Holiday Wine Guide
My family loves Thanksgiving more than any other holiday. In the act of giving thanks for our many blessings, we Ryders do on a grand scale what we naturally do best: eat and drink. And, truth be told, we’re pretty fair country cooks too. We originally hail from Louisiana, where cooking is the national pastime and food is the subject of daily gossip and debateand not a few fistfights.
Our Thanksgiving menu has grown over the years, as our ranks of children and their children have swelled; while new dishes have been added, none get deleted because some constituency refuses to allow it. So now we typically have two 20-pound turkeys, one slow-smoked and one roasted; dressing with corn bread and sausage; pan gravy enriched with Madeira; onion pie; squash casserole with ground beef and cheese; baked sweet potatoes, sweet potato casserole and potatoes au gratin; asparagus with mushrooms and cream; green beans amandine; corn maque choux; and a few kinds of cranberry sauce. These menu details are important to understanding the dilemma faced by serious wine drinkers.
Oh, we are that too. Years ago, shortly after I gave up collecting baseball cards, I took up the fundamentally similar hobby of collecting wine. I did it as an intellectual pursuit and an escape from the daily drama of the business world. This was in the late 1960s, when collecting wine was not particularly fashionable, so it was a relatively inexpensive habit. I made one very smart move: I adopted a strategy and stuck with it. The strategy was “best wines, best years.” So, for four decades, I bought the world’s greatest wines in their finest vintages, and by the time they reached their prime, we were sipping outrageously expensive wines with a paltry cost basis. This wine collection became the raw material for our long and continuing search for the perfect Thanksgiving bottle.