#21 THANKSGIVING

The reasons to be grateful vary by year. Everyone will give thanks when this one ends.

But there is possibility. After all, a 75-foot tall, 45-foot wide, 11-ton Norway spruce from Oneonta, N.Y. is slated to illuminate Rockefeller Center on Dec. 2.

And while Thanksgiving 2020 will be as different from those remembered as roast turkey and trimmings are from the 1621 table of venison and waterfowl, it will do.

Besides, they did prepare shellfish and serve fruit and pumpkin on that first holiday in the new world. And they poured hard cider.

There will be plenty of cider this year, too – and wines red, white, and rose, still and bubbly.

What goes best with the classic dinner is more than what complements a plump turkey breast, especially when it shares a table with cranberry sauce and candied yams, Brussels sprouts and sausage stuffing.

SPARKLING

One wine that pairs neatly with all of it sparkles. Champagne, prosecco, Franciacorta, Lambrusco, crémant, cava, sekt, Trentodoc, American bubbles – take your pick, first course to last.

Prosecco, the white sparkler from the Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia in Italy, is an especially versatile, moderately priced delight.

Look for those of Mionetto. They include the aromatic and stylish Mionetto Prestige Brut (★★ $14) and Mionetto Prestige Rose Extra Dry (★★ $14), floral and full of berries. Splurge on the rich, fruity, crisp Mionetto Luxury Cartizze DOCG (★★★ $40).

Franciacorta is from Lombardy and is made using the Champagne method. It’s drier than prosecco. The nonvintage Barone Pizzini Rose Franciacorta DOCG (★★★ $50) is vibrant, floral, and bright. It’s a savory wine that complements foods of many flavors.

For an elegant, celebratory Champagne, uncork the 2008 Laurent-Perrier Brut Millesime (★★★★ $79.99), a citrusy, minerally beauty. The blend is half chardonnay, half pinot noir. The hue is white gold. Likewise, the result.

And for a festive American sparkling wine: the 2016 Argyle Winery Vintage Brut (★★ $28), from Oregon’s Willamette Valley appellation. It blends 55 percent chardonnay and 35 percent pinot noir with 10 percent pinot meunier. Very much like a Champagne.

STILL WINES

A full Thanksgiving dinner enjoys the company of pinot noir, cabernet franc, sangiovese, fruity zinfandel, Beaujolais, dry rose, dry riesling, viognier, and chardonnay, among others.

The 2018 Lula Anderson Valley Pinot Noir (★★★ $45), heady with plum and cherry; and the 2018 Lula Peterson Vineyard Mendocino Pinot Noir (★★★ $45), a harvest of berries and cherries, are flavor-packed matches for the holiday dinner.

Think ahead with the lush, complex, concentrated 2018 Lula Lula Vineyard Pinot Noir (★★★★ $60), which will age very well for Thanksgiving 2027 or 2028.

Floral notes, suggestions of raspberry and rose, and traces of herbs define the 2018 Argyle Nuthouse Pinot Noir (★★ $55), a fresh and refined production from the Eola-Amity Hills appellation of Oregon.

Nonvintage Clean Slate Riesling (★★ $12), from the Mosel River Valley in Germany, delivers great value and a balanced, minerally, peachy, very adaptable white wine.

Citrus and tropical fruit notes highlight the appealing, balanced, easygoing 2017 San Simeon Monterey Chardonnay (★★ $21.99) from the Riboli Family wine collection.  

The 2019 J. Lohr Estates Riverstone Chardonnay (★ $14) is light on the budget and the palate, a straw-shaded wine with hints of citrus fruit and vanilla.

AND FOR DESSERT

By the time you get to pie, reach for a glass, too.

Sauternes and Barsac are the most famous sweet wines of Bordeaux. But Cerons and Loupiac are seductive alternatives.

The floral, citrusy 2010 Chateau de Cerons (★★ $40, 375ml) and the 2015 Chateau Dauphine Rondillon Cuvee d’Or Loupiac (★★ $15, 375ml), with a trace of lemongrass, are treats made primarily with semillon and sauvignon blanc. They’re both fresh and inviting with custards and meringues, especially lemon.

If you’re inclined to have a cheese course, they’re perfect with blues: Roquefort, Bleu d’Auverge, and Fourme d’Ambert to Shropshire Blue, Cashel Blue, and Stilton, Monteblu and Castelmagno to Gorgonzola

CURRENT EVENTS

Shady Distillery, fittingly based in Florida, has released RECOUNT 2020 vodka (★ $28). The small-batch newcomer advises, with a splash of satire, “No matter which way you vote, or how shady you think the other guy is … watch the debacle unfold’’ with a bottle of this vodka. The limited edition, 81-proof production is pretty good and smooth in a bipartisan way. Check shadydistillery.com

A GIFT OF CHOCOLATE

Vesta Chocolate stars with small-batch, organic chocolate.

