Drinks for a spirited Thanksgiving dinner
Here’s my “traditional” Thanksgiving dinner for this year, with bibulous accompaniments. Bubble, and plenty of it, to begin, either the regular (white) or a rosé, preferably both. Segura Viudas Brut Reserva, a Spanish sparkler, is one of the best dinner companions and a great value at $16.99.
Then gravlax with iced aquavit: perhaps Bornholmer ($30.37). There are other, costlier designer aquavits out there, but for some reason we don’t get to see them here. Okanagan Spirits’ Aquavitus ($29.95) is an option (check the Okanagan Spirits website for availability and retailers), or Hendricks gin (the cucumber-flavoured one will set you back $45.95).
If there’s room and interest from the dinner guests, next comes a tureen of mussels steamed with spicy Italian sausage in a tubful of bloody caesars (with Luksusowa Polish potato vodka, $24.75) and some French-bread rounds to sop up the bloody sauce.
On to the main course: brined turkey with mashed potatoes, gravy, and stuffing, of course. The lady of the house does it on the charcoal-fired Weber kettle barbecue (a piece of equipment I’ve never learned to drive), attended by the dog of the house, ever hopeful for turkey skin from the sky. Plus brussels sprouts sautéed with pancetta and garlic, and tomatoes with bocconcini and balsamic vinegar.
The wine? Three of them, actually, all from the architectural marvel that is the Oliver post office, where Rigamarole Wines is located. This offshoot of the Mission Hill empire comes in white, rosé, and red, and these are terrific blended wines (see below), all VQA and all very good value. (Mr. Spellcheck wants me to write it Rigmarole, but I’m reading off the label, where you’ll find the extra “a”.)
For dessert, pumpkin-buttermilk pudding with whipping cream; try it with Innis & Gunn Oak-Aged Winter Treacle Porter (around $3), a seasonal specialty in the import-beer section. (If it isn’t in the LDB stores yet, it’s on its way.)
Then the three Ms for the cheese course, Morbier, Mimolette, and aged Manchego, accompanied by the lovely Sumac Ridge Pipe, a port-style charmer that’s well-priced at $24.99 for the 500-millilitre bottle. (You might need two to see you through to the coffee!)
Finally, if repeated visits to the cheese tray and the pudding basin have taken their toll, a tot of Fernet Branca Bitters ($29.99 for 500 millilitres), the world’s best true bitters. Forget Jägermeister—it’s too sweet and best suited to cocktails with oddball names; this is the stuff that acts as a gastrointestinal plunger for the overeating gut. You’ll soon feel like more turkey.
Some words on the three Rigamaroles: these are nice little all-purpose wines for lunch, brunch, or dinner (even breakfast, if you’re given to that sort of thing!), featuring cute labels and available in most B.C. LDB stores. The white is $13.99, the red and rosé are $14.99 each. They do stylish duty for any leftovers, too.
Rigamarole White is, to quote the back label, “an engaging mingling of aromatic varieties, including Riesling, Gewürztraminer and Viognier”. Slightly sweetish, but very full and hearty on the palate, with a nice bit of bite out back. Full fruit, with a rich and fresh finish.
Rigamarole Rosé is also a blend of VQA varietals, “led by Merlot but also including Cabernet Franc and Shiraz”. Bigger than many pink wines, it’s a dry rosé and very pretty-looking, with a good, dusty nose of dried strawberries and raspberries—think Kellogg’s Special K Red Berries cereal.
The Rigamarole Red is surprisingly sturdy (“a fabulous mix of Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Merlot”). Full, hearty, and not too much alcohol, either (12 percent). I’d load up on all three; that way there’s something for everyone.
There are quite a few other blends that have crossed the tasting palate of late; we’ll take a look at some of them in an upcoming Uncorked soon. Here’s a preview: McWilliam’s Hanwood Estate Red Blend 2010 ($14.99). Good value from this Australian producer, with intense blackberry-juice aromas right off the top. While it would go very well with any and all roasted or grilled meats, it also would do the turkey dinner a tasty service, all the way from the appetizers through to the pumpkin dessert. There’s a little bit of (not unpleasant) bitterness at first, which gives way to some slightly sweet fruit flavours. It culminates in a clean, if short, finish. The price is certainly right, especially if the gang is coming for dinner.
In the meantime, try to find some of that oak-aged porter if you can; it makes a marvellous accompaniment to the pumpkin-buttermilk pudding or more familiar pumpkin pie. And Okanagan Spirits’ Aquavitus is a treat; if you’re not familiar with this herby, clear spirit, you might well be in for a tasty surprise. Well worth the effort of tracking it down.