Oh, Andy Chabot….my cup runneth over. Especially when he’s pouring. As sommelier and wine director of Blackberry Farm and recipient of the James Beard Award for Outstanding Wine Program in 2014, this guy may know a thing or two about vino. And by “may” I mean unequivocally without a doubt, truly, madly, deeply. You invite him over for dinner, and you know you’ll be imbibing the very best. With that said, I asked Andy to compile a holiday list of wines that won’t break the bank – a sure fire challenge when $400 bottles are the de rigeur when your palate is primed for the holy grail of fermented grape-y goodness. But, as with true talents, Andy was up for the task. Here are a few selections to make your Thanksgiving table and holiday season full of perfect pours – from “ooh-ahh-ohh” hostess gifts, to bottles you’ll want to share with friends time and time again. Cheers and many thanks to Andy & Blackberry Farm – can’t wait to clink glasses soon!
- Sandhi Rosé, Sta. Rita Hills ($28)
- Pride Mountain Vineyards, Viognier, Sonoma ($45)
- Ramey, Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast ($45)
- Peay, Les Titans, Syrah, Sonoma Coast ($55)
- Outpost, Grenache, Howell Mountain ($35)
This is a rosé made from Pinot Noir. You might get a few odd looks from your grandparents when you arrive at the family gathering carrying a pink wine but if they don’t already know it, the time of terrible, sweet, White Zin is past and we have thankfully moved on to the refreshing, dry, highly drinkable rosé wines as they are supposed to be. There is not a food on this planet that cannot pair with a chilled Rosé and it’s also great just as a cocktail wine. You’ll probably need at least 2 bottles once everyone gets a taste and comes back for seconds of this one made at Sandhi winery. Their Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays are also worth searching out if you can’t get your hands on this limited Rosé of Pinot Noir from them.
Viognier is a wonderful grape for the exotic and heady spices of the holiday. Until just recently, you would be hard pressed to find an American Viognier on a shelf in your local wine store. Even though that is changing because people are finding out about this grape and how incredible it is, Pride Mountain Vineyards has long been a proponent of this grape. Their version is richly textured with notes of lychee, honeysuckle and lemon zest. Despite all of these sweet aromatics and rich palette, the wine is dry (not sweet) and is sure to be a surprise favorite at the holiday table as your family washes down that turkey and stuffing!
David Ramey is a master of Chardonnay and this Sonoma Coast version from his eponymously named winery is a wonderfully balanced expression of this grape. While some snobbier wine critics out there eschew Chardonnay for the simple fact that it’s popular, I find that it often is the best pairing on any table with any food!
Somehow Syrah is still not the most popular grape in America. That’s amazing considering the unbelievable quality and elegance of Syrahs like those made in the Sonoma Coast by Peay winery. This Titan Vineyard Syrah is a sommelier’s silver bullet when it comes to food and wine pairing – it goes with a huge variety of foods from salmon to hen to beef and game. It’s floral, peppery, and it attains just enough ripeness in the long growing season to be fully pleasing and interesting without ever crossing the line to being flabby. I’d have this with anything – it’s just that good – but it would be fully at home on the Thanksgiving or Christmas table.
Grenache is my favorite grape. As a Sommelier, I am always thinking of food pairings and I’m hard pressed to find a food that I wouldn’t recommend Grenache as the accompaniment. You’d typically find this grape in the Southern Rhone Valley (Cotes du Rhone) or in Northern Spain (Priorat) but there are a number of excellent producers of this wild tasting, spicy red grape in the US. On top of Howell Mountain at Outpost Winery is where you’ll find one of the finest examples of pure, elegant, refined Grenache in our country. Grenache is expansive on the palette with dark spices and pepper. Rather than cherry fruit, I often find myself thinking of wild strawberries when I taste this wine and it simply goes with all the foods that I like to eat.
Hero image via: Tasha Seccombe Photography, Thorne and Daughters Wines