A Locapour Thanksgiving

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

Each year since moving to Connecticut, I’ve made the trek down to New Jersey to spend Thanksgiving with my cousins, the Garlicks. Under normal circumstances (i.e. the drive home in the evening), the trip takes just over two hours.  Driving down on Thanksgiving morning, though, is like “traveling through another dimension… you’ve just entered the Twilight Zone.”

The first year, 2007, my friend and occasional wine trail buddy, Maree Prendergast, also joined us for Thanksgiving, so my first stop was Jersey City where she lives. The drive down the Merritt Parkway in Connecticut was both lovely and a breeze, until I hit the Bronx and the parkway became a parking lot. After 45 minutes of almost total inertia, I decided it was time to move – and by this point didn’t really care which direction I headed in.  So I hopped off the parkway and made my way over to the Queensboro Bridge, figuring crosstown traffic on Thanksgiving afternoon couldn’t be that bad. Whoops – forgot there was that little thing called the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade (which in my defense had finished hours before), forcing me and everyone else in Manhattan to head downtown and cut across the impossibly narrow streets of the Village and Soho to that traffic nightmare more commonly known as the Holland Tunnel.

Needless to say, we were several hours late…

Last year, 2008, Maree skipped Thanksgiving at the Garlicks in favor of spending the holiday with her parents who were visiting from Sydney, Australia, so I decided to cut across Connecticut and drop down into New Jersey from the north – thus avoiding Manhattan altogether. Great plan until I hit a 15-mile backup caused by an accident on the Tappan Zee Bridge, forcing me to detour down to I95 and that traffic nightmare more commonly known as the George Washington Bridge.

Needless to say, I was several hours late…

This year, I informed my cousin Andrew before Easter not to expect me for Thanksgiving.   Instead, I’m spending the day close to home with my friends David & Deirdre, their three kids, and the various and sundry people that come for the weekend or just wander in off the street. In some ways David & Deirdre remind me of my own family – they collect people, all kinds of people, and have the most interesting dinner table conversations.  I anticipate a lively Thanksgiving and a 20 minute commute.

I called Deirdre several weeks ago to ask her what I could bring.  We actually have a bit of a routine: if one is hosting dinner the other calls and says “what can I bring,” only to be answered with “nothing…  except maybe a bottle of wine.”  But this being Thanksgiving, and Deirdre now having three children (the youngest born a scant 2 1/2 months ago), I figured if I nagged her every few days like one of her children (what can I bring, what can I bring, what can I bring…) she would break down and tell me something – anything – to get me to stop calling her.

It appears her children broke her first, because I had barely gotten the words out of my mouth when she laughed and said “I was just going to ask if you’d mind bringing dessert?”  I just about fell off my chair.  Good thing I wasn’t asking just to be polite.  🙂  We settled on my bringing a Cranberry Upside Down Cake and a Chocolate-Espresso Volcano Cake, which when joined by the Deirdre’s pumpkin bread pudding and David’s childhood favorite strawberry and pretzel dessert will make a nice dessert buffet for the roughly 20 people coming for Thanksgiving.

And what better to go with a dessert buffet than a selection of local dessert wines, especially if they are seasonal wines that evoke that lusciousness of Thanksgiving?  So along with the desserts, I’m pulling a few bottles of Connecticut wines from the cellar:

Digrazia Autumn Spice I can only describe this as “pumpkin pie in a glass.”  White wine fermented with sugar pumpkins, honey and spices (including nutmeg and cinnamon).  Yum!

Land of Nod Chocolate-Raspberry Wine I first tasted this in August of ’07, just before it was released and loved it so much I went back and bought a case last Thanksgiving to share with friends (and hoard for myself).  Not too sweet and the chocolate and the raspberry are perfectly balanced.

And to round out the mix, I’ll bring a more traditional dessert wine, but am still trying to choose between Hopkins Vineyard’s Night Owl, a lovely late-harvest Vidal Blanc, and their Ice Wine, one of the best non-Niagara region/non-German Ice Wines I’ve found.  Decisions, decisions…

Of course I can always have the one I didn’t choose chilling at home for a late-night Thanksgiving toast in front of the fire…

We Gather Together

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

With Thanksgiving looming before us this week (Please keep your Christmas references at bay, please… I can only handle one holiday at a time), many people are trying to decide what to have for the big feast.

Turkey is the obvious choice (though venison would be traditionally correct as well, as the local Wamponoag people brought five deer to the feast)

One thing that we can be sure of? Those people celebrating their first feast of thanksgiving in Plymouth (or Virginia) dined on local food. There was no Beajolais Nouveau or Beaujolais Vieux for that matter…

What seems totally appropriate?  Drinking local.  During the colonial period, the Pilgrims would have had beer from home grown barley, or cider from home grown apples or even wine from from native grapes (fox grapes named for their flavor… think Concord and tell me if you can avoid thinking of grape jelly!) or other local fruit.

So my plan?

To drink as much local wine as possible…  The thing holding me back?  Well… my parents are hosting our feast.. and Dad does have all of those wine clubs that he is a member of…  I will do my best to bring more wine than Lionstone International can send my father.

Over the River and Through the Woods…

To my house this year!

My folks generally handle the Thanksgiving festivities but this year due to work considerations opted to let me and my shiny new kitchen handle the majority of the cooking. Not to be outdone, my father did bring the turkey and the dressing…. because as we have learned from inestimable Alton Brown, stuffing is evil because it both dries out the meat and creates a bacterial time bomb in your oven.

That being said, we had reached the point in the preparations where is was now time to finally select those wines that we would consume with our fowl friend… These were the planned choices and really we stuck to them pretty closely. Although I think we were much more in a mood for red wine and ended up drinking 2004 Warm Lakes Estate Pinot Noir in addition to the Hilton Clay in lieu of the Flora Springs. Our friend, Richard would be horrified, but in the end we will enjoy that Chardonnay so I say no harm, no foul on that choice.

My folks enjoyed the Gruet Brut and initially thought that it was a French wine. They were stunned to find that it came from New Mexico and more pleased that I managed to find that particular bottle for about $13.00 at WDC. The pinot noirs, on the other hand we had found together when out on our adventures on the Escarpment. This was our opportunity to taste them side by side again and this time get my mother’s opinion (as she kindly took charge of the girls that day). Over all the 2004 was preferred to the Hilton Clay but we enjoyed both…

After dinner as we enjoyed the maple cream pie, we tasted a number of lovely wines… A Port from Niagara Landing which tasted of Concord grapes, a R.L. Buller Tawny Port and Lustau Solera Reserva Rare Cream Sherry .