberry and citrus, to juicy red berry and spice, there’s a pink for everyone to drink.

2016 Minuty ‘M’ Rosé, Cotes du Provence, France $20

Packaged in a curvaceous, sexy bottle, this classic rosé hails from southern France’s Provence area. One of the top producers in the region with a rich history dating to the 19th century, Chateau Minuty is known for elegance, quality, and class. A pale-hued pink with floral aromas and peachy flavors, the ‘M’ is a Marvelous summer sip.

2016 Forty Ounce Rosé, France $16 (one liter)

A bang-for-your-buck bottling, this Gamay-based wine captures the essence of a sunny day in the French countryside, but with an American twist. New York-based sommelier, Patrick Cappiello, joined forces with French vintner, Julien Braud, to create this light-hearted pink that’s high on tongue-in-cheek style.

2016 Summer Water, Central Coast, California $19

A collaboration of Yes Way Rosé and Winc, the Summer Water is an easy-drinking pink that says it all with the name. I prefer to drink rosé over water on most summer afternoons anyway, and this wine pairs with dishes from grilled salmon to fruit salads. (If you join their wine club, the price goes to $15.)

2016 Tablas Creek ‘Patelin de Tablas’ Rosé, Paso Robles, California $24

Who said rosé can’t be a serious sipper? This one most certainly is. Primarily Grenache grapes blended with other Rhone varieties such as Mourvèdre and Syrah, it’s an aromatic, mineral-laden pink. Though Californian in birth, Tablas Creek is French at heart with the famed Perrin family of Chateau de Beaucastel involved.

 

Beach Bound or Poolside?

These selections are lower in alcohol than other wines offering quaffable fun in the sun.

 

Barefoot White Wine Spritzer, California $9 (four pack)

Barefoot Wine is among the top selling wine brands in the world. The reason? Good wine at great prices wrapped in a feel-good vibe.

Everyone wants to dump the shoes and walk barefoot in the sand. Now, you can do it with can in hand. This slightly fizzy tin-of-fun is a blend of Chenin Blanc and Symphony grapes topped with carbonated water, making it an ideal beach companion.

La Grande Courtâge Rosé and Brut, Sparkling Wine, France $7 (per 187 ml)

Want to upscale your outdoor imbibing? Reach for a mini from La Grande Courtâge. A French sparkler made by a Californian, Tawnya Falkner, the brand is an ode to the marriage of French and American culture. It’s a unique option for those wanting to indulge al fresco. Just add a straw, then sit back and relax.

Eppa Red Sangria, California $10

Ringing in at a mere 9 percent alcohol, this super-Sangria is organically-grown red wine blended with organic juices including pomegranate, blueberry, and blood orange. The refreshing red is ideal over ice with sliced fruit. Enjoy a pitcher poolside and let summer begin.

 

Global Grilling with Latin Flair:

From Spain to South America, these selections bring a little heat to dishes hot off the grill. There are no rules when it comes to pairing white wine with fish and red with meat, but if a spicy shrimp platter or Cajun-rubbed chicken breast is on the menu, reach for one of these two mouthwatering coastal whites to tame the fire.

 

2015 Ritual Sauvignon Blanc, Casablanca Valley, Chile $15

 

A classic pairing with fiery fare is Sauvignon Blanc. This citrus-scented version is made from grapes grown in cool-climate vineyards on Chile’s Pacific Coast. Made by the talented hands of Rodrigo Soto – one of the country’s acclaimed winemakers – the Ritual is a winner for not only warm-weather sipping, but year ‘round imbibing.

2015 Fillaboa Albariño, Rías Baixas, Spain $18

For an exotic take on crisp whites, head to Spain’s west coast to sample Albariño. An Iberian Peninsula grape variety, it explodes with orange blossom aromas and succulent fruit flavors. Fillaboa is one of my top-pick producers from the area of Galicia called Spain’s “land of the sea.” Don your shades and take a virtual vacation in a glass.

 

When barbecue ribs or perfectly-seared rib eye is served, think of these spicy reds to pair alongside.

2014 Clos de los Siete, Valle de Uco, Mendoza, Argentina $20

Made high in the Andes by noted French winemaker, Michel Rolland, this Malbec-driven blend combines Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon in a full-bodied, dark-fruited red that’s supple and alluring. Still sporting elegance, however, it’s an ideal match for steak, steak, and more steak.

 2008 Arinzano ‘La Casona’ Pago de Arinzano, Spain $40

Want to splurge on your next grilling red? Reach for this exceptional bottling from Arinzano. Noted as one of the top estates—or Pagos – in Spain, La Casona is made with the signature red grape Tempranillo rounded out with Merlot. A lush, age-worthy red, it’s a wine to drink with anything…or nothing at all.

 

Summer Holiday Celebrations, American Style:

From July 4th to Labor Day, these American wines with a story to tell are ones to share with a crowd.

