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A&E >  Food

Make Sure Your Wine Isn’t A Turkey

Leslie Kelly The Spokesman-Revie

So, have you picked out your turkey?

Baked your pumpkin pies?

Settled between mashed potatoes or sweet?

Yes, it’s spooky. Thanksgiving is just a few weeks away. And that means it’s time once again to fret about the perfect wine to complement your big bird.

But guess what? There is no perfect match.

After years of trying to make an impeccable marriage between the Thanksgiving vittles and pinot noir, merlot, riesling, pinot gris and chardonnay, even sparkling wine, I’ve come to the conclusion that this isn’t the meal to try and pull off a perfect fit. There are just too many contrasting flavors on the table to make a completely harmonious food and wine match.

The moral of this story? Choose a wine you like and revel in the true spirit of the day.

This day shouldn’t be about knocking yourself out to cook a flawless meal and finding a wine that complements all the dishes. It’s about enjoying the company of friends and family and counting your blessings. Corny, but true.

Still, I know that kind of non-answer isn’t going to satisfy some shoppers, so I checked with a few Spokane vintners to see what would grace their tables come Nov. 28.

Mike Conway at Latah Creek traditionally serves red wine with turkey. This year, it will be a merlot. Conway said he leans toward merlot because it’s not so big that it overpowers the food.

Pat Manz, who shares winemaking duties with her husband, Michael, at Mountain Dome, will pour their own ‘91 brut as an aperitif and follow up with a merlot (maybe from L’Ecole) during dinner.

Arbor Crest’s Michael Brunstein, a native of the Ukraine, said that while the Thanksgiving feast is basically a white wine dinner, he can’t do without a red. He likes Arbor Crest’s ‘93 cabernet sauvignon because the mouth-drying tannins are tamer and the wine is softer, fruitier and friendlier than most cabs. “The wine isn’t like (Boris) Yeltsin, but more like Bob Dole,” he said.

Mike Scott at Caterina said he’ll give thanks that he has a job by drinking one of his own wines. The ‘95 chardonnay is his top choice. And instead of pumpkin pie, he’ll follow dinner up with something sweet from a bottle, like Dow’s 10-year-old tawny port.

Put a cork in it

More than 100 wines representing the Northwest and other wine-producing regions will be poured during the Spokane Restaurant and Hospitality Association’s annual Cork and Keg Festival on Nov. 8 from 7 until 10 p.m. (Regarding that keg reference, yes, there will be some hand-crafted suds served, too.)

This year, the do is going to be at the Red Lion City Center in the recently updated ballroom. Tickets have gone up to $20, but that includes a glass, appetizers and access to a wine store where you can purchase your favorite fermented beverage for ridiculously low prices.

Proceeds from the event will help support the association’s community projects, including the Spokane Food Bank and Meals on Wheels.

After attending a bunch of these functions, I’ve learned that making notes about what wine you like in your program is invaluable. That, and getting something on your stomach before you start sipping, are two of the smartest moves you can make.

Tickets for the Cork and Keg are available at Spokane Wine Co., Luna, the University City Rosauers and Vino! in Spokane, and in Coeur d’Alene at Jimmy D’s Cafe. To charge by phone, call 467-7744.

Fruit salad

I’m branching out. I’ve always pooh-poohed fruit wines, dismissing them as being syrupy sweet. But at a recent tasting, I opened my mind and my palate and found Paul Thomas’ fruit wines a pleasant surprise.

The winery, which is owned by Associated Vintners (best known for its superb Columbia label), produces a full line of more recognizable varietals in addition to the fruit wines. (The Paul Thomas chardonnay is a nice wine and a great value at around $7.)

From the fruit side, I tried the raspberry and found it slightly sweet but nicely balanced with a crisp edge. It’s definitely desserty, reminding me of summer and making fresh raspberry jam.

The crimson rhubarb is made in a drier style, still with nice fruit flavors. It’s got all the qualities of a great food wine.

Finally, the dry Bartlett pear has been pitched as the ultimate partner for Asian dishes. It has a mildly spicy character and a snappy bite.

Of particular interest to some people: Fruit wines are produced without sulfites.

Coincidentally, The Wine Enthusiast magazine published a roundup of some of the country’s top fruit wines in its November issue.

Paul Thomas didn’t make the cut, but another Washington producer, Hoodsport, received a score of 87 for its Loganberry wine. It’s around $9.

New and different

If you’re looking for something fun and frivolous, check out this new “semisparkling” wine from Italy.

Vivace makes several varietals, including a light, fruity merlot and a crisp white called Proseco.

If you can’t imagine a sparkling merlot, here’s another wrinkle: The producers suggest you serve it chilled. It’s a great summer barbecue wine.

These semisparkling wines have been a big hit in Europe and are just starting to appear in U.S. markets. What makes them even more attractive is their price - around $6.

, DataTimes MEMO: Grapevine is a monthly feature of IN Food. Write to: Grapevine, Features Department, The Spokesman-Review, P.O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA 99210. Call 459-5486, fax 459-5098 or e-mail to

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Leslie Kelly The Spokesman-Review

Grapevine is a monthly feature of IN Food. Write to: Grapevine, Features Department, The Spokesman-Review, P.O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA 99210. Call 459-5486, fax 459-5098 or e-mail to

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Leslie Kelly The Spokesman-Review

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