By Lenn Thompson, Executive Editor
Just like last year (and the year before that) here at the New York Cork Report we have decided to abstain from telling you what the 'perfect' wine is for Thanksgiving. Many wine writers are more than happy to offer their opinions, but to us, it's an exercise in futility. There are too many flavors and textures on a typical Thanksgiving table for any single wine to elevate any of them without getting in the way of others.
Instead of offering a dish-by-dish and wine-by-wine outline for your holiday meal, we have asked our friends in the New York wine community what they will be eating and drinking on Thanksgiving. Many talk about their own wines of course, but not all of them.
Oh, and just in case you were wondering, I'll be drinking plenty of riesling and pinot noir — from New York of course. It's likely that some sparkling wine, cabernet franc and maybe gewurztraminer will find its way into my glass on Thursday as well.
But hey, don't do what I'm doing. If you don't like any of those grapes, drink something else. Trying a handful of different wines is part of the fun of the most gluttonous of American holidays.
And now, here's what some of the people behind New York wines will be enjoying later this week:
John Ingle, Owner of Heron Hill Winery
"For only the second time in forty years we won't be home for Thanksgiving. We always saved that special day to share the bounty of our home-grown harvest with family under our own roof. Now that all of our four kids are married and celebrating at their homes, we've elected to take the feast to them — in Detroit.
Our second son Jody and his 7-month expecting wife Tara are real foodies, they truly appreciate top-quality victuals. We like to keep a steady flow of our Ingle Vineyard wines throughout the day's schedule. We're huge fans of the Ingle Vineyard Unoaked Chardonnay. Vibrant lemon drop flavors make for a nice cocktail wine. We like to serve wild turkey, home harvested off our land. Fate (and luck) have made this possible this year (as this picture shows).
We like to mix our homegrown Katahdin and Keuka Gold for mashed potatoes with a little celeriac or celery root to jazz up the flavors and pair with the dressing. We feature a family tradition — mashed sweet potatoes with either brown sugar, crumbled walnut or marshmallow toppings, your choice and yes homegrown Finger Lakes sweet potatoes, as big as footballs! We always serve fresh steamed sweet peas, lincoln or green arrow varieties.
We will follow the Ingle Vineyard Chardonnay with the Ingle Vineyard Riesling, always delicious and a good opposite enhancer as we approach dinner hour. Riesling goes great with turkey or you can slide into some food-friendly Ingle Vineyard Pinot Noir. The grand finale is Jo's famous apple cider pie made with homegrown organic apples and cider. This very well may be joined by a glass of Late Harvest Riesling. Oooh, I'm getting hungry! Then sleepy…"
Aaron Roisen, Winemaker, Hosmer Winery
"Well, we will be having our 2009 Sparkling Pinot noir Brut Rose for starters and probably 2009 Lemberger and 2010 Chardonnay with the bulk of the bird.
Pretty traditional food as well. sans the canned cranberry tube of my Minnesotan traditions."
David Page, Co-Owner, Shinn Estate Vineyards
"We'll be tasting some new and old wines as well as new spirits. There will be our Pear Cider to start, a few bottles of Rose and some Haven. We'll open a magnum or two of Cabernet Franc from 2005 and some 2003 Estate Merlot.
In addition we will have some of the just bottled Veil, an Oloroso-style wine made from sauvignon blanc and semillon. Sometime during the meal we'll offer our Shinn "Shine", a grappa-style spirit made from chardonnay fruit. For those that are still standing we may try some of the new Eau de Vie I distilled from seyval blanc and cabernet franc.
A few highlights of the meal: wood oven-roasted oysters, Peconic Bay scallop chowder, elk tenderloin, wood oven-roasted Milosky's turkey with all the trimmings, and cheese pumpkin pie."
Fred Frank, Owner, Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars
"At Dr. Frank’s Vineyards we have a large flock of about 20 wild turkeys that are very particular about their favorite grape variety. We have observed them walking through the chardonnay and making a left turn through the riesling to finally arrive at the gewurztraminer.
My wife Maryclaire and I will be joined by our three children for Thanksgiving feasting on wild turkey paired with Dr. Konstantin Frank Gewurztraminer."
John Bruno, Owner, Oak Summit Vineyard
Katie Roller, Director of Marketing, Wagner Vineyards
With my mom being from Nashville, our family has a few uncommon dishes — for this neck of the woods, anyway — in our Thanksgiving spread.
While we do do the whole traditional stuffing thing, in addition, we have what southerners refer to as “dressing.” Basically, it’s a cornmeal-based casserole, which includes eggs, celery, sage, and bits of turkey all mixed together and then baked. The result is a dense, moist dish that gives you a little taste of everything you love about Thanksgiving, all in one bite!
