For this week's edition of What We Drank, our contributors share some of their favorite libations from the Thanksgiving weekend. As per usual, it's a diverse grouping of delicious sips.

LOE_frontenacFrom Julia Burke: Leonard Oakes Estate 2008 Frontenac and Heart & Hands Wine Company 2006 Pinot Noir

My actual Thanksgiving meal could be charitably described as
"underwhelming". Grandma insisted on our first-ever restaurant
Thanksgiving, and the place we chose lost points quickly in my book for
having no New York wine (or any really interesting wine), mediocre food, and
— unforgivably — no cranberry sauce.

My immediate family being one to
make lemonade out of lemons, we had our own Thanksgiving as soon as we
got home: I whipped out the local wine, my sister
and I made some grilled cheese sandwiches, and we all proceeded to get
drunk together and watch Home Alone.

The wines of the night were Leonard Oakes 2008
Frontenac, a deep, meaty, cherry-licious, badass version of a usually
sub-par hybrid that was so primeval it could almost be described as
bloody. The whiff of cherry candy gave it a weird and fun note;
ultimately this deep, bold wine sold my uninitiated godparents on
Niagara reds. 

Representing the Finger Lakes I chose a 2006 Heart & Hands
Pinot Noir. Raspberry/cherry notes and incredibly subtle oak — a rarity
in FL pinot, in my experience — made this a delightful lighter-bodied
red for those intimidated by the Frontenac.

Watching my family sipping
and enjoying the efforts of winemakers I've actually met, I was
thankful to live in a state with a dynamic wine industry, and the lousy
meal was long forgotten.

CdpFrom Evan Dawson: Bois de Boursan 2003 Chateauneuf-du-Pape Cuvee des Felix

This wine immediately finds its place among my A-ha wines. It was nearly a religious experience.

wife and I opened this bottle the night after Thanksgiving to enjoy
with leftovers for a nice, slow evening. We enjoy CdP, and we expected
to enjoy this one in particular because it's the high-end cuvee from
one of our favorite producers. 

CdP tends to
offer two styles. The first is a brambly wine, highly indicative of its
sense of place, streaked with iron or graphite, olives and tar, along
with subtle fruit. The second can be a monster, oaked and pumped up
with rich fruits.

This wine reached in all
directions and pulled in everything it could find, weaving it all
together seamlessly. "Long" wouldn't begin to describe it; it's not
quite the War and Peace of wine, but close. I have even discovered an
online retailer offering bottles for half price as it tries to move
inventory – ding a ling ding. Happy Thanksgiving indeed.


Root BeerFrom Jason Feulner: Saranac 1888 Root Beer

Just a plain old root beer?!?! Not at all.

I live for this stuff. Every
time my wife and I are at the grocery store, I beg for a six-pack like
a little kid.

Saranac is a line of beer and soft drinks made by the Matt Brewing
Company, located in Utica, NY. The company traces its history back to
1888 and was known for a long time as the maker of Utica Club beer. The
Saranac line is appreciated among beer drinkers, and the various styles
range from okay to pretty darn good.

I have tried all kinds of craft root beers from all over the place, and
I have never found one that is as good as Saranac. It has a creamy
resonance, a distinct root beer taste, and just a hint of cane sugar
backed by vanilla. Some bars in Syracuse have this root beer on
tap — talk about responsible drinking!

Normally, give me wine or beer or just plain water. I don't love soda. This Saranac root beer is my exception.


RednewtFrom Lenn Thompson: Red Newt Wine Cellars 2006 Riesling Reserve

 There were a great many wines opened, tasted and consumed during the four days we spent in western PA visiting my family for the Thanksgiving holidays. We had everything from Hudson Valley Frontenac to Chilean Carmenere to Touraine Gamay to Long Island Gewurztraminer to several Finger Lakes rieslings — this 2006 reserve from Red New Wine Cellars standing out from the crowd.

It didn't quite make it to the Thanksgiving table, though. We did a bulk of the wine drinking leading up to the meal, sitting in the living room, nibbling on cheese and bread, laughing as our two year-old entertained the family.

This one stood out because of the minerally vein of acidity that ran from start to finish. That acid cut through the richness of the cheese magically and refreshed the palate with each sip.

Plus, drinking a wine from Red Newt reminded my aunt and her husband of the trip they took to the Finger Lakes a few years ago after they got married — because they went there and enjoyed it quite a bit. They also enjoyed telling me about a restaurant not far from there that they adored but couldn't remember the name of — even though they ate there twice during their visit. "It was a woman's name I think," my aunt said.

"You mean Suzanne Fine Regional Cuisine?" I responded, followed by a broad smile crossing her face.

Yes, she meant Suzanne and I have to agree, it's a fine fine restaurant. I was thankful that something as simple as a wine I pulled from my cellar could conjure up great memories for my family.

2whpi77From Tom Mansell: Mazza Vineyards NV Niagara

When you're traveling for Thanksgiving, sometimes you have to roll with
whatever your host has on hand. 

In this case, I stayed at my cousin's
house one night and was treated to some Thanksgiving leftovers: turkey
and filling (which is distinct from stuffing and generally much more

I was not equipped with any wine of my own at the moment,
so I checked out the fridge. My cousin apologized for not having any
"real" wine (speaking of the Arbor Mist), but I zeroed in on the
screwcapped bottle on the door.

This bottle of Lake Erie Niagara from PA had been in the fridge for
who-knows-how long, but I gave it a shot anyway. And you know what? 
It was ice cold and really delicious. Yes, it was grapey, but also
very fruity in general, with some mixed berries. Nice acidity and
palpable sweetness was really refreshing after a long day of
traveling.  Low alcohol helped that, as well.

But the coolest thing about this bottle was what came out as I
poured the last glass (see picture).  A rock-candy-like formation that
could only be some kind of super tartrate crystal. I guess all that
time in the fridge was ideal for growing this huge crystal. It was
like finding a worm at the bottom of a bottle of mezcal.  No, I didn't
eat it, but I did take a picture of it. This was my most memorable
thanksgiving wine experience. 

Some consumers might have been turned
off by such a thing, but as you may know, I find these kinds of things
incredibly cool.


Lenn_tbaFrom Bryan Calandrelli: Guba/Cal Selections Trockenbeerenauslese 2008

Dessert wines stole the show at my Thanksgiving dinner as I chose a local vidal ice wine and this TBA made by a friend of mine at a local winery.

The grapes for this botrytis-blessed wine were all hand sorted, grape by grape, from a late riesling harvest conducted by me and my friend.

This 187ml bottle was just one of four I took home from the whopping 2½-gallon carboy of TBA made. At least ten hours went into sorting the grapes and countless other hours went into fermenting and finishing this wine for bottling.

In the tiny glass, the wine showed an impressive gold color with concentrated aromas of apricot and peach. On the palate it had super rich body and balanced acidity.

Poured side by side with the ice wine, the TBA showed more complexity and sweetness. It didn’t need the raspberry tart I paired it with, as it was dessert enough by itself.