Thanksgiving 2015: Some Pairing Ideas

Tuesday, November 17, 2015 1:37 AM

All of us here at TWH were shocked to see and read the news of the tragic events that occurred in Paris on Friday. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims and the French populace.

Not such a pleasant way to commence this week’s Sunday email. Somehow, the topic I’ve had in mind to write about is applicable. Seeing that this is my last Sunday email before Thanksgiving, I will continue the tradition of giving thanks. A good friend of mine summed his feelings up pretty well on his Facebook feed last night. “Very sad day indeed. Could have happened anywhere. Give your loved ones a hug and be grateful for what you have.” A sentiment that I share with many is that giving thanks is an every day activity, not something to be saved exclusively for the fourth Thursday of November.

I’ve written about my early perceptions of Thanksgiving before. Most of my life, it was a holiday that I didn’t really celebrate. If I wasn’t skiing, I was bored. I didn’t care for any of the traditional Thanksgiving dishes. It wasalways nice to get together with extended family and good friends, but that was it. Of course this all has changed now that I have lobster and Sauternes on Thanksgiving. I’m planning on doing this again, and the wine I’m choosing this year is the 2005 Château Clos Haut Peyraguey. Why? A pair of cosmic tumblersfalling into place.
Tumbler #1 – The property was purchased by Bordeaux chateaux mogul Bernard Magrez in 2012. TWH was just paid a visit by a Magrez’s export director last Monday, and he commented on our having a couple of back vintages of Clos Haut Peyraguey in stock. We spoke about Barsac and Sauternes at length, and I’m pretty black and white about my feelings for the wines. I think he got my drift.
Tumbler #2: It’s a 2005, a fantastic vintage for the wines of Barsac and Sauternes. I can recall John’s excitement about the quality of Bordeaux’s sweet wines when he returned from the region in the spring of 2006. Ben went so far as to purchase some ’05 Clos Haut Peyraguey futures citing its geographical proximity to Yquem.Then there was the tasting of 2005 Sauternes that I attended in 2008, leaving me with quite the impression, especially for Château Coutet. I last had 2005 Coutet on my birthday back in September and it was showing brilliantly! 10 years has worked its magic on the wine which was revealing some bottle bouquet and secondary characteristics. It was still fresh and youthful, yet layered and intellectual. We are trying to get more. I’ll get back to you on that.
Back on Wednesday evening, I was invited to the home of a very good friend to celebrate the end of his six year quest for a particular certification. To celebrate he picked up a USDA Prime Tri-Tip, marinated it, and slow cooked it for hours. He finished it off in a pan and popped a1993 Penfolds Grange. It was my very first taste of what is considered Australia’s finest wine. It was a great experience, and along with another good friend we discussed many of the finest food and wine pairings we’ve enjoyed over the years. He humbly dismissed the tri-tip/Grange pairing from being among the best (it belongs in the argument), and poured full praise for “The year you brought that magnum of Fleurie to Thanksgiving dinner.” There’s a lot to say in support for Cru Beaujolais at the Thanksgiving table. It’s light. It’s complex. It’s versatile. It smells like fall. As the holiday approaches, we have helped many customers with their “Beaujolais for Thanksgiving” orders.
As I stated above, giving thanks is something that should be done daily, and I have reason to be grateful for many people and things these days. 2015 has been a very challenging year for me personally, and I wouldn’t be in the state I’m in without the tremendous support that I have received from so very many. Giving thanks, BIG TIME! Happy Thanksgiving!!! – Peter Zavialoff

On Thanksgiving Wines, 2013

Monday, November 18, 2013 8:50 PM

San Francisco, November 16, 2013. Two weeks ago, I pointed out that Thanksgiving was creeping up on us, and guess what? It is! Since this will be my last Sunday email before the big day, I’m going to continue with the T-Day spirit. You see, when it comes to Thanksgiving, I feel like I’ve been born again. Seriously, it has only been a fairly recent development that I get excited about Thanksgiving. Why get excited? Because I get to drink Sauternes, that’s why.


It is important to be grateful and give thanks, and I’ve never had a problem with that. It has been the traditional Thanksgiving meal that I’ve had issues with, and this goes way back to early childhood. Being the only native American in a family of immigrants came with a rather unique perspective. Goings on at the homes of childhood friends, though all different from each other, still had a familiar cultural connection. I would return home and it was like crossing a border or something. Giving thanks was something done daily at the dinner table … after one was finished. Though they had a few years of practice before I came into being, my family’s Thanksgiving meals were bland and banal. They ceased being banal once I started providing the wine, but the family feast still left a lot to be desired. In those days, excessive money was spent on extravagant bottles that drank very well; they just didn’t pair well with anything on the table. I enjoyed sharing fancy wines with my loved ones, and I still do, don’t get me wrong.

