John Blanchette

Story and photo by John Blanchette for Eve Wine 101 readers:

Thanksgiving is approaching and once again we’re faced with the problem of which wine is best with turkey and all the trimmings?  

This man can talk turkey, Conundrum winemaker Jon Bolta

Over the years I’ve experimented with Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Roses of all varieties and a number of white wines.  But there’s always a part of the meal that jars with the wine, turning it unpalatable, flat or bitter.

Well now there is no more wineing! I recently found the perfect match with all the holiday fixings, from turkey to cranberries, stuffing, root vegetables, yams, mashed potatoes, gravy, a slew of side dishes and pumpkin pie.

It’s Conundrum White Wine, one of the Wagner Family’s labels from the Santa Lucia Highlands of Monterey County in California. It compliments the meal all the way through.

A blend of five white grapes, Conundrum has an enticing flowery nose, fruity accents, with a touch of lime citrus, apricot, honeysuckle, clove and nutmeg, and some acidity that keeps the residual sugar from becoming cloying or too sweet. And boy does it dress up a turkey and all its surroundings!

Winemaker Jon Bolta told me that the primary blend includes Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscat, with a seasoning of Viognier and Semillon to tweak the flavors. Each year he varies the blend slightly depending on the fruit.

He gathers his grapes for the wine from Wagner vineyards throughout California, including Napa, Monterey, Tullare and Santa Barbara counties.

The Wagner Family produces wines under five different labels, Caymus, which is located in the Napa Valley area of Rutherford and whose 2008 Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the world’s greatest red wines, costing appropriately, and the Mer Soleil, Meiomi, Belle Glos and Conundrum labels. Father Chuck primarily produces the Caymus wines, son Charlie Mer Soleil Chardonnays and youngest son Joseph makes the beautiful Belle Glos and Meiomi Pinot Noirs.

But it’s Conundrum that’s turkey’s perfect match.

Bolta, who’s been making wine since 1983 exclusively for the Wagner Family, knows exactly what he is looking for in the wine.  He lets the grapes ripen fully to get a nice fruit sugar extraction from the grapes, which ensures the complexity of taste and aromas in the glass, and he employs Stelvin caps on the wine to assure that there are no corked bottles. “You will never be disappointed with this wine,” promises Bolta.

I plan to gobble it up with my harvest feast on November 25, if I can keep my hands away from it until then.

Conundrum’s alcohol level is just below 14 percent, it sells in the $20 range and is widely available. It also pairs well with spicy cuisines like Mexican, Indian and Thai when there’s no turkey around.

John Blanchette is a freelance travel, food and wine writer, television producer and owns a public relations company in Santa Monica, California.

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