Thanksgiving season is upon us, and there is no greater need for versatile wines than Thanksgiving dinner. Deciding what to pour can be as challenging as deciding what to serve especially if dinner guests have different food and wine palates. Turkey seems to be the meat of choice, but it’s the sides that vary and hence the wine offerings. Some like mashed potatoes but others prefer oyster dressing; some like sweeter white wines while others crave a red wine with the meal. We can’t help you cook dinner, but we can make a couple of suggestions for wine pairings that might make these weighty decisions seem a little lighter!
We were out in wine country in northern Virginia this past weekend, and we sampled some wines that should provide readers with some choices for the upcoming holiday.
Chester Gap Cellars: Winemaker Bernd Jung has to be one of the few (if not only) Virginia winemakers to grow the Roussanne grape, a white varietal grown in Rhone region of France. The 2010 Roussanne might be an option if the meal will begin with either seafood bisque or feature a creamy sauce with the main meal. Aged for fifteen months in French oak barrels, the 2010 Roussanne exhibits tropical fruit characteristics. It is a bit higher in alcohol, so pair with something that can stand up to it. My own preference is the earthy 2009 Petit Verdot aged for two years in French oak barrels. Aromas of ripe dark plums and flavors of dark fruit and berries should complement dishes that are heavy on herbs and spices; non-traditionalists who opt to serve duck or game meats instead of turkey should consider this one.
Glen Manor Vineyards: Governor’s Cup winner Jeff White is now featuring 2011 wines on his tasting room menu. The four wines that we sampled would all have a place on the Thanksgiving Day table; of course, all of the wines were well-crafted. Serving shellfish before the main course? Can’t go wrong with the classic 2011 Sauvignon Blanc with its elements of grass, citrus and mineral that are characteristic of the varietal. White wine lovers who don’t drink reds? Red wine lovers who don’t drink whites? Offer the 2011 Rose with its aromas of red berries and fresh mint. This one can be served with just about anything on the menu. A nice acidity makes this rose refreshing (and it’s not sweet!) The 2011 harvest was considered quite challenging, but Jeff White has managed to produce excellent red wines from this tricky vintage. There was nothing wimpy about the weighty 2011 Cabernet Franc and its notes of dark cherry, cranberry and menthol. This would be my go-to wine for the main meal on Turkey Day especially if sides included cornbread dressing and fresh cranberry sauce. Going for beef stew instead of poultry? Try the 2011 Vin Rouge, a blend that is dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon (50%) and complemented by Petit Verdot (36%), and Merlot (14%). Smoky notes give way to aromas of plum, licorice and spice.
Still confused as to which wines to pour? I always recommend opening more than one bottle of wine for Thanksgiving dinner and then let guests decide which glass to sip with the meal. This option encourages guests to sample a few wines instead of only one. Who knows what will happen—that white wine lover may fall in love with a Virginia red wine!
We will post one more article about wine Thanksgiving wine options featuring two more Virginia wineries. Check in later for that one! In the meantime, be sure to try these wines at Chester Gap Cellars and Glen Manor Vineyards, and mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.
Yes, mind the wines at Chester Gap Cellars—they are quite good. We made a pre-spring break visit to the winery, and as always, Bernd Jung’s wines continue to impress.
Our tasting started with the two dry white wines, the stainless steel fermented 2009 Viognier and the creamier Viognier Reserve that is aged in oak barrels. Guess who preferred the oaked version? I did, of course. The eight months of aging in oak barrels imparted a weightier mouth feel while presenting peachy fruit characteristics. Paul goes for the crisper white wines that stainless steel fermentation tends to produce. I actually liked this one too with its intoxicating floral notes and, as Paul noted, “really peachy flavors.”
The red wines were likewise very solid. We both enjoyed the 2009 Merlot and appreciated its aromas of cherry, raspberry, dried herbs and sweet tobacco. We also noted similar fruit characteristics in the mouth, and Paul observed a “smooth finish.” Paul is the Merlot fan, and he jotted down, “daily sipper” on the tasting sheet. The 2009 Cabernet Franc proved to be a bit bolder but also well crafted with characteristic dark berry, eucalyptus and spice elements. However, the ultimate red wine had to be the young 2009 Vintners Red. Aged for 24 months in oak barrels and just bottled in February, this blend includes 53% Cabernet Franc, 27% Merlot, and 20% Petit Verdot. Earthy elements prevailed; however, swirling coaxed dark fruit and spicy aromas to appear. Buy now but drink later is my advice; in fact, I purchased a bottle for a future dinner that may feature leg of lamb!
Our tasting finished with the 2010 Petit Manseng. We are starting to hone our knowledge on this upcoming varietal in Virginia as it is appearing more frequently on tasting menus in the state. This one was presented as more of a dessert wine with residual sugar just under 6%. We also learned that Bernd Jung has planted Rousanne vines, and we were treated to a sneak pour of a newly bottled Rousanne. We’re not sure of Jung’s plans for the Rousanne grapes, but we intend to keep up with this development.
So as we tasted away at the tasting bar, Paul and I made note of the ever-present crack in the tasting room’s cement floor, and our tasting associates confirmed that indeed the crack had become a conversation piece as well as a permanent fixture. In fact, a future plan may be some sort of social media site entitled, “Mind the Gap.” We liked the idea as much as we enjoyed the wines. Paul and I shared a glass of the 2009 Merlot while enjoying a warm afternoon on the winery’s deck. Of course, we made sure to purchase some of our favorite wines. Plan a visit to Chester Gap Cellars, and be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.
We of course enjoyed some Virginia wine this weekend. We enjoyed the 2010 Galena Creek White from West Wind Farm as our sipper for the evening. You can see a video about the wine if you scroll down. For dinner Warren made roasted veal chops and wild rice. He also picked out three wines from which to pick our dinner wine. I opted for the 2008 Chester Gap Merlot. I know I’ve mentioned in the past but I’ll say it again. I’m really enjoying the 2008 reds. I wanted to find out if the 2008 Chester Gap Merlot would live up to what I’ve come to enjoy about the 2008 reds.
The wine paired beautifully with our roasted veal chops and wild rice. We noted a biig cherry nose with a hint of blackberry and lots of earthy elements…like a forest floor. We noticed similar fruit characteristics in the mouth with spicy nuances and a lingering dark fruit finish. As I suspected, this 2008 Merlot lived up to my expectations of a 2008 red. The longer it was opened and breathing, the better it got with each sip. If you haven’t tried the 2008 Merlot from Chester Gap, give it a try. And if you visit Chester Gap anytime soon, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!