It's Thanksgiving and since I'm heading to my brother's manse in the backwoods of Massachusetts, I am delegated to select the spirits for Thursday's festivities.
When it comes to any holiday dinner, my immediate instinct is to go with what is traditional ... and safe. Since my mother is from Trier which is situated along the Mosel River, the bottle of wine - or any liquor for that matter - has been a Riesling. Period.
And like salmon – and this is the reason that fish is on so many menus – it's really hard to screw up. Pick a bottle, any bottle: it's sweet, a little dry and goes with everything: Turkey, of course; chicken, fine; the aforementioned salmon, bring it on. I've even brought it to picnics and to pig out on hot dogs.
But the Thanksgiving meal, the one time a year when just about everyone in the family is around the table – should have something to enhance the meal made up of rather bland items. (I always thought you fell asleep after the dinner because turkey and mash potatoes with turkey gravy is so boring.)
And I recall my former editor, Joe Yonan – who is now the food editor at the Washington Post – say long ago, "you need one thing that's special to have a memorable meal."
So off I went with a $40 price limit to the three Belmont locations that sell spirits but which also provides personal advice and some guidance for the majority of buyers that can use the assistance.
Vintages Adventures in Wine has set a nice selection and wide variety of wines around a center table in front of the shop door at 32 Leonard Street that are designed to bring out the best of Thursday's meal. Telling Senior Wine Consultant Brian DePaul Carey that I was looking for a red to accompany a meal mostly associated with whites, he came up with a wine that he personnally heard went well with the main course.
Recently the winemaker for Azienda Agricola Sottimano located in the Piedmont section of Italy was in the shop and said that one of his vintages went well with turkey.
"When he said that, I thought of the holidays," Carey said.
The Sottimano Mate 2011 is a special one-time vintage made using the black-skinned Brachetto grape. It has an intense color, an aroma of spices and rose and a fresh and refined taste while the acidity is well balanced. And at $17.99, an wine to great start to Thanksgiving.
Almost across the street from Vintages, the owners of Craft Beer Cellar – Suzanne Schalow and Kate Baker – at 51 Leonard St. were prepared for Thanksgiving by having a page on their Facebook account with their expert suggestions for the special day.
Beer always raises an eyebrow at my Thanksgiving table as one side of the family is taken aback that beer comes in something other than a six pack of Bud Light. But
Since I am going to Lakeville – I've been there several times and I still don't know where it's located other than south – after the Thanksgiving Day game, why not bring something brewed close by, a bit historic and won't scare the family. Plymouth-based Mayflower Brewing Company has come out with a Thanksgiving Ale ("Someone was bound to do it one day," said Schalow), the sort of drink Pilgrims would recognize and will go down well with a mostly dry main meal.
Taking a distinct left-turn on the other selection, Schalow pointed to Night Shift Brewing's Fallen Apple Ale, brewed in Everett (that's right, in Everett) with fresh Massachusetts apple cider and spices associated with Thanksgiving: cinnamon, nutmeg, coriander and allspice. I see this washing down dessert and stimulating after-dinner discussions on US military preparedness.
But I could not escape the family tradition of a German wine on the table. Down in Cushing Square, The Spirited Gourmet at 448 Common St. With the help of sales associate Dan Getman, we went over to view the Chablis and the buttery and oak chardonnays, great alternatives to the standard white and dry.
But really, I don't think the family will really think its a holiday meal without a wine that no one can read the label except for Mom. And Getman had a favorite of his right at hand.
The 2010 Muller-Catoir Haardt Scheurebe is balanced acid with a citrus aroma and with a hint of "flinty" notes that comes from the minerality associated with the nearby rocks in the river and ground.
And it's not made with a Riesling grape, but a Scheurebe, a cross bred grape that produces a wide range of white wines today. The Muller-Catoir variety is both fruity and dry on the sweetness scale and Getman said he fell in love with this so why not give it a try.
It nicked the $40 price ceiling I had, but it will hold down a place on the center table on Thursday.
Saturday is Small Business Saturday so it will be a good time to invest in our local businesses and buy some wine and beer on Nov. 24.