Thanksgiving brings up the usual stream of articles recommending wines for Thanksgiving. This exercise has obviously gone too far as writers now reach for extreme examples just to be “different” rather than sticking with something that actually makes sense. Amarone? Grenache? Possibly, but why in the world would you go so far out? The matches for the traditional American Thanksgiving dinner are simple: lighter reds and fuller whites. Common sense and a little knowledge is all that’s needed. Pinot noir or gamay (Beaujolais) and chardonnay or riesling if you like a little sweetness with the potentially dry bird. With the literally thousands of variations of these varieties there seems little need other than personal taste or a bored writer to practice this new extreme matching reality show. Also, not every menu demands complexity in wine. Mounds of turkey, sweet potatoes and stuffing requires refreshing beverages, not equally ponderous ones. Cool, fruity and zesty are more pleasurable than a wine as ponderous as the meal.
Perhaps all this extreme matchmaking is due to the fact that wine writers taste most of the wines they review without food. This is a very strange thing if you think about it. After all, wine really has no other purpose than to be part of a meal. Critics give wines points based on how they taste against other wines, not how they taste with dinner. This fact alone tells you how pointless points are when it comes choosing what wine to buy.
In all honesty I don’t drink wine without food: with the notable exception of sparkling wines. I just don’t get it. The first sip of wine always has me thinking about what bite of food is going to follow. The idea of a chardonnay or cabernet as a cocktail is beyond me. When I’m getting ready to cook I’m doing one of two things: either I’m looking for something to go with a particular wine or deciding what wine to have with the menu I’ve selected. The concepts of cooking, eating and wine are so tightly intertwined in me that I cannot separate their experience in my mind. I can’t even imagine why you would want to.
A beautiful veal chop thus led me to a bottle of 2009 Tendril, Tightrope, Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, the new release from my friend, winemaker Tony Rynders. Tony is making two Tendril pinots: “White Label”, a blend of his vineyard sites and Tightrope, a special barrel selection. The veal chop got the Milanese treatment and the wine was perfect with the dish and it was perfect with the wine. A very nice arrangement. The only breadcrumbs at hand were panko so the chop was even crunchier than usual. I’d do that again. The Tightrope’s tart acidity in the proverbial velvet glove was just the right foil to the breaded and fried chop. Being the foil is the wine’s job.
Only sixty cases of 2009 Tendril Tightrope were produced and you can only buy it from the winery at www. tendrilwines.com. The $64 price tag is a bargain for a wine of this depth It will be worth putting away for a few years to let it grow up. However, for Thanksgiving I’m recommending the more subtle 2009 Tendril White Label Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. It’s more forward and fruity than the Tightrope and certainly such an American meal deserves an American wine. However, with less than 400 cases produced not many tables will be lucky enough to be graced with a bottle this Thanksgiving.
Matching food and wine is about the combination of personal taste and common sense. There’s no reason to go to extremes: unless you have to write an annual Thanksgiving wine matching article that is.