Being in this line of work has me a little more focused on pairings nowadays, and I’ve been loving my journey of discovering savory food pairings for the Gold wines of Sauternes and Barsac. I’ve always loved the wines, but I was under-utilizing them. It’s interesting how things come about, and my Sauternes story is certainly a long one; I’ll do my best to spare you the ” … and then the 38 Geary went by” details I’ve been known for while telling a story. It was May, 2008. It was just another day here at TWH, a customer was walking through the Bordeaux section, and then stopped in the Sauternes section. We do have an amazingly large selection of Gold wines, one of the largest in the country. I’m always curious to see customers there, so I went out to investigate. Turns out the customer was Didier Frechinet from Château La Tour Blanche. He was in town for a big Sauternes tasting. David asked me to go to the tasting.  A lot changed that day. I am very grateful that Didier visited us that day, and I am also very grateful for all of the good Sauternes has done for me. Very grateful. Giving Thanks.

After that tasting, I was off in search of unusual savory pairings for the Gold wines of Bordeaux, chiming in here on occasion.Turns out people actually read these things, because not too long thereafter, we teamed up with Aline Baly of Château Coutet for an all-Sauternes dinner for customers at Restaurant Picco in Larkspur. It was a smashing success, as we now have 3 Coutet dinners under our belts! Though born in France, Aline grew up here in the states and always celebrated Thanksgiving with the Gold Wines from her family’s property. Now there’s an idea! It might have taken me a while, as once you get in the habit of dismissing Thanksgiving, it can be difficult to embrace it. But I’m embracing it now; the golden elixir to the rescue!


What I’m trying to say here, as I said last time, there’s no right or wrong way to pair wine with Thanksgiving. Go with what works for you. You want a light-body red? Magnums of 2011 Fleurie would be great. A nice, fairly inexpensive White Burgundy? Try the 2011 Bourgogne Blanc from Michel Bouzereau.In the mood for a full-bodied red? The 2009 Château Larrivaux is calling your name. I could go on and on.  Just remember: This is Thanksgiving. These are your friends and family. Do what you want; or as Ms. Baly likes to say, “There are only traditions, no rules.”



I wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving, however you celebrate. Over the years, I have received compliments from several customers about these write-ups, and I am very grateful for them. I am also very grateful for those of you that I don’t hear from; thank you for reading! Giving Thanks.  


So yes, I am very excited about celebrating this born-again (for me) holiday. You can absolutely count on the fact that I will have, at the very least, a glass of Sauternes or Barsac come November 28.


In case you all want to join me in a toast, check this: We’re having a special sale on the 2005 Château La Tour Blanche in half-bottle! Regularly priced at $29.98, it is now on sale for $19.95!!! When I tasted it with Didier Frechinet in the room, I found the botrytis profound and the structure suggesting the wine will last a long, long time. After tasting it recently, I still find the botrytis ever-present, but it exhibits a melange of complexity that will keep you deep in thought … this baby’s open for business! True story, a customer once asked for a recommendation for a magnum of Sauternes for his daughter born in 2005. He bought the 2005 Château La Tour Blanche, he also asked me to enclose an autographed copy of my tasting notes. That was a first. Very Grateful. Giving Thanks. – Peter Zavialoff

Please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments about Thanksgiving, Gold Wines, Bordeaux, or why I don’t like international breaks during footy season:

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2011 Chateau de Raousset Fleurie

Monday, November 4, 2013 7:58 PM

raoussetAnd POW! Just like a splash of cold water in the face, autumn is upon us. It started last Monday, Anya came in with sad news from the Sunday Farmers’ Market, no more tomatoes.  The colder nights have taken their toll on the treehouse and the car: out came the dehumidifier in the former, and on with the defrost in the latter. Then baseball season came to an end. Then I watched an NBA game. Then I saw a bunch of people, big and small, parading around in costume. And now we’re turning back the clocks? What can I say? I do realize that we are fortunate here in the SF Bay Area as summer doesn’t end until November. But now it’s November, and when I take my sunglasses off this evening after driving home, I will realize that this was their final appearance for the after work ride home until late March! I was hanging out with a buddy last weekend, and he asked me what I was doing for Thanksgiving dinner … apparently, he wants to host a gathering made up of mostly musical types, to feast, revel, and jam. It looks like my calendar’s free, and if I’m invited to such a fête, I’ve got the wine all figured out. Howzabout a magnum of delicious Cru Beaujolais? Yes, the 2011 Château de Raousset Fleurie “Grille-Midi”.

