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Vinous Advice for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is without a doubt my most favorite holiday. But when I was growing up, I pined for the mouthwatering turkey and stuffing feasts I heard of my friends enjoying. Instead my family always had a vegetarian, Indian Thanksgiving that took a while to appreciate.

Luckily I learned of a loophole that allows me to get the best of both worlds. I learned that Americans eat holiday “dinner” around mid-day! Bingo. I soon got myself invited over for the turkey feast of a normal friend and could still make it home for my family’s 8pm Chola Batura.

Now I settle for no fewer than two holiday feasts so that I make sure to get it all in. And of course two-plus meals also means more wine-ing. So consider me a Thanksgiving feasting expert, since no doubt I’ve enjoyed double the meals of the average eater.

Here were the lucky question winners from this week:

Karen O’Mara: What goes best with ham and turkey?

If I had to pick just two grapes to suit every Thanksgiving meal, I would go for the Pinot family. Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris make very different styles of wine — one makes aromatic white wines, the other silky reds, but they are actually related. In fact, Pinot Gris is a mutation of Pinot Noir. Unlike when I tease my kid sister, being a mutation does not relegate Pinot Gris to being a second-class sibling. “Gris” or gray in color, the grape Pinot Gris can make luscious mouth-watering wines with bright aromas like pear and pineapple. It lends juiciness to the turkey and stands up to all the bold flavors in your meal.

As a red wine, Pinot Noir is an easy Thanksgiving pick. It is a versatile, food friendly wine that matches nearly anything. The juiciness of the cherry and strawberry tones in a good Pinot Noir like this one from Oregon can do the same thing for your meal that a great cranberry sauce can: brighten and contrast all the rich, savory flavors with some fruit. Both fruity grapes are great matches for ham as well because they contrast the saltiness.

Wendy Isbell: We bought a couple of cases of ice wine in 2006 while in the Okanagan and have quite a bit left, not knowing much about wines and ice wine in particular, does ice wine continue to age and get better? Or is it just expensive syrup for ice cream now?

The holidays are a great time to break out your sweeties, or dessert wines. Ice wines contain the very structural elements that can help a wine age with grace: sugar, acidity and fruit concentration. I’ve had aged German eiswein that was really delicious, but not their Canadian equivalents.

The thing about aging wine is that it changes. Ice wine is renowned for its preservation of the grape’s fresh fruit flavors. As wine ages, the pure, fresh tones will be replaced with dried fruits and earthiness. Not everyone loves older wines but others (like me) wouldn’t have it any other way. Give it a try and let us know!

Farrah Gummerus Ritter: How much wine is necessary to keep my family from squabbling at dinner :)?

Is there ever enough wine for this? Under normal circumstances, people say one drink per person per hour. So a ten-person dinner for four hours might require 40 drinks or seven bottles of wine. For the holidays, I’d go with a bottle per person to be safe and maybe a few extra for good measure!

Barisa Berner: I finally bought a decanter for my collection of Lot18 wines and am curious how long wine will last once it is poured.

Barisa, I wouldn’t store wines in a decanter the way you would a spirit such as Scotch. Use the decanter to aerate the wine before you drink it. Depending on the wines and how soft you like to drink them, the time really varies.

To be on the safest side, I would decant anything (even white wine) and then consume it within an hour or so. I think any wine, except old wines where you have to be a little careful with anything ten years or older, benefits with aeration. Decanting really volatizes the aromas, making the wine’s complexity shine through.

When you read on a Lot18 Review that a wine will improve with age and hit its peak in several years from now, then it is probably a great candidate to decant for a longer period of a few hours. Dense, young wines like California Cabernet, Châteauneuf-du-Pape or premium Bordeaux are all good examples of a wine that will get significantly smoother to drink and more aromatic with a few hours.

Michael Gamble: Dinivino, I’m brewing my own Pumpkin Lager that should be done in a few weeks. I live in the mountains in CO….really nice on a cold Thanksgiving. But I’m doing a lamb shoulder for thanksgiving this year with a lot of rosemary. I’m looking for a Pinot Noir that would go good with a heavy rosemary lamb shoulder, maybe something light and fragrant with some density to the black cherry and fresh orange peel aromas and flavors. Does that sound good or would you recommend something else?

Michael, you could go for a Pinot such as this Thirty-Seven Pinot from the Sonoma Coast where it is nice and cool so the wines don’t get overly ripe nor strawberry in tone but rather more black cherry flavored. It is a French styled Pinot Noir from California with an herbal component too which will match well with the rosemary.

However, with the strong flavors of the lamb itself I would be tempted to try a Southern Rhône wines such as the Châteauneuf-du-Pape from Gigognan. If you have ever been to that part of France, you might recall the “garrigue” or brush that you can smell in the air. I get this in the wines as well and think it works really well with lamb the same way the rosemary does. Your recipe is making me hungry!

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