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11.16.11

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Phaedra

Bring a Winner

By James Knight


The first day of November is All Saints Day, with all the respect those good dead folks deserve. But the fourth Thursday of November, let's just call that All Dude's Day, shall we? Because in how many families that you know—and bless them if they buck the trend—is the gender-based division of labor more clearly reified? There's no need to dwell, though, for there's no discounting the diligent, hard work that is allotted the passive Thanksgiving Day guest: the bringing of the wine.

The Thanksgiving table presents a complex challenge to the bringer-of-wine. On the one hand, the flavors on hand require a wide range of wine pairings; on the other, bringing too many bottles might seem lavish, at best or may invite family unrest, at worst. So in the spirit of the holiday, the Bohemian asks chefs and winemakers what "fail-safe" wine they'd bring to the table, if they had to bring only one.

Sondra Bernstein (pictured), proprietor of the Girl and the Fig and Estate restaurants, says, "Without question it would be a Tavel, a Grenache Ros– or another dry Ros–. Not only do I think it is somewhat safe, Ros– always adds a bit more to the festivities."

Khambay Khamsyvoravong, chef at HKG Estate, opts for a conservative approach: "I always bring Pinot Noir to Turkey Day, because this medium-bodied wine pairs well with a lighter meat such as poultry. Pinot Noir also tends to be full of juicy red and black fruit notes, which complement your cranberry sauces, rich stuffing and many other side dishes."

Suzanne Hagins, Lutea Pinot Noir specialist, nevertheless suggests a different approach: "I'd have to say I'd bring Chenin Blanc. Vinum Cellars Chenin/Viognier is great; it has ripe fruit, good acidity and is versatile with a lot of different foods."

Duxoup Wine Works' Andy Cutter suggests Gamay Noir: "It's just like a big fruity Zin, but with low alcohol. Good match for a ham or big bird, particularly a great stuffing—always my favorite part of the feast."

Donald Shenton, wine and cheese buyer at Fairfax's Good Earth Natural Foods, suggests Pinot Noir to pair with their vegetarian feast of house-made almond-lentil field roast, wheat-free rolls and vegan mashed potatoes.

Personally, I have to concur with chef John Ash, who says, "Dry-style Riesling is the perfect wine to serve with holiday foods, which typically tend to include lots of aromatics along with sweet-savory highlights."

For the ultimate authority, we turn to Santa Rosa's venerable Willie Bird Turkeys, where general manager Beagle Brodsky takes a no-nonsense approach. "I'd say red or white," he says.


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