Every year right around now I am frequently asked for advice on what wines to serve at Thanksgiving. It all depends on what’s being served and who’s coming and how many and … yeah. First thing’s first, don’t overthink it. If you want to open something fancy, by all means, please do so. It IS Thanksgiving after all. I used to open fancy full-bodied red wines with my family back in my rambunctious youth, and as inappropriate as they were from a pairing perspective, I was happy to share such nice wine with my loved ones. If you want to dial in pairing perfection, there are several avenues to take, and it all depends on what exactly is being served. When I think of the traditional Thanksgiving table I must say that, first of all, it’s tricky. Second of all, it’s pretty much all about white wine. I know, I know. Many of you want to drink red wine, and that’s perfectly fine. If you’re going to go the red route, it’s fun to tone it down a bit. That’s where Cru Beaujolais gets you. So when I first saw the magnums of 2011 Château de Raousset Fleurie “Grille-Midi”, I thought, “Thanksgiving Party.”

fleurie2011 represents the third vintage of wines that we’ve imported from Château de Raousset. Are we ever glad to have them in TWH family!!! Whenever we taste the Raousset wines with our Burgundy negociante Jeanne-Marie de Champs, she never fails to say, “A great grower.”  Raousset is a property that dates back to the 18th century with the current structure dating back to 1850. They make 3 different Cru bottlings. A Chiroubles, Morgon, and this here Fleurie. According to their website, the Chiroubles and Morgon won silver medals at the annual Paris tasting in 2012, but the Fleurie “Grille-Midi” took the gold! I guess their judges were wowed by the same factors as our staff: Bright wild cherry, forest floor, moist clay, ripe olives, a hint of tar and allspice. That’s a lot of aromatic complexity. The palate, like most Gamay Noir, is light bodied, which allows all of that complexity to ping off your olfactory sensors. It’s balanced by bright acidity which keeps it interesting throughout its finish. It kind of reminds me a little of the 2011 Château Armurey Bordeaux Clairet that came and went two weeks’ time! It smells like red wine, yet is light in body, with a fruity middle, and a crisp finish. Only the Fleurie has so much more interesting complexity.

I don’t mean to scare anybody; Thanksgiving is still a long ways away, but it will sneak up on you if you’re not looking. I’m guessing these magnums of Fleurie won’t still be in-stock come November 27, but never fear, we still have 750’s of it as well. It’s just that nothing says “festivity” better than large format wine bottles. And for Thanksgiving wines that smell like autumn, are light in body, and reasonable in price? It’s all about the 2011 Château de Raousset Fleurie “Grille-Midi”! – Peter Zavialoff


Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments about Thanksgiving wines, large format bottlings, Cru Beaujolais, or today’s no-show on Tyneside:

Anthill Farms’ 2009 Sonoma Coast Syrah

Tuesday, November 22, 2011 9:29 PM

Thanksgiving Day is fast approaching and I’m starting to feel a bit peckish. I loves me some turkey and all the fixins’. If I plan my day just right, I might be able to hit TWO family dinners on Thursday. It’s been done before and, miraculously, there is always room for just one more bite! When it comes to pairing wine with the traditional Thanksgiving mealmy advice is that anything goes; drink what you like. I have my own personal preferences and if you ask me I’ll likely suggest staying away from tannic reds, especially big structured Cabernet Sauvignons, but that said over the years I’ve known many sophisticated wine drinkers who have uncorked a special Bordeaux at Thanksgiving and enjoyed the pairing, so there goes that theory. A typical Thanksgiving table has so many flavors going on that you might as well drink what you like best be it white, red, pink or bubbly. For my contribution to the Harvest Festival table I’ll be bringing a bottle of 2009 Sonoma Coast Syrah from Anthill Farms. I opened up a bottle a week ago and was bowled over by the unmistakable note of freshly cracked black pepper making me question if I was indeed drinking a wine from California and not from the Northern Rhone. The finish did not betray its origins for a savory, bright acid thread weaved through all that sumptuous fruit again making me think: Northern Rhone. What a pleasure to smell, drink and taste this vibrant Syrah.


Anthill Farms, a collaboration between three guys who met while working at Williams Selyem in the Russian River Valley, made its debut with the 2004 vintage. These like-minded young winemakers (Anthony Filiberti, Webster Marquez, and David Low) quickly garnered a reputation for making elegant, refined Pinot Noir from cool climate, unique North Coast vineyards. Though TWH got in early with the winery, as is so often the case with small production, highly lauded operations, we can never get our hands on enough wine to fill demand. We currently have a full range of single-vineyard Pinot Noir from Anthill Farms in stock, but the quantities are all under a case. So imagine my delight when I asked to increase my allocation of the 2009 Sonoma Coast Syrah expecting a “no” for an answer but instead got a “yes”. Thankfully with a little more wine in stock, I can wholeheartedly recommend the 2009 Sonoma Coast Syrah from Anthill Farms as the perfect Thanksgiving Day/Holiday wine and at $20.98 per bottle let me just say, this is a SCREAMING deal, plain and simple. The 2009 Sonoma Coast Syrah comes from three vineyards: Peters, Campbell Ranch and Windsor Oaks. The Peters Vineyards sits right outside Sebastopol in western Sonoma County, Campbell Ranch is in Annapolis and at 750ft elevation sits right at the marine layer, and Windsor Oaks Vineyards is in the Russian River Valley. The dark purple fruit, though rich, does not sit on the palate at all heavy or flabby, but is expressive and keeps you digging your nose back down deep into the glass again and again for another whiff of that black pepper spice.Just gorgeous.


