Writing from the edge of the Russian River in Sonoma County
Only three of us shared Thanksgiving dinner, Peggy, myself and Peggy’s cousin Sarah who brought a great dessert that you’ll read about later but as always I still did my standard Thanksgiving presentation: a brined turkey stuffed with only vegetables, butter under the skin on the breast and basically poached in chicken stock on a Weber filled with hickory smoke.
Of course my I made my sourdough bread dressing with the pound and a half each of my homemade breakfast sausage and lovely thick cut, smoked bacon from my wholesaler, a pound of mushrooms along with the onions and celery. The cooking stock from the turkey with all the vegetables and smoke becomes the base of my gravy with butter and flour incorporated to thicken and finally a homemade cranberry sauce.
Peggy made a delicious fresh crab, and if you can believe it, Ritz cracker baked appetizer that was really good and went well with the Robert Young Chardonnay.
We decided to expand our normal wine selection by a few bottles to see if other wine styles would work with our menu. We always have a sparkler and I decided to try a rose’ and the Roederer did not disappoint. In fact you may want to note that it really could’ve been the only wine we needed on the table as its high acidity cut through all the rich food and the lovely rose’ fruit really was an additive to the enjoyment of the meal as was the dark fruit of the Zinfandel and the cherry flavors of the Pinot Noir – both great matches.
The Chardonnay was overpowered by the rich smoky flavors of the rest of the meal. It would’ve been swell with a more conservative meal of oven roasted turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy. The Gewürztraminer and Grenache had the same issues with the strong flavors that we cooked with.
No Christmas Wine Bargains This Year
Bulk wine prices dropped sharply with the onset of the pandemic and you could have bought Napa Cabernet for $10 a gallon that equates to about $2 per 750 ml bottle and if you had bought that wine, you could have put a Napa Cabernet in stores for $15 a bottle and made some money. Even better was that bulk Sonoma Chardonnay was $5 a gallon with North Coast Cabernet from Lake and Mendocino counties at just $2.50 a gallon.
Those days are over according Brian Clements, vice president of Turrentine Brokerage, in his remarks about the state of the Northern California wine industry at a session of the Wine Network Expo trade show recently held in Santa Rosa, CA. That same bulk Napa wine is now $41 a gallon – and very little bulk Napa Cabernet is to be found. Sonoma bulk Chardonnay has tripled in price and bulk wine prices are headed upwards from there, Clements said, because there isn’t much available after fires affected the 2020 vintage and a smaller crop in 2021 with the lack of rain but great growing conditions.
In a one-on-one interview after his presentation Clements confirmed the positive outlook for a very good 2021 vintage that I also have received from winemakers at La Crema and Pedroncelli especially in Napa and Sonoma, but he said the price of that wine is going to increase.
“18 months ago there was an extended oversupply of all types of bulk wine with 28 million gallons for sale and but now there’s less than 5 million and factor in the cost of doing business has gone up since Covid restrictions and will be reflected in the price of a bottle of wine going forward”, he offered.
I asked him why sales in the under $11 bottle range have fallen so quickly and his response was quite contemporary. “People have a much more positive outlook and they’re able to get out and about and want to spend the money that they haven’t been able to for the last 18 months so they’re going to be buying up market for wine”, and he concluded with a smile. “Remember 18 months ago we were running to the grocery store for toilet paper and lots of cheap wine and fortunately we don’t face that same situation at the moment.”
Unfortunately what all this means for you wine drinkers is that your California bottles for Christmas and New Years are going to cost you some more – so get a paper route!
“I’ll have Wine with My Pie”
So much is made of the Thanksgiving meal, the turkey, the stuffing, and the traditional sides; all accompanied by just the right wine. But what about of the pies served at the end?
Lettie Teague, wine writer for the Wall Street Journal, must’ve had an interesting time sampling a number of pies and in fact figuring out what dessert wines should be served with them. I’m sharing some of her edited thoughts as well as mine.
Dessert wine and sweet wine are actually distinct categories. Desert wines are styled to pair with food, whereas sweet wines are simply jacked up with sugar to please sweet mad pallets. A great dessert wine, still, sparkling or fortified, doesn’t only deliver sweetness but also heightens the flavor of food, whether apple tart or pumpkin pie.
Rupert Symington whose family owns port brands such as Grahams, Dow’s, and Warre’s offers a good explanation why these wines are a great match with desserts. When it comes to matching dessert wine and pie, there are three main characteristics to keep in mind: acidity, sweetness and viscosity. The wine pairing for a very rich pie needs to be rich itself, but it should also marked by bright acidity. And the wine should match the pie’s weight: for example, pecan pie and tawny port make an ideal pair because tawny port has terrific acidity as well as concentration and richness..
The wine matches offer a concentration of sugar and/or alcohol and as a result the wines will stay fresh for days or even weeks once there opened, so you can carry on the pairing throughout the holiday season giving you the chance to try some banana cream with Muscat.
Remember these wines may not be available in all markets but as I often suggest, take the list with you when you go to your local wine store (and maybe a small sample of the pie so the person can match the flavor profile, you make a lot of friends doing this by the way) and ask them for the wine or something else like it.
I actually found the Sherry recommended for the pumpkin pie at Bottle Barn and it was a lovely match. Our dinner guest, Peggy’s cousin, is a specialty nurse in a maternity ward but is also a highly skilled chocolate maker. She provided an outstanding chocolate truffled custard tart with what I’m calling a “bone dry” low sugar, ganache that was truly something I had never tasted. I post matched it with a 20-year-old port that turned out to be just a tad alcoholic. We all did agree that raspberries would be a wonderful match with the tart though.
