WINE OF THE MONTH
Feudo Zirtari Nero D’Avola/Syrah 2013
The wine: Medium-bodied, dry red table wine
The grapes: 55 percent Nero D’Avola and 45 percent syrah
The source: Sicily
The verdict: Fifteen years ago, I would not have considered many Sicilian wines worthy of comment. That, my friends, has changed. Many of today’s Sicilian wines, especially the reds, are bang-up flavor bombs with just the right balance to give them a pedigree. This example neatly crafts the indigenous Nero D’Avola grape with the flavorful syrah. The result is a wine with character and structure. Around the world, blending has become the key to making wines with different flavors; wines with non-traditional couplings of grape types. I like Feudo Zirtari’s approach to making the world pay attention to the growth of Sicilian wines.
The price: About $16
OK, we’ve gone from goblins to gobblin’ ... as in gobblin’ Thanksgiving turkey.
As always I get asked about what wine to serve with the noble fowl, that, had Ben Franklin had his way, would have become America’s national bird, rather than the noble bald eagle.
You could look it up.
Last year, my approach to wines for a happy bird-day went all over the map. This year, however, I’m reverting to type and hyping my two favorite turkey wines: pinot noir and gewurztraminer.
If you’re serving another entrée for the holiday, let me make a blanket recommendation, regardless of what will grace your table — Champagne or a good dry sparkling wine. They go well with any food.
Gewurztraminer is the name of the grape. Traminer was the original grape, but with some tweaking in Alsace, the grape took on a spicier flavor. Hence the German prefix “Gewurz,” which translates to “spicy,” was tacked on.
Although this is one of my favorite whites, it has not really caught on in this country. One reason, I believe, is the difficulty in pronouncing this lengthy name. Phonetically, it’s “guh VURTS truh meen er.” But we winos just call it “Gewurz.”
We also call it the perfect white wine to huddle with a roast turkey.
The best of these wines come from the aforementioned Alsace. I recently sampled a stellar trio and can’t wait to match one or more with our turkey. So here are some recommendations:
Trimbach has been squashing grapes since 1626. This crisp offering brings forth spicy aromas and typical rose petals in the nose.
You might think from the aroma the wine might be sweetish. It’s not. It’s just good all around. About $25.
Domaine Weinbach 2014
It is a tad more fruit in the mouth, but another sterling Alsatian. And these folks have been at it since 1612.
It feels like silk in the mouth, with all those spices and flowers. Long finish lets you savor the flavor. About $32.
Domaines Schlumberger Les Prince Abbes 2011
This one rules! Notice the vintage date, but it shows its age well.
Schlumberger is, in my mind, the top Alsatian producer. In addition to the spiciness, there’s a bit of minerality in this pale golden beauty; a taste of Alsatian earth. About $32.
Lawson’s Dry Hills gewurztraminer
Mention New Zealand wines and sauvignon blanc immediately springs to mind. But from that famed region comes a great Gewurz bearing the label Lawson’s Dry Hills.
It’s not quite so dry as the Alsatians, but it’s close. And flavor and aroma components are pure Gewurz. I buy it in Buford for $17.
Chateau Ste. Michelle gewurztraminer
There’s a wonderful Gewurz from Washington state’s Chateau Ste. Michelle. This wine is slightly fruitier than the crisp, dry Alsatian offerings. But it has the true Gewurz flavors and aromas.
There’s a dollop of Muscat fruit in it, which enhances the impact of the spice. It’s about $15.
Almost-Alsatian Gundlach Bundschu Estate Gewurztraminer
From California’s Sonoma Coast comes a drier and more linear gewurztraminer than the Ste. Michelle. It makes a better food wine, in my book. If you can find it, expect to pay about $20.
Red wine alternatives
Not everyone is fond of white wines. So, here’s a red alternative for your T-day turkey — pinot noir.
Pinot noir is the name of the grape, which established its stellar reputation in the Burgundy region of France where all red wines are produced from this grape. This is the red for the big bird, the roasted one, not the towering yellow one on Sesame Street.
Red Burgundies are budget busters. You won’t find many quality examples for less than $50, which is why I don’t mention them. But this country produces some stellar pinot noirs. Among them:
MacMurray Ranch Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
Those of you of a certain age may remember the actor Fred MacMurray. He played the all-wise, all-suffering father on the TV show “My Three Sons.” He bought this Sonoma County property, a farm at the time, in the 1940s.
Under the aegis now of E.&J. Gallo, MacMurray is a fine winery, and this pinot is one of their best. The Russian River Valley is one of California’s great pinot noir growing areas, and this wine reflects that. It’s a nicely balanced, light-bodied red that will be a good friend to your turkey. About $28.
Another great growing area for this wine is California’s Carneros Region, the place where Napa and Sonoma counties come together at the tip of San Pablo Bay, an extension of San Francisco Bay.
FFV Carneros pinot noir
Frank Family Vineyards produces superb table wines, including this one. The most recent vintage I’ve sampled is the 2013 edition.
It has a huge wow factor. It starts with full-fruit aromas in the nose and quietly attacks your taste buds with subtle yet full-bodied flavors of raspberries and dark fruits. Warn your turkey it has met its match. About $40.
Willamette Valley Vineyards Whole Cluster Pinot Noir
America’s Pinot Noir capitol is not in California, however. It’s in Oregon; mainly in the Willamette Valley, home to Willamette Valley Vineyards Whole Cluster Pinot Noir. The poets at the winery describe this as “Liquid fruit salad in a glass.” Not the way I would describe it, at least not as a food wine.
This is closest of the three to the Burgundian standard. It has an earthiness the others lack, while still showing off its fruit content. It is a fine wine for about $25.
Remember: Get your white wines nicely chilled; 4 to 5 hours in the fridge. And, lightly chill your reds; 20 to 30 minutes in the fridge.
Lastly, enjoy the holiday.
Randall Murray is a Gainesville-area resident. Have a question about wine? He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears on the first Wednesday of the month and on www.gainesvilletimes.com.