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Wednesday Warblings
Our Wine Schedule For Thanksgiving

By Charles Olken

It’s that time of year again. Olkens from all over the country, mostly cold places with snow and, this year, some with no electricity, will be piling into our little corner of the world for the annual family Thanksgiving. There will be a lot of drinking topped off by my dinner table selections for the year. More on that later.

It has been tradition in my family for as long as I can remember, which is some six decades and counting, for as many Olkens who could make it to gather somewhere. In my youth, it was at Uncle Pete’s house. Pete was my dad’s twin brother, and these two happy and rotund gentlemen, nicknamed Tweedledum and Tweedledee in their youth, were anything but a couple of stumblebums. Both were successful businessmen, and Pete’s, having the biggest house among the five Olken brothers, was the place we all met up.

There were many traditions from the tag football game for the kids, which was our highlight, to the dinner in the back bedroom (known for the day as the kid’s room) which was less than fun as the adults laughed their ways through the day and night and we were pretty much told to stay out of the way.

Next week, there will be something like 35 of us gathered in my bungalow, and it is good thing that we reconstructed our dining room three decades ago to hold an oversized tasting table for Connoisseurs’ Guide. We crowd three tables sideways into the room and sort of shimmy in and out during dinner, and, no surprise, there is still a kid’s table. The little darlings, all eight of them range in age from six to ten and the tag football game has now turned into a soccer game that pretty much takes up the entire end of our cul-de-sac.

One thing has changed rather dramatically. My aunts and uncles were never wine drinkers. My brothers and sisters-in-law and my kids and cousins and various versions of significant others, on the other hand, seem never to have met a wine of mine that they did not like. I would be flattered by that realization if I did not know in my heart of hearts that it was not the wine that they cared about but the lubricant. My relations seem to live by the standard: if it does not give me a bellyache, it must be pretty good.

Hard to argue with that philosophy, but I don’t follow it, and so the wines, while not my prize possessions, must be of a style that goes with the meal but which varies by type each year just for the fun of it. This year, we will start with Rose’ and sparkling wine for those who do not imbibe of my special recipe Bloody Mary’s. Then it will be on to Viognier and Pinot Noir.

I happen to like those two varieties because, in California hands, they turn out rich, nicely fruity and sufficiently sophisticated to hold my interest, yet they seem also to go over well with the family. Thanksgiving meals never seem to be totally inviting of great wine. Too many different flavors ranging from earthy to sweet, and no matter how good the gravy is, it still has a hard time making white meat turkey taste like anything that demands a fine wine. But, those little problems will not stop me.

Here is the list of wines that are currently segregated in the cellar in anticipation of their starring moment.


89 GLORIA FERRER Brut en magnum Sonoma County $38
I like serving sparkling wine from magnum. The wines frequently turn out richer than when made in the regular-sized bottle, and this wine has done that at price that makes it one of the bargains of the season.

92 ROEDERER ESTATE Brut Rosé Anderson Valley $28.00
It will be hard to find a better pink wine for the money no matter on what continent you search. Bountiful in character and bountiful in its bubbles, this wine will be real favorite among those few of the relatives who fancy themselves as the cognenscenti.


The wines recommended below have been tasted but not yet written or rated, but since those tasting are going to be guiding my Thanksgiving selections, I can at least guarantee that they were well-received in our blind tastings and should also be welcome additions to our tables.

J VINEYARD Hoot Owl Vineyard Alexander Valley 2011 $30.00
Ripe, rich and impeccably balanced, this wine will honor the sauces and starches yet has the acidity to be refreshing from first to last.

TANGENT Paragon Vineyard Edna Valley 2011 $17.00
Young, fresh, fruity, balanced and a great mealtime mate for its length and vitality. And a genuine value.


91 RUSSIAN HILL Russian River Valley 2009 $33.00
Rich, wonderfully fruity Pinot Noir from the Russian River area is never going to inexpensive, but this one delivers lots to like and will stand up to the savory stuffing and dark meat that feature on my plate.

87 BONTERRA Mendocino County 2010 $16.00
This wine is what will pass for a lighter red this year. “Light” is a relative term, of course, and this one is light by comparison but is no shrinking violet. It quality is very hard to match at the price.


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Posted on:11/25/2012 4:39:25 PM

Hi Charlie,

I recall you mentioning that Rockwall would be coming out with some great Zinfandel, in the style of Roseblum, of course. they are having a big Cyber sale tomorrow, Monday the 26th.

Any tips on the 2010's?

Thank you,

Leonard maran


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