Thursday, November 19, 2009

Wine and Food Pairings for the Holiday!

Even non-wine drinkers find themselves with a glass of wine around the holidays. Many people will pick up a bottle for those bountiful holiday meals and social gatherings.

There is ample advice on which wine one should serve with turkey - remember Grape Sense Rule No. 1 – If you like it, drink it!

There are lots of great options. But, your wine selection for Thanksgiving dinner should not be limited to a discussion of just pairing wine with turkey.

“Usually I quiz people on what side dishes are being served and how is the turkey being prepared,” said Tena McClanahan, Wine Styles, Carmel. “If you have a turkey someone is deep frying and they’re injecting it with Cajun seasoning that’s a whole lot different than roasting it with carrots, onions and celery in the center.

“It’s generally all about the side dishes, personally I love Pinot Noirs. If somebody likes red wine I think Pinot Noir is the perfect Thanksgiving wine (for roasted turkey). If it’s Cajun injected turkey then maybe a Zinfandel. I’d avoid the really bold wines.”

McClanahan also has a great suggestion for white wine lovers. She recommends a dry Gewurtztraminer as a perfect pairing. Gewurtz is a spicy and often floral wine that is dynamite with food. There are dry and sweeter versions, but pick up a dry or semi-dry if you’re going to have it with dinner. You can find great Gewurtz from Germany and France! Don’t forget Indiana’s wineries because most make nice Traminette which is very similar to Gewurtz.

A dry Riesling is a great choice for Thanksgiving as well. If you go semi-dry to dry you’ll be happy with your choice. Washington State offers a lot of great Riesling choices. New York state Riesling is another good buy and good choice. Again, some of the Indiana Riesling is also tasty.

If you like white wine and want to make it a really special occasion, spring for a bottle of J.J. Prum Spatlese Reisling from Germany. You’ll only find it at better wine stores and it will be over $30 a bottle.

But you don’t have to spend much more than a third of the cost of Prum Riesling to find a great Riesling choice. Check out Dr. Loosen Riesling, Mirassou Riesling, and those great Washington state picks.

Some people can’t get away from Chardonnay with Thanksgiving and holiday turkey. But try something different that will make a better food pairing. Get to your favorite wine shop and ask for a Chardonnay which was aged in stainless steel and not in oak. The wine will be a bit drier normally and not nearly as rich. Instead you’ll get a clean crisp flavor that pairs great with roasted bird.

Tena was right on suggesting Pinot Noir as a great red wine selection. Pinot has more structure than most white wines but will not be over powering. And Pinot will probably pair better with most side dishes than the lighter white wines.

There are some good Pinot Noir wines under $15 easily accessible. Many supermarkets carry Mirrasou Pinot for about $10. In your wine store look for $10-$15 Pinot from Mark West, Dashwood, and Castle Rock.

And for those who want to make their red selection something special, try an Oregon Pinot Noir. Lange Willammette Valley 2007 Pinot Noir is available across Indiana at about $24.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Howard Hewitt, Crawfordsville, In., is a wine enthusiast who writes and blogs about wine. Check out his frequently updated wine blog at: Contact him with questions or comment at:

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Some Recent Great Value Wine Finds

For many people who get into wine, a big part of the fun is the search! It’s about finding great wines at reasonable price points.

At the request of several readers, I’m going to offer up 3-5 great finds on a more consistent basis. The recommendations will always be wines I’ve purchased in Indiana. You can always send an email if you want to know where I bought a specific wine.

I’ve mixed up my buying lately trying to be a bit more broad-based in the wines I’m drinking. I have had a couple of really great bottles.

One of the best is a 2006 Creta Roble – a Spanish Tempranillo from the Rioja region. Many Rioja wines are blends with the dominant grape the noble Tempranillo. The Creta is 100 percent Tempranillo and a great representation of the iconic Spanish wine. This is a smooth and easy to drink red wine that is a bit juicy, a bit spicy, and an earthiness real wine lovers will enjoy.

The wine comes from vineyards more than 70 years old. It has a little heat at 14.5 percent alcohol but is a bargain at $12.99. This is a wine that will hold up to a steak or any beef dish.

I love the new world wines from South American but Spanish wines and traditional old world wines still have much to offer. I don’t recommend a lot of French wines or Italian wines but I’m working to improve my knowledge base.

French and Italian wines are tougher to get your hands around because of labeling and the great number of wines available. Wines from both countries are known by their region and not the grape. The wines of France’s Cotes du Rhone region are often Syrah and Grenache wines and varied blends that are rich, earth and spicy.

Domaine Lafage Grenache Noir is a great way to try a Cotes du Rhone. It’s made without oak, as French winemakers take a hint from the New World vintners, so the tannins are very soft on the finish. It’s a rich full-flavored wine with a smooth finish you have to try to believe. You can find it in many Indiana wine shops around $12.

Try the Grenache Noir with pork and mild to medium flavored dishes.

One of my earliest columns was about the Malbec grape. There are lots of great Malbec wines available but none better than Susana Balbo’s Crios Malbec. Her 2008 Malbec is dark purple with a freshness you’ll really enjoy. You’re going to taste cherries and a hint of spice.

Balbo isn’t just Argentina’s best known female winemaker but one of the country’s best known international wine stars. She prides herself on making young wines that are ready to drink.

My last recommendation for is for those with a sense of adventure and those who like Italian wine. The grape is Uva di Troia from Italy’s central costal region. At the recommendation of one of my favorite wine retailers I picked up a bottle of Santa Lucia Vigna del Melogram Uva di Troia.

The wine is certainly a typically dry Italian wine but it has a fresh taste that lets the fruit shine. The tannins are soft with a long and enjoyable finish. This is a food wine that would pair well with hearty pasta or red meat. I paid $14.99 for this wonderful experiment in something new. Try this wine with yr spicy pasta dishes. It would also work well with other spicy and rich foods.