The Best Wines for Thanksgiving

We’re approaching holiday season and it’s about time to set the table with the best wines for Thanksgiving. This is one of my favorite days of the year, since we know the day will include a couple of our favorite things… wine and food (and lots of it!) However, sometimes it can be a challenge to figure out what wines will pair best with such a variety of foods served at the turkey table. Don’t worry, I got you covered!

Check out my recent video which highlights t some of the best wines for Thanksgiving, it is sure to steer you in the right direction for the holiday ahead! Of course, the best wines are always the wines that you enjoy most, especially when enjoyed among family and friends.

Chardonnay

A classic white wine to pair next to turkey and mashed potatoes would be Chardonnay, thanks to its rich and full body. Chardonnay is also a great option to pair with a variety of hors d’oeuvres that might be getting passed around before the main event.

Try this Beringer 2020 Chardonnay, Private Reserve, Napa Valley

Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is a go-to red wine on Thanksgiving Day thanks to its versatility, great fruit and mouth-watering acidity that will hold up to Turkey and all of the trimmings, without overpowering them.

Try this Primrose Trail 2017 Pinot Noir, Grand Reserve, Sonoma Coast

Zinfandel

An American Holiday calls for an all-American grape, Zinfandel. We like red Zinfandel on the Thanksgiving table for a lot of the same reasons we like Pinot Noir. Zinfandel is versatile, offers berry fruit and acidity, and pairs splendidly with cranberry sauce and the variety of sides served.

Try this Buehler 2015 Zinfandel, Napa Valley

Riesling

Riesling is another great high acid, fruit forward wine that will help cut through some of the fattier, and rich foods you’ll be reaching for.

Try this Trefethen 2021 Dry Riesling, Napa Valley

Chateauneuf-Du-Pape

If you want to venture to the Old World, look no further than Chateauneuf-Du-Pape. One of our favorite fall wines and a great red option for the holiday feasts ahead.

Try this Chateau La Nerthe 2019 Chateauneuf-Du-Pape Les Graniers

Champagne

Is it a celebration without a little Bubbly? Not only is Champagne a great wine to kickoff the holiday with passed hors d’oeuvres, but it is a great wine to gift to the host if you’re visiting family or friends for the holiday.

Try this Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label NV Brut (w/ Ice Jacket!)

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There’s Nothing Petite About Petit Verdot

BY MARSHALL TILDEN III as featured on Wine Enthusiast

GOTG Petit Verdot Illo
ILLUSTRATION BY JOÃO NEVES

If there is one grape variety that exemplifies the phrase, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” it is Petit Verdot. This small grape earned its name, which translates to “little green,” due to its tendency to ripen later in the season as compared to its Bordeaux cohorts, such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. When allowed to fully ripen, this compact yet dynamic grape unveils jammy black fruits, enticing floral aromas and firm tannins along with a deep, dark purple color.

Due to its long, leisurely ripening period, many Châteaux in Bordeaux have replaced Petit Verdot plantings with varieties that ripen to their full potential more expeditiously. However, many New World wine regions are welcoming Petit Verdot into their vineyards to be celebrated as a single-varietal wine, as opposed to a petite percentage of a larger blend.

United States

In the North Fork of Long IslandNew YorkPellegrini Vineyards Winemaker Zander Hargrave believes that “the variety works well because it is late to go through veraison.” This later ripening protects it from early weather fluctuations. Further, the smaller berries are able to concentrate sugars in mid to late October, resulting in depth of flavor and more intense color. The wines exude wild fruit flavors and earthy undertones. In Virginia, many wineries are using Petit Verdot in place of Cabernet Sauvignon to satisfy consumers looking for an alternate big, bold style of red wine. These wines carry vibrant acidity along with ripe dark-berry fruit and, in the best examples, firm and gripping tannins.

Australia

Australia’s largest plantings of Petit Verdot can be found in the Riverland region, but it has also found success in the Barossa and Murray valleys as well as Riverina. Its ability to retain acidity in these warmer climates is key, leading to full-bodied wines with a flavor profile similar to Shiraz: intense red berry fruit, black pepper spice and floral notes such as lavender and violet.

