Traditional recipes

25 Wines for the Whole Thanksgiving Weekend

25 Wines for the Whole Thanksgiving Weekend

More than any other holiday, Thanksgiving is our national feast day — actually our feast weekend — as we pay special attention to food and drink from big-meal takeovers to Black Friday leftovers to Monday food hangovers.

Although pinot noir (with dark turkey meat and ham) and chardonnay (with white meat and mashed potatoes) are always the popular Thanksgiving recommendations, the truth is that we need many wines to stretch from the arrival of family and friends on Wednesday night through takeout pizza on Friday to the last repurposed remnants of the big meal on Sunday evening.

Here is a wide variety of holiday possibilities we tasted, some with specific food and wine matches.

Mercer Estates Horse Heaven Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ($15). Let’s begin with an affordable yet well-bred, versatile Thanksgiving white from eastern Washington. This wine is Bordelais in style, so it’s mellower than New Zealand examples and has less tart green flavor.

Olianas Vermentino di Sardegna 2016 ($18). There are some very good vermentinos coming out of Sardinia these days, and this is one of them — fresh and crisp with lots of floral, almost honeyed notes. Serve this one as an alternative to red wine with your Thanksgiving tuna steak.

Cedar + Salmon Willamette Valley Pinot Gris 2016 ($19). I have a soft spot for well-made pinot gris, so I’m always happy to see one turn up — like this one, with its light floral flavors and crisp ending.

Palmer North Fork of Long Island Chardonnay 2015 ($19). The label notes say “melon and grapefruit,” and they are right. Although it isn’t complex, this is a very food-friendly offering.

Priest Ranch Napa Valley Grenache Blanc 2016 ($20). Good flavors and moderately complex, with a crisp, minerally finish. Try it with cream-based vegetarian dishes.

Dr. H. Thanisch Bernkasteler Badstube Riesling Kabinett 2016 ($22). Not a perfect sweet fruit/acid balance, but still a good, classic riesling fix for the price.

Albert Mann “Cuvée Albert” Riesling 2013 ($26). A very nice Alsatian wine, with the "oily" nose often typical of riesling, followed by stone fruit flavors, great acidity, and a clean finish. A good shellfish match.

Sanford Sta. Rita Hills Chardonnay 2015 ($30). Good buttery flavors, but not overly so, with mellow apples. Talk turkey with this one.

Dierberg “Dierberg Vineyard” Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay 2014 ($32). A delicious wine, like a grand cru Chablis, with crisp apple fruit, tons of minerality, and a long, delicious finish — about as close as you can get to authentic Burgundy character in a California wine. You really should try this with roast pheasant in a Calvados cream sauce.

Carlos Serres Rioja Reserve 2011 ($16). A basic tangy, gamy, lean food wine. It wouldn’t overwhelm a turkey leg.

Prosper Maufoux Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2015 ($17). Simple but well-made entry-level Burgundy, with light cherry flavors and some dried herbs — nice with baked ham.

Arínzano Hacienda de Arínzano Vino Tinto 2012 ($18). Lean but intense berry flavors, with lots of dusty tannins.

Château Paul Mas “Clos des Mures” Coteaux du Languedoc 2015 ($18). Rich and delicious — a syrah-dominated blend with very granular texture and a flavor of dark raspberries, with a savory underlay and a hint of red vermouth in the finish.

Château Tour du Pas Saint-Georges 2012 ($18). Well-balanced, with medium body, dark, savory flavors, and a lean finish — a good stew wine.

Masi Campofiorin Rosso del Veronese IGT 2014 ($18). Look at this as a good introduction to the big Veronese red wines like amarone, with its granular structure and muted cherry flavors — though it could use more heft and length.

Quinta de la Rosa Douro Red Wine 2015 ($18). A bit like a Bordeaux made with Portuguese grapes, it has a light body, a bit of a tang, and loads of dusty tannins. Think red pastas and pizza.

Achaval Ferrer Mendoza Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 ($24). Rich and deep cabernet flavors, with vivid, harmonious barrel notes.

Prats & Symington “Post Scriptum de Chryseia” Douro Red 2014 ($24). The celebrated Chryseia’s little brother, this wine has nice ripe berries, good tannins, a hint of cabernet franc-like pencil lead, and a dusty underlay. Pair it with a roast duck leg.

Achaval Ferrer Mendoza Malbec 2016 ($25). Bright cherry and cranberry flavors, with an undertone of dried herbs.

Cedar + Salmon Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2016 ($25). Medium body, with enjoyable cola and sassafras flavors and a little tang in the finish.

Giornata French Camp Paso Robles Aglianico 2015 ($30). A great job of taming a normally mouth-puckering grape from southern Italy and turning it into an intense, very drinkable wine, cherry-flavored, with a spongy texture.

Stewart “Tartan” Napa Valley Red Wine 2014 ($40). If you see a front label with a plaid design and no words at all, this is it. It’s a Bordeaux-style red with barrel-influenced blackberry fruit and mouth-drying tannins which a little age can temper.

Priest Ranch Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 ($42). Very harmonious, with creamy dark fruits and smooth tannins around the edges — great for a dish like boeuf en croute with a mushroom reduction sauce.

Zuccardi “José Zuccardi” Valle de Uco Malbec 2013 ($45). Lots of tart berry flavors with a mellow underbelly of oak to balance its super-ripeness.

The Farm “Touchy-Feely” Paso Robles Red Wine 2013 ($60). One reason why you can’t always judge a wine by its label: Behind this one's frivolous look is a knockout wine with lots of raspberry essence, perfect balance (despite its 14.9 percent alcohol), and a satisfying finish.


Hugo Ortega’s Sweet-and-Savory Stuffed Quail Feast for Thanksgiving

Fitting for this year’s smaller celebrations, the Houston-based chef’s recipe is served with butternut squash puree and a Oaxacan-style pomegranate mole. Pair it with a Zinfandel blend or other bold red

Chef Hugo Ortega’s origin story goes above and beyond the classic American dream. Born in Mexico City, Ortega moved to Houston in 1984 at age 17 with little money, virtually no resources and a substantial language barrier. He hustled his way to a job as a dishwasher at Backstreet Cafe, a recently opened spot for low-key American fare owned by Tracy Vaught.

Working with what he did have—a love of cooking, ingrained in him from childhood—Ortega earned a position as a line cook at the restaurant. “Our culture is about cooking and working the land, and celebrating life in a very personal way,” he says of the source of his passion. He went on to graduate from culinary school and continued to climb the kitchen’s hierarchy.

Fast-forward about three decades, and 55-year-old Ortega is now executive chef of Backstreet Cafe and co-owner with Vaught, who is now also his wife. The duo have evolved the restaurant into a renowned seasonal American bistro with a Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence–winning wine list, and that’s only one piece of their H Town Restaurant Group. In addition to Origen in Oaxaca, their Houston culinary empire includes Xochi, inspired by the indigenous flavors of the Mexican city the seafood-focused Caracol, and an upscale spot in Houston’s Montrose neighborhood called Hugo's. Ortega says opening his eponymous restaurant marked a major “turning point” in his life, giving him the chance to feature deeply personal cuisine, an idea he credits to Vaught.

“She surprised me by asking, ‘What about if you cook your home cooking?’” Ortega recalls. “That was overwhelming at the time, but it eventually shaped into being where we are today … and I can’t thank Houstonians enough and people abroad who have supported us through so many years.”

Ortega and Vaught’s 23-year-old daughter, Sofia, is now part of the family business too, after earning her undergraduate degree at Tulane University in New Orleans and a graduate degree in hospitality management from the University of Houston. “I could not be happier for our Sofia to believe in what we do,” Ortega says. “And we see her every day, so that makes it perfect.”

Ortega is a big fan of occasions centered around quality time with family. “Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays of the year,” he says, though he uses the day to take a break from his typical kitchen duties. “I let Tracy do the cooking and I just wash the dishes and assist, and that makes a good team.”

The dish Ortega shares for this year’s celebrations lends itself to teamwork, with multiple components that come together for a feast that’s worth the effort: Bacon-wrapped quail stuffed with a filling studded with fruits like plantain, apples, apricot and raisins, served with a butternut squash puree and a pomegranate mole.

While mole is often associated with using cocoa as an ingredient in a savory application, there are actually numerous variations of this traditional sauce, though it’s reliably rich, complex and made with blended chiles. This Mexican cooking staple is close to Ortega’s heart, as it’s one of the dishes he learned during while living with his grandmother for three years in Oaxaca as a child. “That changed my life forever,” he says.

