It all began with a big bird—but not that bird. Don’t eat this bird.
It’s a swan. It’s a beer. It’s Lagunitas Brewing Company’s Sparkling Swan ale. Lagunitas-light at 6.5 percent alcohol by volume (abv), and a crystalline cranberry cocktail hue, pretty, fizzy Sparkling Swan looks sweet but tastes dry—no wild sour, either, it’s got just a touch of tart, mixed berry fruit flavor from red wine grapes, and downplays the hops. You want to bring your eclectic beverage contribution, but without alienating traditional American beer palates, this is your Turkey Day twofer.
Those with all-American wine palates might find the 1000 Stories 2016 bourbon barrel aged Zinfandel ($18.99), from Fetzer Vineyards, a lot less controversial than they imagine. The “bluegrass barrels” round out the toasty, graham-cracker oak and plush fig and plum flavors of the Zin rather than dominate it. The handsome label, featuring an American bison, presents a good look on the table.
Also aged in whiskey barrels, Fogbelt Brewing’s Dyerville Giant imperial red ale and Federation Giant imperial coffee stout lend a hint of a boozy finish to an after-meal beverage round without undue intoxication.
An American wine for an American holiday (the word “American” appears four times on the bottle), the Virginia Dare 2015 Pinot Noir ($28) should convince connoisseurs with its classic Russian River Valley Dr. Pepper, mulling spice notes and cranberry-raspberry flavors, while the packaging provides an old-fashioned look (Francis Coppola revived this 19th-century brand) and conversation starter. There’s a serviceably oaky Chardonnay ($28), too, but the historically themed nautical artwork on the Lost Colony White Blend ($27) deepens the story (no, that ain’t no Mayflower, and the whole story is more mysterious, romantic and maybe grisly), and though based on Sauvignon Blanc, the blend’s golden-apple rather than grassy notes suit the seasonal fare.
Goodbye history, on to the new, or nouveau—Horse & Plow winemaker Suzanne Hagins likes a good Gamay, the grape of Beaujolais nouveau wine that’s released the third Thursday of November, but there’s not much hereabouts to go around. “Grenache is a nice stand-in,” says Hagins. Made from certified organically grown grapes and fermented whole cluster for “nouveau” authenticity, the Horse & Plow 2018 Grenache will be available on tap for filling up the Sebastopol winery’s flip-top, logo glass growlers in time for
This is a new wine, so it appears slightly cloudy, but at just about 12 percent abv, tastes fresh and vibrant with strawberry and cherry flavors and has a surprisingly long, lightly astringent finish that clears the palate for another forkful of that other bird.