I took this past Friday off so that I could attend my daughter’s second grade class performance of “The Turkey’s Go On Strike!”. In my biased opinion, I think she gave a tour de force performance as a turkey, holding her picket sign “Rice is Nice” up higher than any of the other turkeys. Afterwards I held a reception for family, serving snacks and Lambrusco (another good option for T-Day by the way). And if that weren’t enough turkey references, just today as I was driving to work I encountered this nervous little fellow hiding in a parking lot median. I just had to take a picture. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Anya Balistreri

Anya’s Holiday Solution

Monday, November 30, 2009 5:08 PM

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2007 Healdsburg Ranches Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve

Red Wine; Cabernet Sauvignon; Napa;
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2005 Old River Road Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Ponderosa Vineyard Sierra Foothills

Red Wine; Cabernet Sauvignon; Other California;
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The day before Thanksgiving was a blast at The Wine House! I was fascinated by the variety of approaches people took to selecting their Thanksgiving Day wines. Some folks just needed to bring something, anything good would do, while others had to pair wine with a particular course. I helped a customer select a wine to match a firm-fleshed fish with a heavy rich sauce. Easy enough, right? Not so fast, the wine also had to have a story! Luckily for the customer, we have plenty of stories to tell at The Wine House! Speaking of stories, the most amazing one of the day came from a customer who divulged that he had changed his flight itinerary that morning so that he would fly out of JFK at 7am, thereby not missing his chance to come by the Wine House!Thank you all for including us in your Thanksgiving celebration! So, the Holidays are upon us. It’s time to gear up and stock your cellar with wine that can be grabbed without hesitation to bring over to friends, opened up for unexpected pop-ins, or tied with a ribbon as a last minute gift. My thinking is that the wine has to be delicious, it goes without saying I know, and it has to be budget friendly. I have two picks that fit the bill: 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon by Old River Road Cellars and 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon by Healdsburg Ranches. Both sell for well under $20, so keeping a case or two on hand is not only convenient, but downright smart.

2007 Healdsburg Ranches Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve

Red Wine; Cabernet Sauvignon; Napa;
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The 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, Healdsburg Ranches is fruit-driven and cheerful. It is produced by a winery that has connections to some pretty high-profiled vineyards. Fermented in stainless steel, this is not an oak monster, but a red brimming with plum/red currant fruit notes. It is juicy and plush, and overall reminds me of a Dry Creek Cabernet because of the plum and subtle dried herb touches. We first brought the wine in for our Dirty Dozen sampler. People immediately took to this wine. At $10.98 why not take a chance? I began to notice that bottle sales quickly led to repeat case purchases and now Healdsburg Ranches has earned a permanent spot on the stacks.
2005 Old River Road Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Ponderosa Vineyard Sierra Foothills

Red Wine; Cabernet Sauvignon; Other California;
  Add to Cart
The 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon from Old River Road Cellars comes from the Ponderosa Vineyard. Ponderosa Vineyard is located at a 1900 foot elevation in the Sierra Foothills. The vineyard was planted in 1995 following a devastating fire. The owners of the vineyard planted grapes on their scorched land, employing organic growing practices. Blended with a smattering of Cabernet Franc, this is a smooth Cabernet devoid of harsh tannins or assertive alcohol. While the fruit is pronounced, I would characterize this Cabernet as being extremely well-balanced and medium-bodied. I don’t know about you, but unless I know I’m going to be eating red meat, I prefer a more nuanced red. The last time I opened a bottle, my mother, who is a master of one-pot dishes, made a robust Mediterranean beef stew with artichokes and peas. I thought this was a magnificent pairing. The wine’s balance allowed for a perfect melding of food and drink, you know the kind where a bite and a sip together is even better than the parts. My big brother, who grows grapes and makes wine with a neighborhood co-op, noted a red cherry note that he doesn’t associate with Cabernet Sauvignon. I totally get that and think it might be the Cabernet Franc or simply a site-specific attribute. It’s really very pretty. Anya Balistreri

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