Thanksgiving Dinner Chez Parker

Since the dressing I usually make for our Thanksgiving turkey is a sausage and Bell’s Poultry Seasoning blend with lots of sauteed onions and celery, relatively robust red wines work well with it, especially if the dressing is eaten along with gravy and turkey. I have tried lighter reds, including Beaujolais and Pinot Noir, but they never work as well as the more fiery, intense southern Rhônes. We started with a magnum of Aubert’s 2007Reuling Vineyard Chardonnay, which is made from a suitcase Montrachet clone planted in the Russian River. Stunning notes of beeswax, honeysuckle, crushed rock, white citrus, lemon zest and orange marmalade soar from the glass of this beauty. With great acidity as well as a striking liquid minerality, it is one of my two or three favorite Chardonnays ... in the world.

We then moved into a series of Châteauneuf du Papes with one ringer, a magnum of Sine Qua Non’s 2003 Inaugural Grenache. This virtually perfect wine is still young at age 8. It exhibits a dense ruby/purple color along with an extraordinary perfume of licorice, black currants, kirsch liqueur and hints of flowers and wood smoke, sensational concentration, a massive but pure flavor profile and a textural expression of pure extravagance and luxury. A sensational effort, it should continue to drink well for another decade. As for the Châteauneuf du Papes, we were drinking mostly mature wines, with the youngest being the 2001 Clos du Caillou Réserve. One of the greatest Châteauneuf du Papes produced, the 2001 is the last wine made by Denis Vacheron before his tragic death in an automobile accident. While dominated by Grenache, it includes a higher percentage of Mourvèdre than most Châteauneuf du Papes (around 30%). It still boasts a deep ruby/purple hue as well as lots of structure, and tremendous density of black fruits, minerals, pepper, garrigue and spice. The wine continues to play it close to the vest, but massive concentration, elegance and overall purity and harmony are all present. It requires another 4-5 years of cellaring, and should easily last for three decades, an unusually long life for a Châteauneuf du Pape. The fully mature Bois de Boursan 1999 Châteauneuf du Pape Cuvée Félix revealed lots of underbrush, sandy, loamy soil, licorice, blueberry and black currant characteristics. Medium-bodied, elegant and stylish, it offered a nice contrast with the sensational 1999 Vieille Julienne Châteauneuf du Pape Réserve, which performed better than the slightly oxidized 1998 Vieille Julienne Châteauneuf du Pape Réserve. The 1998 was spectacular from foudre, but the wine was either bottled too late (which I do not believe was the case) or with insufficient amounts of sulphur, or it may have been mistreated (although the bottled showed no evidence of that). In any event, this particular bottle was very good, but revealed a slightly oxidative walnut note in the nose that was off-putting. The beautiful, fully mature 1999 Vieille Julienne Châteauneuf du Pape Réserve offered up lots of raspberry, black cherry, crushed rock, spring flower and licorice aromas. Also seemingly fully mature, the 2000 Grand Veneur Châteauneuf du Pape Les Origines performed extremely well. Its dense ruby/purple color was followed by copious notes of licorice, barbecued meat, wood smoke and charcoal. This modern-styled Châteauneuf is drinking beautifully at present, so there is no reason to defer your gratification. The same can be said for the 2003 Clos des Papes Châteauneuf du Pape. This vintage, which produced a small percentage of truly monumental wines, needs to be monitored carefully as I keep waiting for the wines to show some small cracks around the edges. However, this cuvée continues to offer lavish amounts of kirsch fruit and Provençal herbs in a full-bodied, silky-smooth, voluptuously textured style. It is easily the most drinkable Clos des Papes made in the last decade. Another fully mature effort is the Domaine de la Janasse 2003 Châteauneuf du Pape Chaupin. From magnum, it exhibits lots of cedar, earth, licorice, garrigue and black cherry characteristics in a soft, rich, fruity format. This evolved 2003 needs to be consumed over the next 3-4 years, unlike the 2003 Janasse Châteauneuf du Pape Vieilles Vignes, which still has a decade of life ahead of it. Another 2003 Châteauneuf du Pape with a decade or more of life remaining is 2003 Domaine du Pégaü’s fabulous Cuvée Réservée. Stunningly rich and full-bodied, it is a classic old style Châteauneuf du Pape with abundant balsamic notes of garrigue, black currants, raspberries, cedarwood and pepper. Sensationally perfumed as well as lavishly rich, it should get even better for another 5-8 years, and last for 10-15, possibly 20 more. This 2003 may be a modern day version of Pégaü’s 1990 Cuvée Réservée.

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