Thanksgiving Wines


Thanksgiving Wines 

Selecting a great Thanksgiving wine doesn’t have to be a source of stress and it doesn’t have to break the bank.  There are a lot of different flavors and textures on your Thanksgiving plate, so you really want a “bridge” wine that will harmoniously blend and stand up to the cornucopia of goodness on your holiday table.  Your wine selection should be a vinous highlighter working in concert with every dish, not competing for top billing!  Consider starting your festivities with a sparkling wine as an aperitif and then opt for a white and a red selection for your main course and let your guests decide what pairing they enjoy the most.

White Wines: In general, when it comes to selecting versatile Thanksgiving wines, look for a white wine with mouthwatering acidity like an off-dry Riesling from Germany, an Alsatian Gewürztraminer or an unoaked Chardonnay to cut right through the gravy and cream sauces. If you typically prefer a heavier, oaky and buttery Chardonnay, it will overpower your meal.  A moderately oaked Chardonnay with vibrant acidity will be the better option with this meal. A floral and aromatic Viognier or dry to off-dry Petit Manseng can also work wonders with your Thanksgiving Feast.

Red Wines: When it comes to red, opt for a fruit-forward wine like a Pinot Noir or Beaujolais with vibrant acidity and moderate tannins.  Keep in mind, turkey is a blank canvas and is pretty lean, so something too tannic will compete against the food.  A Cabernet Franc can be a nice option too, with its typical notes of raspberry, violet and sage. This can work wonders with a sausage, sage & cranberry stuffing. Cabernet Franc is considered the Pinot Noir of Bordeaux and Virginia is producing some exceptional bottles of this varietal.  A dry rosé or off-dry rosé is also another excellent option, it’s approachable and versatile with good acidity and it tends to please both white and red wine drinkers at your table.

Episode 3: Luca Paschina, Barboursville Vineyards


On today’s show, I will introduce you Luca Paschina, the winemaker and general manager at Barboursville Vineyards. Luca has been at the forefront of the modern Virginia wine scene. He is a pioneer, a visionary and a true leader in helping establish Virginia as a premiere wine destination. He also been named by the James Beard Foundation as one of the top 25 most significant wine professionals in North America. On the show, we discuss the evolution of Virginia wines, an exciting new varietal to the Barboursville portfolio and some of Luca’s perfect pairings!

Photo Courtesy: Barboursville Vineyards 

2016 Virginia Wine Summit

 The beautiful Salamander Resort and Spa tucked away in the rolling hills of picturesque Middleburg served as the backdrop for the 2016 Virginia Wine Summit.

The day long conference on April 5 brought together some of the country’s leading wine experts, writers and critics with some of the best winemakers in the Commonwealth to celebrate the Virginia wine industry.

The morning kicked off with a Grand Tasting, featuring the Art of Whites. Five Virginia whites went head to head with its global counterparts in a blind tasting. The panel discussion was lead by Master of Wine Jay Youmans, who also serves at the helm of the Virginia Governor’s Cup.

We tasted through Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Vermentino, Petit Manseng and Viognier. Virginia did extremely well in all WineFlight2Summitthe blinds, but the big take away for me was the Barboursville Vermentino and the King Family Viognier. The Michael Shaps Petit Manseng never disappoints, nor does the Veritas Sauvignon Blanc, but the elegant, bright and mineral driven Vermentino from Barboursville was a real showstopper. It was tasted up against the La Spinetta Vermentino from Tuscany and was the crowd favorite for that match-up.

The Viognier fooled many in the room including myself and several of the panelists. Many of us thought the Virginia Viognier was from Condrieu, a world renowned area that produces Viognier in the Rhone Valley of France. Viognier was coined the signature grape of Virginia a few years back, but it’s been challenging for many winemakers to produce a consistent style and many have removed their vines and planted more reliable grapes.  Viognier can also pose a challenge due to its lack of acidity in comparison with many other whites, making it a bit more challenging to pair with food.

However, when the perfect growing season culminates with the perfect terroir and a kiss of TLC in the cellar, Viognier can be an exquisite wine, as King Family and a handful of other Virginia producers like Jefferson, Chrysalis, Michael Shaps, Horton and Barboursville have demonstrated time and time again.  Fox Meadow also deserves a mention for producing a Chardonnay that many mistook for a Sonoma Chardonnay. While Virginia is finally succeeding in establishing its own identity for the special place that it is, it’s certainly a great compliment to have your wine compared to some of the best wine regions in the world.

