The Thanksgiving feast is a traffic jam of flavors, and everything’s honking. There’s the lean turkey, the rich gravy and the dressing, which is always the variable. It may be savory or sweet, salty or spicy, piquant or tangy.
How to sort through this delectable pile-up? A line-up of eclectic whites, of course.
Our flight of whites revealed some food-savvy picks, but the standout was the Carlisle, 2016 Steiner Vineyard, Sonoma Mountain, Sonoma County Gruner Veltliner at $30.
The Carlisle has high-toned stone fruit, crisp acidity and great minerality. It has notes of grapefruit, lime and a hint of apricot. The wine has great balance and finishes crisp.
“Gruner veltliner is incredibly food friendly,” said vintner Mike Officer, who produces Carlisle. “In fact chefs and somms love it for this very reason. Very few wines pair well with artichokes and asparagus but for gruner, it’s a perfect match. Given all the flavors and textures of a Thanksgiving meal, I think you need a versatile wine with good acidity to cut through all the richness. Gruner does that perfectly.”
Most people, Officer said, don’t even know gruner veltliner is a varietal, but it’s one-third of Austria’s wine grape plantings.
While gruner veltliner is the great white grape of Austria, there are only a handful of producers in California, and most are in Santa Barbara County. The Carlisle gruner veltliner is the only commercial one made in Sonoma County.
Officer said he’s been a “diehard gruner nut” for the past 25 years, and his grapes are groomed on the northwest face of Sonoma Mountain. Jay Maddox does the day-to-day winemaking so Officer can focus on vineyards and work closely with vineyard managers.
“I want to give Jay the best fruit possible,” Officer said. “Once I get the fruit in, Jay works his magic.”
Officer and his wife, Kendall, both 57, founded Carlisle Winery in 1998, financing it with their day jobs in San Francisco’s corporate world. Both graduated from Pomona College in Claremont in 1984, majoring in mathematics with an emphasis in computer science.
For those who want to learn more about this boutique brand and all of its bottlings, Carlisle offers tastings by appointment Monday through Friday at its production facility, 6301 Starr Road in Windsor. (carlislewinery.com.)
“I’m a bit of a grape junkie,” Officer said. “No, that’s an understatement. I’m a huge grape junkie. I love exploring different varieties and different flavors and watching the magical transformation of grapes into wine.”
Wine writer Peg Melnik can be reached at 707-479-3880 or email@example.com.
This week’s blind tasting: Eclectic whites
TOP PICK: Carlisle
Carlisle, 2016 Steiner Vineyards Sonoma Mountain, Sonoma County Gruner Veltliner, 14.1% alcohol, $30.
The Carlisle has high-toned stone fruit, crisp acidity and great minerality. It has notes of grapefruit, lime and a hint of apricot. The wine has great balance and finishes crisp, making it a perfect Thanksgiving pick.
Smith-Madrone, 2015 Spring Mountain District Napa Valley Riesling, 12.9%, $30. This complex riesling has layered notes of papaya, petrol and honeysuckle. It’s nice and dry, with bright acidity. Pitch perfect balance. Impressive.
Loimer, 2017 Lois Gruner Veltliner, Niederosterreich, Austria, 11%, $17. Notes of pear, lemon and mineral. Great acidity. Refreshing, with great balance.
Husch, 2017 Anderson Valley Dry Gewurztraminer, 13.6%, $15. Bright and lively, with aromas and flavors of grapefruit, jasmine and honeysuckle. Crisp acidity. Lovely.
Dry Creek Vineyard, 2017 Clarksburg Dry Chenin Blanc, 13%, $15. This chenin blanc is refreshing, crisp and dry. Lovely notes of orange blossom, mango and honeysuckle. Finishes crisp with a breezy note of white peach. Well crafted.