He puts his own spin on the sauce by incorporating pomegranate into the recipe here, one of several fruit-infused, seasonal moles he has been playing around with over the past five years. This past summer, for example, he experimented with a mole with mango, and another with pineapple. He says pomegranate is the right fit for fall, and for this particular dish. “It just goes wonderful with quail … and the recipe feels very seasonal,” he says. “Pomegranates have a very, I would say, silky and sweet-and-sour flavor, and then with the spices and the peppers, it really went nicely, but didn’t overpower the small bird.”

This recipe yields six appetizer portions to serve pre-turkey. But Ortega notes that two quail per person are enough for an entrée, so the recipe can easily be doubled or work as-is for a group of three—a timely alternative to a whole turkey, since many families will likely experience a downsized version of Thanksgiving dinner this year.

The first step is grinding all of the necessary spices and setting them aside to use later. Though you may be tempted to save time by buying them pre-ground, Ortega strongly advises against that. “When you grind your own peppercorn or spices, the oils and fragrance are there, so personally I think it’s a must,” he says. “Forget, for a little bit, about the spices you’ve had in your cabinet for a while, and do something fresh.”

It takes a certain amount of spices for the grinder to run smoothly, so you’ll wind up with more than the recipes require. But as Ortega points out, there are endless possibilities for putting that excess to use, from rubbing onto other poultry to sprinkling onto vegetables. “You can do pheasant, or you can do Cornish hen or turkey with it … and Tracy mentioned sweet potatoes.”

To go with the bold, spice-kicked flavors here, H Town Restaurant Group beverage director Sean Beck pulls a wine that’s just as bold: Tres Sabores ¿Porqué No? Napa Valley 2018, a lush, Zinfandel-dominant red blended with Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon. “It delivers the flavor and texture needed to work well with the depth of Mexico's legendary mole,” Beck told Wine Spectator. “The juicy red fruit and hints of chocolate and brambly spice do well with the smoke of the bacon-wrapped quail. The pure, fleshy fruit vibes with the sweet, baked spice notes of the butternut squash and the perfume of the pomegranate mole.”

Vaught echoes this idea, adding that Zinfandel is the right grape to showcase for this pairing since it’s “packed with fruit and gives you a real zap.”

While California is highlighted on their restaurants’ wine lists, Vaught and Ortega have also long been champions of Mexican wines, which they note have increased in both availability and quality. “We opened Hugo’s 19 years ago, and we were one of the few restaurants here in Houston that started a wine program with Mexican wines,” Ortega says. “Years later, we still have our program, and it’s stronger than ever … it’s wonderful to give Mexican wine the attention it deserves.”

Below, Wine Spectator shares eight more full-flavored wines from regions around the world—including Argentina, Chile and Italy—to pair with Ortega’s quail and add some international flair to the all-American holiday.

Bacon-Wrapped Stuffed Quail with Butternut Squash Puree and Pomegranate Mole

For preparing the spices:

  • 1 large piece of cinnamon
  • 4 star anise
  • 6 cloves
  • 6 or 8 allspice berries

Separately for each spice, grind in a spice or coffee grinder. Set aside to use specified amounts of individual ground spices in the recipes for the stuffing, mole and squash puree. You won’t use it all, but you need a minimum amount to actually grind them.

  • 1 tablespoon corn oil (or any neutral oil)
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups canned diced roasted tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons sweet vermouth
  • 1 tablespoon chopped raisins
  • 1 tablespoon chopped dried apricot
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red apple, skin on (from about 1/2 apple)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped green apple, skin on (from about 1/2 apple)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped crab apple, skin on (from about 1 apple), or any tart apple (keep in mind a crab apple is about half the size of a standard one)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped Bosc pear, skin on (from about 1/2 pear)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped ripe plantain (from about 1/2 plantain)
  • 1 tablespoon sliced almonds, toasted
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch ground star anise
  • Pinch ground cloves
  • Pinch ground allspice
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1. Heat oil in sauté pan over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes. Add tomato and deglaze the pan for 2 minutes, then add sweet vermouth.

2. Add chopped raisins and apricot and let cook until 3/4 of the liquid has been reduced, 5 to 7 minutes, then add chopped apples and pear and cook for 5 minutes.

3. Add plantain, almonds and spices and stir. Add sugar and cook for 8 minutes, stirring constantly until the fruit absorbs the liquid. The fruit should be cooked but not mushy.

4. Remove from heat and cool down in the pot for at least 10 minutes until at room temperature.

  • 6 quail, boneless breast, wings and leg bones attached
  • Ground black pepper
  • Sea salt
  • 6 slices bacon

1. Preheat a conventional oven to 350° F. Pat quail dry and season with fresh ground pepper and a pinch of sea salt, then wrap each with a slice of bacon and secure with toothpick.

2. Divide the stuffing into 6 equal parts and stuff the quail, reserving 4 ounces of the filling for garnish.

3. Sear the quail in a large pan—working in batches if needed—on low heat for 3 minutes, then flip them and sear for another 3 to 4 minutes until they reach a golden-brown color. The goal is for the bacon to render but not burn.

4. Transfer quail to a baking rack and cook in the oven for 37 to 40 minutes.

For the pomegranate mole:

  • 3 tablespoons corn oil, divided
  • 11 whole garlic cloves
  • 1 purple onion, diced
  • 3 cups pomegranate seeds
  • Pinch ground star anise
  • Pinch allspice
  • Pinch clove
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 1/4 cup sliced raw almonds
  • 2 dried guajillo peppers, or substitute pasilla or puya peppers
  • 6 cups pomegranate juice

1. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large pot over medium heat, stir in garlic and onion and cook about 5 minutes, until soft, then add pomegranate seeds and stir for 4 more minutes.

2. Add ground spices, raisins, sesame seeds and almonds. Stir for 2 minutes, then add the guajillo peppers and pomegranate juice and cook for 10 minutes.

3. Pour carefully into blender and blend thoroughly to a smooth texture, then pass through a strainer to remove the seeds.

4. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in shallow pan over medium heat, pour in the sauce and “fry” the mole for 5 to 7 minutes and set aside.

For the butternut squash puree:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • Pinch ground cloves
  • Pinch ground star anise
  • 3 butternut squash, seeded, halved and roasted in a 300° F oven for 1 hour
  • 1 tablespoon honey

1. Place butter and spices in a saucepan and melt together over medium heat for 3 minutes.

2. Scoop the roasted butternut squash out of the skin and into a blender. Add melted butter and puree together until smooth. Add the honey and briefly blend again to combine.

1. Place a smear of butternut squash puree on the serving plate.

2. Place a stuffed quail on the puree.

3. Pour a few ounces of mole over the quail. Garnish with a few bits of the stuffing strewn about and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds. Serves 6 appetizer portions, or 3 as a main course.

8 Bold Red Wines

Note: The following list is a selection of outstanding and very good wines from recently rated releases. More options can be found in our Wine Ratings Search.

KOKOMO

Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley 2018

WS review:A zesty and plump red, with wild berry, toasted sage and cracked pepper flavors that build layers toward polished tannins. Drink now through 2027. 1,200 cases made. From California.—Tim Fish

55 MALBEC

Cabernet Sauvignon Paraje Altamira Zaha Toko Vineyard 2017

WS review: Big and ripe, with unctuous dark fruit, blueberry and Asian spice flavors that offer creamy accents. Dark chocolate and mocha notes fill the finish to the brim. Drink now through 2025. 1,000 cases made. From Argentina.—Kim Marcus

TURLEY

Zinfandel Howell Mountain Cedarman 2017

WS review: Densely structured, with a polished exterior, offering deep blackberry, bitter chocolate and licorice flavors that expand toward broad-shouldered tannins. Drink now through 2029. 1,204 cases made. From California.—T.F.

BEDROCK

Zinfandel California Old Vine 2018

WS review: Plump and zesty, with lively raspberry and smoked pepper flavors that speed toward lively tannins. Drink now through 2024. 4,000 cases made. From California.—T.F.

MASSERIA ALTEMURA

Primitivo di Manduria Altemura 2016

WS review: A harmonious red, sweetly juicy but still fresh and focused, with savory accents of smoke, toast and dried rosemary playing off the fruit flavors of raspberry preserves, black cherry coulis and spiced orange peel. Medium- to full-bodied, showing lightly chewy tannins on the finish. Drink now through 2026. 7,500 cases made. From Italy.—Alison Napjus


Hugo Ortega’s Sweet-and-Savory Stuffed Quail Feast for Thanksgiving

Fitting for this year’s smaller celebrations, the Houston-based chef’s recipe is served with butternut squash puree and a Oaxacan-style pomegranate mole. Pair it with a Zinfandel blend or other bold red

Chef Hugo Ortega’s origin story goes above and beyond the classic American dream. Born in Mexico City, Ortega moved to Houston in 1984 at age 17 with little money, virtually no resources and a substantial language barrier. He hustled his way to a job as a dishwasher at Backstreet Cafe, a recently opened spot for low-key American fare owned by Tracy Vaught.

