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Feast of Flavors

[whitespace] wine Complements to the turkey: Juicy and ripe flavors of apple and tropical fruit make this 1997 De Loach Chardonnay a fine companion to the holiday bird.

Michael Amsler

The search for that perfect Thanksgiving table wine

By Bob Johnson

IF THE ANNUAL Thanksgiving Day feast is a "formal" occasion around your house, heaven help you when the time comes to select the accompanying wines. I've been trying for years to uncover the "ultimate" Turkey Day vino ... one elixir, when sipped between mouthfuls of turkey and candied yams, that melds all of the flavors into a rush of hedonistic gastronomic delight.

It has been a fruitless search. Each year I experiment, and 10 pounds later, I crash and burn in a puff of smoke.

I am the Coyote, and the "ultimate" Thanksgiving wine is the Roadrunner.

(Hmm, maybe if we substitute roadrunner meat for turkey meat, the flavors of the roadrunner would ... Oh, sorry. Guess I'm obsessing again.)

So, to summarize, if your family stages a "formal" meal on Turkey Day, you may stop reading now. I can't help you with the wine. You may as well continue perusing the Independent; maybe a group you like has a concert scheduled at the Luther Burbank Center or McNear's.

However, if your holiday feast more closely resembles a king's pig-out, interspersed with heady doses of mirth and merriment, you've come to the right place. By extending the theme of overindulgence to the wine, the "ultimate" answer becomes clear: uncork not one, not two, but a whole bunch of bottles ... and hide Aunt Martha's car keys until well into the evening, after the post-bash java has taken effect and she's ready for the road.

The bottlings that follow (all are local except where otherwise indicated) would make wonderful additions to your holiday table. They are rated on a scale of one to four corks: one cork, no flaws; two corks, good; three corks, excellent; and four corks, add your friendly neighborhood wine critic to the guest list.

Prices are suggested retail or as seen in the marketplace:

wine Lush and peachy: The 1997 Chateau St. Jean Fumé Blanc--a new favorite.

Michael Amsler

1997 Gewürztraminer

A rose petal nose and a tart grapefruit flavor lead to a refreshing, slightly spicy finish. Gold medal winner at the San Diego National Wine Competition. $12. 2.5 corks.

Chateau St. Jean
1997 Fumé Blanc

Lush and peachy, with a broad feel on the palate that includes notes of grass, vanilla, and fig. One of the few fumés that would work well as a before-dinner sipper. $9. 3 corks.

De Loach
1997 Chardonnay

First came the winery's multiple bottlings of zinfandel. Now De Loach is confusing ... er, treating us to various designations of chardonnay. The "Sonoma" bottling is the original, however, and still this reporter's favorite. The 1997 rendition features juicy and ripe flavors of apple and tropical fruit, making it a nice addition to the Turkey Day table or a refreshing and satisfying pre-meal quaff. $15. 3 corks.

1997 Pinot Blanc

When does a pinot blanc not taste like a pinot blanc? When winemakers expose this relatively delicate grape to an overabundance of oak contact. M-S may have pushed the oak envelope a bit too far in the past, but not with this vintage. Now a nuance rather than a dominant flavor, the oak in this bottling complements rather than dominates the fruit flavors. $12. 3 corks.

Rosemount Estate
1997 Pinot Noir

No, we haven't added a 51st state. But this Aussie winery has its U.S. headquarters in Sonoma, so deal with it. This exuberant wine is still a youngster, but its sweet strawberry-jam and bright cherry flavors make it hard to resist. The fruit components are nicely framed by a buttery quality and alluring spice notes. $9.99. 3 corks.

1996 Reserve Chardonnay

Lactose intolerant? Stay away. But if you like buttery chardonnays, this one's is for you. This full-bodied Carneros wine also exudes pear, honey, and spice aromas and flavors. $19.99. 3.5 corks.

David Coffaro
1997 Dry Creek Cuvée

Start with intense black fruit flavors, add a dash of black pepper, and toss in a hint of fennel, and you have this unique bottling from Dry Creek Valley that will stand up to virtually any flavors on the dinner plates. The wine is an unusual combination of cabernet sauvignon, zinfandel, carignane, and petite sirah--a true tribute to the value of blending. $22. 3.5 corks.

Gallo Sonoma
1994 Zinfandel

This Frei Ranch wine has a deeply extracted wild blackberry nose with hints of pepper and allspice. On the palate, a sweet cherry flavor appears and follows through to the finish. Lip-smacking from the moment it touches your mouth until it's deep in your throat. This is not your father's Gallo. $11. 3.5 corks.

1996 Zinfandel

A highly perfumed, perfectly balanced vino from Dry Creek Valley with spiced berry fruit and powerful vapors of allspice. From one of the world's leading zin makers, this wine is at once racy and elegant. A special bottling for a special occasion. $19.98. 4 corks.

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From the November 19-24, 1998 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.

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