Breaux Vineyards NebbioloWhile the focus for many American winemakers has been on French varietals over the years, it’s really exciting to see what Virginia is doing with Italian grapes. While Luca Paschina, winemaker at Barboursville, has led this charge, a few other properties are taking notice and producing some exceptional wine with Italian flare. One of the most memorable wines of the day for me was the 2010 Nebbiolo from Breaux Vineyards. Nebbiolo hails from Piedmont, Italy and produces the powerhouse wines of Barolo and Barbaresco. Breaux has been working with this grape for more than 15 years.

The nose had the immediate telltale signs of Nebbiolo with it’s soft dried rose petals and rugged hints of tar.  These aromas danced in my glass and mingled with notes of dried cherry, rhubarb, sweet spice, oolong tea, a touch of anise and orange zest. The velvety tannins and piercing, yet balanced acidity, had me longing for a big bowl of pasta carbonara or hearty bolognese, a hunk of bread and a bottle of this beautiful red. Can you say delicious!  The 2010 vintage will be released to the public later this year.

Crystal with Keynote Speaker and Author Jon Bonne at the 2016 Va Wine Summit
Crystal with Keynote Speaker and Author Jon Bonne at the 2016 Va Wine Summit

Author of The New California Wine, Jon Bonné,served as the keynote speaker and talked about the incredible progress that Virginia has made over the past decade. He said Virginia is nearing an inflection point and that an important decision needs to be made on what Virginia wants its wine identity to be.  He encouraged everyone in the room to stop comparing Virginia to Napa or Oregon or France and to celebrate Virginia for all it has to offer.

Diversity was a common thread throughout many of the panel discussions. It really is the diversity of not only varietals, but the diversity in microclimates and terroir that really make Virginia a special place to grow wine.

Matthier Finot of King Family Vineyards talking terroir with Benoit Pineau of Pollak Vineyards and Luca Paschina of Barboursville Vineyards
From impressive Petit Manseng (both dry and dessert styles) to exciting Italian and Bordelais varietals, he applauded the experimental fringe and diversity of varietals being produced across the Commonwealth.  Bonné closed with the following remark, “I hope 10 years from now, I see Virginia wine on wine lists across NYC and L.A. and if I don’t see it there, it would be an omission not to have it on those lists. When you reach that point Virginia, you have won.”

From learning about the different terroir and soil types of Northern and Central from  six winemakers to a panel discussion on Uncommon varietals grown in the Commonwealth, the 4th Annual Wine Summit was a day packed with interesting dialogue and discussion about the depth of its wine portfolio. From light, crisp Albarino and Vermentino to Petit Manseng for the whites and the Bordelais varietals for the reds, Virginia is coming in to its own as a world class wine destination. Not to mention the beautiful landscapes surrounding our vines from the Chesapeake Bay to the Blue Ridge Mountains, it’s easy to see why Virginia is for Wine Lovers.








Governor Terry McAuliffe joined Secretary of Agriculture Todd Haymore for the closing reception. Governor McAuliffe applauded the success of the Virginia wine industry and had the audience laughing when he said, “think about it, Virginia really is for lovers, we have great oysters, we have great wine… I’ll let you put the rest together.”

There’s no doubt Thomas Jefferson would be incredibly proud of the success of the industry he so passionately pioneered more than 200 years ago.



Pecan Squares & Malvaxia Passito

In search of the perfect dessert wine to pair perfectly with your cheese plate, pumpkin pecan pie, apple cobbler or pineapple upside down cake? Look no further than the Barboursville Malvaxia Passito out of Virginia.

For all of you wine connoisseurs out there, this wine is a bit reminiscent of a Tokaji from Hungary.  Luca Paschina,  winemaker for Barboursville Vineyards, best known for the “Octagon,” an award winning Bordeaux style blend, hit another  grand slam with this exquisite dessert wine.

The 2008 Malvaxia is a blend of Vidal Blanc and Moscato Ottonel varietals. The grapes are dried out like raisins in the traditional Passito method in an effort to concentrate the flavors and sugars.

Tasting Notes: 2008 Barboursville Malvaxia Passito, Orange County, Virginia 

This is a rich and opulent wine with a beautiful honey amber hue. Aromas of juicy stone fruit of peach and apricot followed by candied pineapple, candied lemon peel, sweet anjou pear, orange blossom and a hint of sweet baking spice swirl in your glass. The palate is rich and balanced with intense fruit flavors of candied pineapple, dried apricot and pumpkin pie spice that lead to a long lingering and decadent finish with good acidity.