 

2016 The Federalist Chardonnay, Mendocino County, California $17.76

With the smashing success of Broadway’s Hamilton, it’s no surprise there is a wine brand celebrating our Founding Fathers and

wine’s role in American history. This oak-kissed, smooth Chardonnay showcases Lady Liberty on the label making it fab for the 4th. The price is what else? $17.76.

2014 Purple Heart Red Wine, Napa Valley, California $20

You can do good and drink well during summer gatherings with Purple Heart. A rich red blend

that’s delicious to sip is one reason to buy the wine, but the other is that annual donations are
made to the Purple Heart Foundation in honor of American military veterans and their families.

Chandon ‘American Summer’ Brut sparkling wine, California $26

Wrapped in a seascape of red, white and blue, this limited-edition bottling from Chandon is a deliciously dry yet fruit-driven sparkling wine. Become part of the #chandonsquad and raise a glass. It’s a top way to toast summer.

 

 

 

Premier Pairing – Sessions at the Presidio – Recap


My 2017 Sipping Smarts class series kicked off at the end of February with a Premier Pairing at Sessions at the Presidio. Our devoted crowd of attendees — many of whom have been at ALL of my classes over the years – gathered for a 3+ hour extravaganza.

humbolt-vodka-sterling-caviarWe started with a CAVIAR & VODKA BAR showcasing two types of decadent Sterling Imperial Caviar (one freshly-harvested and the other aged for a year) from California’s top producer, Sterling Caviar. The tins were scraped clean with many exclaiming it was the best caviar they’d ever tasted. Served with Mionetto Prosecco and Humboldt Distillery Organic Vodka, it was a delicious way to begin.

We then had three flights of wine, beer and food pairings. As I usually do, I couldn’t decide what to pour, so I showcased 13 different wines including a special magnum of 2006 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon pulled from my cellar. (No one seemed to complain.) For the full list of wines, click here! 

Add to that a fantastic beer pairing on each flight from Session’s beer-expert, Jordan Spaulding, a certified Cicerone, and perfect (and hearty) pairings from Chef Michael Bilger. Needless to say…we had an educational and highly entertaining day! Uber got some serious business, too.

 

I hope you can join me for the next Sipping Smarts class focused on Spanish Wine and Food. It will be held Sunday, May 7th from 2pm-5pm at Canela restaurant in San Francisco.

Paella, anyone?

Join Me for a Twitter Tasting with Wines of Sicily!

Save the Date!

I have partnered with Wines of Sicily and this Thursday, November 3rd, join me as we taste our way through many of the wines under the Sicilia DOC designation. We’ll be tasting and tweeting, talking about the grape varieties, the food, the region and most of all, just how incredible Sicily IS! In order to truly enjoy this tweet-tasting experience, join along by checking out our cheat sheet below and purchasing your own Sicilia DOC wine. Chime in and let us know what you think but following @winesofsicily and using the hashtag #winesofsicily 

Cheat Sheet and Shopping List

 

THE PLACE

Not only is the island ruggedly beautiful with diverse wine growing regions, Sicily’s history has been influenced by cultures from the Greeks to the Normans.

The Story of Sicily

Sicily’s Wine-growing Mosaic

 

 

THE GRAPES

From crisp, fruit-driven whites such as Grillo to chillable reds like Frappato and intensely elegant Nero d’Avola, wines made with indigenous varieties will please all palates.

Meet the Grapes

Wines of Sicily - Grapes

THE FOOD

The diversity of local dishes from caponata to cannelloni makes eating Sicilian style a treat, but these vibrant and refreshing wines go with a range of everyday dishes.

Recipe Pairings 

 

THE WINERIES:

Here are some of the top producers to put on your shopping list when buying wines from Sicily. A quick trick to find quality wines is to look for the words Sicilia DOC. 

 

Stemmari

Wines of Sicily - Stemmari

Tasca d’Almerita

Feudo Montoni

Wines of Sicily - Feudo Montoni

Donnafugata

Valle dell’Acate

Wines of Sicily - Il Frappato - Valle Della'acte

Masseria del Feudo

Baglio del Cristo di Campobello

Principi di Butera

Maggio Vini

Cottanera

Vini Gulfi

Villa Pozzi

Planeta

Mondrarossa

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wine Country – Sonoma Coastal Region

When you’re thinking about wine country in California, you are apt to miss the Sonoma Coast, often considered Sonoma’s most enigmatic wine region. From San Pablo Bay, to Mendocino, this AVA gets a direct influence from the Pacific Ocean’s cool, often cold climate.

wine-country-sonoma-coast

Known for creating some of Sonoma Wine Country’s best Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, the Sonoma Coastal AVA is a contradiction in itself, creating twice the rainfall of any other region, some areas that sit above blankets of fog twice a day, and yet still has enough heat to ripen the grapes to perfection.

Some of my favorite Chardonnay and Pinot from this region are from Patz and Hall as well as Lombardi. Each one has it’s own vibrant, racy and elegant personality that denotes the region within which it was created.

Explore the Sonoma Coastal AVA!