Argentina

With more than 1,600 acres of Petit Verdot planted in Argentina, 72% are in the high-altitude, warm continental-climate region of Mendoza. Today, the regions of San JuanLa RiojaPatagonia and the Calchaquí Valley all have the grape under vine. “Petit Verdot gets fuller with sweeter, gentler tannins than you find where it originally came from,” says Tomás Hughes, winemaker at Finca Decero.

Does Swirling Wine Do Anything?

Does Swirling Wine Do Anything?

BY MARSHALL TILDEN III

as featured by Wine Enthusiast

Silhouetted person swirls red wine in glass
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There are few things more mesmerizing than watching a deep, ruby colored wine skillfully swirled around a large-bowled glass. Conversely, watching an “over-swirler” throw the wine around like a ride at an amusement park can seem quite pompous.

Regardless of style and technique, there’s a tremendous amount of value and purpose to the wine swirl. Most of it has to do with oxygen and aeration, but there are other reasons why the swirl is a key component in the 5 Ss of wine tasting.

It Opens the Wine

As soon as wine is exposed to oxygen, its aroma compounds become more detectable as they attach themselves to evaporating alcohol as it lifts from the glass. Oxygen also can help to soften harsh tannins on bigger wines, allowing them to become smoother and silkier.

Just about every wine will benefit from swirling to some extent, though younger, bolder wines may require more. But be cautious about overswirling an older vintage wine—oxygen can turn from friend to foe, and it’s easy to overoxidize a delicate, aged wine with too much swirling.

It Removes Off-Putting Odors

Oxygen will also help “blow off” a wine’s unwanted aromas. Sulfites, which may be added during the winemaking process or occur naturally as a biproduct of fermentation, can create an odor of burnt match or rotten eggs upon initially opening a bottle. With several seconds of swirling, those malodors often dissipate, leaving behind the aromas intended by the winemaker.

A Better Visual

By swirling wine higher up in the bowl, you can better analyze its color and viscosity. A given wine may seem medium ruby in color when resting at the bottom of the glass. But give it a few laps around the track, and its hue may appear lighter than originally detected.

Moreover, swirling leaves behind legs, also called tears, on the glass. They can indicate a wine’s viscosity and signify higher alcohol levels. The more legs that streak down the glass, the more you may want to watch how much you consume in one sitting.

How to Swirl Wine Correctly

There can be a fine line between executing an impressive swirl and potentially ruining everyone’s clothes with flying wine. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when perfecting your swirl.

Start small and keep the base of the glass on the table. Imagine there’s a small bead or pebble floating atop your wine, touching the side of the glass. See if you can envision moving that bead around the edge of the glass, without it off the table. Once the flow looks good, try to keep that same rolling motion as you raise the glass a few inches off the table.

Use a big-bowled glass. When it comes to wine glasses and swirling, size matters. Wider bowls create a lower center of gravity and better momentum for the liquid inside, allowing for a more stable experience. Start with one of these and save yourself the hassle of learning to swirl in a tiny tumbler—a recipe for disaster and nearly guaranteed to cause a spill.

Avoid the overswirl. Several seconds, or even a minute of swirling, does wonders for most wines (though again, be careful of those older vintages). But a glass of wine doesn’t need to be swirled constantly. After the initial swirl to kickstart oxygenation, the wine will continue to breathe and develop in the glass by itself. Also, all it takes is one overpowering flick of the wrist to send a nice Bordeaux sloshing out of the glass, left only to be enjoyed as a permanent stain on your favorite rug.

Christmas Eve Wines

What better reason than Christmas Eve to share and enjoy a couple of gems from two of my favorite #wine producers Pride Mountain Vineyards and Joseph Drouhin.

The 2014 Reserve #Pride Cab was still a pup, delicious but opulent and massive. Needs another 7-10 years in the bottle. The 2010 Clos des Mouches #Burgundy was drinking beautifully with a perfect balance of dried cherry, pipe tobacco and earthy undertones leading to a silky, smooth finish.