Working with what he did have—a love of cooking, ingrained in him from childhood—Ortega earned a position as a line cook at the restaurant. “Our culture is about cooking and working the land, and celebrating life in a very personal way,” he says of the source of his passion. He went on to graduate from culinary school and continued to climb the kitchen’s hierarchy.

Fast-forward about three decades, and 55-year-old Ortega is now executive chef of Backstreet Cafe and co-owner with Vaught, who is now also his wife. The duo have evolved the restaurant into a renowned seasonal American bistro with a Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence–winning wine list, and that’s only one piece of their H Town Restaurant Group. In addition to Origen in Oaxaca, their Houston culinary empire includes Xochi, inspired by the indigenous flavors of the Mexican city the seafood-focused Caracol, and an upscale spot in Houston’s Montrose neighborhood called Hugo's. Ortega says opening his eponymous restaurant marked a major “turning point” in his life, giving him the chance to feature deeply personal cuisine, an idea he credits to Vaught.

“She surprised me by asking, ‘What about if you cook your home cooking?’” Ortega recalls. “That was overwhelming at the time, but it eventually shaped into being where we are today … and I can’t thank Houstonians enough and people abroad who have supported us through so many years.”

Ortega and Vaught’s 23-year-old daughter, Sofia, is now part of the family business too, after earning her undergraduate degree at Tulane University in New Orleans and a graduate degree in hospitality management from the University of Houston. “I could not be happier for our Sofia to believe in what we do,” Ortega says. “And we see her every day, so that makes it perfect.”

Ortega is a big fan of occasions centered around quality time with family. “Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays of the year,” he says, though he uses the day to take a break from his typical kitchen duties. “I let Tracy do the cooking and I just wash the dishes and assist, and that makes a good team.”

The dish Ortega shares for this year’s celebrations lends itself to teamwork, with multiple components that come together for a feast that’s worth the effort: Bacon-wrapped quail stuffed with a filling studded with fruits like plantain, apples, apricot and raisins, served with a butternut squash puree and a pomegranate mole.

While mole is often associated with using cocoa as an ingredient in a savory application, there are actually numerous variations of this traditional sauce, though it’s reliably rich, complex and made with blended chiles. This Mexican cooking staple is close to Ortega’s heart, as it’s one of the dishes he learned during while living with his grandmother for three years in Oaxaca as a child. “That changed my life forever,” he says.

He puts his own spin on the sauce by incorporating pomegranate into the recipe here, one of several fruit-infused, seasonal moles he has been playing around with over the past five years. This past summer, for example, he experimented with a mole with mango, and another with pineapple. He says pomegranate is the right fit for fall, and for this particular dish. “It just goes wonderful with quail … and the recipe feels very seasonal,” he says. “Pomegranates have a very, I would say, silky and sweet-and-sour flavor, and then with the spices and the peppers, it really went nicely, but didn’t overpower the small bird.”

This recipe yields six appetizer portions to serve pre-turkey. But Ortega notes that two quail per person are enough for an entrée, so the recipe can easily be doubled or work as-is for a group of three—a timely alternative to a whole turkey, since many families will likely experience a downsized version of Thanksgiving dinner this year.

The first step is grinding all of the necessary spices and setting them aside to use later. Though you may be tempted to save time by buying them pre-ground, Ortega strongly advises against that. “When you grind your own peppercorn or spices, the oils and fragrance are there, so personally I think it’s a must,” he says. “Forget, for a little bit, about the spices you’ve had in your cabinet for a while, and do something fresh.”

It takes a certain amount of spices for the grinder to run smoothly, so you’ll wind up with more than the recipes require. But as Ortega points out, there are endless possibilities for putting that excess to use, from rubbing onto other poultry to sprinkling onto vegetables. “You can do pheasant, or you can do Cornish hen or turkey with it … and Tracy mentioned sweet potatoes.”

To go with the bold, spice-kicked flavors here, H Town Restaurant Group beverage director Sean Beck pulls a wine that’s just as bold: Tres Sabores ¿Porqué No? Napa Valley 2018, a lush, Zinfandel-dominant red blended with Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon. “It delivers the flavor and texture needed to work well with the depth of Mexico's legendary mole,” Beck told Wine Spectator. “The juicy red fruit and hints of chocolate and brambly spice do well with the smoke of the bacon-wrapped quail. The pure, fleshy fruit vibes with the sweet, baked spice notes of the butternut squash and the perfume of the pomegranate mole.”

Vaught echoes this idea, adding that Zinfandel is the right grape to showcase for this pairing since it’s “packed with fruit and gives you a real zap.”

While California is highlighted on their restaurants’ wine lists, Vaught and Ortega have also long been champions of Mexican wines, which they note have increased in both availability and quality. “We opened Hugo’s 19 years ago, and we were one of the few restaurants here in Houston that started a wine program with Mexican wines,” Ortega says. “Years later, we still have our program, and it’s stronger than ever … it’s wonderful to give Mexican wine the attention it deserves.”

Below, Wine Spectator shares eight more full-flavored wines from regions around the world—including Argentina, Chile and Italy—to pair with Ortega’s quail and add some international flair to the all-American holiday.

Bacon-Wrapped Stuffed Quail with Butternut Squash Puree and Pomegranate Mole

For preparing the spices:

  • 1 large piece of cinnamon
  • 4 star anise
  • 6 cloves
  • 6 or 8 allspice berries

Separately for each spice, grind in a spice or coffee grinder. Set aside to use specified amounts of individual ground spices in the recipes for the stuffing, mole and squash puree. You won’t use it all, but you need a minimum amount to actually grind them.

  • 1 tablespoon corn oil (or any neutral oil)
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups canned diced roasted tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons sweet vermouth
  • 1 tablespoon chopped raisins
  • 1 tablespoon chopped dried apricot
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red apple, skin on (from about 1/2 apple)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped green apple, skin on (from about 1/2 apple)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped crab apple, skin on (from about 1 apple), or any tart apple (keep in mind a crab apple is about half the size of a standard one)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped Bosc pear, skin on (from about 1/2 pear)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped ripe plantain (from about 1/2 plantain)
  • 1 tablespoon sliced almonds, toasted
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch ground star anise
  • Pinch ground cloves
  • Pinch ground allspice
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1. Heat oil in sauté pan over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes. Add tomato and deglaze the pan for 2 minutes, then add sweet vermouth.

2. Add chopped raisins and apricot and let cook until 3/4 of the liquid has been reduced, 5 to 7 minutes, then add chopped apples and pear and cook for 5 minutes.

3. Add plantain, almonds and spices and stir. Add sugar and cook for 8 minutes, stirring constantly until the fruit absorbs the liquid. The fruit should be cooked but not mushy.

4. Remove from heat and cool down in the pot for at least 10 minutes until at room temperature.

  • 6 quail, boneless breast, wings and leg bones attached
  • Ground black pepper
  • Sea salt
  • 6 slices bacon

1. Preheat a conventional oven to 350° F. Pat quail dry and season with fresh ground pepper and a pinch of sea salt, then wrap each with a slice of bacon and secure with toothpick.

2. Divide the stuffing into 6 equal parts and stuff the quail, reserving 4 ounces of the filling for garnish.

3. Sear the quail in a large pan—working in batches if needed—on low heat for 3 minutes, then flip them and sear for another 3 to 4 minutes until they reach a golden-brown color. The goal is for the bacon to render but not burn.

4. Transfer quail to a baking rack and cook in the oven for 37 to 40 minutes.

For the pomegranate mole:

  • 3 tablespoons corn oil, divided
  • 11 whole garlic cloves
  • 1 purple onion, diced
  • 3 cups pomegranate seeds
  • Pinch ground star anise
  • Pinch allspice
  • Pinch clove
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 1/4 cup sliced raw almonds
  • 2 dried guajillo peppers, or substitute pasilla or puya peppers
  • 6 cups pomegranate juice

1. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large pot over medium heat, stir in garlic and onion and cook about 5 minutes, until soft, then add pomegranate seeds and stir for 4 more minutes.

2. Add ground spices, raisins, sesame seeds and almonds. Stir for 2 minutes, then add the guajillo peppers and pomegranate juice and cook for 10 minutes.

3. Pour carefully into blender and blend thoroughly to a smooth texture, then pass through a strainer to remove the seeds.

4. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in shallow pan over medium heat, pour in the sauce and “fry” the mole for 5 to 7 minutes and set aside.

For the butternut squash puree:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • Pinch ground cloves
  • Pinch ground star anise
  • 3 butternut squash, seeded, halved and roasted in a 300° F oven for 1 hour
  • 1 tablespoon honey

1. Place butter and spices in a saucepan and melt together over medium heat for 3 minutes.

2. Scoop the roasted butternut squash out of the skin and into a blender. Add melted butter and puree together until smooth. Add the honey and briefly blend again to combine.

1. Place a smear of butternut squash puree on the serving plate.

2. Place a stuffed quail on the puree.

3. Pour a few ounces of mole over the quail. Garnish with a few bits of the stuffing strewn about and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds. Serves 6 appetizer portions, or 3 as a main course.

8 Bold Red Wines

Note: The following list is a selection of outstanding and very good wines from recently rated releases. More options can be found in our Wine Ratings Search.

KOKOMO

Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley 2018

WS review:A zesty and plump red, with wild berry, toasted sage and cracked pepper flavors that build layers toward polished tannins. Drink now through 2027. 1,200 cases made. From California.—Tim Fish

55 MALBEC

Cabernet Sauvignon Paraje Altamira Zaha Toko Vineyard 2017

WS review: Big and ripe, with unctuous dark fruit, blueberry and Asian spice flavors that offer creamy accents. Dark chocolate and mocha notes fill the finish to the brim. Drink now through 2025. 1,000 cases made. From Argentina.—Kim Marcus

TURLEY

Zinfandel Howell Mountain Cedarman 2017

WS review: Densely structured, with a polished exterior, offering deep blackberry, bitter chocolate and licorice flavors that expand toward broad-shouldered tannins. Drink now through 2029. 1,204 cases made. From California.—T.F.

BEDROCK

Zinfandel California Old Vine 2018

WS review: Plump and zesty, with lively raspberry and smoked pepper flavors that speed toward lively tannins. Drink now through 2024. 4,000 cases made. From California.—T.F.

MASSERIA ALTEMURA

Primitivo di Manduria Altemura 2016

WS review: A harmonious red, sweetly juicy but still fresh and focused, with savory accents of smoke, toast and dried rosemary playing off the fruit flavors of raspberry preserves, black cherry coulis and spiced orange peel. Medium- to full-bodied, showing lightly chewy tannins on the finish. Drink now through 2026. 7,500 cases made. From Italy.—Alison Napjus


Hugo Ortega’s Sweet-and-Savory Stuffed Quail Feast for Thanksgiving

Fitting for this year’s smaller celebrations, the Houston-based chef’s recipe is served with butternut squash puree and a Oaxacan-style pomegranate mole. Pair it with a Zinfandel blend or other bold red

Chef Hugo Ortega’s origin story goes above and beyond the classic American dream. Born in Mexico City, Ortega moved to Houston in 1984 at age 17 with little money, virtually no resources and a substantial language barrier. He hustled his way to a job as a dishwasher at Backstreet Cafe, a recently opened spot for low-key American fare owned by Tracy Vaught.

Working with what he did have—a love of cooking, ingrained in him from childhood—Ortega earned a position as a line cook at the restaurant. “Our culture is about cooking and working the land, and celebrating life in a very personal way,” he says of the source of his passion. He went on to graduate from culinary school and continued to climb the kitchen’s hierarchy.

Fast-forward about three decades, and 55-year-old Ortega is now executive chef of Backstreet Cafe and co-owner with Vaught, who is now also his wife. The duo have evolved the restaurant into a renowned seasonal American bistro with a Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence–winning wine list, and that’s only one piece of their H Town Restaurant Group. In addition to Origen in Oaxaca, their Houston culinary empire includes Xochi, inspired by the indigenous flavors of the Mexican city the seafood-focused Caracol, and an upscale spot in Houston’s Montrose neighborhood called Hugo's. Ortega says opening his eponymous restaurant marked a major “turning point” in his life, giving him the chance to feature deeply personal cuisine, an idea he credits to Vaught.

“She surprised me by asking, ‘What about if you cook your home cooking?’” Ortega recalls. “That was overwhelming at the time, but it eventually shaped into being where we are today … and I can’t thank Houstonians enough and people abroad who have supported us through so many years.”

Ortega and Vaught’s 23-year-old daughter, Sofia, is now part of the family business too, after earning her undergraduate degree at Tulane University in New Orleans and a graduate degree in hospitality management from the University of Houston. “I could not be happier for our Sofia to believe in what we do,” Ortega says. “And we see her every day, so that makes it perfect.”

Ortega is a big fan of occasions centered around quality time with family. “Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays of the year,” he says, though he uses the day to take a break from his typical kitchen duties. “I let Tracy do the cooking and I just wash the dishes and assist, and that makes a good team.”

The dish Ortega shares for this year’s celebrations lends itself to teamwork, with multiple components that come together for a feast that’s worth the effort: Bacon-wrapped quail stuffed with a filling studded with fruits like plantain, apples, apricot and raisins, served with a butternut squash puree and a pomegranate mole.

While mole is often associated with using cocoa as an ingredient in a savory application, there are actually numerous variations of this traditional sauce, though it’s reliably rich, complex and made with blended chiles. This Mexican cooking staple is close to Ortega’s heart, as it’s one of the dishes he learned during while living with his grandmother for three years in Oaxaca as a child. “That changed my life forever,” he says.

He puts his own spin on the sauce by incorporating pomegranate into the recipe here, one of several fruit-infused, seasonal moles he has been playing around with over the past five years. This past summer, for example, he experimented with a mole with mango, and another with pineapple. He says pomegranate is the right fit for fall, and for this particular dish. “It just goes wonderful with quail … and the recipe feels very seasonal,” he says. “Pomegranates have a very, I would say, silky and sweet-and-sour flavor, and then with the spices and the peppers, it really went nicely, but didn’t overpower the small bird.”

This recipe yields six appetizer portions to serve pre-turkey. But Ortega notes that two quail per person are enough for an entrée, so the recipe can easily be doubled or work as-is for a group of three—a timely alternative to a whole turkey, since many families will likely experience a downsized version of Thanksgiving dinner this year.

The first step is grinding all of the necessary spices and setting them aside to use later. Though you may be tempted to save time by buying them pre-ground, Ortega strongly advises against that. “When you grind your own peppercorn or spices, the oils and fragrance are there, so personally I think it’s a must,” he says. “Forget, for a little bit, about the spices you’ve had in your cabinet for a while, and do something fresh.”

It takes a certain amount of spices for the grinder to run smoothly, so you’ll wind up with more than the recipes require. But as Ortega points out, there are endless possibilities for putting that excess to use, from rubbing onto other poultry to sprinkling onto vegetables. “You can do pheasant, or you can do Cornish hen or turkey with it … and Tracy mentioned sweet potatoes.”

To go with the bold, spice-kicked flavors here, H Town Restaurant Group beverage director Sean Beck pulls a wine that’s just as bold: Tres Sabores ¿Porqué No? Napa Valley 2018, a lush, Zinfandel-dominant red blended with Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon. “It delivers the flavor and texture needed to work well with the depth of Mexico's legendary mole,” Beck told Wine Spectator. “The juicy red fruit and hints of chocolate and brambly spice do well with the smoke of the bacon-wrapped quail. The pure, fleshy fruit vibes with the sweet, baked spice notes of the butternut squash and the perfume of the pomegranate mole.”

Vaught echoes this idea, adding that Zinfandel is the right grape to showcase for this pairing since it’s “packed with fruit and gives you a real zap.”

While California is highlighted on their restaurants’ wine lists, Vaught and Ortega have also long been champions of Mexican wines, which they note have increased in both availability and quality. “We opened Hugo’s 19 years ago, and we were one of the few restaurants here in Houston that started a wine program with Mexican wines,” Ortega says. “Years later, we still have our program, and it’s stronger than ever … it’s wonderful to give Mexican wine the attention it deserves.”

Below, Wine Spectator shares eight more full-flavored wines from regions around the world—including Argentina, Chile and Italy—to pair with Ortega’s quail and add some international flair to the all-American holiday.

Bacon-Wrapped Stuffed Quail with Butternut Squash Puree and Pomegranate Mole

For preparing the spices:

  • 1 large piece of cinnamon
  • 4 star anise
  • 6 cloves
  • 6 or 8 allspice berries

Separately for each spice, grind in a spice or coffee grinder. Set aside to use specified amounts of individual ground spices in the recipes for the stuffing, mole and squash puree. You won’t use it all, but you need a minimum amount to actually grind them.