Some other Southern favorites that are always present at our Thanksgiving feast are my grandmother’s squash casserole — a recipe that has been passed along through several generations in my mom’s family — as well as, sweet potato casserole made with pineapple, pecans, and marshmallows. Last, but certainly not least, is the Chess Pie. A pie made of eggs and a TON of sugar (think custard), all nestled into a buttery piecrust.
As for wine, this year I have decided to boycott the go-to Chardonnay, which I have to say I am not a huge fan of anyway — especially oaked varieties. Instead, I will be traveling to Ohio with a slew of other delicious aromatic whites from the Finger Lakes. Right now, I am particularly into dry or semi-dry Gewurztraminer and I’m loving some of the sparkling rieslings we have going on out here right now.
Recently, I discovered a beautiful white that we do here at Wagner. Our 2009 Melody drinks beautifully, is full of ripe melon on the nose, and with 0.8%rs definitely is not a sugar bomb. If you’re looking for a wine to please everyone, Melody is it. Dry enough for those who prefer dry; fruit-forward enough for those who don’t!"
Anthony Nappa, Anthony Nappa Wines and The Winemaker Studio
"I love the annual debate regarding wine pairings for Thanksgiving, which is a very hard paring as the meal is heavy and full of strong flavors.
For us we always visit someone's family, and they always want us to bring 'our' wines, which of course works out. Fortunately all of our current wines I think would go great with Thanksgiving.
Luminous Riesling with a lot of acid to cut through the fatty foods and a hint of residual sugar makes for great balance and palate cleansing. Spezia Gewurztraminer is a big, dry wine. Its intense aromatics won't overpower the food while its full body, with mouth-coating viscosity can compliment strong flavors.
Bordo Cabernet Franc, is a lighter more fruit-forward red wine perfect for big meals, with lots of spice, herbs and a hint of greenness it will drink well with the whole meal.
Napple Cider (although almost sold out) will definitely be included, with apple and bready flavors, lightly sparkling, cold and refreshing it is a great drink to finish on or even with dessert!"
Roman Roth, Winemaker, Wolffer Estate Vineyards, Roanoke Vineyards and Grapes of Roth
John Leo, Winemaker of Clovis Point and Leo Family
"I really appreciate and enjoy Thanksgiving both for its expression of gratitude for all that we have and for the opportunity to see and break bread with family and friends.
We always choose to source local foods for the dinner and do the same for the wines. I'm still trying to catch my first Sag Harbor rambling wild turkey, but we enjoy a roasted Crescent Farm duck with my wife's special spicy marinade, lots of mushrooms and pan roasted potatoes.
As for the wines this year, I'm planning to enjoy Influence Riesling, Clovis Point Chardonnay, Onabay Great Blue Heron, T'Jara Merlot and Leo Family Red. I recommend each and everyone of them to you and your readers."
Charles Massoud, Co-Owner of Paumanok Vineyards
Matt Spaccarelli, GM and Winemaker, Benmarl Winery
For my family, harvest goes beyond the vineyard and into the woods where nature provides a bounty. This year we will be serving oyster mushrooms and Hen of the Woods mushrooms found on the outskirts of our vineyards with our roasted chickens. We will also be broiling some venison chops from a deer that I harvested from a vineyard that we source grapes from on the North Fork.
As for wines, we will be drinking Noblesse Oblige Sparkling Rose from Wolffer as our food prep wine, and the on the table will be a bottle of chardonnay on the skins from Shinn Estate to go with the chicken, our 2008 Estate Baco Noir, and a bottle of Carignane from Porter Creek vineyards in the Russian River Valley to pair with the venison and fixings."
Kitty Oliver, Director of Marketing at Heron Hill Winery
"My Thanksgiving day starts early, and as I suspect it is with most families, it's laden with tradition.
My kids and I all get up before sunrise to cook a big breakfast for my husband, before he goes out hunting. Family and friends trickle in all day, either to help cook, hunt out back, drink wine or be entertained by the kids.
We typically cook a wild turkey, garlic mashed potatoes, green beans, apple and sage stuffing, cranberry with ginger sauce and whatever else anyone brings. This summer I canned an orange-mint jelly especially for this Thanksgiving. We'll also have riesling and a late harvest riesling that's made by an old family friend.
We have a 12-person picnic table instead of a dining room table, so when it's time to eat, I ring the dinner bell on the deck (or fire a warning shot if they're really far away). Then everyone files in from the woods or other parts of the house, we sit down, say grace, pour more wine and enjoy a meal together.
Some things have always been a part of our tradition: the morning hunt, the homemade wine and the wild turkey (whiskey and game). I'm so glad to be able to raise my kids with these same traditions that I grew up with."