Sat 29 Nov 2008
The economy being what it is, I decided not to go out and spend a boodle of money on wine for Thanksgiving dinner. I would just take a few bottles from the stock on hand, which would mean, of course, that people — 10 altogether — would be drinking different wines; when you receive samples, you have a lot of single bottles of wine. Then a friend coming to dinner asked what he could bring, and I suggested that he go to a retail store and buy a bottle of zinfandel without too much alcohol (under 14 percent, if possible) and a dry riesling from California. Yes, I advocate drinking American wines with the American feast, but it’s not a rigid rule. What would really be fun and commemorative would be to offer wines from many states, Virginia, New York, Michigan, Massachusetts and so on, but the logistics are difficult.
To get the second out of the way first, the Wente “Riverbank” Riesling 2007, Arroyo Seco, Monterey County, made from estate grapes, while an attractive wine, all peach and pear, lemon drop and limestone and vibrant acid, was too sweet for the dinner. I tried manfully to keep a glass going, but had to switch to my friend’s second wine, which was an inspired choice (see the following notes). The winery’s website calls the Wente “Riverbank” Riesling 2007 “semi-sweet,” which at 2 percent residual sugar it definitely is. Nothing on the label indicates that this is the case, however, a fact that can lead consumers into a trap if they’re looking for a dry riesling. This wine, by the way, barely qualifies as varietal; it’s a blend of 79 percent riesling, 19 percent gewurztraminer and 2 percent orange muscat. No wonder it’s so honeyed and floral! On the other hand, if you’re looking for a “semi-sweet” (um) riesling to drink with, say, spicy Southeast Asian or Indian fare, this would be a good bet. Very Good. And the price is irresistible, about $12 to $15.
My friend’s inspired choice was the Marietta Old Vine Red Lot Number 47, a non-vintage blend of zinfandel with dollops of carignane, petite sirah, syrah and cabernet sauvignon. (The lot number changes as the new version is released.) This was a robust and hearty wine, distinctly spicy, dark and savory with black current and blackberry flavors, a little earthy, minerally and rooty, but clean and very drinkable. At a modest 13.5 percent alcohol, the wine was great with the roasted turkey and all the side dishes. Very Good, and with a compelling price of about $10 to $14.
That bottle was soon consumed by a table-load of diners, so I reached for the Ca’ del Solo Dolcetto 2006, produced from Bonny Doon’s biodynamic Ca’ del Solo vineyard in Monterey County. No “sweet little thing” here, this wine is deep, dark and energetic, packed with spice and minerals and flavors of black current, blueberry and some Platonic wild berry. It brings up mulberry and cloves, hints of dried thyme, black olive and underbrush. Despite the complexity, this is not a heavy or obvious wine, and it carries its 13.4 percent alcohol lightly but inevitably. It was terrific with the turkey and chestnut dressing, roasted potatoes with Black Mission figs and thyme, a cornbread strata with broccoli rabe, a sweet potato gratin with ginger; such was part of our spread. 780 cases. Excellent. About $22.
O.K., that went pretty fast too, so I opened the previous wine’s cousin, the Ca’ del Solo Nebbiolo 2005, an authentic yet individual rendition of Piedmont’s great grape. This exhaled smoke, violets, new leather and plums from the glass. The wine is dense, intense and concentrated, tarry and earthy; imagine roasted plums made into marmalade and then infused with cassis and then somehow peeled into layers of dried cranberries and potpourri. After a few minutes, grainy, almost gritty tannins surge to the fore; this is a wine that, while drinkable now, could age until 2012 or ’13. Perhaps it was a tad overwhelming for the Thanksgiving feast, but it certainly made a great impression. 878 cases. Excellent. About $30.