Joe Donelan first fell in love with fine wines in his native New England, introduced and seduced, he says, by a knowledgeable sommelier during the 1980s on Nantucket. But it was in the rolling hills of Sonoma, Calif., that he consummated what became a burning passion when he co-founded in 2000 what today is Donelan Family Wines near Santa Rosa, Calif. Yet the Donelans did not shed their New England roots, and the wine family photo on the Donelan website could well be of a smiling, yet rough-and-tumble group of the guys at home in a Southie neighborhood.
It is not surprising, then, that during Thanksgiving, the Donelans think back to their falling-leaves, frosty-weather East Coast feasts and return to Nantucket for the holiday, bringing with them the fruits of their somewhat warmer West Coast venue. And the fog banks that often embrace Nantucket serve as a visual tie to their new home, where fog on a summer’s morning creeps up the Russian River Valley from the cold Pacific.
The Donelans wanted, this season, to share with some of their customers and writers a few of their New England recipes, with their Sonoma wines to match. On a recent Sunday, I had the chance to try both in a pre-Thanksgiving test kitchen feast: New England lobster stew with Donelan Sonoma chardonnay and pork roast with fresh cranberry chutney (from a Donelan family recipe) with Donelan Sonoma pinot noir. The food and the wine were both superb, and if the matches weren’t made in heaven, they were certainly good enough to satisfy us food-and-wine pilgrims.
2011 Donelan "Nancie" Sonoma Coast Chardonnay ($53). This is a very Burgundian chard, somewhat assertive with lots of mineral notes underlying the flavors of apples and apple skins, with a touch of juicy peach.
2011 Donelan "Two Brothers" Sonoma Coast pinot noir ($58). A lean but flavorful pinot with pastel fruit flavors, some ripe plum, and some tarter black raspberry, with chalky notes at mid-palate and a balancing raspy finish.