The artisanal operation produces chocolate bars, bonbons, vegan chocolate bark, a cacao nut spread, cookies, brownies, nibs – and enough smiles to start the holiday season. Those carefully selected organic cacao beans yield a repertoire of recommended choices.

They include the cacao sea salt brownies ($7 each, $27 four-pack), sea salt chocolate chip cookies ($3.75 each, $21 six-pack), vegan matcha oat energy bars and vegan dark chocolate bars ($9), and hot chocolate powder ($32).

Available at vestachocolate.com.

READINGS OF THE SEASON

“The Kitchen Without Borders’’ (Workman, $24.95), with a forward by Manal Kahi and Wisson Kahi, is a cookbook for now.

Eat Offbeat, founded by the Kahis, is a catering company staffed by immigrant and refugee chefs.

Their stories are compelling and their recipes authentic. It’s the nourishing cuisine of the displaced.

The culinary tour takes in Sri Lanka and Nepal, Eritrea and the Central African Republic, Algeria and Nigeria, Iran and Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, Venezuela and others.

Dishes include spins on baba ghanoush, hummus, fattoush, biryani, meatballs, and samosas.

From March 1, 2021 to March 30, 2022, Workman Publishing will donate 2 percent of the cover price of the cookbooks, and preordered copies, sold in the United State and territories, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and European Union members to the nonprofit International Rescue Committee.

The organization provides humanitarian aid, relief, and resettlement to refugees and other victims of violent conflicts and oppression.

“The Kitchen Without Borders” may be preordered from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Bookshop, and IndieBound.

EXERCISE

“Caged Lion: Joseph Pilates & His Legacy” (Last Leaf Press, $13.91) by John Howard Street is the story of the man who invented the exercise regimen that bears his name. Author Street: a former student of Pilates himself.

It’s remarkable tale that goes beyond strengthening your core, learning about body mechanics, stabilizing, and wellness. How he developed the routines and the equipment for Pilates is an education, and might inspire you to join in.

The epigraph is from Albert Einstein: “Nothing happens until something moves.”

TOASTING SIR SEAN

The passing of Sean Connery, the first and greatest James Bond, reminds devoted moviegoers that the actor’s films totaled almost 100.

Those Bond movies, of course, immortalized Connery, from the martinis and Champagne to the Anthony Sinclair suits and the Aston Martin DB5, the Beretta 418 to the Walther PPK.

He moved like a big cat, embodied sang froid, perfected sarcasm, projected danger, always seemed magnetic, and coolly won at baccarat.

It’s jarring to think that 007 could have been Trevor Howard, Richard Todd, David Niven, Cary Grant, Mel Gibson, John Gavin, James Brolin, or, maybe a bit easier to take, Richard Burton.

Then, again, Rock Hudson was considered to play the lead in “Ben-Hur,” Tom Selleck could have mangled Indiana Jones, and John Travolta might have been Forrest Gump. Casting is an art and a science.

So, for this and all future Thanksgivings, gratitude must go to the decisionmakers who picked Connery for “Dr. No,” and wisely stayed with him through “From Russia With Love,” “Goldfinger,” “Thunderball,” “You Only Live Twice,” “Diamonds are Forever,” and, since they had to, “Never Say Never Again.”

But …

Connery was better in many roles beyond Bond, including his vivid Oscar winner as veteran cop Jim Malone, who teaches Kevin Costner’s Eliot Ness “the Chicago way” to fight organized crime in Brian DePalma’s “The Untouchables.” (1987).

Could there have been a better choice than Connery to portray Harrison Ford’s scholarly and adventurous father in Steven Spielberg’s “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” (1989)? No.

Or give greater presence to the Soviet submarine captain, Marko Ramius, in “The Hunt for Red October” (1990), even as a Lithuanian with a Scottish accent? Not bloody likely.

And he was still more memorable in John Huston’s spectacular “The Man Who Would Be King” (1975), co-starring with Michael Caine as former British officers and eternal rogues.

They set out to use their skills, wiles, bravado, and the polished, smart dialogue of Huston and Gladys Hill to rule Kafiristan, albeit briefly.

In the 1950s, Huston envisioned Clark Gable and Humphrey Bogart in the roles.