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A Recent Bourbon Find

A lot of things happened since Covid hit and the lockdowns and quarantines rolled around. One of the most notable is that just about everyone starting drinking more… and who can blame us?? The everyday stresses intensified and with gyms and bars struggling to survive, the outlets to blow off some steam minimized. Plus, how else were we supposed to cope with virtual education, seriously ?!?

While the increase in wine consumption and sales has been widely publicized, more people are also now sipping on bourbon than ever before. It makes sense… higher alcohol content so you can consume less volume and there are so many delicious options out there that don’t have to break the bank. Plus, a bottle of bourbon lasts a lot longer than the same 750 ML bottle of wine. Think about it… a $50 bottle of wine may get polished off in one sitting, whereas a $50 bottle of bourbon can last weeks to months.

Since bourbon can be produced anywhere in the US (myth debunked: bourbon does not have to come from Kentucky) there are some stellar new offerings coming from producers all over America. And since bourbon is truly an American made product, you can feel good about supporting local businesses while sipping on a tasty adult beverage while winding from a long day. One new producer I just discovered is Penelope and their interesting lineup of various style bourbons.

Quick snapshot, Penelope Bourbon is distilled in Indiana and was created to celebrate the birth of Mike and Kerry Paladini’s child in 2018. Her name? You guessed it… Penelope. To commemorate this occasion, Mike realized he wanted to create a spirit that embodied the daily joy of celebrating life’s pleasures, both big and small. He teamed up with his childhood bud Danny Polise to distill their first batch of straight bourbon whiskey and voila, a new company was born.

Their entry level Four Grain Bourbon (75% Corn, 15% Wheat, 7% Rye, 3% Malted Barley) is anything but ‘entry’. Earning multiple awards, this is an extremely solid bottle of $40-45 whiskey. It’s on the lighter side, but not lacking in balance or flavor. Very classic caramel and vanilla aromas with fresh apple notes, baking spices and a little touch of tangerine citrus on the smooth finish. An easy sipper, but also a great cocktail bourbon with all of those distinct flavors.

They also produce a Barrel Strength version of this Four Grain Bourbon, and man is this one a beast! I think Kara Newman from WE said it best in her 93 Point review of this one… ‘bold, concentrated caramel tone that mingles with a hint of plum skin. A pleasant prickle of sweet spices—cinnamon, cardamom, clove, cayenne—lingers on the finish’. And at a whopping 58% alcohol you probably want to drop a cube, or a splash of water, in the glass before imbibing.

But my favorite from their assortment is the Rose Cask Finish Bourbon. They did a wonderful job integrating the nuances of Rose, such as strawberry fruit and rose petals, while maintaining the distinct bourbon core of apple fruit, toasted vanilla, candied caramel, cinnamon and nutmeg. And even though the Rose wine barrels they use are not from a sweet rose wine, those bright red fruit and floral notes that help add a lovely kiss of sweetness on the pleasing finish.

Is This Wine Any Good? The Five Most Important Structural Components to Know

BY MARSHALL TILDEN III

GETTY

How do you determine whether a wine is ”good”?

The first rule of thumb is to drink what you like. If you enjoy it, then it must be good!

However, if you want to gauge the technical quality of wine, there are five major structural components to assess. After you examine those levels, you can determine if and how they balance each other and lead to an intense or expressive wine with complexity on the nose, palate and finish.

Here are the five most important structural components of wine and how to understand them in the glass.

Sweetness

Just because a wine is fruity doesn’t mean it’s sweet.

Sweetness indicates the amount of residual sugar in wine. So, when people say they prefer a “dry wine,” it’s not to say they don’t enjoy fruity wines, just wines without any real sugar content.

There’s no direct correlation between sweetness or dryness and quality. Sure, you would be hard-pressed to find a 100-point White Zinfandel on Wine Enthusiast, but there are plenty of 100-point sweet wines, like Port and Tokaji, that are some of the most sought-after wines in the world.

