New Traditions, New Wines
Francis Orban, Blanc de Noirs, Extra Brut, NV, Marne, Champagne, France $55 (Hina)
As I’ve noticed more and more Christmas trees up in my neighborhood these past couple of weeks, I’ve thought to myself, shouldn’t Champagne be the tradition that we focus on moving up earlier and earlier in the season each year? Well, wait no longer. Three main grapes are utilized to craft the world-class wines of the Champagne region. Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and, perhaps the runt of the pack, Pinot Meunier. While it is common to see blends, and many bottles comprised solely of Chardonnay, bottlings such as this one crafted from one-hundred-percent Pinot Meunier are much more rare. Champagnes comprised solely of Pinot Meunier give notes of Bosc Pear, crushed berry, and mushrooms. Extra Brut indicates a style even drier than Brut, so if you’re someone who prefers extremely pure, precise bubbly, then this is a great selection for you.
Dr. Hermann, Riesling Erdener Treppchen Kabinett, 2016 $53 (Birdsong)
I’ve never been one to proselytize for the consumption of sweet wines to those who are perfectly happy drinking dry whites, but if ever there was a day to try something with just a hint of sugar on the palate, Thanksgiving could be it. Kabinett is an old German term for light wines that often have some sweetness but also have impressive natural acidity to balance that out. This certainly isn’t a dessert wine. Still, the innate fruitiness will take sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce to a whole new level. The mouth-watering sensation will remind you to take another sip and get your palate ready for your next bite.
Domaine Romaneaux-Destezet "Les Cessieux" Syrah, Saint Joseph, Rhône Valley, France 2018 $78 (DecantSF)
Winemaker Hervé Souhaut has developed a cult following among American sommeliers for his pure, expressive, earthy wines from several locations in central France. This wine hails from St. Joseph, a cool-climate known for producing world-class Syrah. This medium-bodied interpretation of the grape is ideal for the dinner table. Although slightly lighter in terms of its structure, it shows all the aromatic intensity of Syrah, with notes of bacon, plum, and black pepper leaping from the glass. The herbal tinge will go especially well with stuffing.
Enfield Wine Co, Cabernet Sauvignon, Fort Ross-Seaview, Sonoma County, California 2016 $94 (Gozu)
While enjoying Cabernet Sauvignon might not seem like a new tradition, the climate in which this is grown could not be more different than Napa Valley, the flagship growing region for the grape in California. The resulting wine is very unique and very delicious. The Fort Ross-Seaview growing district’s regulations stipulate that vineyards must be planted at least 920 feet in elevation. Here, the vines are subject to blasts of cold air coming off of the Pacific just five miles to the west. While these conditions are thought to be great for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, conventional wine-thinking holds that this is not ideal for Cabernet Sauvignon. Napa Valley, by comparison, is about 55 miles from the Pacific. Enfield winemaker John Lockwood uses this organically farmed fruit to produce a Cabernet Sauvignon that is delicate, with notes of red fruit, sage, and cedar. The acidity is ideal for cutting through the richness of prime rib.
Royal Tokaji "5 Puttonyos Aszu", Tokaj, Hungary 2013 500 ml $78 (Gozu)
High in the Carpathian Mountain Range of northern Hungary, sweet wines have been crafted for centuries, actually outdating both the French and German sweet-wine-making traditions. The unique process consists of harvesting some grapes earlier in the season, which are used to create a crisp dry-base wine. Then, once the humid conditions later in the fall have helped Botrytis, or Noble Rot, to set in on the remaining grapes, these are harvested by hand and placed into Puttony, or twenty-five-kilogram buckets. These are then dumped into the barrels of the base wine, producing a wine that has an exotic sweetness, but is also balanced and never syrupy. The special rot on the grapes produces notes of ginger, honey, and saffron, making this wine absolutely delicious with pumpkin pie.