Uncorked D.C. – Wine’s generosity at its best

There will be no Sneak Preview Wine of the Week this week, as my Washington Post wine column appeared already in today’s special Thanksgiving Food section. So I offer instead my prepared remarks at last Thursday’s Uncorked D.C. charity dinner, a worthy event that I have helped with for the past five years. The event was created by Kristopher and Tracey Schroeder and has grown to 130 people, with a waiting list. The dinner is held at Clyde’s of Gallery Place, and the food keeps getting better each year. I wanted to crawl into the apple pie and take up permanent residence. There are plenty of society photos of the event at Revamp.com. Yes, I need to lose weight, and yes, I was one of the oldest people there.

This is the fifth year we’ve gathered here for Uncorked DC, to enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving meal and help out a very worthy cause, So Others Might Eat. I’ve always admired Kris and Tracy Schroeder for initiating and sustaining this philanthropic effort, and I’ve admired all of you for coming, despite knowing that you’ll be eating this same meal next week. And as the crowd continues to grow each year, I marvel at how brilliant Kris was to schedule this the week before Thanksgiving, rather than the week after.

The Thanksgiving feast at Clyde's of Gallery Place, with all those wines!

Several myths have developed over the years to complicate the question of what wine to enjoy with your Thanksgiving meal. These myths have been perpetrated on you by wine writers, the parasitical profession that I represent before you tonight.

The most perfidious of these myths is that no wine goes with the turkey meal. Like most myths, there’s a kernel of logic here. Our traditional Thanksgiving feast is not the orderly progression of courses in a European meal or a restaurant tasting menu, but rather a cacophony of flavors on our plates all at once. Start with some poached oysters, and your sommelier might recommend a steely, minerally Chablis. Follow that with roast partridge and a wild mushroom fricasée, and the somm may suggest a Grand Cru Burgundy or a well-aged Barolo. But stuff those oysters inside a turkey, serve it alongside candied sweet potatoes and marshmallows, then slather it all with mushroom gravy and cranberry sauce — well, the sommelier runs screaming from the room.

The simple answer to this dilemma is to turn the Thanksgiving feast into a wine and food pairing laboratory by opening several different wines, as we have each year here at Uncorked DC. I know I’ve repeated my favorite Thanksgiving refrain in this context: Open one of everything – any wine is likely to go with something on your plate. And you’re going to have enough family members over that you’ll probably need more than one bottle anyway.

Another popular Thanksgiving wine myth is that the wine has to be American, since this is a uniquely American holiday. Again, I think writers are stretching for a theme. We are supposedly a nation of immigrants, and I see nothing wrong with celebrating our European, South American or antipodean heritage with drinks from our ancestral homelands. Of course, taking this thought to its logical conclusion, I should be drinking Scotch.

There’s nothing wrong with going the all-American route of course. And as it turns out, we have purely by coincidence offered you an all-American list tonight. We toasted you with the Thibaut-Janisson FIZZ, a sparkling wine made near Charlottesville, Virginia. Those of you who are repeat offenders will recall that we have included one Virginia wine each year. I actually asked Kris if he’d be willing to go exclusively local this year, because I’m confident we could find seven wines to excite us, but he turned slightly white and gave a shudder. I think he saw the bidding going lower than last year.

The white wines arrayed before you begin with the Sean Minor Sauvignon Blanc from Sonoma County. This is a textbook California style for Sauvignon Blanc, without the grassy aggressiveness of New Zealand, and an emphasis on tropical fruit flavors – but still with good acidity to match with complex foods. The second white is the Mer Soleil Silver, an unoaked Chardonnay from Monterey County. Kris likes the bottle – we both liked the freshness of this wine and its pure Chardonnay flavors unencumbered with the flavor of barrels.

The third white is my favorite of the night, the Dunham Cellars Riesling from the Columbia Valley in Washington state. This region produces some stunning Rieslings, and Eric Dunham is one of its star winemakers. This rich full-bodied wine has a touch of sweetness to it without actually being sweet. Riesling can do that, and that’s one reason why you will see Riesling recommended often for Thanksgiving.

So onto the reds! Our first is the Martin Ray 2010 Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley in Sonoma County. Pinot, like Riesling, is amazingly versatile with food, and therefore a turkey favorite. The Russian River Valley is known for its pinots because it is cooler than vineyard areas further inland. The river captures the Pacific fogs and breezes and channels them throughout the valley. This moderates daytime temperatures and helps maintain acidity in the grapes. This wine is very young and last year was not a typical California harvest – it rained quite a lot – so here’s a chance to see what this region and this producer can do.

The Kunin Pape Star is a Rhone style blend of Grenache, mourvèdre and Syrah, primarily from Santa Barbara and Paso Robles. It features lush California ripeness with impressive balance and a velvety texture. And our final wine is probably no stranger to many of you if you have been exploring wine for long. Ridge Vineyards produces some of California’s best Zinfandels, and the Lytton Springs vineyard is one of its most famous. This comes from the Geyserville area of Sonoma County – inland and much warmer than the Russian River Valley. So differences in grapes aside – and no Pinot should taste like a Zinfandel – you might be able to get a sense from these wines of the effect of climate just a few miles apart.

