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Start Thanksgiving Beverage Shopping Early

By Michael Schiaparelli · October 21st, 2009 · Fermentations
Believe it or not, it’s almost Thanksgiving, and once again I recommend planning ahead for your beverage purchases. Picking out the wine and beer is one task you can accomplish well before the holiday, when you may be busy with more pressing tasks like procuring the perishable side items and brining your bird.

So, what to buy? I’ve always liked a robust, fruity Zinfandel with my turkey, but Pinot Noir seems to remain high on everyone’s list of favorites. Pinot, however, is a fickle grape that can produce thin, acidic wines of little interest that won’t stand up to a Thanksgiving feast.

So shop carefully and ask for advice from your local wine seller. Last week, I discovered one of the rarest kinds of Pinot: one that’s sublimely expressive — that lingers on the palate like an unexpected kiss — yet sells for a fair price.

The 2007 Domaine Coteau Pinot Noir ‘Eola-Amity Hills’ ($20 at Party Source) is made from grapes grown within a small sub-appellation of Oregon’s better-known Willamette Valley, just northwest of Salem, the state capitol.

With only about 30 wineries located in the region and only about 2,000 acres under vine (compare that with Napa’s 45,000 acres of vineyards), Eola-Amity Hills isn’t a common appellation, but it does have unique growing conditions that make it perfect for Pinot: Shallow, rocky soils and hillside vineyard locations provide excellent drainage, and ripening sunshine and moderately warm summer temperatures drop off in the late afternoon and evening with cool Pacific currents so the grapes ripen while maintaining acidity. In 2007, the vines produced small but complex berries that have produced a wine of uncommon complexity and depth, especially at this price point.

While the color’s nearly as light and clear as cranberry juice, the nose is deeply expressive and Burgundian, showing roses and dried cherries as well as that earthy, mushroomy exuberance that marks the finest Pinot Noirs. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied with sweet cherry and strawberry fruit, snappy acidity and chalky tannic structure. The balance is impeccable and it will likely age gracefully, gaining complexity and depth. But why wait when it’s so delicious right now?

Of course, no matter how good the wine is, there are those who will insist on drinking beer. Instead of loading up on Bud Light, try something new.

I’ve been working through the Magic Hat Brewery autumn variety pack ($15 per 12-pack), and there are two standouts among the selections. A dark amber ale called Roxy Rolles announces itself with a hoppy nose that IPA lovers will appreciate but adds a beautiful nuttiness that makes it a great match for fall foods. Another seasonal selection, the 2009 Odd Notion, is just as good, though completely different. Dark, rich and creamy, it layers bitter chocolate, espresso and hints of anisette that should prove popular in the colder weather.




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