Later, there was the thought that Richard Burton and Peter O’Toole, and even Paul Newman and Robert Redford, would star in what surely would have been entertaining buddy movies.

Be grateful for the casting Connery and Caine.

The same goes for selecting Christopher Plummer as Rudyard Kipling, whose novella is the source, and improved upon on screen.

But after viewing scores of Connery movies over decades, beginning with Disney’s “Darby O’Gill and the Little People” (1959), easing through Alfred Hitchcock’s “Marnie” (1964) and Sidney Lumet’s “The Hill” (1965), going along with Martin Ritt’s “The Molly Maguires” (1970), and Jean-Jacques  Annaud’s adaptation of Umberto Eco’s best-selling “The Name of the Rose” (1986); sticking with “A Fine Madness” (1966), “Shalako” (1968), “The Offence” (1972), “Zardoz” (1974), “The Wind and the Lion” (1975), “Highlander” (1986) and more, all lead to …

… Richard Lester’s “Robin and Marian” (1976), from a screenplay by James Goldman, who wrote “The Lion in Winter.” Here, a lion and lioness near late autumn.

Robin Hood is in the public domain, so the character and the legend have been treated and mistreated scores of times, from silent movies to booming sound films.

One deservedly deemed classic for its performances, style, color, music, and very merry men is “The Adventures of Robin Hood” (1938), starring Errol Flynn in all his glory, alongside Olivia de Havilland and Claude Rains. It was co-directed by William Keighley and, more notably, Michael Curtiz five years before he made “Casablanca.”

Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, Max von Sydow, Oscar Isaac, and William Hurt work diligently in Ridley Scott’s moody prequel, “Robin Hood” (2010), which has some snappy special effects to frame good acting.

Baby Boomers may recall Richard Greene in the 1955-59 TV series, “The Adventures of Robin Hood,” with its opening arrow and Wildroot Cream-Oil hair tonic ads.

And don’t forget “Robin and the 7 Hoods” (1964), either. It sets the story in pre-Prohibition Chicago and unspools in Rat Pack fashion with Frank Sinatra (as Robbo), Dean Martin (John), Sammy Davis Jr. (Will) and even Bing Crosby (Allen A. Dale).

“My Kind of Town” debuted in it, earning an Oscar nomination for James Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn.

The leading candidate for last place, however, is “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” (1991), a gory, disjointed affair redeemed for a few scenes by Alan Rickman’s exasperated Sheriff of Nottingham, who seems to know where it’s headed. Kevin Costner’s Robin doesn’t. Mel Brooks spoofed this one with “Robin Hood: Men in Tights” (1993).

When an uncredited Sean Connery closes the Costner movie with a cameo of King Richard, you immediately think of what might have been.

Flash forward.

Robin (Sean Connery) and Little John (Nicol Williamson) return to England after 20 years, in middle age, and disillusioned both by the Crusades and the crazed King Richard the Lionheart (Richard Harris).

They head back to Sherwood Forest. The men no longer are that merry. Maid Marian (Audrey Hepburn) now is an abbess, and about to be arrested by a mature, more complex Sheriff of Nottingham (Robert Shaw).

Eventually, Connery and Shaw draw swords and go one-on-one – slower but just as determined as they were portraying James Bond and Red Grant on the Orient Express in “From Russia With Love.”

“Robin and Marian” aims its last arrow at the heart. The bittersweet theme is timeless; Connery and Hepburn, luminous.

So’s the movie.

SCOTSMAN AND SCOTCH MAN

James Bond’s tastes were defined in the early productions, and they had less to do with either Sean Connery or Ian Fleming. Director Terence Young was 007’s unofficial guide to Savile Row, as well as to the best Bordeaux and Champagne.

If you want to toast Sir Sean properly with a drink, neither the vodka martini, shaken, not stirred, nor the more complicated Vesper martini seem apropos.

True to his heritage, Connery favored whisky.

Lagavulin 16 Year Old, intense and smoky, is about right. And about $80. Have it neat.


ABOUT THE BLOGGER

For 34 years, Peter Gianotti reviewed wines, spirits, restaurants, and books at Newsday. He twice won Press Club of New York awards for food writing. Before he became a food critic, Gianotti was a Washington correspondent, a financial writer, and New York City reporter for the newspaper. His books include “Food Lovers’ Guide to Long Island” and “A Guide to Long Island Wine Country.” Gianotti received his B.A. from Fordham University, where he taught journalism; and his M.S. from Columbia University, where he also was a Bagehot Fellow. Harry, his Creamsicle-hued assistant, prefers the bouquets of riesling and pinot noir.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.