American Classics for Thanksgiving
It seems to me dark times sharpen our appreciation of the lights which remain. That’s how I’m thinking of Thanksgiving this year. On the surface, 2020 is just such a year to throw your hands up and say, “What is there to be thankful for?!?” But, I choose the other direction. It is times like these where we must focus on our blessings and let everything else alone, if just for a little while.
It means being with the family you can and missing the family you can’t. It means taking more note than normal of the food on your table and the wine in your glass. I have always believed that a good glass of wine is one of those things in life which makes things jussssst a little bit better. That moment you take to smell and taste a wine made with care and devotion is something like a prayer, a quiet place to count your blessings.
So, I’ve put together a selection of American Classics for your Thanksgiving Table. No upstarts or experiments here. This year, I need something a little more solid. These are wines and wineries which have come through yesterday and will be here tomorrow, and for that I’m truly thankful.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and your loved ones and remember, Le Du offers 10% off on any purchase of 12 bottles or more plus free shipping in the tri-state over $150.
Gary Farrell is my secret California crush. These are unabashedly flamboyant wines but Theresia Heredia, who on top of being nominated for Wine Enthusiast’s Winemaker of the Year in 2020 is also breaking barriers as a female POC, is masterful at balancing the acidity possible in the cool climbs of the Russian River against the hedonistic fruit which has become the appellation’s calling card.
“95 Points. This wine offers such tremendous value and quality—it should be on everyone's go-to list for Russian River Valley Chardonnay. Lime, fig and grapefruit rind flavors ride along a lifted character of crushed stone texture and bright acidity. This wine is impressive from the detailed start to the lengthy finish.” Virginie Boone, Wine Enthusiast
Santa Lucia Highlands can really be described as the great forgotten wine region of California. A decade before David Hirsch started planting vines on the Sonoma Coast, Santa Lucia, outside of Monterey, was staking a claim as America’s source for top level Burgundian varietals. The Pisoni family, the owner/winemakers/grape growers of Lucia, had a lot to do with that. Gary Pisoni, one of the great iconoclasts of California wine, has mostly ceded control his sons but the family style of exuberant wines with a wild edge continues on.
“94 Points. Moving to the Pinot Noirs, the appellation 2018 Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands has a big, sexy, spicy style as well as medium to full body, a rounded, expansive mouthfeel, classic Pinot Noir underbrush, violets, Asian spices, integrated acidity, and a great finish. This is a year-in, year-out great value readers will love." Jeb Dunnuck
Morgan Twain-Peterson MW is a fascinating winemaker. He is the son of Joel Peterson, who founded the now ubiquitous Zinfandel producer Ravenswood. Along with Mike Officer and Teegan Passalacqua, he is one of the leaders of the movement to save so-called Heritage Vineyards, which are old vine sites which pre-date the mania for French varietals which now dominates California. This is reflected in his own winery, Bedrock, which primarily focuses on Zinfandel and Syrah. Having been able to watch his evolution over the last fifteen years, brashness has given way to quietude. There is no mistaking this for a Northern Rhone Syrah, it has all the round dark chocolate fruit which could only come from California, but I tend to imagine Morgan is most interested in hearing what his old vines have to say.
“Bedrock's Syrah (California) is once again a terrific value in 2018. Dark fruit, chocolate, spice and leather flavors are pushed forward in this bold, punchy wine. Vineyard sources include Hudson, Griffin’s Lair, Alder Springs, Weill, Shake Ridge, Bedrock, Walker Vine Hill and more. A touch of Viognier and some whole cluster inclusion add character.” Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media
La Grande Roche Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 $49.99
I had nearly given up on finding a Napa Cab we could put on the shelf under fifty dollars that I was genuinely excited about. There are plenty which are…fine but we don’t do “fine”, dammit! Then, Tim introduced me to La Grande Roche and I rejoiced! Then, I found out is the second wine from Ric Forman and I was like, “Oh. Of Course”. If you’re not familiar with Mr. Forman, here’s a fun list of what he brought to California winemaking:
-Credited with the first vintage dated Merlot.
-Introduced barrel fermentation of white wines to Napa.
-Founding winemaker of Sterling Vineyard.
-Founding winemaker of Newton Vineyards.
-Instrumental in foundation of Duckhorn Vineyards.
-Gave Ted Lemon (Littoria) his first American winemaking gig.
-Developed the first Kendal Jackson Chardonnay
-Co-Founded Abreu Vineyard Management, with David Abreu, arguably the most influential Vineyard Consultants of the last 25 years.
2018 was his 51st vintage in Napa. He is a master at his craft and seamlessly walks the line between the Bordeaux-esque style of yesteryear and the robust hedonism of today.
“92 Points. The 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon will give readers a very good look at Ric Forman's style. Pliant and silky, this impeccably balanced, delicious Cabernet Sauvignon has so much to offer. Sweet cherry, dried herbs, leather and spice add lovely shades of nuance throughout. The 2018 is another inviting wine from Forman's Chateau La Grande Roche second label.” Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media
Ridge Three Valleys Zinfandel 2018 $29.99
I really don’t have much to add to what has already been said about Ridge. Paul Draper, the founder, finally retired a few years ago but he and Larry Turley are entirely responsible for their still being Zinfandel planted in California. Ridge is one of those producers that is easy to overlook because it has just been so good for so long. Le Du has had some bottle of Ridge on our shelves since we opened 15 years ago and will continue to for the next 15.
“93 Points. The 2018 Three Valleys is another terrific 2018 from this team. A blend of 70% Zinfandel, 14% Petite Sirah, 12% Carignan, and the rest Mataro, it plays in the medium-bodied, elegant end of the spectrum and has wonderful purity in its blue fruits, peppery herbs, violets, and sandalwood aromas and flavors. Nicely textured, elegant, and seamless on the palate, with good acidity, this ethereal, balanced beauty can be drunk today or cellared for 10-15 years.” Jeb Dunnuck