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Food & Dining // Vino Sense
Roberto Viernes

The Most Hedonistic Time Of The Year

The square bottle serves a practical purpose

The square bottle serves a practical purpose

Oooh yeah! Thanksgiving is here and, as you may know, it is my favorite holiday of the year.

I think it is the most hedonistic time of the year, and although there is plenty of turkey around, there also are plenty of other foods that families do not normally cook throughout the year. Or it is perhaps a specialty that someone saves for special occasions. I remember my grand-aunt used to cook a braised pork dish slathered in peppercorns, vinegar, soy sauce and some other secret ingredients in the oven only at Thanksgiving, and I always looked forward to it. So why not do the same with the wine?

I look at Thanksgiving like a birthday sometimes. But it is even better, because it is like celebrating everyone else who is special in your life at the same time. And when it is your birthday, you want to celebrate with the best things. I know that not all of us have cellars where we store our precious treasures for extended or not-so-extended periods of time. But if you do, take a peek in there. Reach for that bottle that says, “I am something special and you are going to love me for opening this.”

I encourage you to splurge. Get my drift? If you are a sparkling wine drinker, don’t go for the Prosecco (nothing wrong with that, of course) but bump yourself up to a bottle of fermented Sparkling. You will notice a huge difference. If you want to stay in Italy, go with a Franciacorta like the 2009 Ferghettina, which comes in a revolutionary and patented square-footed bottle that allows the wine to have double the lees contact and surface area over a regular sparkling wine bottle. This wine is heady with gorgeous fruit and elegance, very Champagne-like. Or you can step up to a bottle of vintage California Sparkling such as the 2004 Roederer Estate Brut l’Ermitage. This is the “Cristal of California” made by the Roederer team with the same techniques, and the result is stunning. It has beautiful richness, purity and intensity with just a bit more opulence than Champagne, but without going flabby. And for the Champagne fanatic (like me) go big! I mean, go for a Tete de Cuvee or even a Magnum. I’m staring down a Magnum of 1998 Vilmart Cuvee Creation, which is Laurent Champs’ one cuvee that enters its first life in new French oak barrels. But when you taste it now, it beguiles the senses with perfectly ripe yellow and white fruits, hints of brioche and flowers. In the palate, it is perfectly ripe and is reminiscent of a Premier Cru white Burgundy with bubbles-regal and delicious.

It is even easier to step up on still wines. If you are a Burgundy drinker, just take a step up the quality ladder from what you regularly drink. If you are a Village Burgundy drinker, go for a Premier Cru; if you are a Premier Cru drinker, go for a Grand Cru. And if you are a Grand Cru drinker already, well, lucky you! Take Domaine Meo-Camuzet as an example. Its Vosne Romanee is delicious, but take the Vosne Romanee Brulees 1er Cru and you have added dimensions of flavor and sexiness. Then, at the Grand Cru level, you can opt for a bottle of Richebourg, which is quite frankly one of the most compelling and thrilling wines in the world.

It is just as easy for red Bordeaux drinkers. They were nice enough to put together a classification in 1855 ranking the top Chateaux in the Medoc into five ranks. Go from one rank to the next until you get to the five top Chateaux (Lafite-Rothshild, Margaux, Latour, Haut-Brion and Mouton-Rothschild). When you are at the top, it’s a nice view. Any opportunity to drink these wines is rare and rewarding.

For the New World wine drinkers, no matter what variety, there is always something higher to aspire to. Almost every winery will have a single vineyard or reserve wine that is more individual and “special.” Say, for instance, you are an Anthill Farms Pinot Noir lover and love the Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, which is lovely, then search for the Anthill Farms “Campbell Ranch” Pinot Noir, which has even showier cherry flavor, more intensity, depth and a penetrating finish.

No matter what you are drinking this Thanksgiving, make it special and memorable. You will never regret drinking the best wines now. And from my family to yours, have a happy and safe Thanksgiving.

Roberto Viernes is a master sommelier. Email rviernes@southernwine.com or follow him on Twitter @Pinotpusher.

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