It was a long, hard year in the vineyards of Northern California. I don't know who's more exhausted right now, the winemakers or the growers, or maybe it's the vines themselves. It's the time of year when vineyards shut down, the leaves fade to yellow, brown and red, and finally scatter in the dirt.
Other vineyard seasons get more attention. Winemakers look forward to late summer and harvest and after a dark and soggy winter the fields in spring radiate green and yellow from the wild mustard.
For some reason I've always preferred late autumn weeks like this one. Temperatures reach the mid 60s during the day and there's still a touch of warmth in the breeze. Except for a red maple here and there, the trees in Sonoma don't offer a lot of fall color, so I've always relied on the vineyards to set the autumn mood.
Thanksgiving dinner is about comfort; it’s about allowing yourself to eat stuff that you try not to eat all year. I have a similar attitude about Thanksgiving wine. It’s all about comfort. It’s all about don’t worry, enjoy. I’ve done my share of fussing over the wine—will it be this Gewürztraminer or that rosé, a Pinot Noir or a Beaujolais, sparkling wine or a dry Moscato? But for our dinner, while other guests bring most of the bottles, I always contribute a selection of wines for people to try, so there’s something to please most everyone.
Inevitably, I get harried calls and emails from friends and family a few days before the holiday, looking for advice on this year’s new releases. Who can’t relate to wine buying panic this week? So here are the sorts of wines I try to recommend to last-minute shoppers.
I turned the TV on the other night, just in case there was something on worth watching, and it was the usual reality show nonsense. But it got me thinking: What would happen if the world of wine got swept up in our celebrity-crazed mass-media culture?
This season's The Bachelorette, after all, gave Sonoma winemaker Benjamin Flajnik his 15 minutes of fame. Would a show like Iron Sommelier be all that farfetched? Or how about America's Next Top Wine List?
And what if we took it to the extreme and let our imaginations run amok? (Yay amok!) Imagine a network where wine and reality TV merge and the result is surreality. The lineup of shows might look something like this.
I took a few days off in New York last month and walked into a grocery store looking for a bottle of wine. It didn’t take long for me to remember that I couldn’t actually buy wine in a New York grocery, but since my preteen son was with me, I paused for his gratification and slapped my forehead.
There's a lot of hot air in the wine industry about California Pinot Noir and which style is right and which is wrong, which is all a load of nonsense. Excuse me if I don't goose-step in your direction, but I'm capable of liking a variety of Pinot Noirs, from elegant red Burgundies built for the cellar to California's biggest fruit bombs.
Somewhere along the middle of that stylistic sliding scale are the Pinots of Santa Lucia Highlands. Many of the top players in Pinot—and Chardonnay, for that matter—make a wine from there: Kosta-Browne, A.P. Vin, Peter Michael, Vision Cellars, Carlisle and Patz & Hall to name a few.