Vino that dances for financial edge feasts
By Lance Sparks
Every year around this time, Mole and I scramble to prepare our list of Thanksgiving wines. For first-time readers, Mole is my sidekick/partner/shadow. He’s the Round Mound of Merlot and proud of it. But he’s an enigma: When we work wine tastings, Mole is the guy everybody likes and nobody remembers. He has stealth capabilities. He is “not the ’droid you are seeking.” Maybe the DOD should contact Mole, see if a short, round profile deflects detection. Mole’s sweet, too, or that’s how people think of him — he’s not sentimental when it comes to wine, but he has a wide wine tolerance — “We gots t’ have good juice fer da peeps an’ fer da high rollas, righ’?” Can’t argue with Mole when he nails logic to the table.
So Mole really fusses about the holiday wines; besides, his lovely wife, Molly, every year produces a feast that feeds a small regiment of family, friends and folks living on the financial edge. Nobody leaves hungry, and everybody who can enjoy a little vino with din gets a chance to taste good (but affordable — none of us is rich) wines that dance with the flavors of the foods and the spirit of the festivities.
Mole and I set up in our office-cum-lab on the 15th floor of Eugene’s oldest high-rise. The glasses were buffed, corks yanked, notebooks spread. Before we report our findings, we should admit our shameless support for local wines and winemakers; also, we had a semi-load of other wines we coulda praised, but we hadda choose:
For openers, bubbles and Capitello Brut ($28) is hard to beat. A blend of pinot noir (for depth of flavor) and chardonnay (for bright top-notes), beautifully balanced with pinpoint effervescence, it’s simply one of the Northwest’s best sparkling wines. Winemaker Ray Walsh hails from New Zealand but is raising a son and a daughter in Eugene, so he’s a local boy in our book. He also makes the wines, sparkling and still, for Domaine Meriwether, and all are superb. Strapped? Inexpensive but drinkable bubbles, sadly from the state of Washington, Ch. Ste. Michelle Brut ($10), is citrusy and crisp.
We’ve always urged that, as a match for roasted bird, Gewürztraminer (g’VERTZ-trameener — just say g’VERTZ) makes sweet melodies, and we like Oregon’s versions very much, particularly the Phelps Creek 2008 Dry Reserve ($18), even if the grapes originate in the Columbia Gorge; spicy, citrus-zest flavors and round lushness will harmonize with many food flavors of a traditional holiday table. For an off-dry version, look for Namasté 2006-7 Gewürztraminer Harmony Vineyard ($9), with pretty apple/pear flavors and a kiss of sweetness.
Uncle Jeffy wants his pinot noir, no matter what’s on the menu, and he’d rather have Broadley 2008 Pinot Noir Willamette Valley. Even at 20 bux, it’s a bargain — rich, round in berry flavors wrapped in woodsmoke, silky in texture. Even the bird would like the Broadley.
Aunt Mary gotta have her Big Red, so we gotta have Abacela Vintner’s Blend #9 Red Table Wine ($16). Simply put, Abacela is one of Oregon’s most exciting vineyards, as a place to visit (an Umpqua Valley destination) and as a producer. We like their whole line-up, from the bright white Albarino to their luscious port. Owners Earl and Hilda Jones and winemaker Kiley Evans have turned the Vintner’s Blend into a wine worthy of old European traditions: Assemble 14 grape varieties from trusted growers and concoct a bold, rich, quaffable red that is complex, deeply satisfying and affordable.
We know many of our friends and neighbors are still wrestling with the effects of the Great Recession (thanks, George), but we hope we can all come together in our national holiday to give thanks to and share the bounty of the harvest and raise our glasses in renewed hope for better times.