The Wine Whisperer: By Lorn Razzano
I thought I'd give you a fun recap of our Thanksgiving day wine and food treats. We were invited by our son Brian and his wife, Ruth, to spend a few days with them in Los Angeles for the festivities. Our son is a lead editor for the television series "Animal Planet" and Ruth also works in television and is a writer for the London Financial Times, as well as for other publications. We arrived in L.A. not only for Thanksgiving but for Brian's soon-to-be 30th birthday celebration. The vino was about to flow!
We know that traditionally and historically turkey is supposed to be the main event on the Thanksgiving table. The problem with turkey is that it has a very unique flavor and sometimes the wine pairing can be more of a contrast with the meat than blend with these flavors. This is especially true when other flavor components, such as very spicy stuffing and heavy, salty sauces, are added to the equation. The truth is that one wine just will not satisfy this table of plenty and the complex flavors associated with large feasts that might go on for longer than an hour!
Here were the choices for the dinner that I thought were well-chosen and are wines to think about for complex dinners and varieties of (sometimes competing) taste sensations.
Ciao Bella: This is a very interesting red wine from Sicilia. The wine is made from 100 percent Sangiovese, which we quite correctly would assume comes from Toscana. My spies tell me that these older vines are becoming quite the thing in Sicily and it appears, judging from the high quality of the wine, they are correct. The wine has lovely layers of plummy fruit, a hint of oak in the nose and palate and a wonderful density. There is nothing worse than a thin and acidic Sangiovese and this wine proved to be lush and beautiful. About 16 bucks. This is a nice wine all around. La Mura Nero d' Avola: Another Sicilian sweetheart with profound fruit, dry and velvet tones and a hint of black cherry in the nose. One of the great things about this Sicilian red wine — in fact, with most Neros — is the staying power on the palate. With many taste sensations competing on the palate, red wines with little tannin and soft fruit flavors are the perfect match.
If red wine is your thing with multidish evenings, try to stay away from the big, monster, tannic-high, wood monsters because this kind of wine will soon deaden the palate instead of integrate with the food. This is also true with wines of over 13.5 percent alcohol. Before long, the alcohol will be the only thing left of the palate and not much else. It is best not to bang the food around, but to go with the flavors; this is the real trick to fine wine and food pairing.
Lucien Albrecht Gewerztraminer: I am always reminded during the holiday season how few folks willingly choose this very fine white wine for dinner. One of the reasons this might be is that this wine can get spendy in a hurry and there is little for the average consumer to note how dry or sweet this wine can be.
For example, the American Gewerztraminers (meaning "spicy Traminer") have historically been sweet wines, almost dessert wine in their cloying backbones and sugary palates. The French guys are almost always dry and are perfect for large dinners where poultry is the ticket.
This wine had a very crisp back palate and lovely spice in the nose and aftertaste. A yummy treat indeed! Look for the drier Gewrztraminers hitting over 13 percent alcohol.
Just a final note: If you are dining in the Los Angeles area, Tess and I highly recommend the Italian restaurant Aroma. Superb cuisine, intimate dining, affordable prices and a wonderful wine list. The corking fee is a nominal $10 per bottle, which is very reasonable for a top flight restaurant in the L.A. area. (323) 644-2833 will get you a table and it is well worth the evening out.
We'll see you next week!