Wine is a generous beverage. It makes us feel generous. You don’t see cognac auctions to benefit charity, but wine auctions are famous, from the Hospice in Beaune this time each year, to the Napa Valley Wine Auction, to the American Heart Association’s Hearts Delight each May here in D.C. – and of course, Uncorked D.C.

Wine is fleeting. Once the bottle is opened, it begins to die. It demands to be shared. I’ve never met an ungenerous wine lover, and it’s a testament to this quality in wine that you are here tonight to support such a worthy cause.

Cheers!

About Dave McIntyre

Wine columnist for The Washington Post, co-founder of DrinkLocalWine.com, and blogger at Dave McIntyre's WineLine (dmwineline.com).
This entry was posted in California, Food and Drink, Local Wine, Sparkling Wine, Virginia, Washington, Wine and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Uncorked D.C. – Wine’s generosity at its best

  1. George Christo says:

    The Pinot Noir thing is a tried and true for me on Thursday. (I’m partial to Adelsheim from Oregon.) I dig out a riesling/gewurtztraminer on the white and the pinot for the red, and everyone comes away happy. However, a couple years ago, a revelation: a really good Norton (Chrysalis Locksley Reserve) stood up to the whole (traditional turkey) plate and made it totally work for me and my family. Best Thanksgiving wine to go with the meal that I have ever found. That said, I do think it needs to be a really good one to balance the meal out “correctly,” as Norton can be “too much” for the plate without a little culturing that can be found in a good one. (Can you tell I’m in the middle of reading “The Wild Vine?”) Happy Thanksgiving, Dave and all!

  2. Les Hubbard says:

    Dave,

    Bravo on yesterday’s Post column – finally a common snese approch to wines with the mutlifacited Thanksgiving feast. I won’t be cooking the turkey for the first time in 45 years and I’ll take our dinner hosts a bottle of sparkler, a Riesling, and for the ending a 100 year old vines Burgundy. Now for the middle red – if the Pied de Perdrix arrives before Thanksgiving the choice is made. If not, a nice Baeujolais or perhaps for fun that Nouveau I haven’t tasted yet. May you and your family enjoy wines as nice as those listed for the Uncorked D.C. dinner, alas even if missing a local wine.

    Les

  3. Pingback: Terroirist » Weekly Wine Roundup: Drinking for a Cause!

  4. Michael Borboa says:

    The next time you try a baked ham try a nice well made White Zinfandel. Not the plonkers mind you, but a wine with ~10% EtOH. TA in the 8 g/L range with around 1.0% RS. A WZ made from an arrested fermentation to preserve all the generous fruit. FYI – the EU has caught on and only allows the term Zinfandel Rose to be used. I feel sorry for those wine drinkers out there that have never tried a delicate, balanced, elegant Zinfandel Rose.
    IMHO – Rodney Strong Reserve Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. Rick Sayer nails this wine year in and year out.
    Mer Soliel Silver – spot on.

    • Michael – You obviously pay a heck of a lot more attention to your White Zinfandel than most people do – can you give us some examples of WZ’s that meet your specifications?

      Two I’ve enjoyed in the past (and I admit this isn’t a category I revisit often), have been Beringer’s *sparkling* White Zin and Pedroncelli’s Zinfandel Ros.

      Cheers! Dave

  5. Pingback: WineLine Poll #3: What wine will you drink with your turkey? | Dave McIntyre's WineLine

  6. Michael Borboa says:

    Dave the reason i responded was that a few years back I was encouraged to try a Fresno State Vineyards WZ with the turkey and ham on Thanksgiving. I was stunned at how well the wine paired with the slightly sweet Honey Baked ham. This wine was 1.0% RS with bracing acidity.
    I’m a winemaker that works for a winery that exports oodles of bulk wine all over the world. My product is arrested at 1.0% RS to save the delicate fruit. Then the sales staff tries to emulate the Gallo’s, Sutter Home, Blossom Hill….. recipe of ~3.5% residual sugar and insists on sweetening to the target market. I can’t stand it like that.
    We enetered/won the Swedish Tender for Zinfandel Rose last year with a wine much less sweet than the System Bolaget had asked for. My point being that recipe wines are the choice of the gate keepers and not neccesarily the consumer. An arrested Zinfandel Rose with 1.0% RS and a bump of malic acid could change the whole WZ market as we know it. I can’t point to specific examples of this style as they not our branded product and I have signed a confidentiality agreement with my employer. However if you would like to send me your shipping address I will be glad to send you some samples to try.

    Best Regards
    Michael

  7. Pingback: Another Great VA Wine for Celebrating! | Virginia Wine Gazette vwg-online

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