Autumn light shone on the smooth leaves of the magnolia trees that grow throughout my neighborhood and stopped me in my tracks the other morning. I had been walking with a long list on my mind when I slowed down in appreciation of the stained-glass effect the light created. I found myself considering how simple gratitude can be.
Autumn is a dazzling season for sunlight, a kaleidoscope of shadows visible more than any other time of year. Gratitude can be this way, too – shining through and changing the shape of even the densest troubles in life.
For Thanksgiving this year, I look forward to the elaborate meal my family and I will prepare. Thanks to my morning walk, I also will focus on just how simple the pleasures of the holiday can be – and the wines to pair with such moments of the season.
My Thanksgiving would not be complete without a couch-camping session on the eve of the big Thursday. We watch “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” every year. We can quote the movie verbatim, but that doesn’t stop us from uproarious laughter throughout.
The absolute greatest snack for our movie night is olive oil truffle popcorn (recipe below) with a 2013 Balletto Vineyards Sparkling Brut Rosé ($42), a pairing that demonstrates how the simplest combinations can be the most satisfying. Admittedly, I would drink Balletto’s Rosé with just about anything. The beautiful sparkler is the lightest of pink shades, with complex and bright cherry aromas. A crisp finish with graceful yeastiness and luscious texture, this wine would be incredible on Thanksgiving Day, too.
Those who order their turkeys ready for pickup can add to the ease of the day by serving a crowd-pleasing wine. Nicolas Dazzi of Enoteca La Storia in Los Gatos recommends pouring a Zinfandel with a variety of American dishes.
“The varietal is usually loaded with dense, sweet and juicy fruit with a nice peppery note that matches the typical broad spectrum of flavors at the Thanksgiving table,” he said.
A favorite of Dazzi’s is the Ridge Vineyards Lytton Springs Zinfandel ($40), which he lauded as “full-bodied with generous fruit and a bit of tannic structure.”
Another pairing Dazzi suggests is a Chardonnay served beside a corn-heavy succotash.
“I like to grill some corn before cutting it off the cob and mixing the kernels with a healthy amount of butter, salt and a squeeze of lime or lemon,” he said. “I finish by grating a hard cheese such as Manchego or Parmesan over the top. A Chardonnay with a bit of oak treatment or age has the right notes of nuttiness, sweet baking spice and creamy texture to match the side dish perfectly.”
His two picks are the 2014 Solitude Chardonnay ($30) and, for those who prefer a more subtle taste, the 2013 Tyler Chardonnay ($30).
Perhaps Thanksgiving is all about a small group of friends and Chinese takeout at your place. Be sure to have plenty of dry Riesling on hand. Emmett Welch, wine department manager at Draeger’s Market in Los Altos, recommends the 2016 Trefethen Dry Riesling ($19.99). With abundant orange-blossom notes on the nose, this wine is full of fabulous apple and guava flavors. Great minerality and dry finish make it a super complement to Asian flavors.
Sometimes the simplest way to give thanks is skipping dinner and going straight for dessert. Draeger’s wine staff suggests pairing Warre’s Otima 10-Year-Old Tawny Port ($23.99) with pumpkin pie. This lighter port has plenty of intensity and richness. Hazelnut and walnut flavors along with the fortified wine’s cinnamon notes make it a made-for-the season pairing.
Christine Moore is a Mountain View resident. To read her blog, visit sheepishsommelier.blogspot.com.
Christine’s Olive-Oil Truffle Salt Popcorn
• 8 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 cup popcorn kernels
• Truffle salt (I like Sabatino Truffle Sea Salt, available at World Market for $12.99)
Heat heavy-bottom saucepan with handle over medium-high heat. Add olive oil and heat until shimmery. Add popcorn, cover and shake vigorously. When kernels begin to pop, shake until you can count 2 seconds between pops – this means popcorn is done. Pour in bowl and season to taste with truffle salt.