If you’re of Native American descent, your forefathers arrived first on the North American continent. Once the Bering Strait had waters receding, people migrated from both Asia and Northeastern Europe. Who were the first ancient settlers to arrive and cultivate California, for instance?  The Central Pomo people, who immigrated to California more than 8,000 years ago, and the Miwok tribesmen came next (1,000 years later) looking for much the same life that continues to drive people to California today… searching for a life that would be sustaining and fulfilling. They lived here without interference from others migrating for many thousands of years. It wasn’t until boats were able to carry people on the waters for great distances that a new migration began. California was untouched until Russian fur traders settled at Fort Bragg in the 1800s.

So, here we all are, immigrants one and all, along with the remaining Natives, who shared their bounty with the first Europeans to arrive in Virginia, and remain as peaceful people. Being true to the first Thanksgiving, we’re all pretty much immigrants. And, if your forefathers could have brought wine with them for this day to share, here are a few varieties they would have brought from their ancient grape vines. This is also based on how today’s Thanksgiving day meals have evolved.

Family and Friends Arrive ~ French Heritage

People arrive, bring on the Champagne. Any event is more joyous, as the bubbles greet you! Bring on the Limoges china, too, so set a worthy heritage setting. Soft, incredibly delicious, and chilled to perfection, so the day begins on the best foot forward.

Slow sustainable viticulture defines this Champagne house. This is an independent, family-run Champagne house. Their vineyards are located in the heart of the Champagne region of France. They control the quality of their wines with every stage in the process. “Our viticulture is slow and sustainable, the BRUNO PAILLARD house uses only the first pressing of Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir, and each cru is produced separately in oak barrels or stainless steel tanks.” Tasting this wine was such a pleasure. I’m a total fan, and am so pleased that I am of French descent. My family name dates back to Bernier. It’s a noble name, something I haven’t known until of late. It also explains a lot to me, for my love of France. This BRUNO PAILLARD is a celebration of the French immigrants who have moved into the United States and shared their culture. It a sumptuous wine to share on Thanksgiving day, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day… Let’s just keep going, shall we?

Appetizer Time ~ Spanish Heritage

Starting out with simple (and simply delicious) wines, with a bit of devilish thrown in for good measure, Concha y Toro has their Casillero del Diablo wines ready to begin the day’s festivities. These value wines are spot on for pairing well with however your appetizers go… One for white wine foods and one for the red wine foods. I’ve always loved these wines, because they consistently over deliver with each vintage. They’re coming highly recommended… true to their varietal character.

I’ve kept a Bon Appétit magazine since November 1994, called “Ultimate Thanksgiving.” This has been my Thanksgiving Bible ever since. Recipes have become my tradition and I’m going to walk you through what I’ll be creating, yet again. Appetizers are not in this book, however, so I’m headed somewhere else for you. Cheese plate with fruit is easy-peasy for you and will pair well with your cheeses and fruit with the Casillero del Diablo  Sauvignon Blanc. What will take a bit of time will be Tex-Mex Wantons. Using ground meat (turkey, beef, whatever you please) scramble it with Spanish spices, diced green peppers and onions, place a dollop of the stir fried mix into a wanton that’s had a bit of water placed on it, then fold and deep fry. Make plenty, because they go fast! This is the one to enjoy with the Casillero del Diablo Cabernet Sauvignon. Spanish food, Spanish wine… you’ve got a great beginning.

Soup Time ~ French Heritage

  • France
    • Les Vignes de Bila-Haut
      • 2015 Cotes du Roussillon by Michel Chapoutier
      • 2015 Cotes du Roussillon Villages by Michel Chapoutier

Would you like a red or a white with that Creamy Leek Soup with Bacon and Shallots? Hello Bila-Haut, you’re my choice for either wine with this soup recipe. Either has just enough acidity to make it all so smooth, regardless of red or white, as it balances out the creamy soup. If you have one of each, you’ll be the star, satisfying all palates.

This wine is a constant favorite of mine, and an easy “house wine,” like so many others of these imported wines.

From their HB Wine Merchants Importer’s site: In the South of France, this area produces large quantities of wine. Some of the best regions like Corbieres and the Cotes du Roussillon produce much smaller yields and focus on quality rather than quantity. This is also a region where organically grown grapes are quite possible due to the favorable weather conditions.

From the Domaine de Bila-Haut website, the beginning of their story: The Roussillon history is complex and compelling, and has at times been quite violent. Terraces on stony soil, with a rich geological background and a climate that man has adopted for his crops. The Roussillon was bound to attract Michel Chapoutier’s attention. He decided to locate his domain at Latour de France. Black and brown schist to give the wine a solar touch. Gneiss for minerality and freshness. Combination of Limestone and chalk for strength and balance. Three varieties of grapes grow on the land covered by Domaine de BILA-HAUT. Syrah, with its savage aromas of scrub and spice. Grenache, so full of surprises. And Carignan, for mineral wines with crispy tannic notes. The “Vignes de BILA-HAUT” and the “Domaine de BILA-HAUT Occultum Lapidem” are the main expressions of this terroir. Visit the site for more insight.

Salad ~ Italian Heritage

It’s always fun to have someone of Italian descent joining us, and Rosa Regale is a favorite to serve during this time. Very easy to enjoy, goes down maybe even a little too easily. My first taste, I knew it was nectar of the gods. This is an aromatic, semi dry, sparkling wine; so, serve it with a salad. This might seem really unlikely, but give it a try. This was how I had my first salad with a wine – with a semi dry Symphony wine, with a bit used in the dressing. If you mix your own dressing, like I always do, use lemon in place of vinegar, and the sparkling in place of water, before you add your olive oil…. It will become a seamless compliment for your salad dish. And, don’t forget to pour the wine to go along with the salad for that final effect.  Voila!

