Blog posts, Cheese, Day Drinking, Family, gratitude, holiday, Holiday Wines, Recipes, thirsty thursday, Veterans, What's In My Glass, wine, Wine and Food Pairing

Thirsty Thanksgiving with Mandy Connell and Honoring All Those Who Serve…a Veteran’s Day Thirsty Thursday

Where has this year gone? I can’t believe I am already decorating for, yes, you guessed it, for Buddy the Elf (who I am pretty sure is a long lost brother of mine) to make his appearance. While I am all about SANTA! given my Elven heritage, I also decorate for Thanksgiving (picture proves it!) and enjoy all that this holiday has to offer in terms of family, friends, good food, terrible football, and of course, great wine. Each of these wines are meant to pair with just about everything on your holiday table (except for Dave’s sweet wines), so let’s dig into them!

Our two dry whites and rosé

We are going to kick off our celebration of Thanksgiving and of vets with a little gem of a Blanc de Noir Brut from Albuquerque, New Mexico wine making family, Gruet. Gruet is actually a Champagne house in France but two of the sons of this family discovered a cool microclimate outside of Albuquerque that was perfect for growing the grapes we normally find in Champagne…Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay. The NM Gruet house sends all their wines back to the mothership in France to ensure quality and that the wines meet the Gruet standard, so you are getting a quality wine…but at a much reduced price. Instead of paying those Champagne prices, you can get these Méthode Champenoise wines at a much more affordable price range. This is a great wine to pick up for the holiday season as it’s dry finish is perfect for carb heavy and decadent holiday meals. I really enjoy these for my Christmas and New Years celebrations but if you are planning on enjoying a cheese and charcuterie board for Thanksgiving, offer your guests this delight to help wake up their pallets and prepare them for the holiday. Not gonna lie…this is the perfect pairing with my potato gratin. The piquéed heavy cream with parmesan rinds has just enough salt to test my salt sensitivity. But, paired with this Brut? It is like magic. Almost as good as buttered popcorn and Champagne. Almost.

Up next, we stick close to home and head over to the Grand Valley AVA on our very own Western Slope here in Colorado. Two sommeliers turned wine makers chose to realize their dream along a small mesa between the towns of Paonia and Hotchkiss, Colorado. Steve Steese and Jayme Henderson both believed in Colorado’s future as wine producing region and set out to produce unique and high-quality wines and The Storm Cellar was born. All of their wines are from 100% Colorado grown grapes and they are happy to experiment with grape varietals best suited for our unique climate. They have dedicated their efforts to produce aromatic wine with unique character. They have achieved this with what I consider one of the perfect wines for any Thanksgiving table, Grüner Veltliner. A native varietal of Austria, this wine has popping acidity, notes of spice. pepper. and citrus. It is a light wine for your carb heavy meal and you are supporting a local small producer as well!

We will stick with local producers and move next to our sparkling rosé of Tempranillo from Carboy Winery. Now, yall know I love me some Carboy and Rosé La La La is no different. This wine is 97% Tempranillo and 3% Merlot, and also from the Grand Valley AVA. If you are planning on having ham (as I am), this wine will be a perfect mix of tropical fruit and citrus, exceptional acidity, and bright mouthfeel. Carboy is now distributing along the Front Range, so look for them at your local Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods…or drop by one of their locations to try before you buy! If you aren’t into sparkling wine, the still Rosé of Tempranillo will make an excellent addition to your holiday table.

Some reds and hopefully, a wine for Dave the Intrepid

As we take a look at reds, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a common Thanksgiving red wine, Beaujolais Nouveau. It is a wine released every year the week before Thanksgiving to celebrate the harvest and is a Gamay varietal wine. The grapes are sprayed with carbon dioxide in order to bring forth the fruit and lessen the tannins. This technique is known as carbonic maceration and in the case of Beaujolais Nouveau, it brings forth a candy apple and cotton candy profile on the pallet. It is wine best enjoyed as soon as it is released, making it a great wine for your holiday table. Today’s Beaujolais is not a Nouveau but is instead a Cru Beaujolais that earned excellent scores from wine critics, including 93 points from Wine Enthusiast. Annick Bachelet’s 2018 Les Charmes is from Morgon, Beaujolais, and is a more classic representation of the Gamay varietal. Full of black fruit and soft and supple acids, this wine is actually a wine you can lay down for a few years thanks to a lovely tannic structure. It makes for a wonderful wine for ham or lamb, and the fruit forward notes on the pallet provide a lovely contrast to the herbs and root vegetables often found on holiday tables. If you enjoy Pinot Noirs, give this Gamay a try.

