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Wine Banter - By John Haggard - November 2016


Giving Thanks with Wine

by John Haggard

New Discoveries

The simple joy of discovering wines produced slightly differently than one is accustomed to truly brings excitement and passion back to all the senses.

La Pitchoune Vin Gris of Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast 2015

Visually, this rose appears to have a light hue of red with a tinge of a tawny color. The coloration of tawny comes from three months of fermentation in neutral barrel. The wine itself has a lovely red berry characteristic, slightly tart raspberry and only a hint of residual sugar. Also appealing are the racey acidities mid-palate. This vin gris calls out for a food pairing with a diverse selection of foods to choose from. One that comes to mind immediately is duck confit, however, it will also pair perfectly with a grilled salmon filet or a Caesar salad. Select your favorite appetizer or entrée and give it a try and, yes, this rose is ageable over the next four years. One can expect the aging process to create more of a creamy quality to the wine.

La Pitchoune Chardonnay Sonoma Coast 2014

With beautiful straw colors and hints of lemon on the nose, it was easy to be deceived transitioning to the palate. The front of the palate initially comes across as being a big “butter-balm”, however, to my surprise the mid-palate quickly shifted into a green apple flavor. With elegant citrus qualities and a refinement typically found in a French Burgundy. You don’t have to be a connoisseur of fine wine to enjoy this delicious chardonnay. I found the wine is best served at about 60 Fahrenheit, with no detectible flavors out of place. This chardonnay would make a great pairing with numerous seafood items such as prawns and scallops, white fish and salmon and, of course, poultry. If you’re looking for a fine wine for your wine cellar, I highly recommend La Pitchoune. Enjoy now or age through 2022.

La Pitchoune Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast 2013

With a vineyard selection from English Hill, Holder and Devoto vineyards and a clonal selection typical of the Sonoma County AVAs, the clones are Dijon 115, 667 and 777. What makes this wine stand out is its elegant multi-layered flavors. The numerous red berry flavors are co-mingled with orange rind and hints of tobacco. Smokey tannins are almost certainly a combination of the oak barrel as well as the toast and clone 777 which allows for a smooth and yet masculine tannin on the palate. Once again, we have a fine wine capable of aging through 2025, if not longer. It’s important to remember proper cellaring to truly enjoy this wine a decade from now. Classic pairings are pork loin or chops, as well as Thanksgiving turkey. For more information about La Pitchoune winery, visit:

Thanksgiving - Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving being my favorite of all the holidays as it’s an opportunity to be with family and a family of friends whereby the focus of the holiday is the company and the meal. Traditional meals are oftentimes relative to one’s upbringing. For instance, one dish that has been a crowd favorite for now seventeen years is a Lebanese dish called “Hashwi”. A simple recipe such as this provides an abundance of flavor without being too heavy and adds another dimension to a traditional Thanksgiving plate of turkey. Hashwi is made of rice, pinenuts, Chinese five-spice, chicken stock, cinnamon and very lean ground beef.

Should you be preparing standing rib roast, prime rib or the like, a bold zinfandel, cabernet sauvignon or Bordeaux blend should pair well. I find pork and pinot are a natural pairing. Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay are always a favorite for poultry, not to say that pinot noir is not a great pairing with a Thanksgiving bird. The aforementioned rose would also be an interesting addition to the Thanksgiving table, pairing both with salads and a poultry entrée. 

Don’t forget to pour a glass of wine for the chef(s), bon apetit and Happy Thanksgiving!

John Haggard is owner of Sophie’s Cellars, Sonoma Wine Tasting in Duncans Mills, California. Sophie’s Cellars is open Thu, Sat, Sun: 11am – 5pm, Fri:  11am-7pm (Local’s Night, Friday, 4-7pm, and you don’t have to be a local to join us).