Canada, let me pour your Thanksgiving wines

Michael Godel (photographs courtesy of Marc Rochette, marcrochette.com)

as seen on canada.com

Who do we owe a debt of gratitude for this long weekend respite? Frobisher, Lincoln, Parliament, Congress? Who can really lay claim to be called founder of Thanksgiving?

In 1879, Canada’s Parliament declared November 6th a day of Thanksgiving and a national holiday but had to do so each year by proclamation. On January 31st, 1957, a proclamation was issued fixing permanently Thanksgiving Day on the second Monday in October, thus eliminating the necessity of an annual proclamation. “A Day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed… to be observed on the second Monday in October.”

Back in the 1750’s, this joyous celebration was brought to Nova Scotia by American settlers from the south.”Thanksgiving in Canada is the second Monday in October, because by the time the last Thursday of November comes around Canada is frozen solid and a turkey won’t thaw,” writes Tom Johnson of the Louisville Juice. Guess Tom never made it up to Canada for the winter of 2011/2012.

It’s worth planning a Thanksgiving meal without any reason but to be hungry. Conversely, pouring a glass of wine alongside the harvest feast is simple necessity in my world, borne of my constant economy and curiosity.

Now, I’m not suggesting we all go out and fill a curved goat’s horn with fruit, grain and Pinot Noir. There are better ways to get your cornucopia or horn of plenty on. No, not those ways. Invite the family over, cook like a wild person and pour any one of the following wines.

The grape: Monastrell

The history: A thick-skinned varietal from Jumilla, in the northeast region of Murcia of southeastern Spain

The lowdown:  Customarily a hard nut to crack. This soft number is a red wine drinker’s sundowner

The food match: Goat Cheese on Crostini rubbed with olive oil and garlic

Casa Castillo Monastrell 2010 (165621, $13.95) to sniff is a bit oxy and to look is more than a bit purple. Enters territory of unfamiliar conjugations and be warned to watch out for the splinters but hey, it’s $14!  Built for a Raynolds/Miller North American palate, assays more like reposing Garnacha than trundling Monastrell, but there is beauty in the house.  87

The grape: Chardonnay

The history: Macon-Fuissé is found in southern Burgundy and the Roman Emperor Fussiacus is thought to be the founder of the village of Fuissé

The lowdown: Ostensibly organic farming, this Chard is achieved through manual harvesting and fermentation in stainless steel. Chablis like and better value

The food match: Crispy-Skin Roast Turkey, cranberry, sage stuffing and turkey gravy

Domaine De Fussiacus Macon-Fuissé 2009 (279000, $16.95) takes more than a lutte raisonée approach and blows my Fuisséing mind. Sits in a museum of scents, like Pomace Brandy by way of French Marc. Like toasted pine nuts in basil pesto. Verve, gusto, spine.  88

The grapes: Syrah, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon

The history: All French grapes but only in Argentina do they meet up like this

The lowdown: No longer atypical colección from Mendoza

The food match: Slow-Roasted Rump Roast, duck fat potatoes

Finca Flichman Paisaje De Barrancas 2009 (17129, $17.95) joins together as perfect a circle as could be dreamed from an Argentinian SML assemblage. A berry collective, refined and showing chocolate restraint. Seductive scents, velvet mouth feel, good length and balance. Simple and structured.   89

The grape: Pinot Noir

The history: Pinot grown in a bowl surrounded by mountains at the world’s southernmost wine region

The lowdown: Central Otago on the South Island of New Zealand is the most exciting emerging Pinot locale on the planet

The food match: Pork Shoulder, Bacon and Lingots Cassoulet

Thatched Hut Pinot Noir 2011 (242933, $19.95) is so bright I’ve gotta wear shades. When a $20 wine is able to pull off the status quo from a region where that quo is $40 and up, you know the future alights for Central Otago. Vanilla, capsicum and tangy cranberry sauce meet a zinging swish of fresh texture and pop in the mouth. “Heavenly blessed and worldly wise,” the Hut will sing at the harvest table.  88

The grape: Zinfandel

The history: Yet refuted cousin to Italian Primitivo

The lowdown: Bumble berry bramble typifies Mendocino Zin. Savoury note gives this guy balance

The food match: Smoked Turkey, fresh and tart cranberry sauce

Artezin Zinfandel 2010 (302943, $21.95) initially heads out on the Zin train with dangerous extraction but stops for the night over a campfire of herbs, anise and pine brush. Plums and sourish cherries simmer in the pot. The style is a full on uprising and welcoming to those who “get on board.”  89

The grapes: Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah

The history: Consummate blend for Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages

The lowdown: This really is as good as it gets for CDRV. A few more dollars but this one rivals many Vacqueyras, Gigondas and even Châteauneuf-du-Pape

The food match: Willowgrove Farms Hormone-Free Smoked and Pulled Pork

Domaine Les Grands Bois Cuveé Maximilien Cairanne 2010 (286336, $21.95) is extraordinary for the appellation. Pitch purple, world-class milk and dark chocolate swirl, creamy silk. The stuff of recent phenomenon, where rocks, dreams and raspberries are crushed and scattered like cake bits over the loam.   91

