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Share the Feast

Food and wine taste better with company

Give thanks. Go ahead and feast, share a grand meal with friends and family. Sure, it’s not easy to feel celebratory in these times. Tea Party Republicans did all they could to undermine our confidence, to extol Ayn Rand’s absurd “virtue of selfishness” and to profane the very concept of communion. But this season and the impulses behind it are ancient: We celebrate the harvest. We come together as a community of families to share our bounty, even if we face a bleak winter.

And with apologies to vegan friends, this feast is all about the bird. Most of the year, turkeys are quite safe from me, but maybe twice a year, in an irresistible rush of flavor nostalgia, I gotta have me some bird — plus some stuffing, gravy, green beans, mashed spuds, finishing with pies: apple, mince, pumpkin. I wanna eat way too much, then nap in front of the tube while kids romp and strut.

Now, that’s a Thanksgiving feast, a table laden with food clichés, but I gush drool just keying the words, triggering electric memories (and lingering grief, missing the late Ethel Watson who recreated just such a feast yearly for decades). 

Now the wines: controversies ensue. Matching roast turkey with wine can foster fist-fights. You might as well talk religion or politics. But after years of tasting/testing, we’ve found compromise: Bust the budget with variety.

We happen to like the turkey-and-gewurztraminer match. (Don’t fret pronunciation; just say “G’vertz, gimmesum.”) And we like it with just a whisper of residual sugar to round off the acid edges. We like Montinore Estate 2012 Gewurztraminer ($15) for its fresh citrusy fruit and creamy mouthfeel. You want bone dry? Try Sarver’s version ($17). Brandborg 2011 Umpqua Valley ($18) is a stunner for the lychee/pink grapefruit flavors, long finish.

Gotcher chardonnay: Bethel Heights 2011 Unoaked Chardonnay ($18) delivers pure fruit — think melons, apples, citrus — without being soaked in oak. Loverly for butter-basted bird. 

Now, if the wine ain’t red, Uncle Fred would rather be dead. So: Sarver 2009 Pinot Noir Select ($30) is mighty tasty, rich in red fruit flavors, round and gentle enough to balance with bird-and-trimmings. 

Bigger? Not slightly local, but whatabargain! Mont-Redon Reserve CÔtes du RhÔne ($14) is bold but graceful, rich in flavors of red and black fruit, round and ripe, nearly a steal.

Bigger yet? It’s no secret that we like the winemaking of Matt LaVelle (LaVelle Vineyards, Elmira). He does really special work with the so-called “big reds” (cabernet, merlot, syrah); they purchase grapes from the Columbia Valley, then Matt makes his magic. LaVelle 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon is yummy, deep and dark, with black currant flavors wrapped in warm Hungarian oak, acutely balanced, just delicious. It’s pricey ($32) but still good value for the experience — and shutting up Fred is nearly priceless.

Maybe the Tea Partiers are right, but not to my mind and heart. All these foods, all these wines taste better shared. I’m reminded, too, of Jim and Percy of Spirit Farm (play Perugino’s periodically); they indulge me sometimes by covering Bob Zimmerman (Dylan) with his simple message: “You gotta serve somebody.” Think about that. Happy holidays.