Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Wine writer fight! Should you drink American wine on Thanksgiving?

What is Thanksgiving? It's a purely American holiday: created here, and not celebrated anywhere else in the world except Canada and Liberia on different days.

But is it still, as the first one was, a celebration not just of friends and family, but of the edible bounty of the land?

To me the answer has always been Yes, and I always drink American wines on Thanksgiving. Not everyone shares that opinion. I had a Twitter debate with New York Times critic Eric Asimov on this issue yesterday.

I'm going to take a poll, because I'd like to know what you think about the issue. And because I know readers love a juicy wine writer fight, I'm going to show screenshots of the tweets.

It started at the end of Asimov's 30-minute chat with readers about Thanksgiving wines. He answered questions and gave general recommendations. These are the 11 (or possibly 10) types of wine he recommended:

Austrian Riesling
Dry Vouvray
Oregon Pinot Gris
Jura red
Oregon Pinot {sic}
Vinho Verde and Finger Lakes Riesling, both mentioned by a reader, both approved
Northern Rhone Syrah

So no wines from California, which is responsible for more than 90% of American wine, and therefore more than 60% of all wine consumed by Americans. But that's fine, if I lived in New York, where Asimov does, I would drink New York wine on Thanksgiving.

Wine is agriculture. It's the apex of agriculture.

And the symbolism of Thanksgiving matters to me. I love this country, and I feel thankful for it on Thanksgiving. That may not be trendy to admit in the hip city where I live, but it's how I feel. I'm no xenophobe: my wife is not American, Thanksgiving doesn't mean anything to her, and that's fine. But if Thanksgiving does mean something to you beyond football and preparing for shopping, I don't see how you can separate the land from its bounty.

Without further ado, here's the rest of the twitter fight. I hope the order makes sense.

That's where it ended, and I feel pretty satisfied that we both expressed what we had to say, although Eric, you are always welcome to clarify your position in the comments. In fact, I'd like to know what you drink on Bastille Day.

It's interesting to be called the "Wine Police" for suggesting that the wine columnist for the New York Times could find sufficient pleasure for one day of the year in a few bottles from some of the more than 5000 different wineries in the United States. But I'll accept that one; I want a uniform and a Cheap Trick theme song.

I don't understand the "Nixonian response" line, though. The only wine anecdote I know about Nixon is that while he grumpily served American wine at White House dinners because Lyndon Johnson set that precedent, he secretly had his own glass filled with Chateau Margaux. Is that what Asimov is accusing me of? If so, it's not true. Since I began drinking wine with Thanksgiving dinner, I have chosen to drink American. Proudly.

How unusual is this? Let's take a poll. And please share your opinions in the comments section.

Follow me on Twitter: @wblakegray and like The Gray Report on Facebook.


Anonymous said...

I have always made the choice to drink American wines on Thanksgiving (as well as the 4th of July). I drink French wines on Bastille Day. I drink Mexican beer on Cinco de Mayo and Irish beer on St. Patrick's Day. It just seems right to me.

Adam Lee
Siduri Wines

rapopoda said...

I agree with your point of about celebration of the harvest and I always to US wine on t-day (though this year a friend will be bringing over a well aged Huet Petlliant -I'd be an idiot to refuse it). That said, "should" may be a bit much. I don't really care what Asimov, or anyone else, drinks on a holiday.
I will say (write) this: Asimov missed a great opportunity to highlight Long Island and Finger Lakes wines. Both speak to his local (ish) harvest and both regions have made massive improvements in quality over the last decade. A real missed opportunity to bolster two regions of growing importance and two regions that generally produce wines of a style that I expect Asimov would enjoy.
Journalism Fail

Jack Everitt said...

I am very definitely with Eric on this. Why must the wine police show up on Thanksgiving of all days?

And I prefer to drink a dry gew├╝rztraminer (from Alto Adige or Alsace) with the turkey dinner.

Jon Bjork said...

Why not go even further and try to drink and eat "local" if possible on Thanksgiving?

I voted "no" to your poll, Blake, because I'm thankful for the ability to access French cheeses, Italian Prosciutto, and wines from around the globe. So I, personally, wouldn't impose a rule on anyone.

As for my family on Thanksgiving, we won't be standing in line at Walmart in the evening, but we will be carving a brined turkey accompanied by plenty of Lodi wine, some of which I helped make.

Cheers to you and your family!


Robert said...

How about going full PC and drnking wines from a winery owned and operated by a Native American tribe? After all it was through them we have Thanksgiving at all, or a country for that matter. Going further than that we should all then visit a casino on a rancheria or reservation and gamble and eat at the buffet too. Okay, I may have jumped the shark on that last point.

W. Blake Gray said...

Jon: Agreed, I do try to eat and drink local on Thanksgiving. Granted, given where I live, that's easier than it would be for most people.

But if we serve cheese on Thanksgiving, it's American cheese.

