Serious Eats: Drinks
Stuffing Lover? Drink Mourvedre This Thanksgiving
When it comes to Thanksgiving, some people are all about the mashed potatoes, and other people are really into green bean casserole. (I never really understood those people until I tried this recipe.) There are those who get excited about turkey and gravy, and others who live for sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top. To each her own, but I'm a stuffing fanatic. I love the texture, somewhere between bread pudding and croutons, studded with mushrooms and nubbins of sausage, laced with sage and parsley. For me, the Thanksgiving plate should be about 2/3 stuffing, 1/6 dark meat turkey, 1/6 other things.
For lovers of stuffing, the answer to the Thanksgiving wine dilemma is easy: Mourvedre. Once used primarily for blending (you've probably seen it mixed with Grenache and Syrah) this grape is starting to star in more and more of its own bottles domestically. It's peppery and earthy but juicier and deeper than cab franc, with more dark fruit that might remind you of blueberries tossed in cocoa powder and black pepper, with hints of herbs like rosemary and juniper berries. If you like Syrah, you should explore Mourvedre. It latches into the herbs and mushrooms in your stuffing, as well as the crispy, crusty bits on top.
We've tasted a bunch of delicious examples from California and Washington State recently; here are 7 of our favorites.
Chris Brockway of Broc Cellars makes my top-pick Mourvedre for Thanksgiving (and for autumn drinking in general. The Broc Cellars 2010 Luna Matta Vineyard Mourvedre ($36) from Paso Robles balances fresh fruit and spice, demonstrating how delicious and balanced this wine can be. The wine is compelling in its complexity, but also totally easy drinking; it offers layers of flavors—cran-blueberry, purple plums, star anise, pepper—but is totally ok with you gulping it down. The acid is firm and refreshing, the oak treatment (15 months in 7-8 year old 60 gallon French oak barrels) complements but doesn't cover up the fruit.
Anglim 2008 Mourvedre Hastings Ranch Vineyard ($34) from Paso Robles has a nice tart, mouthwatering juiciness that will cut through your rich meal, flavors of fresh blackberries, black pepper, and Earl Grey tea. Be sure to include some sagey sausage in your stuffing. It's aged for over 3 years in French oak (40% new) but doesn't come off as heavily oaky. Delicious stuff.
While we're talking California, Hank Beckmeyer of La Clarine Farm released not one but two Mouvedre varietal wines from California's Sierra Foothills this year, and they're likely not like any you've tasted before. His never-before-released La Clarine Farm 2011 "Sumu Kaw" smells like brambles and blueberries and offers lively, seriously fresh-tasting fruit, like berries tossed with a squeeze of grapefruit juice and a sprinkle of cinnamon and clove. It's hard to stop drinking it. Those who look to natural wines for a purity of flavor will find what they're hoping for here. Beckmeyer's La Clarine Farm 2011 Cedarville Mouvedre is only 11.7% alcohol even though the grapes weren't picked until October 27th. Again, it's more about fresh cranberry-like fruit than most Mourvedre; even Hank agrees it's almost Beaujolais-like. Chuggable, as long as you're looking for wine with loads of fresh acidity. In general we look to Mourvedre for more earth and spice, but we'd still serve these at Thanksgiving; the meal can definitely use the brightness these wines offer. Both are around $25.
California's not the only state making tasty Mourvedre though. We also adore Syncline Mourvedre 2010 Horse Heaven Hills ($30) from Washington. This chewy, concentrated wine is full of juicy cherries and earthy cocoa, with a tart-plum brightness, and an herbal eucalyptus and menthol side the keeps it fresh, wiping your palate clean between bites. It was fermented in concrete cubes and half aged in concrete and half 7-year old barrels. This is the stuff for pairing with the crispy bits of turkey skin alongside your mushroom and sage stuffing.
Dusted Valley Stone Tree Vineyard 2010 Mourvedre ($39) from Wahluke Slope, Washington balances dark blackberry-and-plumlike fruit and tons of pepper and black stone with mouthwatering acidity—it made us think of biting into a raw cranberry. This wine is earthy and spicy—and just a tad smoky—calling out for mushrooms and herbs. (The Mourvedre here is blended with 11% Petite Sirah and 8% Grenache.)
We're also keeping an eye on Mourvedre blends, and we like the biodynamic 2009 AmByth Estate ReVera, which blends the grape with grenache, syrah, and counoise grown on their estate in the Templeton Gap in Paso Robles. It's deep and almost meaty but full of rich fruit from the syrah and grenache, reminding us of baked blueberries and blackberries spiced with juniper. It's only 12.6% percent alcohol, but it's full of flavor. Saute some mushrooms to go in your gravy, rub your turkey with rosemary, herb up your stuffing, and serve big goblets of this wine.
All wines provided as samples for review consideration.