  • 1 tablespoon corn oil (or any neutral oil)
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups canned diced roasted tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons sweet vermouth
  • 1 tablespoon chopped raisins
  • 1 tablespoon chopped dried apricot
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red apple, skin on (from about 1/2 apple)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped green apple, skin on (from about 1/2 apple)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped crab apple, skin on (from about 1 apple), or any tart apple (keep in mind a crab apple is about half the size of a standard one)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped Bosc pear, skin on (from about 1/2 pear)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped ripe plantain (from about 1/2 plantain)
  • 1 tablespoon sliced almonds, toasted
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch ground star anise
  • Pinch ground cloves
  • Pinch ground allspice
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1. Heat oil in sauté pan over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes. Add tomato and deglaze the pan for 2 minutes, then add sweet vermouth.

2. Add chopped raisins and apricot and let cook until 3/4 of the liquid has been reduced, 5 to 7 minutes, then add chopped apples and pear and cook for 5 minutes.

3. Add plantain, almonds and spices and stir. Add sugar and cook for 8 minutes, stirring constantly until the fruit absorbs the liquid. The fruit should be cooked but not mushy.

4. Remove from heat and cool down in the pot for at least 10 minutes until at room temperature.

  • 6 quail, boneless breast, wings and leg bones attached
  • Ground black pepper
  • Sea salt
  • 6 slices bacon

1. Preheat a conventional oven to 350° F. Pat quail dry and season with fresh ground pepper and a pinch of sea salt, then wrap each with a slice of bacon and secure with toothpick.

2. Divide the stuffing into 6 equal parts and stuff the quail, reserving 4 ounces of the filling for garnish.

3. Sear the quail in a large pan—working in batches if needed—on low heat for 3 minutes, then flip them and sear for another 3 to 4 minutes until they reach a golden-brown color. The goal is for the bacon to render but not burn.

4. Transfer quail to a baking rack and cook in the oven for 37 to 40 minutes.

For the pomegranate mole:

  • 3 tablespoons corn oil, divided
  • 11 whole garlic cloves
  • 1 purple onion, diced
  • 3 cups pomegranate seeds
  • Pinch ground star anise
  • Pinch allspice
  • Pinch clove
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 1/4 cup sliced raw almonds
  • 2 dried guajillo peppers, or substitute pasilla or puya peppers
  • 6 cups pomegranate juice

1. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large pot over medium heat, stir in garlic and onion and cook about 5 minutes, until soft, then add pomegranate seeds and stir for 4 more minutes.

2. Add ground spices, raisins, sesame seeds and almonds. Stir for 2 minutes, then add the guajillo peppers and pomegranate juice and cook for 10 minutes.

3. Pour carefully into blender and blend thoroughly to a smooth texture, then pass through a strainer to remove the seeds.

4. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in shallow pan over medium heat, pour in the sauce and “fry” the mole for 5 to 7 minutes and set aside.

For the butternut squash puree:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • Pinch ground cloves
  • Pinch ground star anise
  • 3 butternut squash, seeded, halved and roasted in a 300° F oven for 1 hour
  • 1 tablespoon honey

1. Place butter and spices in a saucepan and melt together over medium heat for 3 minutes.

2. Scoop the roasted butternut squash out of the skin and into a blender. Add melted butter and puree together until smooth. Add the honey and briefly blend again to combine.

1. Place a smear of butternut squash puree on the serving plate.

2. Place a stuffed quail on the puree.

3. Pour a few ounces of mole over the quail. Garnish with a few bits of the stuffing strewn about and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds. Serves 6 appetizer portions, or 3 as a main course.

8 Bold Red Wines

Note: The following list is a selection of outstanding and very good wines from recently rated releases. More options can be found in our Wine Ratings Search.

KOKOMO

Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley 2018

WS review:A zesty and plump red, with wild berry, toasted sage and cracked pepper flavors that build layers toward polished tannins. Drink now through 2027. 1,200 cases made. From California.—Tim Fish

55 MALBEC

Cabernet Sauvignon Paraje Altamira Zaha Toko Vineyard 2017

WS review: Big and ripe, with unctuous dark fruit, blueberry and Asian spice flavors that offer creamy accents. Dark chocolate and mocha notes fill the finish to the brim. Drink now through 2025. 1,000 cases made. From Argentina.—Kim Marcus

TURLEY

Zinfandel Howell Mountain Cedarman 2017

WS review: Densely structured, with a polished exterior, offering deep blackberry, bitter chocolate and licorice flavors that expand toward broad-shouldered tannins. Drink now through 2029. 1,204 cases made. From California.—T.F.

BEDROCK

Zinfandel California Old Vine 2018

WS review: Plump and zesty, with lively raspberry and smoked pepper flavors that speed toward lively tannins. Drink now through 2024. 4,000 cases made. From California.—T.F.

MASSERIA ALTEMURA

Primitivo di Manduria Altemura 2016

WS review: A harmonious red, sweetly juicy but still fresh and focused, with savory accents of smoke, toast and dried rosemary playing off the fruit flavors of raspberry preserves, black cherry coulis and spiced orange peel. Medium- to full-bodied, showing lightly chewy tannins on the finish. Drink now through 2026. 7,500 cases made. From Italy.—Alison Napjus


Hugo Ortega’s Sweet-and-Savory Stuffed Quail Feast for Thanksgiving

Fitting for this year’s smaller celebrations, the Houston-based chef’s recipe is served with butternut squash puree and a Oaxacan-style pomegranate mole. Pair it with a Zinfandel blend or other bold red

Chef Hugo Ortega’s origin story goes above and beyond the classic American dream. Born in Mexico City, Ortega moved to Houston in 1984 at age 17 with little money, virtually no resources and a substantial language barrier. He hustled his way to a job as a dishwasher at Backstreet Cafe, a recently opened spot for low-key American fare owned by Tracy Vaught.

Working with what he did have—a love of cooking, ingrained in him from childhood—Ortega earned a position as a line cook at the restaurant. “Our culture is about cooking and working the land, and celebrating life in a very personal way,” he says of the source of his passion. He went on to graduate from culinary school and continued to climb the kitchen’s hierarchy.

Fast-forward about three decades, and 55-year-old Ortega is now executive chef of Backstreet Cafe and co-owner with Vaught, who is now also his wife. The duo have evolved the restaurant into a renowned seasonal American bistro with a Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence–winning wine list, and that’s only one piece of their H Town Restaurant Group. In addition to Origen in Oaxaca, their Houston culinary empire includes Xochi, inspired by the indigenous flavors of the Mexican city the seafood-focused Caracol, and an upscale spot in Houston’s Montrose neighborhood called Hugo's. Ortega says opening his eponymous restaurant marked a major “turning point” in his life, giving him the chance to feature deeply personal cuisine, an idea he credits to Vaught.

“She surprised me by asking, ‘What about if you cook your home cooking?’” Ortega recalls. “That was overwhelming at the time, but it eventually shaped into being where we are today … and I can’t thank Houstonians enough and people abroad who have supported us through so many years.”

Ortega and Vaught’s 23-year-old daughter, Sofia, is now part of the family business too, after earning her undergraduate degree at Tulane University in New Orleans and a graduate degree in hospitality management from the University of Houston. “I could not be happier for our Sofia to believe in what we do,” Ortega says. “And we see her every day, so that makes it perfect.”

Ortega is a big fan of occasions centered around quality time with family. “Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays of the year,” he says, though he uses the day to take a break from his typical kitchen duties. “I let Tracy do the cooking and I just wash the dishes and assist, and that makes a good team.”

The dish Ortega shares for this year’s celebrations lends itself to teamwork, with multiple components that come together for a feast that’s worth the effort: Bacon-wrapped quail stuffed with a filling studded with fruits like plantain, apples, apricot and raisins, served with a butternut squash puree and a pomegranate mole.

While mole is often associated with using cocoa as an ingredient in a savory application, there are actually numerous variations of this traditional sauce, though it’s reliably rich, complex and made with blended chiles. This Mexican cooking staple is close to Ortega’s heart, as it’s one of the dishes he learned during while living with his grandmother for three years in Oaxaca as a child. “That changed my life forever,” he says.

He puts his own spin on the sauce by incorporating pomegranate into the recipe here, one of several fruit-infused, seasonal moles he has been playing around with over the past five years. This past summer, for example, he experimented with a mole with mango, and another with pineapple. He says pomegranate is the right fit for fall, and for this particular dish. “It just goes wonderful with quail … and the recipe feels very seasonal,” he says. “Pomegranates have a very, I would say, silky and sweet-and-sour flavor, and then with the spices and the peppers, it really went nicely, but didn’t overpower the small bird.”

