The Annual What To Drink On Thanksgiving (WTDOT) Letter

Wine writers feel compelled to write a piece on what to drink with Thanksgiving dinner every year.  I like to ridicule this fool's errand by suggesting beer, as I have in years past, or suggesting that it won't matter what you drink as long as you let yourself enjoy the people around you.

Readers' demand for lists is interesting and, honestly, in the case of WTDOT, I think it's as much about beginning the dialog of sharing stories of who's drinking what as it is about finding the perfect match for the bird (again, a good IPA).  So, here's my story for this Thanksgiving:

We're traveling this year.  To my sister-in-law's.  Nine hours away.  My mother-in-law will there.  There will be kids, spastic on pre-dinner candy and the latest Wii game.  The potatoes are going to be overdone.  And I cannot wait. 

At the table will be my favorite people in the world - not all of them, of course, but a damn good start.  My brother-in-law Jim will preside over the Thanksgiving meal; fitting since he is truly the embodiment of gratitude.  At the beginning of every meal we share, he hoists his globe and, inclining his head slightly towards our wives, he'll ask me, "Who's got it better?", to which there is only one reply: "No one."

There won't be any beer at the table this year, not at Jim's house anyway.  No room for it, I'm afraid.  You see, Jim's pervasive generosity spills forth from, among other places, his blue chip cellar.  Chances are good that there'll be a bottle or two (or six) of Premier Cru Pommard and for sure a few from Haut-Brion.  He sets a high bar, that Jim.

So, what does one bring to a table like that?  Your gratitude and your heart, that's what.

And since there's no better metaphor for life's emotions than a well-selected bottle, well, I'll be bringing a few - among them some of the wines I found to have had the most profound effect on me this year...wines which made me thankful for having drank and which I cannot wait to share. 

Here are some of the goods:

2008 Tondré Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands Tondré Grapefields
This is the most recent addition to my dream cellar, added last month after discovering it on a trip to Monterey County.  After publishing this review of it, Penny Alarid called me.  She sounded tired.  They were at the height of harvest.  Her husband, Joe, had been working long, long days in the vineyard, fretting as farmers do during harvest.  Penny explained that she was going to print off the review and take it into the vineyard to her husband and that it was going to make his day.  Her words and gratitude touched me as much as their wine did.  As much as I'd like to relive this story every time I see this bottle in the cellar, you can't ask for a more appropriate wine to go with giving thanks.

2009 La Follette Chardonnay Sangiacamo Vineyard
After describing this as a "wealth-inducing wine", some readers questioned the value of a $30 Chardonnay.  As the comments at the bottom of this review explain, this wine makes what was already good, great, causing your cup overfloweth with gratitude. Picking up on a theme here?  It's also the very best California can deliver in this grape.  On a table that usually sees only European wines, this should turn some heads.

2008 Andrew Murray Vineyards Syrah Terra Bella Vineyard
Andrew is enjoying a resurgence of well-deserved accolades from the wine press, including a spat of really terrific scores for his current releases.  As is well-documented here, some of his wines have haunted me for weeks after drinking them, but of all his wines I've tasted this year, this is as close to a 5 star wine as I've reviewed. Inescapably comforting and delicious.  I can't wait to share this experience with loved ones.

Whatever you decide to put on your table, drink it in good health, with warmth in your soul, and knowing that among all the many blessings I have in my life, I'm also thankful for your readership.  Happy Thanksgiving.