The story of the first Thanksgiving is that the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag tribe sat down together to celebrate survival with a harvest feast sometime in 1621. We also know the Pilgrims drank alcohol, in fact their ship the Mayflower was a converted wine transport ship, and they had set aground in Massachusetts partly because they were out of beer. And we also know that their first Native American friend, Squanto, had asked if they had “beer” or “strong water” (liquor). So, booze was clearly on the table. However, the modern Thanksgiving feast: turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, yams, gravy, and cranberry sauce is based on a traditional English Christmas dinner. Which is doubly ironic since the Pilgrims were Dutch, not English (and certainly not Anglican), and Puritans as a rule didn’t celebrate Christmas.
But on to modern problems. One of the big arguments in the wine world is pairing wine with food. There are schools of thought that suggest that wine should be paired with every course, or that the wine should be paired with the entrée, or paired with the sauce, or the side dishes, or the dessert. Then there is a school of thought that suggests that any wine which is well balanced within itself should go with every dish. And then Thanksgiving comes along and jams all of these schools of thought together into one feast.
A wine that pairs well with turkey probably won’t go well with yams, or stuffing, or gravy, or cranberry sauce. And while the sommeliers scream “Riesling” every year, most revelers turn their backs on that suggestion. Is it buttery chardonnay or oaky cabernet? Both? Neither? The most obvious solution is to serve several different wines and let people make their own choices. Blasphemy, you say. Well, tell that to the Pilgrims.
With that idea in mind, we have taken the liberty of picking out four logical choices to be included in your Autumnal feast, all localized, of course, for your consumption. Mix and match according to your want, but do so responsibly, because drinking and driving never mix.
2013 J. Schram Sparkling Rosé, $160Top of Form
Sure, Schramsberg makes newer, cheaper sparkling rosés. And sure, they all include Marin County fruit (7 percent for their Schramsberg Brut Rosé, $47; 5 percent for their Mirabelle Brut Rosé, $31), but the J. Shram is the luxurious apogee of their winemaking. 24 percent Marin County pinot noir (Skywalker Ranch, Redding Ranch, Grossi Vineyards) explains the pink, and makes this delicate sparkler, well, sparkle. Stone fruit aromas yield to raspberry fruit along with almond and vanilla, laced throughout with apple pie spice. Always remember drink the best wine you have first, and this is one of the best of its kind.
2020 Deloach Marin County, Riesling, $30
Deloach Vineyards in Santa Rosa makes several excellent Marin County pinot noirs (Stubbs, Corda/Chileno and Azaya vineyards) and an excellent expression of Stubbs chardonnay, but Deloach’s truly unique offering is this 2020 bone dry Riesling. Sourced from near Tomales Bay (Corda vineyard) this dry yet rich green apple, peach/nectarine, honeysuckle mouthful rolls through a bracing minerality like fog over the West Marin coastline. When sommeliers crow about Riesling with turkey, it is Riesling’s like this one that they are referring to.
2019 Skywalker Vineyards, Marin County, Sommità Chardonnay, $40
Yes, that Skywalker. Sourced from the summit of their little mountainous estate in Nicasio (950 ft., ergo the name, Sommità or “summit”) this unoaked chardonnay retains all the fresh pineapple and apricot one would expect along with a clean minerality that would make a French Chablis blush. And at 12.5% alcohol it won’t club you or your turkey over the head either. This IS the chardonnay you are looking for.
2019 Brooks Note Winery, Azaya Ranch, Pinot Noir, $54
Mill Valley resident Garry Brooks had made his stellar West Marin pinot noirs at Trek Winery in Novato for about half a decade but has since opened his own facility in Petaluma at 426 Petaluma Blvd. North (tastings by appt only). His 2019 Azaya Ranch pinot noir was the last wine he produced at Trek. All subsequent vintages will be vinified in Petaluma. Azaya Ranch sits just around the corner from the Marin French Cheese Co. (of Petaluma), and Brooks’ expression of Azaya fruit literally bursts with ripe blackberry, offset by surprisingly firm tannins, courtesy of the cold West Marin winds which cause thicker skins that then produce more color and tannin than grapes grown in warmer areas. Brambly yet still elegant the incredibly low production (usually about 30 cases) is sure to go fast. Luckily, you may console yourselves with either Brooks’ Petaluma Gap pinot noir ($40) or his Marin County pinot noir ($38) if that happens. All are delightful.