turkey dinner? try malbec

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A friend writes: “We are hosting Thanksgiving for 12 at our place this year, and I could not help but think of you as I started to think of the wine selection. We have typically bought gewürztraminer and after the first bottle everyone looks for something drier. So what else might you recommend?”

OK, let me be perfectly frank here. After 25 years of writing an annual what-do-we-drink-with-turkey? column I’ve pretty well run out of patience with the standards. Is Thanksgiving the only day of the year you should drink gewürztraminer? Of course not – if you actually like gewürztraminer. If you don’t like the stuff, pairing it with turkey isn’t going to make it suddenly wonderful.

My one-paragraph advice: buy as many different wines as possible. Twelve people? That’s six bottles minimum, and they should all be different. A bubbly, a rosé, one or two dry whites (note – gewürztraminer can be dry), one or two reds, and a dessert wine (my vote – tawny Port).

Returning to the topic of malbecs (see yesterday’s post) – why not make malbec your Thanksgiving red this year? It’s going to fit the meal well (as long as you have some of the other styles I mentioned above) and it’s not going to be bor-ring! Granted, finding Washington malbecs on short notice may be a challenge, but worth checking with your favorite wine seller to see what’s on hand. Here are some Washington bottles I’ve recently tasted and enjoyed, and a bonus list of bargains from Argentina.

Alexandria Nicole 2007 ‘Block 20’ Malbec ($38). Pure varietal flavors of raspberry and cassis set up this stylish malbec. It’s bright and tangy, balanced throughout, with traces of light chalk and stone threaded through the polished tannins. Excellent length.

àMaurice 2006 Malbec ($34). Malbec is likely to become a signature red for àMaurice, as for a number of other young Walla Walla wineries. This excellent bottle proves the point. It’s fragrant and deep in color, with verve, tangy blackberry and currant fruit, polished slightly grainy tannins and a seductive, mouth-coating finish. Just the right touch of earth, herb and licorice to give it added interest through the finish. Note that 2007 has just been released.

Beast 2008 Phinny Hill Vineyard Malbec ($30). From Buty – mailing list only. This is the estate-bottling from their Horse Heaven Hills vineyard, just across the road from Champoux. A crowd favorite at my tasting seminar last week.

Bunchgrass 2007 Frazier Bluff Vineyard Malbec ($32). Just one barrel was made of this complex, nicely sculpted, 100% malbec. It’s from fourth leaf fruit, showing bright and fresh raspberry flavors, compact herbs, and streaks of tar and earth. A floral note – clover? – comes in as the wine breathes open. Still young and slightly reduced, it will reward decanting.

Canoe Ridge Vineyard 2006 Malbec ($?). Just 200 cases – tasting room only. Made by now-departed winemaker Christophe Paubert, this is firm, tight and beautifully structured.

Milbrandt Vineyards 2007 The Estates Malbec ($25). A well-modulated mix of black cherry, plum, strawberry and spice cake, this also hints at pepper and rosemary, with the chocolatey signature of Milbrandt reds.

RiverAerie 2007 Malbec ($22). Sold out at the winery, but if you see a bottle, grab it! This is Bunnell Family’s sister label. Bright fruit, sappy, juicy and leaning toward blueberry, with stiff finishing tannins that suggest a splash of green tea.

Saviah Cellars 2006 Malbec ($30). Rich Funk says malbec is going to be a strong focus for Saviah in coming vintages. This early effort is drinking very well, with ripe wild strawberry flavors and polished tannins. The current release is 2007.

Walla Walla Vintners 2005 Malbec ($32). This is 100% malbec, so inky it is literally black in color. The flavors echo the color, with amazing density. Black fruits, black olives, smoke and spice are structured around thick tannins. A minute-plus finish adds licorice and mint, and even after being opened for a full 48 hours this wine remained fresh and balanced. This was the first varietal malbec ever from Walla Walla Vintners, and it has become their most-requested wine. Note that 2007 is the current release.

Bonus – here are recommended Argentine malbecs for every day enjoyment:

Conquista 2006 Malbec; $8
Alamos 2006 Malbec; $10
Altas Cumbres 2006 Malbec; $10
AltoSur 2006 Malbec; $10
Gouguenheim 2007 Valle Escondido Malbec; $10
Pascual Toso 2008 Malbec; $11
Colores del Sol 2008 Malbec Reserva; $12
Doña Paula 2006 Estate Malbec; $12
Tomero 2005 Malbec; $13
Finca Sophenia 2006 Malbec; $14
Alamos 2006 Selección Malbec; $15
Carlos Basso 2006 Malbec; $15
Goulart 2006 Reserva Malbec; $15
Nandu 2006 Malbec; $15
Erales 2005 Malbec; $16
Pascual Toso 2007 Reserve Malbec; $18
Familia Marguery 2004 Malbec; $18
Melipal 2005 Malbec; $20


East of the border said...

Olsen Estates makes a Malbec under their Olsen Hills label which only costs $19 and can certainly stand up to the ones you listed here!

Anonymous said...


The best recommendation I've ever seen for T'giving wines (the sheer amount and variety of foods disqualify any single wine) was to serve what your guests like. True hostman's-ship!

Other than that, your recommendation of many, many different wines is what I end up doing...

Peter R

Judy Phelps said...

Great idea, I had not thought of Malbec for Tday, will have to try it, thanks for the suggestion. Boy, for the price of those Argentinian Malbecs though, it has got to be hard for our local wineries to compete.

Wawineman said...

William Church Winery makes a dandy Malbec, and the winery is easily accessible in the Woodinville warehouse district.

Timinspokane said...

Hmmm... I have bottles of both the Walla Walla Vintners and a maurice malbecs in the cellar. Might have to rethink my zin! But man, I love my zins...

Wawineman said...

If Malbec is so good, then try a Tempranillo from Washington State.

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