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Monday, November 24, 2014

Thanksgiving Uncorked: My Top 10 Wines for the Holiday

"Personally, I love Thanksgiving traditions: watching football, making pumpkin pie, and saying the magic phrase that sends your aunt storming out of the dining room to sit in her car." ~ Stephen Colbert

Another wonderful year nearly ready to put in the can and stored away for posterity, but every year at this time we collectively take time-out to give a "thanks" for our many blessings. I'm especially thankful this year, for the first in many years I'm working full-time in the wine business, and yes this new position will involve making buying decisions as well. Pretty exciting and at the same time a bit sad, because most of my free-time will be swallowed-up commuting back and forth, while I build this new career path, leaving a lot less time for writing.

I know there are a few folks in my age bracket, and I'm mostly speaking to the guys who may be reading this article. It's far too easy to become the grumpy old men, we swore we would never be, yelling and gesturing for the "kid" to get off our collective lawns, even if we haven't kept it up and has now turned a dull shade of brown.

Many of the grumpiest among us, even start to resent holidays, like the one right around the corner, for many it has become far too clichéd, football, pumpkin pies, turkeys and hot sweaters and homes so hot you can get "meat" sweats. Ugh, we let out that collective sigh, speaking for me personally, I do totally 'get' that attitude.

But [yep here it comes] I think many of those "grumps" may just need a couple glasses of decent vino, to help them get over their anti-holiday feelings. So this year when you gather with your families or choose to serve others, use it to embrace them and thank each one of them for being a part of your life, whether you like them or not. I think if we all do that [myself included] we will be better off in the long run. I’m now stepping away from the soap box and returning you to your normally scheduled holiday wine review.

Every year at this time, I give my Top Ten Thanksgiving Holiday Wine "picks" and this year is no exception. I know my post is a bit "danger" close for those wanting to stock up for the holiday, but chalk-up these recommendations for the procrastinators in the audience who've waited for the last minute; to hear about ten tasty selections to brighten up their holiday menus this week. Yes most, but not all of them will be Pinot Noirs. Sorry no white wines to recommend this time around, perhaps next year. 

1. 2010 Chateau Le Thil, Comte Clary: Another very good 2010, but a bit more of a modern style Bordeaux. Still it has a lovely vein of acid, which keeps the abundant red and dark fruit in check. Medium tannins and finish. Drinks like an mid to high priced Napa Valley Cab, which sells for half that price $29.99. With this kind of stellar QPR, you could easily buy 6 or [I know I have] more, and enjoy for years to come. 

2: 2011 Thomas Fogarty, Santa Cruz Mountains, Pinot Noir: On the nose a wonderful perfume [elegant] of dried strawberries, rich earth, raspberry and pronounced cola aromas. After the first splash down, I found this immediately appealing and approachable wine. You’ll find very generous, round tannins, nicely woven into the wines fabric. A real Pinot Noir lovers wine; soft but lush, presenting a raft of baking spices, cinnamon and sandalwood flavors, with a healthy splash of raspberry cola and strawberry pie filling leading to the plush finish. I found the acidity to be bright and crisp, and refreshing gently carrying abundant but nicely textured fruit. A complex wine, which I believe over delivers for the the price point. If this wine will be your first [as it was for me] experience with Thomas Fogarty or the wines of the Santa Cruz Mountains, a bottle of their Pinot Noir will indeed be a great introduction.

This wine clocked in with a reasonable 12.9% ABV, grown at [various] elevations of 400-2400 feet in Shale and Sandstone soils and aged just 10 months in 3rd year French oak barrels. When you see the bottle, [see above] you may be a bit surprised to find it's sporting its throwback label from 1981 to celebrate their 30th anniversary. This vintage is reportedly going to sell for $36 in the tasting room and, of course wine club members will have first dibs.  As for my score, that is if you keep score? I gave this wine 93 points. This is a wine which has earned my highly coveted, "drink now and drink often" designation. So to the entire team at Thomas Fogarty, I say to you all "bravo-bravo" this wine is a real winner and perhaps one of thee best 2011 wines I've encountered. 

3. Garnet 2010 Sonoma Coast Rodgers Creek Vineyard, Pinot Noir: Another wonderful wine from a single vineyard source, which can be found on a high ridge somewhere near Petaluma and Sonoma. I discovered this wine earlier this year, when I met up with Alison Crowe at her deluxe winemaking sanctuary in 2013.  at In the glass you'll find a wonderful cranberry colored core, floral and baking spice aromas swirling about, leaning toward the strawberry end of the flavor spectrum. On the plate a well-balanced attack of baking spices, red berry fruits and finish is plush. I scored this wine 91 points. Just a fantastic wine from the SBC region. Garnet wines really deliver a consistent wine tasting experience and selling for under $30, it's quite the steal!

4. 2012 Rodney Strong Estate Pinot Noir: This wine is a fantastic bargain at just under $20. I found this wine to have a garnet colored core. The first whiff, reminded me sweet baking spices, rose petals and fragrant strawberries. On palate a nice attack of dusty-spices, sweet vanilla, sandalwood, a silky mouth-feel, and baked strawberries, mouth watering acidity, leading to the plush finish. Adds the perfect score to your holiday menu, I gave this wine a score of 89 points and a hearty buy recommendation. 