If you have your heart set on Pinot, however, and prefer a New World approach to the king of wines, Wagner Family’s Mer Soleil may be the perfect wine for you. Coming from the gorgeous Santa Lucia Highlands south of Monterey, this Pinot truly shows the terroir of the region. Cooler temperatures thanks to the breezes coming off the Pacific, this wine has lovely layers of minerality, cranberry, vanilla, and toasted oak. Pinot Noir is a go to for red wine drinkers at Thanksgiving because it contrasts nicely with the sage and salt found in most stuffings, won’t over power a turkey, enhances ham, and is cranberry sauce’s BFF. This representation of Pinot is a crowd pleaser…it strikes a balance between an old world wine, where acidity is so prevalent and a new world red, where tannins are king.

If a bold red with moderate acidity is more to your liking, consider the Syrah from French winery, Les Jamelles, from the Languedoc region of France. Syrah originally evolved out of the Rhône River Valley but is a varietal that has really taken off in Languedoc. In the case of this Syrah, the winemakers use a slower technique to extract tannins and color, making both supple and sexy. The tannins don’t overpower the pallet and provide a velvet mouthfeel. This would be a fantastic wine if you are opting for lamb or even game meat for your holiday table. Or even just for a Tuesday night meatloaf…it is very approachable and is also a red wine crowd pleaser.

Now, the last two wines in this photo are not officially on the tasting because I know Mandy hates sweet wines. However, Dave the Intrepid believes he doesn’t like wine and I am doing my best to find a wine he would enjoy that is NOT Diet Pepsi *shudders.* So, I have a Moscato, that I am using in our cornbread and sausage casserole (I don’t make oyster dressing and since my husband is allergic to corn, I can’t make cornbread anything too often anymore, so I am indulging the notion of cornbread dressing and a breakfast casserole.) This is one of my favorite go to casseroles because it works for breakfast or lunch or dinner. It is the perfect casserole. I opt to use hot breakfast sausage, caramelized onion, shredded cheese, creamed corn to add sweetness (I am not using that this time…the Moscato takes care of that.) When I tried the cornbread from Sober Dough, I knew it would be perfect for this recipe. It calls for you to use a cider, ale, Coors, or even sparkling wine, but I opted for this Moscato. Moscato makes a great holiday wine, especially if you have guests, like Dave, who prefer a sweeter profile. I usually offer this wine to my own mama and my mother in law, who famously said at one holiday gathering how she “didn’t like bubbles,” as she crushed her two glasses of it. If you are looking for the recipe for this casserole, here is a good one to start with…I just encourage you to make your own. I have been known to add in green chilies, sundried tomatoes, chorizo sausage instead of breakfast…there are all kinds of options for you to explore. Moscato often reminds me of peaches, apricots, and pears…I love it!

And just for Dave, I brought in Evolucio’s Late Harvest Tokaj (Tokaji is the region and pronounced toe-hi.) This wine is 100% Furmint, which is a traditional varietal in Hungary used to make Tokaji wines. When you see the term “late harvest,” consider that wine to be what the Germans call Eiswein or ice wine. This means that the grapes are not only allowed to begin to rot on the vine (which introduces a form of mold known as “noble rot” because it increases the sugar in the grape must), they often undergo a freeze or near freeze before harvesting. Considered a dessert wine, I liken wines like this to ambrosia. Liquid gold and amber in color, thick viscosity, these kinds of wines are meant to be sipped in small, after dinner glasses or aperitifs, and for me are often desserts themselves. They pair beautifully with blue and bloomy cheeses, foie gras, and macarons thanks to dried apricot and mango notes on the pallet. Fingers crossed Dave likes this one! I am pairing it with my pumpkin (in honor of Ben) crème brulée.

Before we torch them…

Finally, we are gathering at KOA to taste and discuss holiday options on Veteran’s Day. So many of our active duty service members will not be able to celebrate the upcoming holidays with their families, so I ask that you keep them in your prayers and consider supporting those organizations that help our deployed troops and their families holding down the home front. For those vets who have left the service or retired, feel free to thank them but don’t be surprised if they give you an awkward reply…many of us get embarrassed by that kind of recognition because often the decision to enter the military is based on a call to serve. It feels odd to be thanked for doing what one is called to do. But, on behalf of dad, who I miss every day, if you come across or know veterans who served in the Korean and Vietnam conflicts, please do thank them for their service. They never received the homecomings they deserved and you will most likely make their day if you honor them with your gratitude. There are a lot of events out there honoring vets (I will be at one in Monument at Pikes Peak Brewing for a WWII veteran’s poetry book release party from 4-6pm! Come say hello!)

Finally, as we approach the end of the year, it is a time for reflection on the things in your life you are grateful for…a roof over your head, a good meal shared with family and friends, a good wine. I am grateful I live in this country, warts and all. I am blessed with a wonderful family, exceptional friends, and a life experience I would not trade for all the tea in England. Maybe for all the wine in Champagne. Certainly, for all the wine in Burgundy. Find who or what makes you happy, recall who or what makes you thankful…and when the world seems a depressing place, hold tight to those things and people.

Until next time, with gratitude,

Cheers and Namaste


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