This recipe yields six appetizer portions to serve pre-turkey. But Ortega notes that two quail per person are enough for an entrée, so the recipe can easily be doubled or work as-is for a group of three—a timely alternative to a whole turkey, since many families will likely experience a downsized version of Thanksgiving dinner this year.

The first step is grinding all of the necessary spices and setting them aside to use later. Though you may be tempted to save time by buying them pre-ground, Ortega strongly advises against that. “When you grind your own peppercorn or spices, the oils and fragrance are there, so personally I think it’s a must,” he says. “Forget, for a little bit, about the spices you’ve had in your cabinet for a while, and do something fresh.”

It takes a certain amount of spices for the grinder to run smoothly, so you’ll wind up with more than the recipes require. But as Ortega points out, there are endless possibilities for putting that excess to use, from rubbing onto other poultry to sprinkling onto vegetables. “You can do pheasant, or you can do Cornish hen or turkey with it … and Tracy mentioned sweet potatoes.”

To go with the bold, spice-kicked flavors here, H Town Restaurant Group beverage director Sean Beck pulls a wine that’s just as bold: Tres Sabores ¿Porqué No? Napa Valley 2018, a lush, Zinfandel-dominant red blended with Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon. “It delivers the flavor and texture needed to work well with the depth of Mexico's legendary mole,” Beck told Wine Spectator. “The juicy red fruit and hints of chocolate and brambly spice do well with the smoke of the bacon-wrapped quail. The pure, fleshy fruit vibes with the sweet, baked spice notes of the butternut squash and the perfume of the pomegranate mole.”

Vaught echoes this idea, adding that Zinfandel is the right grape to showcase for this pairing since it’s “packed with fruit and gives you a real zap.”

While California is highlighted on their restaurants’ wine lists, Vaught and Ortega have also long been champions of Mexican wines, which they note have increased in both availability and quality. “We opened Hugo’s 19 years ago, and we were one of the few restaurants here in Houston that started a wine program with Mexican wines,” Ortega says. “Years later, we still have our program, and it’s stronger than ever … it’s wonderful to give Mexican wine the attention it deserves.”

Below, Wine Spectator shares eight more full-flavored wines from regions around the world—including Argentina, Chile and Italy—to pair with Ortega’s quail and add some international flair to the all-American holiday.

Bacon-Wrapped Stuffed Quail with Butternut Squash Puree and Pomegranate Mole

For preparing the spices:

  • 1 large piece of cinnamon
  • 4 star anise
  • 6 cloves
  • 6 or 8 allspice berries

Separately for each spice, grind in a spice or coffee grinder. Set aside to use specified amounts of individual ground spices in the recipes for the stuffing, mole and squash puree. You won’t use it all, but you need a minimum amount to actually grind them.

  • 1 tablespoon corn oil (or any neutral oil)
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups canned diced roasted tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons sweet vermouth
  • 1 tablespoon chopped raisins
  • 1 tablespoon chopped dried apricot
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red apple, skin on (from about 1/2 apple)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped green apple, skin on (from about 1/2 apple)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped crab apple, skin on (from about 1 apple), or any tart apple (keep in mind a crab apple is about half the size of a standard one)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped Bosc pear, skin on (from about 1/2 pear)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped ripe plantain (from about 1/2 plantain)
  • 1 tablespoon sliced almonds, toasted
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch ground star anise
  • Pinch ground cloves
  • Pinch ground allspice
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1. Heat oil in sauté pan over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes. Add tomato and deglaze the pan for 2 minutes, then add sweet vermouth.

2. Add chopped raisins and apricot and let cook until 3/4 of the liquid has been reduced, 5 to 7 minutes, then add chopped apples and pear and cook for 5 minutes.

3. Add plantain, almonds and spices and stir. Add sugar and cook for 8 minutes, stirring constantly until the fruit absorbs the liquid. The fruit should be cooked but not mushy.

4. Remove from heat and cool down in the pot for at least 10 minutes until at room temperature.

  • 6 quail, boneless breast, wings and leg bones attached
  • Ground black pepper
  • Sea salt
  • 6 slices bacon

1. Preheat a conventional oven to 350° F. Pat quail dry and season with fresh ground pepper and a pinch of sea salt, then wrap each with a slice of bacon and secure with toothpick.

2. Divide the stuffing into 6 equal parts and stuff the quail, reserving 4 ounces of the filling for garnish.

3. Sear the quail in a large pan—working in batches if needed—on low heat for 3 minutes, then flip them and sear for another 3 to 4 minutes until they reach a golden-brown color. The goal is for the bacon to render but not burn.

4. Transfer quail to a baking rack and cook in the oven for 37 to 40 minutes.

For the pomegranate mole:

  • 3 tablespoons corn oil, divided
  • 11 whole garlic cloves
  • 1 purple onion, diced
  • 3 cups pomegranate seeds
  • Pinch ground star anise
  • Pinch allspice
  • Pinch clove
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 1/4 cup sliced raw almonds
  • 2 dried guajillo peppers, or substitute pasilla or puya peppers
  • 6 cups pomegranate juice

1. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large pot over medium heat, stir in garlic and onion and cook about 5 minutes, until soft, then add pomegranate seeds and stir for 4 more minutes.

2. Add ground spices, raisins, sesame seeds and almonds. Stir for 2 minutes, then add the guajillo peppers and pomegranate juice and cook for 10 minutes.

3. Pour carefully into blender and blend thoroughly to a smooth texture, then pass through a strainer to remove the seeds.

4. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in shallow pan over medium heat, pour in the sauce and “fry” the mole for 5 to 7 minutes and set aside.

For the butternut squash puree:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • Pinch ground cloves
  • Pinch ground star anise
  • 3 butternut squash, seeded, halved and roasted in a 300° F oven for 1 hour
  • 1 tablespoon honey

1. Place butter and spices in a saucepan and melt together over medium heat for 3 minutes.

2. Scoop the roasted butternut squash out of the skin and into a blender. Add melted butter and puree together until smooth. Add the honey and briefly blend again to combine.

1. Place a smear of butternut squash puree on the serving plate.

2. Place a stuffed quail on the puree.

3. Pour a few ounces of mole over the quail. Garnish with a few bits of the stuffing strewn about and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds. Serves 6 appetizer portions, or 3 as a main course.

8 Bold Red Wines

Note: The following list is a selection of outstanding and very good wines from recently rated releases. More options can be found in our Wine Ratings Search.

KOKOMO

Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley 2018

WS review:A zesty and plump red, with wild berry, toasted sage and cracked pepper flavors that build layers toward polished tannins. Drink now through 2027. 1,200 cases made. From California.—Tim Fish

55 MALBEC

Cabernet Sauvignon Paraje Altamira Zaha Toko Vineyard 2017

WS review: Big and ripe, with unctuous dark fruit, blueberry and Asian spice flavors that offer creamy accents. Dark chocolate and mocha notes fill the finish to the brim. Drink now through 2025. 1,000 cases made. From Argentina.—Kim Marcus

TURLEY

Zinfandel Howell Mountain Cedarman 2017

WS review: Densely structured, with a polished exterior, offering deep blackberry, bitter chocolate and licorice flavors that expand toward broad-shouldered tannins. Drink now through 2029. 1,204 cases made. From California.—T.F.

BEDROCK

Zinfandel California Old Vine 2018

WS review: Plump and zesty, with lively raspberry and smoked pepper flavors that speed toward lively tannins. Drink now through 2024. 4,000 cases made. From California.—T.F.

MASSERIA ALTEMURA

Primitivo di Manduria Altemura 2016

WS review: A harmonious red, sweetly juicy but still fresh and focused, with savory accents of smoke, toast and dried rosemary playing off the fruit flavors of raspberry preserves, black cherry coulis and spiced orange peel. Medium- to full-bodied, showing lightly chewy tannins on the finish. Drink now through 2026. 7,500 cases made. From Italy.—Alison Napjus


Hugo Ortega’s Sweet-and-Savory Stuffed Quail Feast for Thanksgiving

Fitting for this year’s smaller celebrations, the Houston-based chef’s recipe is served with butternut squash puree and a Oaxacan-style pomegranate mole. Pair it with a Zinfandel blend or other bold red

Chef Hugo Ortega’s origin story goes above and beyond the classic American dream. Born in Mexico City, Ortega moved to Houston in 1984 at age 17 with little money, virtually no resources and a substantial language barrier. He hustled his way to a job as a dishwasher at Backstreet Cafe, a recently opened spot for low-key American fare owned by Tracy Vaught.

