2016 Yao Family Wines Napa Valley Brut Sparkling Wine. Pairs With: Seafood appetizers; caviar; assorted cheeses; the deep-seeded loathing that occurs as a result of the inevitable self-inventory you take during the holidays.
Why does every party start with champagne? Because it makes everything festive and larger than life, which is great when your life is less-than-festive and not-so-large. Movie stars, rich people and gorgeous French women who have affairs with no emotional repercussions drink champagne, so I do, too. This works out beautifully when you’re introducing yourself to friends of relatives at Thanksgiving: “Hi, I’m John Taylor. You know, Shana’s cousin? Divorced twice? Live in a cracker box and received 109 rejection letters on my last novel?”
“Uhhh, would you like some champagne?”
“John! Of course!” (holds out glass) “What a pleasure to meet you!”
In the interest of full disclosure, yes, I work for Yao Family Wines, and I’m totally pitching for the home team on this one, but daaammnnn is this sparkler good. I’ll discuss this further in a later blog, but yeah. I was more than pleasantly surprised at this bubbly. Wowzer.
2015 “Cuvee 107 by Testarossa” Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands. Pairs With: honey glazed ham; dark meat turkey; the inevitable sermon from Grandma.
When I was seventeen, I picked up Grandma for Thanksgiving dinner in my dad’s Datsun B-210 hatchback. The conversation in the car went like this:
Me: I hope you’re hungry! Mom’s cooking a ton of food.
Grandma: I am going to die soon, and when I do, I will stand at the side of my blessed savior.
Me: Ah. Well, maybe you’re not so hungry then.
Grandma: But I’ll be sad, because you’ll be burning in the fires of hell. And do you know why this is, John?
Me: That’s a lovely scarf you’re wearing, Grandma.
Grandma: Because you defile yourself before our Heavenly Father. Do you know what I mean when I say ‘defile yourself?’
Me: Yes, yes I do, and I will avoid a lifetime of therapy if we can just steer this conversation in a different direction –
Grandma: It means ‘masturbation.’ It means you masturbate.
Me: I’m going to pretend to be dead now.
I try to keep all my Thanksgiving wines low in alcohol and high in acid, so they clear the palate and complement the food. But for discussions on my shortcomings with Grams (pun not intended but totally a propos), a concentrated, powerful Pinot Noir from the Santa Lucia Highlands toes the line beautifully.
2014 Valley of The Moon Pinot Blanc, Sonoma County. Pairs With: Thick gravies; heavy sauces; Au Gratin Potatoes; Cranberry relish; political debate with Drunkle Bob.
Uncle Robert typically keeps to himself for the first few hours of Thanksgiving festivities, nursing a couple of bourbons while he tries to remember the names of his own family members. By Bourbon #4, he magically transforms into Drunk Uncle Bob, Master of Political Science & Economics and DeFacto Spokesman For The Lost Art Of Common Sense. Drunkle Bob starts drinking wine at this point, because he knows everything about wine and you don’t, because everything relevant there is to know about wine was invented before slack-ass kids like you were born. This is why it’s critical that you don’t open the Riesling instead, because this will only inspire Drunkle Bob to start his horrifyingly uncomfortable dissertation on How America Could Learn A Thing Or Two From All The Good Things The National Socialist German Workers’ Party Did In The Late 1930’s. So, whether you’ve got a Drunkle, a Drom or a Drad, keep it light, keep it crisp and keep it refreshing with a domestic Pinot Blanc.
In all honesty, I have plenty to be thankful for this holiday. I am so freaking #blessed it’s crazy. What we wine people sometimes forget is this very critical point: we have wine. Some people don’t have macaroni and cheese and a glass of milk on Thanksgiving, while we can go out, buy a load of wine, and try it with ten or fifteen different dishes. And that’s not even the actual point. The point is that all of us are blessed if have someone with whom we can drink that wine. Whether it’s Drunkle Bob or your Soulmate For Life, if you’re enjoying a bottle with someone you love, you don’t have something to be thankful for, you have everything to be thankful for.