5. 2011 Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru: The wine you see above is nothing but classic Burgundy, it's a wine I purchased to celebrate finding a new career path in the wine industry. It's another small step forward in the pursuit of goals to not only talk about wine here, but to expand those skills to the workplace where financial and professional rewards are both realized. Now that said, this wine is complex, textured, sporting that famous 2011 acidity [cool year] and still very taught tannins. 

I say classic, because there is abundant forest floor, think of licking wet mushrooms, or smelling a fallen tree branch that has been on the ground for weeks. Freshly cracked peppercorns and fresh summer bing-cherries jamming on bass and did I say minerality? No, well there's plenty of that to go around as well. You could easily cellar this puppy for years to come, but it's enjoyable now. A word to the wise, decant is the word, sorry to disagree with the author of the wine bible, Karen McNeil who does not like to decant PN, instead she likes to see it evolve in the glass. Trust me, decant this puppy for a full flavored thrill ride. This wine is $54 and I scored it, 93 points. 

6. 2010 Chateau Teyssier, Saint Emilion Grand Cru : Woo-hoo, this wine hit it out of the freaking park, seriously great juice for the price. Jumping from Burgundy to Bordeaux, let's take a trip to tasty town via Chateau Teyssier, a Saint Emilion Grand Cru. This wine, of which I just ordered four more, is mind blowing good for the tiny $29 price tag. A blend of 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc, taunt tannins stretched out over a canvas of rich black fruit, blackberry, dark plums, cassis, some rustic minerality, beautifully textured, coupled with a long finish bringing it all home. It could definitely age for much longer, 2010 was one thee very best recent vintages in Bordeaux and in this bottle, you find out why that is true. My score 91 points. This is case purchase territory.

7. Hahn 2012 SLH: In the glass a rich looking strawberry colored core. On the first whiff, wow, a wonderful perfume of dried strawberries, rich earth and raspberry. After the first splash down, this immediately appealing Pinot is soft but lush, presenting a raft of vanilla, cinnamon and sandalwood flavors, with a healthy splash of raspberry and strawberry pie filling leading to the silky plush finish. A great performer from our friends at Hahn whose tasting room is found just 40 minutes from the center of town in Monterey, it has a SRP of $25 and is one of my top pick for this weeks festivities.

8. 2011 Red Moutain, Bel Villa Vineyard, Goedhart Family Syrah: This "Terroir Hunter" wine hails from Red Mountain in Washington State. In the glass you'll find the core leaning toward very dark garnet. On the nose compact ripe blueberry and black-berry fruit, with just a touch of olive aromas leaps from the glass. Really nice mouth-feel, plush and giving, balanced acidity, polished blueberry and blackberry and floral flavors are drawn from the nose, leading to a nicely penetrating finish, with touches of chocolate and espresso rounding out the experience. No score offered, just my hearty recommendation. An extremely well done wine, with plenty to offer for the $25 price of admission

9. 2012 Pinot Gris Orange, Regan Vineyard: This wine represents the perfect last review of the month of August, while it's hot and steamy outside, my insides were treated to the summertime sipping delights of the Regan Vineyard, Pinot Gris Orange. The nose itself I thought was quite captivating, it again reminded me of another Chanel quote.
"Perfume “is the unseen, unforgettable, ultimate accessory of fashion. . . . that heralds your arrival and prolongs your departure,” Chanel once explained.
The nose is pretty unique, burnt dried orange-peels, new baseball mitt [freshly oiled] but not off putting, a funky-monkey that will captivate and compel sip after sip and perhaps even the occasional slurp. It's a wine best served chilled, but not too cold. On the palate, bone-dry, high-acid, more citrus and a distinctive dried orange skins, textured tannins and a fine ground minerality. On the long lasting finish, a very compelling blood orange thang.

For those who like to keep scores, I gave this wine a crisp 88 points. I've not had enough wines of this style to form much of an opinion, but this wine was extremely well executed, firing on every cylinder. If you'd like to grab a bottle of this wine, it can be purchased directly from the winery for $33.

The first sip is a head-back wow, you'll find this wine located on the drink now and drink often aisle, nice heft and the tannins are polished, leading to a lengthy finish. Gamey, herbal and earthy complexity help you get your head around the blueberry and black berry fruit that dominates the mid-palate, while the striking acidity keeps the wine in complete balance for the total package. Selling for a SRP of $29, it's great juice for this price point, it really over delivers and came dressed to impress.

Graham's Six Grapes Old Vines Port: You always need to save room for dessert and what would my blog be without a recommendation on one the tastier options for after dinner than this Fonseca Ruby style port, ready to dress up that pumpkin pie. A wine produced using advanced piston fermentation called, "port toes" and aged four years in neutral wood before being bottled. 

You can find this wine selling for about $20 or less most places. In the glass you can expect an opaque purple leaning toward a deep red colored edge. Sticking you nose the glass expect a raft of compact, intense, blackcurrant and cherry aromas. After the first slurp, wow nice, a fully expressive but firm, plump fruit flavors stretched over mellow tannin structure and a lasting finish.

From my house to yours this holiday season, here's to a Happy and Safe Thanksgiving:; and whatever you do, I hope you uncork some great holiday memories, until next time sip long and prospers cheers!

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