Working with what he did have—a love of cooking, ingrained in him from childhood—Ortega earned a position as a line cook at the restaurant. “Our culture is about cooking and working the land, and celebrating life in a very personal way,” he says of the source of his passion. He went on to graduate from culinary school and continued to climb the kitchen’s hierarchy.

Fast-forward about three decades, and 55-year-old Ortega is now executive chef of Backstreet Cafe and co-owner with Vaught, who is now also his wife. The duo have evolved the restaurant into a renowned seasonal American bistro with a Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence–winning wine list, and that’s only one piece of their H Town Restaurant Group. In addition to Origen in Oaxaca, their Houston culinary empire includes Xochi, inspired by the indigenous flavors of the Mexican city the seafood-focused Caracol, and an upscale spot in Houston’s Montrose neighborhood called Hugo's. Ortega says opening his eponymous restaurant marked a major “turning point” in his life, giving him the chance to feature deeply personal cuisine, an idea he credits to Vaught.

“She surprised me by asking, ‘What about if you cook your home cooking?’” Ortega recalls. “That was overwhelming at the time, but it eventually shaped into being where we are today … and I can’t thank Houstonians enough and people abroad who have supported us through so many years.”

Ortega and Vaught’s 23-year-old daughter, Sofia, is now part of the family business too, after earning her undergraduate degree at Tulane University in New Orleans and a graduate degree in hospitality management from the University of Houston. “I could not be happier for our Sofia to believe in what we do,” Ortega says. “And we see her every day, so that makes it perfect.”

Ortega is a big fan of occasions centered around quality time with family. “Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays of the year,” he says, though he uses the day to take a break from his typical kitchen duties. “I let Tracy do the cooking and I just wash the dishes and assist, and that makes a good team.”

The dish Ortega shares for this year’s celebrations lends itself to teamwork, with multiple components that come together for a feast that’s worth the effort: Bacon-wrapped quail stuffed with a filling studded with fruits like plantain, apples, apricot and raisins, served with a butternut squash puree and a pomegranate mole.

While mole is often associated with using cocoa as an ingredient in a savory application, there are actually numerous variations of this traditional sauce, though it’s reliably rich, complex and made with blended chiles. This Mexican cooking staple is close to Ortega’s heart, as it’s one of the dishes he learned during while living with his grandmother for three years in Oaxaca as a child. “That changed my life forever,” he says.

He puts his own spin on the sauce by incorporating pomegranate into the recipe here, one of several fruit-infused, seasonal moles he has been playing around with over the past five years. This past summer, for example, he experimented with a mole with mango, and another with pineapple. He says pomegranate is the right fit for fall, and for this particular dish. “It just goes wonderful with quail … and the recipe feels very seasonal,” he says. “Pomegranates have a very, I would say, silky and sweet-and-sour flavor, and then with the spices and the peppers, it really went nicely, but didn’t overpower the small bird.”

This recipe yields six appetizer portions to serve pre-turkey. But Ortega notes that two quail per person are enough for an entrée, so the recipe can easily be doubled or work as-is for a group of three—a timely alternative to a whole turkey, since many families will likely experience a downsized version of Thanksgiving dinner this year.

The first step is grinding all of the necessary spices and setting them aside to use later. Though you may be tempted to save time by buying them pre-ground, Ortega strongly advises against that. “When you grind your own peppercorn or spices, the oils and fragrance are there, so personally I think it’s a must,” he says. “Forget, for a little bit, about the spices you’ve had in your cabinet for a while, and do something fresh.”

It takes a certain amount of spices for the grinder to run smoothly, so you’ll wind up with more than the recipes require. But as Ortega points out, there are endless possibilities for putting that excess to use, from rubbing onto other poultry to sprinkling onto vegetables. “You can do pheasant, or you can do Cornish hen or turkey with it … and Tracy mentioned sweet potatoes.”

To go with the bold, spice-kicked flavors here, H Town Restaurant Group beverage director Sean Beck pulls a wine that’s just as bold: Tres Sabores ¿Porqué No? Napa Valley 2018, a lush, Zinfandel-dominant red blended with Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon. “It delivers the flavor and texture needed to work well with the depth of Mexico's legendary mole,” Beck told Wine Spectator. “The juicy red fruit and hints of chocolate and brambly spice do well with the smoke of the bacon-wrapped quail. The pure, fleshy fruit vibes with the sweet, baked spice notes of the butternut squash and the perfume of the pomegranate mole.”

Vaught echoes this idea, adding that Zinfandel is the right grape to showcase for this pairing since it’s “packed with fruit and gives you a real zap.”

While California is highlighted on their restaurants’ wine lists, Vaught and Ortega have also long been champions of Mexican wines, which they note have increased in both availability and quality. “We opened Hugo’s 19 years ago, and we were one of the few restaurants here in Houston that started a wine program with Mexican wines,” Ortega says. “Years later, we still have our program, and it’s stronger than ever … it’s wonderful to give Mexican wine the attention it deserves.”

Below, Wine Spectator shares eight more full-flavored wines from regions around the world—including Argentina, Chile and Italy—to pair with Ortega’s quail and add some international flair to the all-American holiday.

Bacon-Wrapped Stuffed Quail with Butternut Squash Puree and Pomegranate Mole

For preparing the spices:

  • 1 large piece of cinnamon
  • 4 star anise
  • 6 cloves
  • 6 or 8 allspice berries

Separately for each spice, grind in a spice or coffee grinder. Set aside to use specified amounts of individual ground spices in the recipes for the stuffing, mole and squash puree. You won’t use it all, but you need a minimum amount to actually grind them.

  • 1 tablespoon corn oil (or any neutral oil)
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups canned diced roasted tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons sweet vermouth
  • 1 tablespoon chopped raisins
  • 1 tablespoon chopped dried apricot
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red apple, skin on (from about 1/2 apple)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped green apple, skin on (from about 1/2 apple)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped crab apple, skin on (from about 1 apple), or any tart apple (keep in mind a crab apple is about half the size of a standard one)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped Bosc pear, skin on (from about 1/2 pear)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped ripe plantain (from about 1/2 plantain)
  • 1 tablespoon sliced almonds, toasted
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch ground star anise
  • Pinch ground cloves
  • Pinch ground allspice
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1. Heat oil in sauté pan over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes. Add tomato and deglaze the pan for 2 minutes, then add sweet vermouth.

2. Add chopped raisins and apricot and let cook until 3/4 of the liquid has been reduced, 5 to 7 minutes, then add chopped apples and pear and cook for 5 minutes.

3. Add plantain, almonds and spices and stir. Add sugar and cook for 8 minutes, stirring constantly until the fruit absorbs the liquid. The fruit should be cooked but not mushy.

4. Remove from heat and cool down in the pot for at least 10 minutes until at room temperature.

  • 6 quail, boneless breast, wings and leg bones attached
  • Ground black pepper
  • Sea salt
  • 6 slices bacon

1. Preheat a conventional oven to 350° F. Pat quail dry and season with fresh ground pepper and a pinch of sea salt, then wrap each with a slice of bacon and secure with toothpick.

2. Divide the stuffing into 6 equal parts and stuff the quail, reserving 4 ounces of the filling for garnish.

3. Sear the quail in a large pan—working in batches if needed—on low heat for 3 minutes, then flip them and sear for another 3 to 4 minutes until they reach a golden-brown color. The goal is for the bacon to render but not burn.

4. Transfer quail to a baking rack and cook in the oven for 37 to 40 minutes.

For the pomegranate mole:

  • 3 tablespoons corn oil, divided
  • 11 whole garlic cloves
  • 1 purple onion, diced
  • 3 cups pomegranate seeds
  • Pinch ground star anise
  • Pinch allspice
  • Pinch clove
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 1/4 cup sliced raw almonds
  • 2 dried guajillo peppers, or substitute pasilla or puya peppers
  • 6 cups pomegranate juice

1. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large pot over medium heat, stir in garlic and onion and cook about 5 minutes, until soft, then add pomegranate seeds and stir for 4 more minutes.

2. Add ground spices, raisins, sesame seeds and almonds. Stir for 2 minutes, then add the guajillo peppers and pomegranate juice and cook for 10 minutes.

3. Pour carefully into blender and blend thoroughly to a smooth texture, then pass through a strainer to remove the seeds.

4. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in shallow pan over medium heat, pour in the sauce and “fry” the mole for 5 to 7 minutes and set aside.

