1789—There was no national Thanksgiving holiday yet, but the U,S.A's first president declared November 26, 1789 a day of thanks.
What wine should we have tonight in memory of that early Thanksgiving?
I have a grand wine book that existed when George Washington declared the holiday. Let's see what those yellowed pages recommended at the time.
Our source is Sir Edward Barry, Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians. Brevity was not his bag. Here is the title of the 480-page treatise.
OBSERVATIONS HISTORICAL, CRITICAL, and MEDICINAL, ON THE WINES OF THE ANCIENTS AND THE ANALOGY between them and MODERN WINES WITH General OBSERVATIONS on the PRINCIPLES and QUALITIES of WATER? and in particular on thofe of BATH
Note: The symbol "f" represents "s" in some words, as in "thofe" (those) above.
Dr. Barry mentions first and devotes the most pages to "the Wines of Champaign." He writes that "for fome years the French and the Englifh have been particularly fond of the fparkling, frothy Champaigns." While Dr. Barry decries the "depraved tafte" of sparklers (as compared to non-sparkling wines from Champagne), we don't. So, for a toast to Thanksgiving and to the courageous Americans who first celebrated it, we're choosing a sparkler for...
Our Wine of the Day
Mumm Cuvée Napa Blanc de Noirs Winemaker—Rob McNeill, U.C.-Davis + 17 years making California sparklers. Composition—85% Pinot Noir, 15% Chardonnay Blanc de Noir—White wine from dark-skinned grapes is made by removing the juice rather quickly from the dark skins that contain the red pigment. This wine has a delicate salmon hue. More Than a Toast—This has plenty of character to go with your Thanagiving bird, and more. We had it with our son's catch or the day. It was a large salmon that he had smoked, and we enjoyed on buttered rye with capers and a few drops of lemon juice (optional). For More Info—Adrienne Asher-Geptord, (800) 709-7667, FAX (707) 255-1119 Rating—My panel failed to detect the "depraved tafte" of this Mumm Napa and gave it a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating. Price—$18
The first official national Thanksgiving Day was declared by Abraham Lincoln in 1863. That was about the time Mrs. Lincoln was giving the White House staff fits by serving wines that were not French. They were American!
Credits: Research Assistance—Diane Buizomi
About the Writer
Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers. For information about the wine courses he teaches every month at either San Francisco State University or San Francisco City College (Fort Mason Division), please fax him at (415) 567-4468.