Turkeys, cranberries, pumpkins, and green beans must dread the end of November. As set in stone (perhaps Plymouth Rock itself?) as the traditional Thanksgiving Day menu seems to be, what you choose to imbibe with that meal seemingly is wide open. To help with that conundrum, The Independent asked two Santa Barbara wine merchants what they’d suggest should be on our tables November 27.
Sean Larkins, owner of Vino Divino (2012 De la Vina St., 682-7484), began by pointing out that people “usually serve a mild wine because it’s such blah, but good, food-there’s no spice. So people tend to go for a pinot noir, a Beaujolais, a gamay.” For those tending to that end of the spectrum, Larkins recommended the 2007 Samsara Pinot Noir (about $30). “It’s the first time they’ve made a Santa Barbara County blend, as they specialize in single-vineyard bottlings,” he said. “There’s lots of blueberry flavor to it. Chad Melville, son of the mighty Ron Melville, owns Samsara, so you know it’s good.”
Of course, since there’s often pre-meal drinking, Larkins joked, “You can get away with a lot of stuff by the time dinner rolls around.” Less frivolously, he suggested as a bit of a red wild card the Spanish grenache Alto Moncayo (about $24). Grenache works because it’s medium-bodied, serious enough so you know you’re drinking something but not so overpowering that your poor Tom would have to paradiddle its drumstick to get attention.
Larkins also hopes to push people a bit past that white standby, chardonnay, which works, of course, as its buttery notes get echoed in the potatoes and stuffing. “I like the Ojai White-a little of sauvignon blanc, some roussanne, but mostly chardonnay. It has a little more flavor and is just about $16.” He stuck with another Ojai Vineyards product for dessert, Adam Tolmach’s Viognier Ice Wine Roll Ranch. “It’s got all kinds of fruit flavors and a pretty straw color,” Larkins claimed.
Bob Wesley, owner of The Winehound (1221 Chapala St., 845-5247), tended to look internationally for his suggestions. He, too, likes Spanish grenache (okay, garnacha), suggesting Los Rocas (about $12) and claiming, “It’s a great value, with pepper and baking spice character and cherry and raspberry fruit.” Wesley also asserted, “I’m a shiraz guy, and would probably go for an Australian shiraz. If you’re on a budget, the 2007 Woop Woop is $11.99 and has loads of blueberry jam.” He did make one regional red suggestion, saying, “Lots of folks like zinfandel for Thanksgiving. It fits the bill for ripeness level and compatibility with all those pesky side dishes. Saucelito Canyon is good and about $25.”
Wesley moved from S.L.O. to France for his first white pick, suggesting a chenin blanc, such as a Vouvray, for about $18. “They have ripe lemony, golden apple flavors that don’t overwhelm the turkey and are versatile with the side dishes.” His thinking didn’t stray from the European continent with his next pick. “Gr¼ner veltliner is another choice,” he said. “It’s an Austrian white with a little bit of residual sugar and stone fruit characteristics.”
As for that sticky problem of what to serve with dessert, Wesley didn’t hesitate. “I’m a dessert wine nut,” he said, “so I’d pick an Australian muscat. It’s full of complementary flavors like caramel, molasses, nuts, and honey. It’s hard to find anything more ideal. Given their layers and layers of complexity, they’re very well-priced, about $18 a half-bottle.” After all, there’s no better way to end a day of feasting than with some muscat love.