Thanksgiving Wines

Slumped against the grimy wall, I rode the wheezing elevator, creaking and clanking, to the 15th floor of the old high-rise in downtown Eugene, then ambled down the hall, dodging peeling linoleum, stopped at our office door, Wine Investigations, flaking black letters on frosted glass. The door was ajar, Mole obviously already at work. I pushed in, tossed my ragged fedora on a hook, surveyed our “lab.” I couldn’t suppress the dread that rose in my chest.

Every year, we go through this, trying to decide on the “best” wines for Thanksgiving feasting. Partly, at least, we struggle with the “traditional” menu — roast turkey, savory dressing and gravy, sweet spuds, beans, squash and the rest. Our problem, see, is that most wines just can’t match up well with the herbs and spices and volatile aromas/flavors on the traditional table — at least no single wine. David Lynch, wine-scribe for Bon Appétit, got it right: “There is no such thing as a perfect Thanksgiving wine.” True dat. 

But Mole knows, too. His wife, the charming Molly, loves to feed people; her holiday tables are legends, and Mole covers the wines (note the plural): “A propa feast,” says he, “gots ta staht wit bubbles, den offa ever’body da kindsa wines dat’ll hang wit da chow.”

Eloquently put. Word: Lately, wine geeks talk about cava when they talk bubbles. Cava is Spanish bubbly, a blend of weird Spanish white grapes, vinified in the Champagne method but guvmint-subsidized so that the price is shockingly low. Mole had already selected Torre Oria Cava Brut Reserva ($9.95!). We tasted: crisp, clean, delightful. Pump up the party.

The phone rang. For once, I didn’t ignore it. Dan Cooley called to give me grim news: John Cooney, respected wine wholesale rep in this area for decades, is going down; Dan wanted to know if I could give John some ink before he checks out. Gotta do it: Few people outside the wine biz might know it, but John Cooney deserves a place among the Best of Eugene. Gobs of good wine found its way into this little market — probably more than warranted — only because John Cooney (Dan Cooley, too) brought the wines to our retailers, hence to us. That happened because John earned respect for his honesty and his palate — if John said the wine was good, then it was. John is perhaps best known for his “Natural World” segments on KLCC.

Nobody gets a pass on this life. Nobody lives forever. But some go too soon, and that’s sad. And some departures leave a gaping void, a loss that really can’t be filled. Leonard Cohen, in one of his most poignant lines, sings, “May everyone live, may everyone die. Hello my love, and my love goodbye.” Thanks, John, for a life of worthy work. You made living better for many folks.

We’ll raise our glasses to you, filled with good wines you helped bring to our tables: Thanks again.

Mole brought me back, pouring tastes from our favorite turkey wine, gewürztraminer (just say guh-vertz). He’d selected Brandborg 2012 Oregon Gewurztraminer ($17.95), just delicious, aromatic, with zesty flavors of ripe grapefruit, slightly off-dry, the touch of sweetness just right to complement turkey — and many side dishes. Mole piped up, “Ain’t dat nice?” Yep.

Respected wine-mag Decanter assembled a panel of wine-pros to choose Thanksgiving wine. They concluded: Not pinot noir. Say what?  Nonsense: Mole brought out Dollar Bills Only 2013 Pinot Noir ($14.95): “Randy at Sundance steered us ta dis, made by Patricia Green, gots some cranberry accents, jes’ fine fer a feasting.” Light body, good balance, bargain price (for pinot noir). This’ll work.

Bottom line: Serve the wines you like. Be happy. Be alive — and remember to offer thanks for all the good people whose lives and work have made our own lives better.