story published in the Santa Barbara News-Press on Thanksgiving 2017
Need wine for Thanksgiving? The biggest challenge with finding the right one – whether it’s for the Thanksgiving feast or for the feast of leftovers in the days that follow – is actually what makes it so easy: you can’t go wrong! Considering the cavalcade of flavors and textures on the table, any red and any white and any bubbly you bring is bound to match something. An elegant pinot? Drink it with the white meat; the syrah will match the dark meat nicely. A buttery chardonnay? Stick it with the mashed potatoes and gravy. Port? Sip it with the pie (and then well into the night).
The wine I’ve learned to bring along on Thanksgiving weekend invites? The blend. Any blend. I figure, any wine that’s made with a variety of different grapes if bound to match a meal that, similarly, is made with a variety of different dishes. Here are two blends – one white, one red – plus a special sparkler that will nicely match your Turkey Weekend festivities.
White Blend: “Close Encounter,” Area 5.1 Winery, $20 (a special 20% holiday discount)The intergalactic vibe to Martin Brown’s wines makes the whole lineup at Area 5.1 Winery fun and approachable. The playfully dubbed Close Encounter is a mashup of Santa Ynez Valley grapes that aren’t usually paired, making them “foreigners” or “aliens,” according to the winemaker. Rhone grapes prevail – viognier, roussanne and grenache blanc – and are blended with sauvignon blanc, albariño and loureiro. The latter is a little known native Portuguese grape that delivers “a nice melon component,” says Brown. The wine is refreshing and bright, with flavors of citrus, green apple and apricot. Sip this before you sit down and swish in your mouth with bites of stuffing. Sip with your leftover sandwich of white meat turkey, cranberry sauce and mayo on white bread.
Area 5.1 Winery, 137 Anacapa Street, Santa Barbara. 805-770-7251. a51wine.com.
Red Blend: “The Merchant,” Rake Wine, $32
Winemaker Rob DaFoe just premiered The Merchant, a proprietary blend he intends to use as an imaginative outlet – the components that make up the wine will change each vintage, giving him total creative control. “Blends are a chance for winemakers to have the most influence,” says DaFoe, who’s also the winemaker for the brand new Brick Barn Estate wine project in Buellton (and whom I’ve consistently flagged as one of Santa Barbara’s very best young winemakers). “We always try to bring wine from the ground to the glass, but blends are where nature doesn’t do as much. It’s a winemaker’s own personal stamp.” The inaugural 2014 The Merchant is a grenache-based blend that also features syrah, mourvedre, cabernet franc, pinot noir and even a little chardonnay. The latter, an unusual white grape add-in, brings “liveliness to the aromatics,” DaFoe says. And grenache’s own knack for matching a wide array of Thanksgiving fare (and all leftovers that follow) is well-known – medium-bodied and luscious, with streaks of minerality and plenty of red fruit flavors. Available at Rake’s Buellton winery (tasting by appointment) and Wine + Beer at the Santa Barbara Public Market.
Rake, 805-452-9685. rakewine.com.
Municipal Winemakers’ raucous vibe is undeniable, and the brand new Mubbly is just more proof. Winemaker David Potter has long had success with his sparkling syrah. This summer, he premiered Mubbly, an ingenious product – from packaging to sip – that checks all the boxes. It’s approachable, fun and cleverly caters to a wide audience – perfect in a setting like Thanksgiving where personal tastes are as varied as the meal. Potter sources French Colombard – a white offspring of chenin blanc – from vineyards in Bakersfield and ferments it dry; the juice is then pump into his neighbor’s facility, Third Window Brewing in Santa Barbara, where it’s injected with carbon dioxide to induce carbonation. “It’s cheap and cheerful,” says Potter, who’s aiming for the casual sparkling fan as the wine rookie. In fact, “we’re really going after the craft beer drinker rather than the Champagne lover,” says the winemaker, who packaged Mubbly in 500-ml bottles (regular wine bottles are 750 ml.) topped with a crown cap (like a beer bottle) and sells it in easy-to-carry two-packs. It’s an easy 10.5% alcohol and, adds Potter, “it’s even okay to drink it right out of the bottle.”
Municipal Winemakers, 22 Anacapa St., Santa Barbara. 805-931-6864. municipalwinemakers.com.