Acidity

You know that mouthwatering feeling you get when you bite into a fresh pineapple or sip freshly squeezed lemonade? That’s acidity, and it’s one of the most important components of wine.

Derived from grape pulp, acidity accounts for less than 1% of the composition of wine. (Water comprises 80–86%, and alcohol typically 11–16%.) Acidity helps to make cool-climate white wines zippy and refreshing and helps rich reds, like Saint-Estèphe in Bordeaux or Rioja Gran Reserva, to age gracefully for decades.

While acidity will tend to be lower in red grapes than white, without medium to high acidity in a wine, it will appear as flabby or flat and it will be nearly impossible for it to exhibit balance or harmony.

Tannin

A great exercise to understand tannin is to peel the skin off a red grape and eat it by itself. That drying feeling in your mouth that sucks your cheeks in is from the tannin.

Extended maceration, in which winemakers press the grapes with their skins intact, is one way to impart tannins to wine. Since most white wines are produced without skin contact, the vast majority has little to no tannins.

However, tannins can also come from oak aging, so you will notice a bit of tannin in those big, buttery Napa Chardonnays and gloriously complex Sauternes.

Tannins are more prevalent in red wines because there is more skin contact with the juice during fermentation and when the juice is pressed, or when liquid is separated from solids. The more contact the juice has with the skins, and possibly stems, the more the tannins can be detected in a wine.

Without a healthy dose of tannins, it’s very difficult for a wine to improve and evolve over time. Conversely, a wine that is oversaturated with tannins, and that doesn’t possess enough fruit or acidity to balance it out, will feel astringent and come across as particularly bitter on the finish.

Alcohol

The cat’s out of the bag: Wine has alcohol, and it’s a critical component of the body and weight of your pour.

Alcohol is a byproduct of the fermentation process. The more sugar in whatever grapes are fermented, the higher the wine’s potential alcohol. Grapes develop sugar as they ripen, which explains why high-alcohol wines can come from generally warmer regions like Barossa in Australia, Priorat in Spain and many regions in California, while cool-climate white wines from Vinho Verde in Portugal or the Loire Valley in France tend to have lower alcohol levels.

Lower or higher levels of alcohol are not surefire signs of quality in wine, though. There must be a minimum level of around 8% alcohol by volume (abv) for even the lightest of white wines. And, for those big, high-alcohol reds that exceed 15% abv, there should be a hefty dose of fruit, ample tannins and at least moderate acidity to keep everything balanced.

Body

Residual sugar, tannin and alcohol work in tandem with fruit concentration to determine the body or weight of a wine. The denser the fruit and higher the alcohol, the heavier and fuller-bodied a wine will feel on the palate.

A great way to judge body is to think about water and milk. A light-bodied wine like a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc will have a consistency similar to water, whereas a full-bodied wine like an Argentine Malbec will be closer to heavy cream. The collaborative effort of all these structural components leads you to determine whether you’re drinking a light-, medium- or full-bodied wine.

So, What Makes a ‘Good’ Wine?

Once you have made your assessments of all these structural components, you can then determine how they complement one another. Does the acidity balance out potentially high tannins?

Does the alcohol complement the high fruit concentration, leading to a long and pleasing finish? Does the combination of these components then culminate in an intense, expressive and potentially complex wine?

If the answer to all these questions is yes, you probably have a good, or possibly outstanding, wine on your hands.

Most important structural elements wine tasting
BY TOM ARENA

Published on October 26, 2021

Pops and Wine

One thing I love about Google Photos is the Collage function. While it’s a bit creepy, it finds pics with similar topics and the same people’s faces and sends these ‘over the years’ type of collections.

This morning I received one with my dad and some of the pics of #wine bottles I’ve snapped over the years. I thought these pics were just a way for me to keep a record of some of the more memorable bottles I’ve had the good fortunate of tasting and enjoying over the years.

Turns out it’s also capturing images of the man who first sparked my passion for wine and still enjoys nothing more than sharing a glass over good food and better conversation. Thanks for sharing the memories of Pops and Wine, #Google!