This lusciously sweet dessert wine is a perfect pairing with savory foods like foie gras or an aged cheese plate (Stilton w/Fig Jam) and absolutely delicious with an array of sweet desserts including this pecan square recipe from Ina Garten. I modified this recipe and added a 1/4 teaspoon of clove and 2 teaspoons of cinnamon in the topping to play off the spice notes in the wine.


Barboursville Sangiovese

Barboursville Vineyards has a long tradition of making exceptional wine in Virginia.  While they are best known for the bordeaux style blend “Octagon,” there are many other exciting wines in their portfolio.  I am a big fan of the Barboursville Cabernet Franc Reserve and the Vermentino Reserve. Tonight, I opted for a bottle of the 2013 Sangiovese Reserve to pair with a hearty plate of bolognese.

Sangiovese is a grape varietal indigenous to Tuscany, Italy. It’s responsible for producing world class wines including Brunello di Montalcino, Chianti & Vino Nobile.

Unlike many of its Italian counterparts, the 2013 Barboursville Sangiovese Reserve is very approachable in its youth.  The Sangiovese is blended with a couple of Bordelais varietals (80% Sangiovese. 16% Cabernet Sauvignon and 4% Petit Verdot).  The wine retails for $22.

Tasting Notes: Bright cherry, ripe red berries, plum, dusty earth and floral notes of violet give way to a hint of anise and spice. The palate is medium-bodied, balanced and structured with refreshing acidity and velvety tannins. Drink now or hold for up to 3 years.

Perfect Pairings: Food will bring out the best in this wine. Think about pairing with just about anything Italian! Sausage & mushroom pizza, bolognese, chicken marsala and hearty stews will all be a perfect match with this vino.




Sweet Potato Soup & Cabernet Franc

The sweet potato soup garnished with bacon and sage paired with the 2011 Barboursville Cabernet Franc Reserve from Orange County, Virginia is a delightful pairing. I really love the way the rich berry notes and caramelized fig flavors in the wine bring out the sweetness in the potato. The slight herbaceous notes in the wine bring the sage to life. The bacon add just a touch of texture and richness to the dish!

Recipe: Sweet Potato Soup 


4 large sweet potatoes (peeled & cut into equal size large dice)
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 cup chicken stock (add more if you like your soup a little thinner)
1/4 cup chopped sage (garnish)
crumbled bacon or pancetta (garnish)


Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.  Put sweet potatoes on sheet tray and toss with olive oil, salt & pepper.  Roast for 45 minutes to an hour until fork tender.
Remove from oven and transfer to food processor. Add chicken stock and pulse until well combined. Transfer sweet potatoes to medium saucepan and add nutmeg and salt & pepper to taste.  Warm through and serve. Add sage and bacon for garnish. Serves 4. Enjoy!


Thanksgiving Wine Pairings: Uncorked

Selecting the perfect Thanksgiving wine  pairings can leave you with a serious case of heartburn, but it doesn’t have to be so difficult. Whether you are hosting the holiday meal or simply in charge of bringing the wine, let me help ease that holiday stress by taking the guesswork out of Thanksgiving wine pairings.

I always like to start with a glass of sparkling for the appetizer course as a nice way to wake up your palate. I also like to serve a white and red option with the main course.

My favorite varietals for Thanksgiving include the white aromatic grapes (Riesling, Gewurtztraminer and Viognier), Chenin Blanc and of course Chardonnay.

I had the opportunity to attend the Virginia Wine Summit last month at the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond. We sampled Viogniers from around the world and the Virginia Viogniers really made quite an impression. At its best, Viognier has the creamy viscosity of Chardonnay, the floral, fruit and spice notes of a Riesling or Gewurtraminer and the refreshing acidity of a Sauvignon Blanc, making it a very attractive partner for your Thanksgiving feast.

When it comes to red, think about wines that boast bright fruit and good acidity. I gravitate to Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Gamay (Beaujolais) and Cabernet Franc. A little wine trivia – did you know that Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc are the parents of Cabernet Sauvignon? I also wouldn’t rule out a great rosé especially from Provence. Many people only drink rosé in the summer, but you are really missing out. This is perhaps one of the most versatile Thanksgiving wine pairings with its bright red fruit and vibrant acidity. This is a wine that should be served chilled and is bound to please both red and white drinkers. If you are looking for one wine to get you through the entire meal, reach for a sparkling rosé.  I love the J Brut Rosé as a nice mid-price option or if you want to splurge reach for the Veuve Clicquot Rosé Brut.

Pinot Meunier is a clone of Pinot Noir and is one of the grapes used in Champagne. The best examples boast fruit notes of raspberry and cranberry in addition to nice herbal and floral notes which make it a lovely match with that homemade cranberry sauce and stuffing.  I am going to make a sweet sausage and sage stuffing with cranberries, this is sure to be a match made in heaven!

