I was standing in line the other day at Bed, Bath & Beyond—ah, the glamorous life of a young-ish suburban father!—and realized, with a jolt, that Thanksgiving was nearly here. This particularly terrifying bolt of lightning struck me because, as I was debating whether or not to buy a second set of bottles for my Soda Stream. (This is all very exciting stuff, I know; I feel a little like the Will Ferrell character in Old School when he tells the frat guys that he can’t drink more beer because he has planned a “pretty nice little Saturday, we’re going to go to Home Depot…buy some wallpaper, maybe get some flooring, stuff like that. Maybe Bed, Bath & Beyond. I don’t know. I don’t know if we’ll have enough time.”)
But I digress. So I was standing there, contemplating the deep philosophical conundrum of whether to buy more pressurized plastic bottles, when suddenly, from behind me, I overheard a fellow customer screaming into her phone an order for Thanksgiving turkey to her butcher or husband or nanny or the poultry specialist she keeps on retainer: “No, a big one. A BIG one! And if you can find one with only white meat, that’s even better!”
She actually said that—a whole turkey with only white meat.
I suddenly found myself craving an IV line of whiskey, or a teleporter that could whisk me away from this person, through a wormhole in the space-time continuum and to a place where all-white-meat-turkey wasn’t really, you know, a thing.
But then I realized that the truly frightening thing about what she’s just said was that we were close enough to Thanksgiving to start to have consider bird orders, and stuffing quantities, and where to seat Aunt Margie with the bad breath and Cousin Mitch with the creepily wandering eyes. And, in my case, since I’ve gone from being my family’s jovial and high-functioning resident drinker to source of wine recommendations for the holidays, I realized that the questions of what to consume during the annual Feast of the Bird-Mageddon would soon be coming fast and frequently.
With that in mind, then, this seems like the perfect time to begin the annual rundown of what to drink with your family and friends and loved ones and blood-related nemeses and every possible relationship permutation and variation in between.
So: Let’s start with Chardonnay.
This, of course, may seem fairly counter-intuitive. Because despite the astounding range of styles and flavors and aroma profiles that are coaxed from Chardonnay throughout this country and around the world, the ABC contingent (“you know who I’m talking about, those militant “Anything But Chardonnay” partisans who insist, despite ample evidence to the contrary, that all Chardonnay tastes like a popsicle stick dragged through butterscotch and dipped into a bag of microwaved movie-theatre-style popcorn) still have rather too strong a voice among the otherwise ever-more-rational cacophony of wine-talk we all hear at mealtimes.
Of course, to claim that there is a single style of Chardonnay is akin to arguing that all of the Star Wars movies are the same. Which they’re clearly not. But this is wine, a subject as likely as any to fall victim to misinformation that calcifies into some sort of vinous gospel. Things are improving, of course, just not fast enough when it comes to perception of Chardonnay; which is why this is the year to introduce your guests to the full potential that this great white grape variety is capable of.
Over the past several months, I’ve tasted a number of standout American Chardonnays that I’d be thrilled to pour at Thanksgiving. I’ll be covering more of them as the season progresses—all just as delicious as these five—but here is a rundown of the first batch, all from Sonoma County, that are more than worth looking for. Enjoy them, drink them until the bottles are dry, and, for the love of all that’s holy and sacred in this world, don’t ever become the kind of person that looks for all-white-meat turkey. Because it doesn’t exist, and even considering it pretty much makes you a terrible, terrible person.
Lutum Chardonnay 2013 Gap’s Crown Vineyard, Sonoma Coast
Honeyed vanilla pod aromas mingle with nectarine, a hint of orange blossom, and pineapple, and lead to a palate vibrant with gorgeous, almost tactile acidity cutting through the flavors of pineapple, yellow peaches, honey, and mineral. Seriously delicious wine, fantastic right now and promising years of further pleasure. (http://lutumwines.com)
Martinelli Bella Vigna Chardonnay 2011, Sonoma County
Rich and boasting amazing concentration, with a big seam of mineral cutting through the richness of the otherwise broader-flanked wine. Flavors of butter and butterscotch, dried apricots, lemon oil, lemon blossom, white licorice, and hints of tarragon are complex and balanced, and resolve in a marzipan-tinged finish. A wine with soul. (http://www.martinelliwinery.com)
Three Sticks Sonoma Mountain “One Sky” Chardonnay 2012, Sonoma County
Shimmering gold color. Aromas of white licorice and pineapple, orange blossom and honey, all kissed with well-calibrated vanilla. On the palate, this is pure velvet in texture, with licorice mingling with vanilla, fresh and dried pineapple, hints of honey and violets, lemon candies, and butterscotch. (http://www.threestickswines.com)
Gary Farrell Russian River Selection Chardonnay 2013, Sonoma County
Lush and brightly lemon-y all at once, with aromas of mineral, vanilla, subtle oak spice, and white-blossomed flowers filling out the giving nose. On the palate, this is a wine of acid-buttressed structure singing through a distinctly honeyed palate with toasted vanilla pod, leesy flavors like brioche, a bit of candied ginger, nectarine, lemon curd, and a hint of melon. Delicious already, with plenty of time to go. (https://www.garyfarrellwinery.com)
Patz & Hall Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2013
Buttered brioche and lemon curd aromas are cut by well-postured minerality and lead to a concentrated palate with more mineral and gun flint, as well as crunchy apple, pear, and tarragon flavors. This wine promises to drink well for another decade. (https://www.patzhall.com)