I consider Lodi in my foodshed so I might uncork a Lodi bottle or two myself.

W. Blake Gray said...

Robert: I don't think Native Americans like Thanksgiving. They shouldn't, anyway.

PC, huh? You mean I'm politically correct, and NYT isn't? Just checking.

W. Blake Gray said...

Jack: Especially on Thanksgiving of all days. On what other day does what you eat and drink have meaning?

May I ask if you make a point of drinking French wine on Bastille Day?

Robert said...

I am suggesting we recognize them for their contribution, which means for everything. By buying their wine we are bringing their bounty to the table and in turn thanking them. I am not sure what Native Americans do on this day. They are sure not watching Redskins football. Maybe PC was not the right term.

W. Blake Gray said...

Robert: It's a good point.

I have resolved to call Washington's football team the Foreskins.

Michael Veseth said...

Lots of great American wines. I really can't think of a reason not to give thanks for them.

Winethropology said...

You sure do go out of your way to disapprove of what someone else chooses to drink, celebrate, or recommend. While, like both you and Adam, I lean towards matching my beverages to the significance of occasion, your championing of patriotism is lost in the flimsiness with which you've stitched together a series of antagonistic - and, frankly, petty - tweets. Before reflections on the recent harvest and the preceding year, Thanksgiving's traditions are first rooted in gratitude. Manufactured hey-look-at-me sensationalism has never been a part of this tradition, at least in the live-and-let-live America I'm familiar with. The comic myopia of your focus is, however, entertaining. And I'm always grateful for a good laugh. Happy Thanksgiving.

W. Blake Gray said...

Winethropology: Always glad to please. Don't forget to patronize the Virtual Tip Jar on your way out.

Unknown said...

A good part of Thanksgiving revolves around consuming delicious things. If I didn't enjoy a particular dish, sweet potato casserole we'll say, I wouldn't bake one up just for the sake of tradition. I am generally not attracted to American wine (I know "American wine" is a broad generalization) so I don't feel the need to limit myself to one country's worth of wine when there's a globe of grape juice out there.

Weren't the pilgrims also celebrating a successful emmigration? I'm just celebrating a successful Lagrein emmigration from alto adige to my table.

Unknown said...

A good part of Thanksgiving revolves around consuming delicious things. If I didn't enjoy a particular dish, sweet potato casserole we'll say, I wouldn't bake one up just for the sake of tradition. I am generally not attracted to American wine (I know "American wine" is a broad generalization) so I don't feel the need to limit myself to one country's worth of wine when there's a globe of grape juice out there.

Weren't the pilgrims also celebrating a successful emmigration? I'm just celebrating a successful Lagrein emmigration from alto adige to my table.

Dan Fishman said...

I wish you had made it more clear in your tweets that you were criticizing his list of suggested wines, as opposed to what he himself chooses to drink. Of course, the fact that Asimov (or just about anyone at the Times) is oikophobic is hardly a revelation.

W. Blake Gray said...

Joseph: While I understand your point, and I don't like jello-mold salads, if there's one day a year to retest your taste preferences, this might be the one. It's a big country. If you like wine there ought to be something here you like.

But to your point ...

Unknown: I thought I did that in my last tweet. I do have an unfortunate tendency to come across as preachy sometimes. It's one area where having an editor makes a difference.

In many years I go to a Thanksgiving dinner with friends in Oakland. I bring American wines. I don't wag a finger at people bringing something else.

It's very different to stand in front of someone and criticize them personally, and to criticize the philosophy they do or don't espouse as the chosen representative of a powerful organization.

I do hope Eric Asimov has a nice Thanksgiving and enjoys some wines he likes.

Anonymous said...

I like to give thanks daily. Throughout the year, I fully support the American and international wine industries. I'm thankful for the ability to pick wines that make gorgeous pairings with the food I'm eating, so reserve the right to drink a little American wine with some from other countries, too.

Because what's more American than mixing it all up?

W. Blake Gray said...

Laura: It's a very good argument, a better one it seems than "Northern Rhone Syrah is best with turkey." Enjoy your holiday.

Alan said...

My wine consumption consists largely of French & American wine, but on Thanksgiving, I enjoy the challenge of creating a wine menu that is 100% American.

Anonymous said...

Asimov seems a bit snobby to me in not even featuring American wines for an American holiday. If you went to Napa to visit and all you could get in the restaurants were French wines wouldn't it seem a bit odd? If you are going to celebrate America and you love wine then American wine should be in order.

If I went to Finger Lakes and went out to dinner and all they had on the wine list were French and Napa wines I would be mad. Why go there then?

Even though I checked yes on your poll, I don't think it should be absolute, but if you are celebrating America and its bounty I do think American wines should be at the top of the list for the day.

Anonymous said...

Look, I just read through all the comments and would like to say that what it seems we are talking about here is a major wine writer with a huge platform--Asimov---doing a list of wines for a uniquely American holiday and including almost no American wines on a long list of recommendations.

