Archive for November, 2017



I wonder if the Pilgrims had an idea about how that first Thanksgiving morphed into the glorious holiday Americans treasure. New information redefines the myths surrounding that celebration. Fact or fiction, Thanksgiving is embedded, even sanctified, as our premier national holiday. Wherever we came from, we all have reason to celebrate the unifying holiday.

Variations of the iconic dinner are prepared in almost every kitchen across our country. The preparation of the dinner may differ from culture to culture, from palate to palate, from one culinary preference to another, but the ubiquitous stuffed turkey is present on every table along with a myriad of hors d’oeuvres and sides.

If wine is the beverage of choice to accompany this elaborate meal, which one to choose? Especially when the table holds so much food we become as stuffed as the poor carved bird. A light wine is the best partner for this dinner. Within the range of light wines, Beaujolais Nouveau from France arrives on our shores in early November. The inexpensive wine bottled by George de Boeuf or Louis Latour are one step away from grape juice. It’s an easy quaff, light on the palate, yet flavorful enough to pair with this rich dinner. Wines labeled Beaujolais Villages, different from their Nouveau cousins, are more sophisticated but still relatively inexpensive. Another excellent choice are Pinot Noirs from the Carneros region of California, from the Burgundy region in France, or from Oregon. Pinot Noir can be a crowd pleaser when it is produced well. Two remarkably inexpensive, uncomplicated Pinots are French Rabbit and the Little Penguin. They won’t break the bank, especially if there is a large crowd quaffing at the table. Want to spend a little more? Choose a Zinfandel by Cline, Ravenswood, Rodney Strong, or Frog’s Leap. Here’s the surprise of the year. Rosés have been on the back burner for a long time but new well-crafted ones are suddenly blushingly popular. Both still and sparkling Rosés would be a terrific complement to a turkey dinner. Choose pinks with color rather than a pallid one.Try Ruffino Sparkling Rosé from Italy since wine with bubbles is great for the digestion. Oregon’s A to Z and California’s Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare, a tried and true friend, fill out the bill. But be brave and adventuresome. It’s not so much about spending big bucks, but finding affordable wines that are crowd pleasers.

Try the same recommendations at Christmas.



If you ever wondered how grapes transmogrify into wine, pick up a copy of “The Winemaker’s Hand: Conversations on Talent, Technique and Terroir” published by  Columbia University Press. Telling interviews with over forty winemakers from wine regions around the world reveal their commitments, skills, passions, struggles, and training to produce a liquid refreshment that is enjoyed alone or as a partner to food. These conversations point out the impact of an individual’s influence on each vintage from deciding which grapes are best suited to a terroir, to pruning, harvesting, fermenting, aging, bottling, and marketing. It unravels the mystery and magic of the creation of one of mankind’s most enjoyable and historic companions.

Our early ancestors enjoyed the fruit of the vine but no one knows who was  the first person to taste fermented grape juice and say yummy. Archeologists unearthed information about the long history of wine from Egyptian frescoes and digs that uncovered winemaking techniques and drinking implements.

“The Winemaker’s Hand: Conversations on Talent, Technique and Terroir” features producers from The United States, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Chile, Germany, Croatia, Slovenia, and Israel. Their unique insights show that what’s in the winemaker’s head is as important as what’s in the grape, and why wine varies from winery to winery, region to region, and grape to grape. Reading their stories would be akin to asking Monet and Van Gogh to explain why they use the same colors but produce strikingly different paintings.

Since grapes don’t jump into the bottle by themselves, vintners have struggled for centuries to improve wine. Today’s winemakers marry traditional methods to new technology., putting their skills together as scientists, farmers, and artists dealing with Mother Nature’s benevolent bounties and cruel limitations.

This group of winemakers represents a microcosm of their peers and the complexities they face each vintage to produce quality wine that varies from place to place and from winemaker to winemaker. It explains why two winemakers harvesting grapes from the same vineyard at the same moment will produce wines that speak, not only of its terroir, but of a reflection of an individual’s goals, dedication, and personality. Reading their stories would be akin to asking Monet and Van Gogh to explain why they use the same colors but produce strikingly different paintings. The love of the winemaking process, from bud break to harvest and bottling, shines through the telling conversations that account for the plethora of differences between wines.

For example, nonagenarian  Mike Grgich’s triumph over winning the Judgment of Paris, the1976 event that pitted upstart Americans against top French wines and with a wine put California wines on the map is only one exciting story. Cathy Corison’s and Dawnine Dyer’s successful break into winemaking at a time when women were relegated to picking and stomping grapes is equally fascinating.

The book  includes maps and the history of each region, a glossary of wine terms, a glossary of wine varietals, and information on the author’s background. Each winemaker submitted a personal recipe and a photograph.  A wine tasting wheel innumerates the various sensory perceptions around taste and aroma in wine ranging from desirable to off-putting,

“The Winemaker’s Hand: Conversations on Talent, Technique and Terroir” is the next best thing to visiting a winery and meeting a vintner face to face. It’s a perfect read for  beginners and connoisseurs. It’s a great gift anytime, or during this holiday season. The book is available in hard cover and paperback through Amazon.