Columns by John

John Brown has been a wine and food columnist in West Virginia since the 1980’s. His regular columns appear in the Charleston (WV) Gazette-Mail under the title Vines & Vittles and in The State Journal - a statewide business weekly

Bountiful food and wine options: giving thanks !

Okay, fellow gourmands, on your mark…get set… go – to the nearest wine shop and begin stocking up for the marathon eating and drinking season which is about to commence. Thanksgiving is the beginning of this forty-day holiday season which includes Chanukah and Christmas, and culminates with the New Year’s celebration.

It is also a time when you will spend about seventy percent of your yearly wine budget purchasing bottles for parties, gifts and holiday dinners. For me, it’s the most exciting time of the year. I’m like a kid in a candy store! The shelves of local wine shops are overflowing with bottles of every type and pedigree.

But, first things first. It is likely that turkey will once again be the featured main course for Thanksgiving at your house. The culinary versatility of turkey to be successfully paired with red or white as well as light or full-bodied wines makes picking a winner an easy proposition.

The reason? The bird is blessed with meat that has a variety of flavors, colors and textures which present opportunities for us to try a lot of different wines.

The type of stuffing you use adds a whole other flavor dimension which, depending upon the nature of the dressing, opens up even more wine possibilities. Thus, the holidays also offer we wine lovers a rare opportunity to sample a virtual sea of wines. Here are a few wine recommendations to match your holiday turkey and associated culinary accoutrements.

The traditional oven-roasted turkey with sage-flavored dressing does wonderfully well with sauvignon blanc, especially the wines that exhibit herbal characteristics. You might try Dry Creek Vineyards or Kenwood from California. Another of my favorites, particularly with sage dressing, is semillon. Try L’Ecole No. 41 Semillon from Washington State

Alsatian wines, such as riesling or gewürztraminer, will also work well with this more traditional treatment of Thanksgiving dinner. Look for Pierre Sparr, Trimbach and Zind Humbrecht wines from this often overlooked premium wine producing region.

But you can choose to accompany the bird with red wine too. Any number of medium bodied wines will fit the bill. For something different, ask you wine purveyor for a bottle of Chinon (pronounced She-non) which is a red from the Loire region of France made from cabernet franc.

Sangiovese from Italy ( I love the 2007 Banfi Centine) as well as tempranillo from Spain (try Martin Codax) are also excellent choices. Medium-bodied California or Washington State cabernet sauvignons such as Guenoc, Alexander Valley Vineyards or Chateau Ste. Michelle will also fit the bill.

I’ll probably try to re-create my mother’s Thanksgiving recipe this year. She would oven-roast her turkey, but her dressing had no sage flavoring. Rather, she would season with salt, pepper and garlic and then add roast chestnuts, celery and Italian sausage to her bread dressing. I have used full-bodied , rich California chardonnays to accompany this meal in the past,.

This year, I plan on opening up a 10 year old magnum of Patz & Hall Alder Springs Vineyard Pinot Noir from the Mendocino County. If pinot noir is on your list, you might try an Oregon wine such as Domaine Serene Yamhill Cuvee or one of Patricia Green Cellars’ wines.

On those occasions when I smoke or charcoal grill the “national bird,” I’ll usually create a stuffing of ancho peppers, chili powder, cumin along with chipotles, corn bread, chorizo sausage and cheddar cheese. This dressing will get your attention and it demands wines that can stand up to the more intense flavors.

My favorite wines with this spicy, smoky treatment are full-bodied Sonoma or Amador County zinfandels such as Ridge Lytton Springs or Terra D’Oro. I’ve also used French Rhones such as Chateauneuf Du Pape or Gigondas from producers such as Beaucastel, or View Telegraph.

We can’t forget dessert (or as we call it in my home “prelude to the couch”). Of course, Champagne is always my default option, but there are some other goodies you might consider too.

Make your pumpkin pie (and you) smile with a late harvest riesling or moscato with the final course. Look for Ch. St. Jean Late Harvest Riesling or Nivole Moscato D’Asti.

Have a great Thanksgiving!!

Chardonnay: Too much of a good thing?
Smoky linguine and a big red: an Autumn repast