Friday, November 16, 2012

Something Old, Something New for Holiday Turkey

The Golden Rule of wine and food pairing is a simple one – if you like it, drink it!

But when the family gathers for the turkey feast next week or at Christmas time something more is often expected. How about something different? Or maybe it’s time to serve up something a bit more extravagant!

An occupational hazard for wine writers is the expected column of wine recommendations for the holidays so who am I to disappoint?

The first rule of picking wines for a big meal is do not overly focus not the main protein. Think about all of those side dishes and the different flavors. That makes almost any wine a good pick. But with the Turkey and main course there are some certain winners and perhaps a few you’ve never tried worth picking up.

A good domestic Chardonnay will work every time. You can buy palatable bottles at the grocery or most liquor stores. I recommend value labels Robert Mondavi, Mirrasou, and flip flop as very palatable wines if you want to keep you’re price point under $10 a bottle.

Dry Riesling is another outstanding choice. Frankly, there is so much good Riesling made in the U.S., you don’t need to think foreign to find a great bottle. New York and Michigan are areas really emerging with their Riesling wines. Washington state winemakers are producing great Riesling. Several Midwestern wineries are doing Riesling as well.

If there is a decent wine shop nearby there are several other great choices. 

If you like drier wines but want a big nose of autumn in your glass try a Gewurztraminer or Viognier.  Gewurzt is one of the most aromatic wines in the world. It can be fairly sweet to off-dry. Viognier, my choice of the two, is a drier white wine with hints of apple, pear, and spice. For an even better pairing go drier with a Pinot Gris or Chenin Blanc.

For the extravagant dinner gathering, splurge for the world’s best white wine – Chablis. Better wine shops will have a few labels to choose from. Chablis is Chardonnay made in a dry, crisp style with tremendous minerality and acidity. Real Chablis comes from Chablis, France and nowhere else. 

Frankly, don’t buy the other stuff. Chablis would be awesome with any poultry. You can find great bottles starting in the $20 price range and up. Domaine William Fevre, Billaud-Simon, and Drouhin are just three labels which consistently make outstanding French white wine. 

Here is an option many people just won’t think about or consider, but Rose’ wines make a great pairing with poultry. Rose is that nice middle point between white and red wines and the quality continues to skyrocket vintage to vintage. Find a French Provence Rose or an Oregon Pinot Noir Rose for your Turkey.  Midwestern wineries make pretty good to outstanding Rose’ wines. Just go for the dry Rose wines regardless of region to match well with your dinner.

The red of choice has long been Pinot Noir for Thanksgiving. And again, if you are sticking with value look for the labels mentioned above.  But if it’s off to the wine shop, consider a French Beaujolais – and not that Nouveau stuff. Find a Beaujolais Cru wine from Julienas, Morgon, or Fleurie. The Gamay-based wines are very affordable at $12-$18 and great with food.

If you want to impress pick up any bottle of Oregon Pinot Noir above the $30 price point. It is sure to be a huge hit with your guests.

Next Column: Gadgets for the wine lover on your Christmas list!

Howard W. Hewitt, Crawfordsville, IN., writes about wine for 21 Midwestern newspapers. Reach him at: Read his blog at:

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Take A Fall Drive Through Indiana Uplands

Wine country and Indiana aren’t exactly words often found in the same sentence but neither does it create an oxymoron.  Indiana has several wine trails and more than 60 wineries.

If Indiana has a wine country region, it’s southern Indiana’s Uplands Wine Trail. That doesn’t mean there aren’t other viable wineries elsewhere but several of Indiana’s best wineries are part of the Uplands.

With fall slipping away, a weekend winery visit makes for a great day. Several of the wineries are close in proximity and offer pumpkin picking, live music, or food to draw huge crowds.

The biggest celebration is probably at Huber Orchard, Winery and Vineyards. Huber’s has thousands of pumpkins, live music, food, hayrides, and huge crowds every weekend in all fall. And frankly, Huber is one of a small handful of Indiana wineries making better Indiana red wine than most Hoosiers have ever tasted in state.

Huber Vineyards set atop the hills overlooking the Ohio River near Louisville. The elevation, old glacial soils, and environment make it arguably Indiana’s best spot to grow grapes. 

Just 10 miles away is Jim Pfeiffer at Turtle Run Winery.  Pfeiffer is a blendaholic by nature and takes Indiana’s sometimes eclectic grapes and makes very drinkable wines.

Check out Huber and Turtle Run’s Chambourcin red wines. You will be surprised how Pinot-like these wines can be when they’re well-made. Huber has very nice light style whites while Pfeiffer’s are uniquely tasty. And both winemakers have worked steadily to reduce the natural sweetness of Indiana grapes. If you are into Brandy, Ted Huber has been making and aging award-winning spirits for several years.

The Uplands Trail gives the individual wineries marketing power and identity. “Validity, validity, validity,” said Pfeiffer, winemaker and owner of Turtle Run Winery. “When you have event marketing and have big events people take notice.”

A shorter Uplands Wine trip would be to Bloomington to Oliver and Butler wineries. Who hasn’t visited Oliver? The winery made its name with the sweet reds and whites but the Creekbend line of Oliver wine and other bottlings are very solid choices. Try Oliver’s Chambourcin and his Syrah. Bill Oliver makes his Syrah in a lighter French style that’s fruit driven with a hint of spice. I’d challenge anyone to blind taste his Syrah and guess its origins.

Next wander into the colorful countryside to Butler winery. Jim Butler is another of Indiana’s wine pioneers. He got his start at Oliver and then branched out on his own. He owns the unique distinction of winning the initial category first place in the Indy International Wine Competition a few years back with his wonderful Dry Rose’ wine.

But the Uplands area is more than just marketing. It soon may get validity well beyond good marketing. Butler has put in years of effort to get the Uplands designated as an American Viticulture Area approved by the federal government. It gives the area a unique labeling for its style and quality of wine. It’s an achievement that wine aficionados will recognize as serious winemaking.

“We probably started four or five years ago and we’re in the home stretch,” Butler said. “I’m hoping by the end of the year we’ll have it.”

All nine Uplands wineries have good websites with directions and hours. The wine trail also plans a holiday event Nov. 15-Dec. 31. The state has two other wine trails, another through Southern Indiana known as the Indiana Wine Trail, and the Indy Wine Trail around Indianapolis.

Howard W. Hewitt writes about wine for 20 Midwestern newspapers. Check out his blog at:

Indiana’s Uplands Wine Trail
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