Poor Wine Vintages Can Make For Excellent Drinking Opportunities

As featured on Wine Express Expressions Blog

If you are like most wine collectors and consumers, you tend to be a little skeptical and even pessimistic about purchasing wines from those less than optimal vintages. And why wouldn’t you… poor wine vintages seem to be all you hear about, maybe even more so than when there is a fabulous vintage. When the growing season is cold, damp or experiences late season rain or hail, it can certainly affect the grapes grown that year. But does that mean that all wine from a less than stellar vintage is going to be subpar? Absolutely… not! 

The difference is all about development. In the best of vintages, the fruit become fully concentrated in the grapes which leads to higher sugar levels. These wines will typically have a higher alcohol, as there is more sugar for the yeasts to consume during fermentation leading to the byproduct of alcohol. And because the fruit is so concentrated, they will tend to lead to denser wines. Tannins also develop more intensely leading to darker colored wines (for reds) as well as ones with a bit more backbone to them. And in those optimal vintages where there is enough of a temperature range, so the mornings and nights are much cooler than the days are, the acids will develop properly as well. In a nutshell, great vintages lead to wines with higher levels of all the structural components. 

On the contrary, cool and wet vintages can lead to grapes that experience a slower, or potentially lack of, development. Fruits may not reach their full concentration levels and tannins may get stuck in sort of a ‘green’ level. Less fruit will also lead to a bit lower alcohol levels, while the acidity in can still remain high, as cooler climate wine regions are often known for their bright and refreshing high acid wines. But, just because all of these structural levels are not ramped up, does not necessarily mean that the wine it leads to will be of poor quality… it just means that it probably will not age as well as those better vintage wines will. 

Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of not so great wine from poor vintages… no doubt about it. But the better wine producers know exactly how to take the fruit that is provided from that harvest and coax out the best qualities from those grapes to craft the best wine possible from what mother nature has provided. Not only that, sometimes waiting for these fabulous wines from the best vintages to age and evolve until they reach their peak can be a little… well… exhausting. Additionally, these off vintage wines can offer a serious value to their prime vintage counterparts. There are some folks that would rather not wait to enjoy a recently purchased wine, and some that simply may not have enough time left to enjoy the results of a perfectly aged 2009 Bordeaux or 2007 Napa Cab.  

I had my family over for a pre Thanksgiving meal last year, since we would not be spending the holiday together. I had a bottle of 2014 Domaine du Pegau Chateauneuf du Pape in the cellar for a few years and was waiting for a Thanksgiving bird and the right company to pop it open. 2014 was the epitome of a poor vintage, sandwiched between some fabulous ones in the Southern Rhone.  But with Pegau being one of the best and most consistent CDP producers in the region, I was willing to take my chances. While the wine was certainly on the lean and delicate side, it was drinking just beautifully in its infancy! Lovely black fruits, black pepper spice and dried herb aromas gave way to this amazing marzipan and olive tamponade character on the palate with a finish that I can still taste if I think about it. The acidity kept the structure in perfect balance while the tannins were smooth as silk making a perfect pairing for the bird and all the trimmings.   

Would this wine have aged much longer? Probably not without losing too much of the fruit, so we caught it right in its prime. Most importantly I was able to share it with my parents who both really enjoy a great Chateauneuf du Pape. I had no regrets about opening this wine early since it was with people who really appreciated it. That right there, is reason enough to grab some great wines from not so great vintages and open up something special with those that you love while you still can!

How Long Should I Let My Wine Breathe?

As Featured by Wine Enthusiast

BY MARSHALL TILDEN IIIWoman opening bottle of wine next to man in kitchen

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It’s Friday, the end of a long week. You’ve decided to open a bottle to celebrate. Perhaps it’s an older Bordeaux, or a young, vibrant Austrian Grüner Veltliner. You pour a splash in the glass and give it a sniff. A wave of disappointment crashes down around you as the wine smells like burnt matches and rotten eggs.

Fear not. A little aeration may be all you need.