We are not talking about what each of you individually end up choosing to drink on that day, a far different issue.

And I agree with Gray, American wines should at least be featured as befits the occasion.

And what is wrong with patriotism? It just means you love your country. Please--love your country, your town and your family. It's a healthy thing.

Bob Henry said...


Lost in all this squabbling is a little "history."

The Pilgrims were running low on beer, and that was a compelling enough reason to drop anchor and settle . . . someplace.

As my dear Uncle Cecil explained:


So follow my lead and me v-e-r-y "PC": drink Anchor Steam beer with dinner.

'Enuf said.

(Does someone what to pass the crow?)

~~ Bob

Unknown said...

Last year Eric chose a wine I made at the top of his list for Thanksgiving wines. I think it's great that the list changes every year.

Michael Donohue said...

Hmm. Northern Rhone Syrah with turkey?!?!?! Maybe if the stuffing is a cassoulet. Otherwise, that sounds about as appetizing as Cabernet with sole.

Dave McIntyre said...

I'm all for drinking American and especially local, but I see no need to make it a requirement. Italian-Americans, German-Americans, French-Americans etc might be thankful for their heritage and want to celebrate their family history that brought them to America.

Of course, by that logic, I should be drinking Scotch.

Dave McIntyre said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
W. Blake Gray said...

Hey Dave, I was hoping you were going to suggest some great Maryland wines! If I was in my own birthplace I'd be checking them out.

Funny you should mention Scotch. I remember discussing this notion on Thanksgiving once with a very drunk older gentleman, a Scotch drinker, who told me, "I can't stand Bourbon, so I have to finish this bottle tonight." It was Blanton's; I helped.

Sam said...

If you want to make the case for drinking American wine on a quintessential American holiday, I think July 4th might make more sense.

Please, keep the nationalism out of Thanksgiving.

For me, Thanksgiving is an opportunity to recognize and celebrate all the things you are thankful for - friends, family, good fortune, whatever. Ang amoung those things, I'd have to count Champagne and Burgundy.

Anonymous said...

If celebrating thanksgiving is also remembering your freedoms & privileges in the US, I say drink whatever you like. I have been an expat for only 5 years & dearly miss the bounty of NY wine shops, with wines to choose from any country I please. Being narrow in what's "correct" to drink is truly missing the point.

W. Blake Gray said...

MG: While we're clearly going to disagree, and the poll seems to show that people are split about 50-50 on this, I have to take issue with a word you used and others who aren't on my side allude to.

I just don't see having the cornucopia of more than 5000 US wineries, in all 50 states, making all types of wine for all types of tastes, as "narrow."

Joe Roberts said...

This is pretty useless. Seriously, there can't possible be a correct/incorrect answer. Cases could be made for including German or French wine, too, given the important roles those countries played in the birth of the U.S. A much stronger case, I think, can be made for simply drinking what you like. As for Eric somehow dissing american wine, and that somehow influencing his nyt wine coverage: a) evidence exists against that in the form of him mentioning American producers, and b) who cares, if it bothers you then go read someone else...

W. Blake Gray said...

Gee Joe, no irony in your last line, is there?

Joe Roberts said...

No, actually, I meant it. There are too many voices for us to get too hung up about what one of them says or doesn't say about holiday wine pairings, even if they're very influential voices. Eric's comment won't even make a dent in American wine sales, I suspect. if we were talking 4th of July, I think the omission would be bizarre, but I just don't see this particular instance as a big deal, or even a small deal.

Joe Roberts said...

Also, I'm not saying that I agree with Eric here, just that I think it's much ado over nothing. He missed an opportunity, for sure, but it's small beer I think.

W. Blake Gray said...

Well Joe, I guess you're going to make me say it ... if what I wrote bothers you, then go read someone else. I read that somewhere. Seeya!

Jack Everitt said...

Blake: Your response to me (above) proves that I am right; July 4th would be the day Americans should drink American wine, not Thanksgiving.

W. Blake Gray said...

Jack: I love my country so much that I devote TWO entire days of my drinking year to it. Unfashionable among Democrats, obviously, but I really do feel that way.

It is interesting how little regard so many Americans seem to have for American wine as a product of pride. I wonder how many Italians or French or Germans or Argentinians or Kiwis or Aussies or South Africans or anybody else you could name would see the idea of drinking nothing but their own country's wine for a day as a burden.

obaenninger said...

Nixon served Schramsberg at the People's Hall in 1972, for a state dinner in the presence of Zhou Enlai. Presumably those who chose the wine knew something of the "defrosting" effects of sparkling on the ambient mood, and one can also assume they knew something about wine, since Schramsberg probably is, and I believe most certainly was then, the best American sparkling wine. So the "Nixonian response" Mr. Asimov charges you with seems to lend historical precedence to the validity of "drinking American" on big occasions than anything, with this historical tidbit in mind! In other words, I don't quite catch his drift either.