From the Rosa Regale Website: In 1979, John and Harry Mariani, family Proprietors of Banfi Vintners, acquired a mid-18th century winery, known as Bruzzone, revitalized it and renamed the facility Banfi Piemonte. Here, with the same detailed care as a century ago, our skilled winemakers produce “Rosa Regale” Brachetto d’Acqui D.O.C.G. This rare Brachetto, a semi-dry, red sparkling wine cherished by the courts of Europe over two centuries ago, owes its reincarnation to Banfi.

Turkey & Gravy ~ Spanish Heritage

Apricot-Glazed Turkey with Roasted Onion and Shallot Gravy

  • Marques de Casa Concha
    • 2014 Concha y Toro Marques de Casa Concha Chardonnay ~ Chile
    • 2014 Concha y Toro Marques de Casa Concha Carmenere ~ Chile
    • 2014 Concha y Toro Marques de Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon ~ Chile

Now we’re ready for the bird, whatever it may be, turkey, quail, duck, goose… There is a mixture of dark and light meat, so serve one of each, depending on the flavors that you’ve worked into your presentation. I love the Bon Appetit Roast Turkey with Herb Butter and Gravy recipe – going with the Chardonnay. Or, if you’d like a Southwestern Turkey with Garlic~Ancho Chili Paste and Gravy, I’d go with a Carmenere. Finally, enjoying the Apricot-Glazed Turkey with roasted onion and Shallot Gravy… pass a leg and the Cab, please.

Back to our Spanish forefathers, who sent over the Portuguese explorer Columbus. They knew what they were doing. I don’t know if Columbus gave them all of the details, though. This Marques de Casa Concha brand is now celebrating its fortieth anniversary. One of its hallmarks is its consistency in providing excellent wine. As a world leader, the name Concha (y Toro) will always lead you to very tasty wines. As they continue on, they are continuously committed to making wines of extraordinary quality, with a strong focus on innovation. I can attest to their quality, loving their wines.

The Ending to a Great Feast

~ For the Cigar Group ~

  • 2013 Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon, Puente Alto Vineyard Chile

“Pulling out the Don Melchor, you’ve pulled out your best foot forward. This one is for friends who relish beautiful Cabernets,” said she as she wiped the drool from her chin. From the Maipo Valley of Chile, this wine is a high elevation one. Puente Alto D.O. is a wine producing region within the Maipo Valley, and it’s located on the southern fringe of Santiago, the capital. The area has a distinct terroir for high quality, and Don Melchor over delivers. Prices have a medium-high range of $100. This one is for wine lovers. Make sure the label isn’t covered by anything, but… even if it is… when you taste a wine of this quality, you might do what I did… Spontaneously exclaim – Whoa!

Puente Alto is a wine-producing region within the Maipo Valley on the southern fringes of the Chilean capital of Santiago. The area was one of the first in Chile to be recognized as having a distinct terroir for the production of wine, in a country that is historically better known for high production than for high quality. This Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon is to be shared with your most wine geeky friends. I once told a friend, who loved to trash wine, when I pulled out a Robert Mondavi Reserve, “This one’s too good for you, Susan. You can’t have any.” Want to see someone get real when that happens. Yes, I shared, and yes, she was gentle and kind. This wine is one of these… Meant for worldwide wine connoisseurs, because this one is extraordinarily scrumptious. Just before the Port arrives, sit back and savor, with or sans cigar… It’s a rare treasure.

Portuguese Heritage ~ Dessert Time

  • Portugal

For the first 20 years of my life, I lived on Lisbon Street, drove to the beach by going through Lisbon and Lisbon Falls, Maine. Never, in my wildest dreams, did I ever think I would be standing in Lisbon, Portugal, looking at their expansive river, trying to imagine Christopher Columbus leaving port and headed to the New World… But, history happens. I love Portugal. I’ve written copiously about the country, the art, the culture, the foods, the people, and her wines. I feel so lucky and for that I constantly give thanks. It is perfectly fitting that I end this banquet with a 1986 Sandeman Old Tawny Port, that’s rested for 30 years.

Sandeman has been in existence for 225 years… Europe is like that, Certo? At the end of a satisfying meal, it’s time to reminisce. This is where we can tell the stories of our port, while savoring its delights.

From their Website, because it’s so reminiscent for me as I visited Portugal and saw this familiar figure on wine bottles:

The cape logo from Sandeman:

The dramatic Don Artwork drawn in 1928, by George Maissot Brown was clearly dressed in a Portuguese student’s cape and a wide brimmed hat like the Spanish caballeros de Jerez. Many years later, it was said that the artist, who was a dedicated movie buff, had created the work in the same week that “The Gaucho,” the third of the Zorro films, premiered in London. The company could not reach the artist in time to confirm the similarity between the wine character and screen character. The mystery became forever lost, adding to the iconic Don figure…

Interestingly, this cape was also part of our Wild West, as cowboys (caballeros) crossed the plains herding cattle… I’m betting anyone who watched early TV remembers this western coats. And, I’ll drink to that with a Sandeman Port… As we close out our Thanksgiving evening: well wined and dined, and holding these memories to spill over into our Christmas holiday season as well. Any and all of these food and wine pairings will work for you for the next month into the New Year.

Happy holidays!