First, let’s get this out of the way. Not all wine needs to be decanted. Decanting is necessary mostly for younger red wines that need maximum aeration, or for older wines to help remove sediment.

However, just about every wine will improve with some aeration, whether in a decanter or through a quick swirl in the glass. So how much time does a wine need to breathe? And how long should you swirl before your wrist feels like it’s going to fall off? The answer is…it depends.Aerator vs Decanter: Which is Better?

If you have a young, opulent and highly tannic Rhône red, it may need to decant at least an hour to soften tannins and round out any hard edges. This applies to most wines with similar structure and concentration. But, for an easy-drinking New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, something that is fresh, zippy and full of aromatic citrus fruit, an hour of breathing may dull the qualities that give the wine its character.

However, a few swirls and a bit of time to breathe in the glass will usually help reductive or sulfur-related aromas blow off the wine. Here are a few tips to help decide how long a wine should breathe so each pour will shine.

Even at home, pour a sample before a full glass

Just like a sommelier at a restaurant, pour a small sample to test the nose and palate before you commit to a full glass. Some wines may have some reductive or sulfur notes, which come across most notably as aromas of rubber, burnt matches or rotten eggs. Often, these aromas will dissipate after 10–15 minutes. You may opt for a decanter, but it could be simpler to pour a small glass and swirl away to see if those odors fade.

Red wine being poured into decanter
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Young, tannic reds need oxygen to soften tannins

Whether it’s a young Napa Cab, an Argentine Malbec or Aussie Shiraz, these wines typically need a dose of oxygen to smooth out any roughness and soften tannins. Of course, if you enjoy the punch that these wines can pack straight out of the bottle, there’s no need to delay. Allowing them to breathe too long can overly soften their opulent nature.

Still, most young, tannic reds can benefit from some aggressive swirling and 10–20 minutes in the glass. This will help open up big, brooding wines and allow for overpowering oaky notes to fully integrate with the fruit and often high alcohol levels.

Happy friends having fun at dinner party. Bearded man opening wine bottle with bottle opener. Credit Getty
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Older vintage wines may be ready right out of the bottle

There’s a common misconception that older wines all require several hours of decanting. The truth is, even several minutes in a decanter may overly oxidize an older, delicate wine. It can obliterate the drinking window to just a few short seconds.

Yet, there are longer-aged wines, usually those that started with high levels of tannins, alcohol content and fruit concentration, that will benefit from several minutes in the glass to open completely. These could also potentially benefit from decanting.What are Tannins, Really?

The rule of thumb for older wines is that the lighter and older a wine, the less aeration it will need. When in doubt, pour a small sample into a glass and examine it. Red wines tend to lose color with age, meaning the lighter in color the wine appears, the less aeration it will likely need. An inky, bright ruby, opaque older wine will require more oxygenation. The opposite is true for white wines, which gain color as they age.

A juror swirls a glass of wine during the competition 'Best of Gold' in Wuerzburg, Germany, 11 May 2015. A jury elects the best wines from Franconia in the competition. Photo: Karl-Josef Hildenbrand /dpa | usage worldwide (Photo by Karl-Josef Hildenbrand/picture alliance via Getty Images)
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White and sparkling wines do not typically need aeration

That’s not to say all whites and sparkling wines can’t benefit from a bit of oxygen. If any reductive notes are detected in a white wine, by all means give it some air and possibly 10–15 minutes in a decanter. The same is true for those rich, deep gold whites that may need a little bit of room to stretch their legs. But the vast majority of these wines come out of the bottle ready to rock.

If you pour a sample and the wine is slightly muted or not as aromatic as expected, add a bit more to your glass and swirl away. The problem will usually solve itself.

Enjoy the process

One of the best parts about tasting wine is to see how it develops from the time it’s opened until the last sip. Nothing is more rewarding than when the final taste from a highly anticipated wine is the best of the bottle. It allows you to fully appreciate the journey that it took to get there. So, while aerating and decanting some wines will certainly help bring them to their ideal drinking window, to taste the natural evolution of the wine after it’s opened is its own great pleasure.Published on June 8, 2021