Where’s the Tractor?
I’d like to share one of the most bizarre public relations and marketing snafus that I’ve ever seen and while it doesn’t relate to food and wine or who has the best cheeseburger I did get to eat food and wine as part of a dinner allegedly to promote an electric tractor targeted at the grape growing market.
The 2021 Wine Expo Tradeshow and Conference was recently held at the fairgrounds in Santa Rosa, California. It’s a show that I have attended in the past and receive a media badge for entry.
And so my strange journey begins. Two days before the show I get an email from a PR firm in Minneapolis – “…I would like to extend an invitation for you to join (name of the firm deleted to protect the innocent) a California-based zero emission tractor company, for a small gathering at Kendall Jackson Winery…” (please note the following quotation) “There will be an e70N electric tractor on display”. I assume I was invited because I was on the media credential list.
I arrived in total darkness and almost didn’t find the site of the event as there was no signage providing directions. I finally found “check in” except, here’s where things start to go odd, there was no one “checking in”. So I went to the wine bar. No one from the tractor company introduced themselves nor greeted me. Oh and by the way – there wasn’t a tractor which I expected to be outside in the beautiful landscaped area with lights on it and someone there to explain it to me, not on this night. And – there were no pictures of tractors on easels or on tables or leaning against the wall and when I asked where the tractor was no one had a clue – are you getting my drift?
So after chatting with the wine pouring person for about 20 minutes a small group of invitees headed into the dining room – there had been no announcement. The event was limited to 70 attendees though I believe there may have been 40 people in the room. I sat at a nearly empty table and waited for something to happen – but it didn’t. There was no welcome or greeting and it appeared that all of the company officials were sitting at the same table at the opposite end of the room from where I was. If this was my event I’d have had someone from the company seated at each table to glad hand and offer answers to the many questions regards an electric tractor – not on this night.
The highlight of my evening was sharing dinner with a grape grower from Fresno California. He also had no idea why he had been invited and had noticed the same lack of a tractor or of any contact made by anyone from the alleged tractor company. I did have an excellent dinner conversation with him regards growing Barbera and Zinfandel grapes for the Gallo wine folks.
After a fairly lovely meal we both excused ourselves and exited the event without seeing even so much as a brochure about an electric tractor.
So the next day at the Expo I figured I’d find a nice display and have a chance to speak with someone, again disappointment. The electric tractor on display was shoe horned into a rather small area – just around the corner from a brightly lit yellow tractor from the Massey Ferguson company properly presented.
Our tractor in question looked like it had fallen off a truck – dirty and dinged up, the tires were muddy. When I casually mentioned to the lady who greeted me that I had been at their dinner the night before but never had a chance to speak to a company official she appeared to have no knowledge of the previous night’s event nor did she offer to find someone for me to speak to. Really and that’s the face of your event?
In a previous life I have spent a lot of time producing events for 14 years as an assistant to a the longest serving governor of Illinois as well as other employers and I have to say I have never seen such a missed public relations and marketing opportunity – at least the dinner was good.
Wine Matches for the Rib Roast
This seemed like a good spot for the roast wines rather than on the recipe page followed by my sparkling list.
2018 Mount Veeder Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
The wine has a complex, layered flavor that has elements of plum, cherry and some mocha and baking spice and pairs perfectly with prime rib or a roast. 92 pts $40
Napa Valley Mountain Cuvée 90+ Cellars
This Bordeaux blend, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot from the Napa Valley comes in strong with plum, red currant and floral notes, as well as a little vanilla and spice, making it perfect for holiday sipping. Try it with a cheese course, elegant main dishes like a standing rib roast. $30 non-rated
Domaine de la Conseillère Juliénas (Beaujolais)
A rich, ruby red wine with good acidity, fresh strawberry and raspberry flavors. Try it with roast beef, pork or lamb. 88 pts $24
Champagne and Sparkling for the holidays
Harvest issues and transportation have rocked the Champagne region this fall and prices are up 30% is I’ve spent some time looking for reasonable bottles as well as a broader selection of domestic sparklers and yes there are three Roederer bottles and look at the ratings
I’ve already raved about the Rose’ and the 2015 L’Ermitage is a steal at the list price and more than likely even less at your local store.
Happy New Year!
PIPER-HEIDSIECK Brut Rosé Champagne NV 92 pts $72
2015 Roederer Estate L’Ermitage 93 pts $68
HENRI BILLIOT & FILS Brut Rosé Champagne 93pts $61
Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve NV 92 pts $60
Moët & Chandon Impérial Brut champagne 91 $50
Roederer Estate Brut Rose’ 94 pts $36
Mionetto Cuvée Anniversario Prosecco $25
Mumm Napa Brut Rosé NV 89 $20
Roederer Brut NV 93pts list @$30 < $20 Best sparkling wine @$20
Scharffenberger Brut Excellence 92pts $20
Chandon NV Brut 89 $20
That’s my Whine and I could be wrong…
My recipes for a Salted Beef Roast and the best Potato Mushroom Gratin are just a click away, Merry, Happy and enjoy!
Woody Mosgers, cooks, caters, writes, drinks and matches wine and food in Santa Rosa Sonoma at www.woodythewineguy.com