The grape: Shiraz

The history: The jam from down under

The lowdown: Once a quarter there pours an OZ Shiraz that stands above the crowd

The food match: Braised Short Rib, creamy polenta, green peppercorn jus

Blackjack Major’s Line Shiraz 2008 (280941, $24.95) deserves a 21-card salute for its Victorian, cool, calm and collected demeanor. Blueberry, tar, spice box and wood smoke baked in a pie. Chocolate and vanilla hardly play a part. You may “swear and kick and beg us that you’re not a gamblin’ man,” but I dare you to try this Bendigo. You’ll want to do it again90

The Splurge

The grape: Riesling

The history: Niagara’s signature grape goes ethereal in the hands of winemaker Dianne Smith

The lowdown: Along with Charles Baker’s Picone Vineyard bottling, this Old Vines effort is as good as I’ve tasted in 2012

The food match: BBQ Chicken, goat cheese croquettes

Green Lane Old Vines Riesling 2010 (283432, $29.95) from the oldest block down on the Lincoln Lakeshore is a flat-out mouth-watering, comestible ferment of grapes. Pale lemon/lime soda but a radiant rider. Mosel in trocken mode, bursting with azoic water, pear and persimmon aromas. Rousing acidity jumps to and fro. Wow!!  91

Good to go!

Chill red wines for another hot weekend

Freefly, fotolia.com

 

As seen on canada.com

Extolling the virtues of whites and rosés is easy in times like these. Tipping my hat to reds when the thermometric accumulation pops over the 30 mark may lead to more than one virtual hairy eyeball. Try this one on for size. Take that bottle of red with your name on it and lay it down in the icebox for twenty minutes. Pop and pour. The result? A cool, refreshing summer drink. Go ahead, try it.

The late, great Steve Irwin said “I think my path would have always gone back to or delivered me to wildlife. I think wildlife is just like a magnet, and it’s something that I can’t help.” For me, it’s food and wine. There is never a feeling of time wasted, no pangs of guilt or regret.

Zinfandel and other big wines pushing the 15% envelope do not take well to a cold treatment. Nor do the finest big B’s; Bordeaux, Burgundy, Barolo, Barbaresco and Brunello. Their subtleties can be masked by low temperature. Right now “it’s hotter than the outback after the apocalypse.” That’s a quote. Uttered in conversation yesterday. Australian reds are the apex predators of wine, Crocodiles, full of lash and whack. Quotidian examples from paradoxically branded “cool-climate” Victoria take the reptilian itch down a notch, perfect for a short chill in the throes of this sweltering, Ontario summer. Give these four red wines the air-conditioning treatment. You won’t regret it.

The grape: Shiraz

The history: Signature varietal of Australia, producing more than 400,000 tonnes annually

The lowdown: Victoria’s climate is suitable for a low and slow growing season

The food match: Grilled Half Chickens with an Apricot, Ancho-Chile BBQ glaze

Camelback Shiraz 2008 (665125, $27.95) out of the Sunbury sub-section of Victoria trades sun stroke for an even tan. Expatriate Lorenzo Galli brought Tuscany to Victoria and here the fennel, almond biscotti and ripe fig dominate this medium-bodied, princely Shiraz. Too many OZ reds load up on straw that break the camel’s back. The Camelback far I enters the eye of a needle. A berry good Galli walking gracefully across the sand. Chill and grill.  90

The grapes: Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot

The history: Derivative if not exactly typical Right Bank, Bordeaux blend

The lowdown: The Okanagan Valley in British Columbia is an excellent Meritage site. Osoyoos Larose is a world-renowned, red blend

The food match: Grilled Lamb Chops marinated with Rosemary, Garlic and Olive Oil

Lulu Island Meritage (277566, $23.95) just sounds like an Aussie moniker when in fact it hails from the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. Maybe the most lustrous B.C. red I have ever laid eyes on. Hard not to forbear a crush on its purple profile, hued like a $100, Single-Vineyard Argentinean Malbec. A bit reductive due to its infantile youth but this is appurtenant to the samphire, currants and peppery Merlot scents. Less weight buoys the palate. Bites back in the end. Follows varietal rules of proportion vis-a-vis the dry martini. Massive CVR** complexity from this massif assemblage.  91

The grapes: Carignan/Mourvèdre/Syrah

The history: Traditional CMS combination from the Midi

The lowdown: Carignan-lead reds are often a fortress of austerity. This is a welcome exception

The food match: Crispy Duck Legs, finished on the grill with a Tamarind glaze

Le Cirque Carignan/Mourvèdre/Syrah 2010 (277079, $14.95) is a big, chic IVR* wine for $15. Foxy, Wisterian colour and salinity of a quayside negotiation. Dancing circus act craze of TGV vitesse yet structured and organized of a Poussinian order. “Like the days of stopping at the Savoy.”  88

The Splurge

The grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon

The history: Memories of Bordeaux long gone, now essential Napa Valley

The lowdown: From a small husband and wife run winery in Calistoga

The food match: Grilled Za’atar-rubbed Boneless Rib-Eye Steak

Summers Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (279380, $29.95) inculcates the success of Napa Valley Cabernet at a fraction of what most others cost. Silky texture, rapt tint and deep-seated, earthbound aromas. Fresh picked blackberries and crushed pine cones underfoot in an evergreen forest. A warm weather song, “taste the summer on your peppery skin.” No bruised fruit bomb so be not afraid to add a few minutes of December gelidity.  89

IVR* – Vintage Direct Intrigue-to-value ratio

CVR** – Vintage Direct Curiosity-to-value ratio

Good to go!