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Happy Thanksgiving!



I’ll be driving down to Malibu today with my family members, as we’ve done every Thanksgiving for nearly 30 years. We go to cousin Ellen’s house, on Big Rock in the hills above the P.C.H., where about 22 of us will gather for the traditional turkey. This year’s celebration also will be tinged with sadness, because cousin Carl—my father’s cousin—died, after a long illness, a few months ago.

Wine-wise, I’ve bought a bunch of Jackson Family wines—Riesling, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel. I’m not terribly fussy about what goes on the Thanksgiving table. Just pop a bunch of corks, put the bottles on the table, and let people do whatever they want.

We usually return from Ellen’s back to the Bay Area on the Saturday or Sunday following Thanksgiving, but this year, I’ll be staying right through Dec. 3. That’s because my event—the first one I ever conceived and executed at JFW (along with a whole bunch of help from my talented colleagues)—is in L.A. on Dec. 2. It will be a thorough exploration of the terroir of the Santa Maria Valley, particularly with respect to Pinot Noir. My panelists are amazing: not only JFW winemakers Denise Shurtleff (Cambria) and Jonathan Nagy (Byron), but old friends James Ontiveros (Native9), Chris Hammell (Bien Nacido) and Dieter Cronje (Presqu’ile). They’ll address every aspect of Santa Maria Valley: history, climate, soils, hills and benches, growing season and viticultural developments. After our 1-1/2 hour tasting and seminar, we’ll have a library tasting of older wines, paired with the great foods of Walter Manzke, chef at Republique, one of L.A.’s hottest restaurants.

Then it’s a flyback to Oakland, with another countdown: The week after next, I speak at the Sonoma County Wine Library on the topic of wine writing. The SCWL is a great institution whose resources I’ve utilized for many years. In fact, I couldn’t have written my books without it. This is an organization worthy of support.

We’re supposed to get some pretty fierce rain this weekend here in California, not only in the North Coast (as is usually the case) but all the way down to San Diego. That may dampen some holiday spirits, but we’re all glad that the drought finally is showing signs of weakening.

Meanwhile—I have to get this in—the a**holes were out in force again last night in Oakland, looting and vandalizing, in the name of civil rights and social justice. Listen: smashing store windows and setting garbage cans on fire has nothing to do with social justice. It’s the mark of stupid people with too much time on their hands and a vengeful attitude towards everything. I don’t know what the answer is, but sometimes I wish the 99% (the vast majority of us who believe in peaceful protest) would link arms and protect the nail parlors, pizzerias, coffee shops and gyms that these people deliberately seek to wreck.

Have a wonderful holiday!

  1. Happy Thanksgiving, Steve. It does seem that every year gets a bit sadder; the losses grow in number the older we get. Thanks for your thoughts. Safe travels to you and yours.

  2. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your loved ones.

  3. We did pretty well with serving a couple of dry Rieslings from Napa Valley with turkey. One was Trefethen. The other Smith Madrone. The latter particularly notable relative to some recent discussions on this site in that it is dry farmed up on Spring Mountain. Kudos to these two wineries for bucking the trend by dedicating such valuable acreage to Riesling. We finished up with 2003 Diamond Mountain District Cabernet from our front yard–the relatives lapped up this soft, fully matured wine from the cellar.

  4. Bill Dyer, 2 great Riesling houses indeed!

  5. Bill Stephenson says:

    Happy (belated)Thanksgiving to all.
    We had Chardonnay. Sparkling Wine, and Pinot Noir on the table. The Pinot was one I picked up at a restaurant wine sale that had Anderson Valley fruit but was made in San Francisco. I like urban wineries but a Google search turned up nothing for Stony Point Cellars Crimson Fog.
    The wine was a 2008 and had the smoke taint common for the area that year. Even with that flaw it went surprisingly well with the turkey.


    I did receive a call from a client that is a tenant at the Historic Central Building in Oakland at 14th & Broadway. The same building that was vandalized during Occupy Oakland was tagged again. Nothing says “JUSTICE” like committing random acts of stupidity.

  6. Wow, Bill Haydon must have truly been in the Thanksgiving spirit to have spared us all an overwrought diatribe in this set of comments. Ironically, he has made me want to try Trefethen Riesling, and these comments are a good reminder to pick a bottle up the next time I see it on a shelf. Smith Madrone is near the very top of my list of places to visit next time I’m in Napa. I’d love to try one of their Rieslings, but haven’t yet. Likely in the same vein, though, Stony Hill makes a very good one.

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