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Wine-Filled Holidays

Perfect Turkey Pairings

The holiday season is upon us and despite some abnormalities as a result of this pesky and annoyingly persistent pandemic, there will be steadfast and reliable facets of our celebrations that will hopefully evoke comforting feelings of security, hope and spontaneous gaiety.

There will be gifts, Santa Claus, trees and carols, but most importantly there will be family and friends. There also will be turkey and wine. Since I never cooked a turkey and am not the biggest fan of its meat, I cannot help you in that department. But I do know a little bit about wine, and I can assist you in selecting a bottle of vino to pair with your bird no matter the preparation.

So here they are.

Domaine du Vieux Lazaret Châteauneuf-du Pape-Rouge 2018

A classic blend of Grenache, Mourvèdre and Syrah with a touch of Cinsault. Châteauneuf-du Pape is the first regulated appellation from France established in 1923, producing both red and white wines. Châteauneuf-du Pape translates as the “Pope’s New Castle.” In the early 14th century, when newly elected Pope Clement V, who happened to be French, moved the capitol of Papacy to Avignon, France, thereby starting a line of Avignon Popes – all fervent wine enthusiasts and each of whom significantly contributed to the wine culture of the region.

Domaine du Vieux Lazaret is owned by the Quiot family, and it dates back to 18th century when the Lazarist monks ran a hospice in the village of Châteauneuf-du Pape. At 250 acres, it is one of the largest properties in this wine region. The wine offers a balanced structure with a potential for aging. It gives out a generous nose of white pepper, lavender, Kirsch and black plum. It is silken on the palate with firm, supple tannins, and a long finish of dried herbs with hints of walnuts. To unlock the wine’s aromatics, decanting is recommended a few hours prior to intended consumption. The wine offers a great versatility in food pairing: game dishes, meat pastas, cheeses and turkey.

Frano Milos Stagnum Rosé

From the end of the Second World War until its declared independence in 1991, Croatia was once a part of the former nation of Yugoslavia and a solid part of the Communist Block. As is the case with all of Balkans, wine making traditions are centuries old here. And also like many countries in the region liberated from Soviet domination, including the likes of Hungary, Slovenia, Romania, Croatia has recently been experiencing a sort-of wine resurrection. Some fantastic wines made from both local and international grapes are being made here and gaining global recognition. It was here after all, where one of the California’s beloved grapes, Zinfandel, originated under the name of Crljenak Kaštelanski.

Recently, I tasted a compelling rosé from Croatia’s Pelješac Peninsula in Southern Dalmatia. Frano Milos is a renowned wine maker at Stagnum winery, whose specialization is the indigenous red grape Plavac Mali. Grown on steep, coastal vineyards with sandy soils over dolomite rocks, the grape offers unique characteristics, and the Stagnum Rosé from it, is like no other. An intense, blood orange color comes from an extended skin maceration, and so does a slight sensation of astringency on the palate. The fruit flavors of cranberry, rhubarb and cherry intermingle with savory notes of sun-drenched herbs, a brisk salinity, and a touch of flinty smokiness. This is a serious rosé with a long, persistent finish and a rich mouthfeel that benefits from decanting. Beyond pairing with turkey, this wine’s intensity can stand up to cured meats, strongly flavored cheeses, and even roasted lamb.

Bertani Valpolicella Ripasso

In the Northeastern part of Italy, there is a picturesque region of Veneto, towered over by the mighty Dolomite Alps and blessed with the azure waters of Lake Garda. Aside from the scenery and the city of Venice, the region is also a wine destination. Among many others, the appellation (DOC) of Valpolicella is one of the most recognized styles of wine made here, and Bertani is one of the staple wine families with a long history and well-established legacy. Their 2017 Valpolicella Ripasso was one of the wines at a dinner I attended recently. Made predominantly from a local grape variety Corvina Veronese, with a small amount of Merlot (10 percent) and five percent of another local red, Rondinella. The grapes are grown in the hills of the Valpantena and Valpolicella Classica areas where the soil is mainly calcareous marl with an addition of volcanic deposits, rich in iron.

The term “ripasso” refers to a special wine making technique. After the completion of the first, regular fermentation, the wine is mixed with pomace separated from the Amarone and fermented for the second time. The method adds an additional strength and intensity to the resulting Valpolicella Ripasso.

On the nose, the wine exhibits a clean and intense aroma of ripe, red fruit with hints of dark fruit, such as bramble, blackcurrant and ripe cherry. The texture is velvety with a well-balanced and round mouthfeel. It maintains a lively and intense grip all the way through and finishes with intriguing notes of tobacco, roasted chestnuts and cedar. This Valpolicella seamlessly matches with different Italian dishes: flavorsome pasta and rice dishes, such as risotto with porcini mushrooms, grilled and roast meats, medium-matured cheeses and of course … roasted turkey.

It would not be a celebration without some sparkle in a liquid form. Champagne is always a sure, even if a predictable, pick. That is why I decided to take a different route: a twist on the predictable at a comparable price point.

Franciacorta DOCG is a classic method sparkling wine produced in the eponymous area of Franciacorta, in the province of Brescia, in Lombardy, Italy. The vineyards of the appellation extend over 5,400 hectares with mineral-rich soils, granular-sized, calcareous gravel, and sandy morainal deposits covered by a limestone bedrock. Chardonnay grape dominates here with about 85 percent of the plantings. Pinot Nero comes second with 10 percent, followed by Pinot Blanco. It is the Pinot Nero (Pinot Noir) which adds rosé color to Franciacorta.

Contadi Castaldi is one the most reputable Franciacorta wineries. Its Brut Rosé is made from 65 percent Chardonnay and 35 percent Pinot Noir. The wine comes in a sexy, eye-catching package making it a great gift. In the glass, it shows off a beautiful coral pink hue. It offers elegant and fine perlage, which tickles the nostrils, intensifying the aromas of raspberries, rose petal with hints of baked apple, and tropical fruits. It is crisp and tangy on the palate with a long, sensual finish, a great wine for any occasion. It serves well as an aperitif, continues superbly throughout any event, calms you down before bedtime, and pairs well with… yes, turkey.


A sommelier’s tried and true go-to wine for the holidays, and specifically for pairing with turkey, is the red grape Gamay. When it comes to Gamay the best ones arguably come from the French appellation of Beaujolais.

Part of the larger Burgundy wine region, Beaujolais produces wines of three colors: red, white, and rosé. Ninety percent of Beaujolais wines are red. Gamay is a thin-skin variety that produces fruit-forward wines of fresh, bright aromas of cherry, plum, bramble, cinnamon, rose petals and a touch of pepper. They are fairly low in tannins and have a short life expectancy; a red Beaujolais should be consumed within five to six years.

The best Beaujolais wines are said to come from 10 Cru villages and offer a great quality for your buck; one should not pay more than $25 USD for even a top-quality bottle. I tasted a 2017 Chateau de Chaize from a Cru village of Brouilly, which is considered a high caliber, and its average price comes at $22 USD. The wine exhibited all the classic flavoring with a surprising depth and complexity. They are great cheese and charcuterie wines. I drank mine with beef brisket and it paired beautifully.

There you have it. All these wines are easily available through general distribution, at attainable price points, and a fantastic quality-to-value ratio. Served next to that dried-up, stringy, and mealie turkey, they are a great accompaniment to any holiday table.


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