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Dennis Sodomka

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D o you have questions about fixing the food and pairing the wines for a turkey dinner? Well, Frank Family Wines has answers. They hosted an outstanding virtual wine tasting before Thanksgiving that included a professional chef who offered us many practical tips about preparing the turkey, stuffing and sides. Meanwhile, the Frank Family folks showed us four wines that would be perfect with a Thanksgiving dinner. Chef Christina Machamer’s accolades include winning the fourth season of FOX’s Hell’s Kitchen and working side-by-side with some of the world’s top chefs like Gordon Ramsay and Thomas Keller. She achieved a Sommelier certification from the Master Court of Sommeliers based in London. Chef Christina has lived in Napa Valley for the past decade where she now works as a personal chef for both wineries and tourists. It may be too late to help with this Thanksgiving, but if you cook a turkey…

Frank Family Wine Club Tasting I t would be difficult to point to good things that have emerged from our prolonged pandemic quarantine, but virtual wine tastings would be at the top of that list. Even though few of us have been able to travel to wine country to take part in wine tastings at wineries, the magic of the Internet has brought those tastings into our homes. I have participated in many such tastings and have loved every one. Frank Family Vineyards is legendary for its on-site hospitality, and now it offers the best virtual tastings for experts and novices alike, at no charge. They usually drink 4-6 wines and often pair them with food. They keep the chatter light, so it feels more like a cocktail party than a university lecture. And they keep the tastings to one hour. I have several tastings I will write about in…

Knotty Vines Red Blend 2016, California Cost: $14-16 Don’t you love all the blends we are seeing these days, especially red blends? There have always been traditional blends in places like Bordeaux and Italy, but many of those are under pretty specific guidelines. The new blends can be practically anything, and winemakers are getting creative about what they put together. The only rule is that is has to taste good. The Knotty Vines Red Blend is like that. The predominant grapes are Merlot and Malbec, with a hefty dose of Zinfandel and a splash of Petit Verdot and Syrah. I don’t recall seeing a blend just like that before, but it works. The result is a smooth, sleek wine, with rich fruit flavors. It is a versatile wine that would pair well with a wide variety of food and is great for sipping by itself. The wine is a deep…

Volley Tequila Seltzer Cost: $12-13/four pack, $3-3.50/can S eltzer drinks have taken the world of alcohol by storm, and they don’t show any signs of letting up. You can find all kinds of seltzers from hard apple cider to beer. The newest entry in the field is Volley hard seltzer, made with tequila. And it’s a great addition, unlike any other seltzer I’ve had. The four flavors of Volley should be popular for the holidays, either at a party or with a holiday meal. And I suspect they will be a big hit next summer. The flavors are zesty lime, spicy ginger, sharp grapefruit and tropical mango. I’m not a big tequila drinker but each of these drinks was bright and tasty. They come in cans, so they are easy to pack. I haven’t found Volley in any Augusta shop, but they just started coming into Georgia last week, so…

Penfolds Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz 2017, Australia Cost: $82-86 My wife and I have been diligent about staying home as much as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic. We really miss going out to nice restaurants, and we miss seeing plays and concerts. But we also don’t want to get sick. So last weekend we had a special date at home with dinner theater in the den. Teri and I watched ‘“Death of a Salesman,” presented by the Goodman Theater in Chicago. It was staged several years ago, starring the late Brian Dennehy, and it was terrific. They streamed a filmed version of the Broadway cast, which won four Tony awards, including best revival, best actor, best featured actress and best director. We moved a table in front of the television so we had front row seats, added a tablecloth and candles, and had a wonderful meal. Of course, we needed…

La Jota Vineyard Co. Merlot 2017, Napa Valley Cost: $82-86 There is something special about mountain wines. Struggling at high elevations in rocky soils pushes vines to produce grapes with more depth and complexity. Wines from mountain vineyards usually have a little extra flavor. The grapes get a lot of sun, but because they are at a higher altitude with cooler temperatures, it takes the grapes longer to ripen. All of that gives them more intense, complex flavors. The mountain soils also usually impart a mineral flavor that I particularly like. The La Jota Merlot is a great example of a mountain Merlot. La Jota also gives the grapes a lot more attention than most wines, showing what a premium wine is all about. The wine is a gorgeous deep garnet in the glass, with dark fruit aromas. On the palate I picked up flavors of black cherry, ripe raspberries…

Domäne Wachau Grüner Veltliner Federspiel 2018, Austria Cost: $14-16 J ust because we are stuck at home during the coronavirus pandemic doesn’t mean we have to limit our wine horizons. Like most of my readers I drink a lot of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel and Pinot Noir. Those are all wonderful grapes, but I like to try a few other things once in a while. Grüner Veltliner is one of those wines I keep coming back to when I want to try something different. I have had it so much it’s likely to become one of my staples, because Teri and I enjoy it. Dick Benjamin from Wine World used to rave about Grüner Veltliner all the time. Before I tried it, I thought he might be exaggerating, but he wasn’t. It is one of the most under-appreciated and least known wines in the United States. And…

Decoy Merlot 2018, Sonoma County Cost: $24-26 I love October for many reasons, not the least of which is it’s Merlot month. I know, it’s a made-up celebration, but I applaud anything that draws attention to this versatile, delicious wine. I have been drinking Merlot for at least 45 years, when I first tried Sterling Merlot and loved it. Later I heard about this great Merlot made by Duckhorn, but I couldn’t find it anywhere until I found it in a boutique wine shop in Chapel Hill, N.C. It was every bit as good as I had hoped. It was a little more than I usually spent for wine, but then Duckhorn came out with the Decoy label, which the winery called the every day wine for the well informed. I could drink it every day, and at this price I could afford to. This lush Merlot is a deep,…

7 Deadly Zins 2017, Lodi 7 Deadly Cab 2018, Lodi Cost: $15-17 W hen 7 Deadly Zins was released in 2002 I thought it was a devilishly clever marketing campaign. A word play on the seven deadly sins, the grapes came from seven old vine zinfandel vineyards. The best part was how good the wine was. I have had 7 Deadly Zins many times since then, and it has continued to be a reliably excellent wine. Now there’s a new 7 Deadly in town, and while the name isn’t quite as catchy 7 Deadly Cab also is a terrific wine. The cab is full-bodied, full of ripe fruit flavors. In the glass it is a deep, dark garnet, almost opaque with vanilla and mocha aromas. The first sip brings flavors of ripe blackberry and dark fruit. It is a dry wine, with a big, smooth mouthfeel and a long finish.…

Lubanzi Chenin Blanc 2019, South Africa Cost: $6-8 per can Chenin Blanc is one of the great wines of the world, and South Africa makes it better than any place. There’s something about the soil and the climate that produces perfect Chenin Blanc grapes. I have had several great Chenin Blancs from South Africa, and now I’ve found another, made by Lubanzi. It is a fabulous wine at a great price. And you can buy it in cans. How great is that? You could spend years just tracking down great wines from South Africa, and now would be a good time to start doing that. The coronavirus pandemic has hurt food and wine companies all over the world, and those in South Africa have been particularly hard hit. The country banned the sale of alcohol in March, including exports. The ban on exports was lifted May 1, but the local…

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