Keep in mind that turkey has a pretty neutral flavor, so you really want to keep your side dishes in mind when choosing your wines. Most sides tend to have lots of cream and butter, so I really try to choose wines that have a crisp refreshing acidity that will cut through that fat and cleanse your palate in between bites.

If you are serving ham instead of turkey, a Cabernet Franc or Gewurztraminer will be your best choice. With so many options, why not try drink outside the box and try something new this year?  Now, “Go eat your food with gladness and drink your wine with a joyful heart for it is now that God favors what you do.”  ~Ecclesiastes 9:7

Happy Thanksgiving!

Note: Most of the vintages listed below are current releases. Sparkling wines listed without a vintage are non-vintage or NV.

Sparkling Wine

Inexpensive (Under $15)

Mid-Price ($15-$30)

Premium ($30-$50)

Splurge ($50 & Over)

White Wine

Inexpensive (Under $15)

Mid-Price ($15-$30)

Premium ($30-$50)

Splurge ($50 & Over)

Red Wine

Inexpensive (Under $15)

Mid-Price ($15-$30)

Premium ($30-$50)

Splurge ($50 & Over)





Autumn Getaway in the Heart of Virginia Wine Country

I love the crisp, refreshing burst of  autumn air  on a cool October morning.  In my humble opinion, there is no better way to celebrate fall than by taking a drive along the winding roads of the Blue Ridge Mountains and looking out at the rolling hills that span the heart of Virginia Wine Country. This time of year conjures up images of ripe, plump grapes, a bountiful harvest and vibrant colors bursting from the trees that paint a magnificent landscape throughout Central Virginia.  For those of us lucky enough to call Virginia home, this is simply a way of life.

Pumpkin Patch at Carter’s Mountain, Charlottesville.

I had the privilege of living in Charlottesville for a few years and the lifestyle simply can’t be beat.  Virginia boasts more than 200 wineries with nearly half of them located in the Monticello AVA (American Viticultural Area).  I would highly recommend you visit the Charlottesville area to experience firsthand why Virginia has become the East Coast destination of choice for wine lovers.  President Thomas Jefferson, America’s first wine connoisseur saw tremendous promise in this fertile land and his lifelong dream of making Virginia a world class wine destination is finally being realized two centuries later.  Come experience all of the beauty and serenity this region has to offer.  Crystal Palate has you covered with recommendations on some of our  favorite wineries, Inns and restaurants.   Swirl & sip your way through the regions wine tasting rooms, savor sumptuous truffles at Gearharts Chocolates, dine at some of the area’s finest restaurants, relax in luxury at some of the most beautiful Inns in the country and perhaps take in a football game at UVA.  Round out your visit with a trip to Carter’s Mountain for a little apple picking. There is a little something for everyone here.  So what are you waiting for? Thomas Jefferson’s homeland is calling your name.

 Vineyards to Visit:

Charlottesville Area (Monticello AVA) 

Barboursville Vineyards – Founded in 1976, the Zonin family has played a formidable role in establishing Virginia as a world class wine destination.

Cardinal Point Winery – Nestled in the heart of Virginia Wine Country you will find this cozy & quaint tasting room.  The A6 is a must try.

Jefferson Vineyards – Jefferson may have never produced a bottle of wine in his 30 year effort. Two centuries later, the vines at his estate are flourishing.

Keswick Vineyards – Breathtaking scenery. The 2002 Viognier Reserve won best white wine in America.

King Family Vineyards – King Family has become synonymous with Polo and the family is known for their philanthropy efforts. They also make great wine and were awarded the Best Winery in 2013 in the C-Ville’s, Best of C-ville edition.

Moss Vineyards – A newcomer to the Virginia wine scene. Barry Moss is producing some beautifully balanced Bordeaux style blends.

Trump Winery (formerly Kluge Estate) – Produces some of the finest sparkling wines on the East Coast. The Blanc de blanc is sensational.

Veritas Vineyards & Winery – You will fall in love with the ambiance. Bring your sweetie and snuggle up by the fire with a nice flight of wine.

Places to Sip & Savor: 

Fleurie French Restaurant

Petit Pois



Tastings of Charlottesville

Orzo Kitchen & Wine Bar 

Inn at Meander Plantation

Places to Stay:

Boards Head Inn 

Keswick Hall at Monticello 

Inn at Meander Plantation

Inn at Court Square 

Other Resources:

Virginia Wine