For the butternut squash puree:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • Pinch ground cloves
  • Pinch ground star anise
  • 3 butternut squash, seeded, halved and roasted in a 300° F oven for 1 hour
  • 1 tablespoon honey

1. Place butter and spices in a saucepan and melt together over medium heat for 3 minutes.

2. Scoop the roasted butternut squash out of the skin and into a blender. Add melted butter and puree together until smooth. Add the honey and briefly blend again to combine.

1. Place a smear of butternut squash puree on the serving plate.

2. Place a stuffed quail on the puree.

3. Pour a few ounces of mole over the quail. Garnish with a few bits of the stuffing strewn about and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds. Serves 6 appetizer portions, or 3 as a main course.

8 Bold Red Wines

Note: The following list is a selection of outstanding and very good wines from recently rated releases. More options can be found in our Wine Ratings Search.

KOKOMO

Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley 2018

WS review:A zesty and plump red, with wild berry, toasted sage and cracked pepper flavors that build layers toward polished tannins. Drink now through 2027. 1,200 cases made. From California.—Tim Fish

55 MALBEC

Cabernet Sauvignon Paraje Altamira Zaha Toko Vineyard 2017

WS review: Big and ripe, with unctuous dark fruit, blueberry and Asian spice flavors that offer creamy accents. Dark chocolate and mocha notes fill the finish to the brim. Drink now through 2025. 1,000 cases made. From Argentina.—Kim Marcus

TURLEY

Zinfandel Howell Mountain Cedarman 2017

WS review: Densely structured, with a polished exterior, offering deep blackberry, bitter chocolate and licorice flavors that expand toward broad-shouldered tannins. Drink now through 2029. 1,204 cases made. From California.—T.F.

BEDROCK

Zinfandel California Old Vine 2018

WS review: Plump and zesty, with lively raspberry and smoked pepper flavors that speed toward lively tannins. Drink now through 2024. 4,000 cases made. From California.—T.F.

MASSERIA ALTEMURA

Primitivo di Manduria Altemura 2016

WS review: A harmonious red, sweetly juicy but still fresh and focused, with savory accents of smoke, toast and dried rosemary playing off the fruit flavors of raspberry preserves, black cherry coulis and spiced orange peel. Medium- to full-bodied, showing lightly chewy tannins on the finish. Drink now through 2026. 7,500 cases made. From Italy.—Alison Napjus


Hugo Ortega’s Sweet-and-Savory Stuffed Quail Feast for Thanksgiving

Fitting for this year’s smaller celebrations, the Houston-based chef’s recipe is served with butternut squash puree and a Oaxacan-style pomegranate mole. Pair it with a Zinfandel blend or other bold red

Chef Hugo Ortega’s origin story goes above and beyond the classic American dream. Born in Mexico City, Ortega moved to Houston in 1984 at age 17 with little money, virtually no resources and a substantial language barrier. He hustled his way to a job as a dishwasher at Backstreet Cafe, a recently opened spot for low-key American fare owned by Tracy Vaught.

Working with what he did have—a love of cooking, ingrained in him from childhood—Ortega earned a position as a line cook at the restaurant. “Our culture is about cooking and working the land, and celebrating life in a very personal way,” he says of the source of his passion. He went on to graduate from culinary school and continued to climb the kitchen’s hierarchy.

Fast-forward about three decades, and 55-year-old Ortega is now executive chef of Backstreet Cafe and co-owner with Vaught, who is now also his wife. The duo have evolved the restaurant into a renowned seasonal American bistro with a Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence–winning wine list, and that’s only one piece of their H Town Restaurant Group. In addition to Origen in Oaxaca, their Houston culinary empire includes Xochi, inspired by the indigenous flavors of the Mexican city the seafood-focused Caracol, and an upscale spot in Houston’s Montrose neighborhood called Hugo's. Ortega says opening his eponymous restaurant marked a major “turning point” in his life, giving him the chance to feature deeply personal cuisine, an idea he credits to Vaught.

“She surprised me by asking, ‘What about if you cook your home cooking?’” Ortega recalls. “That was overwhelming at the time, but it eventually shaped into being where we are today … and I can’t thank Houstonians enough and people abroad who have supported us through so many years.”

Ortega and Vaught’s 23-year-old daughter, Sofia, is now part of the family business too, after earning her undergraduate degree at Tulane University in New Orleans and a graduate degree in hospitality management from the University of Houston. “I could not be happier for our Sofia to believe in what we do,” Ortega says. “And we see her every day, so that makes it perfect.”

Ortega is a big fan of occasions centered around quality time with family. “Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays of the year,” he says, though he uses the day to take a break from his typical kitchen duties. “I let Tracy do the cooking and I just wash the dishes and assist, and that makes a good team.”

The dish Ortega shares for this year’s celebrations lends itself to teamwork, with multiple components that come together for a feast that’s worth the effort: Bacon-wrapped quail stuffed with a filling studded with fruits like plantain, apples, apricot and raisins, served with a butternut squash puree and a pomegranate mole.

While mole is often associated with using cocoa as an ingredient in a savory application, there are actually numerous variations of this traditional sauce, though it’s reliably rich, complex and made with blended chiles. This Mexican cooking staple is close to Ortega’s heart, as it’s one of the dishes he learned during while living with his grandmother for three years in Oaxaca as a child. “That changed my life forever,” he says.

He puts his own spin on the sauce by incorporating pomegranate into the recipe here, one of several fruit-infused, seasonal moles he has been playing around with over the past five years. This past summer, for example, he experimented with a mole with mango, and another with pineapple. He says pomegranate is the right fit for fall, and for this particular dish. “It just goes wonderful with quail … and the recipe feels very seasonal,” he says. “Pomegranates have a very, I would say, silky and sweet-and-sour flavor, and then with the spices and the peppers, it really went nicely, but didn’t overpower the small bird.”

This recipe yields six appetizer portions to serve pre-turkey. But Ortega notes that two quail per person are enough for an entrée, so the recipe can easily be doubled or work as-is for a group of three—a timely alternative to a whole turkey, since many families will likely experience a downsized version of Thanksgiving dinner this year.

The first step is grinding all of the necessary spices and setting them aside to use later. Though you may be tempted to save time by buying them pre-ground, Ortega strongly advises against that. “When you grind your own peppercorn or spices, the oils and fragrance are there, so personally I think it’s a must,” he says. “Forget, for a little bit, about the spices you’ve had in your cabinet for a while, and do something fresh.”

It takes a certain amount of spices for the grinder to run smoothly, so you’ll wind up with more than the recipes require. But as Ortega points out, there are endless possibilities for putting that excess to use, from rubbing onto other poultry to sprinkling onto vegetables. “You can do pheasant, or you can do Cornish hen or turkey with it … and Tracy mentioned sweet potatoes.”

To go with the bold, spice-kicked flavors here, H Town Restaurant Group beverage director Sean Beck pulls a wine that’s just as bold: Tres Sabores ¿Porqué No? Napa Valley 2018, a lush, Zinfandel-dominant red blended with Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon. “It delivers the flavor and texture needed to work well with the depth of Mexico's legendary mole,” Beck told Wine Spectator. “The juicy red fruit and hints of chocolate and brambly spice do well with the smoke of the bacon-wrapped quail. The pure, fleshy fruit vibes with the sweet, baked spice notes of the butternut squash and the perfume of the pomegranate mole.”

Vaught echoes this idea, adding that Zinfandel is the right grape to showcase for this pairing since it’s “packed with fruit and gives you a real zap.”

While California is highlighted on their restaurants’ wine lists, Vaught and Ortega have also long been champions of Mexican wines, which they note have increased in both availability and quality. “We opened Hugo’s 19 years ago, and we were one of the few restaurants here in Houston that started a wine program with Mexican wines,” Ortega says. “Years later, we still have our program, and it’s stronger than ever … it’s wonderful to give Mexican wine the attention it deserves.”

Below, Wine Spectator shares eight more full-flavored wines from regions around the world—including Argentina, Chile and Italy—to pair with Ortega’s quail and add some international flair to the all-American holiday.

Bacon-Wrapped Stuffed Quail with Butternut Squash Puree and Pomegranate Mole

For preparing the spices:

  • 1 large piece of cinnamon
  • 4 star anise
  • 6 cloves
  • 6 or 8 allspice berries

Separately for each spice, grind in a spice or coffee grinder. Set aside to use specified amounts of individual ground spices in the recipes for the stuffing, mole and squash puree. You won’t use it all, but you need a minimum amount to actually grind them.

  • 1 tablespoon corn oil (or any neutral oil)
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups canned diced roasted tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons sweet vermouth
  • 1 tablespoon chopped raisins
  • 1 tablespoon chopped dried apricot
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red apple, skin on (from about 1/2 apple)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped green apple, skin on (from about 1/2 apple)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped crab apple, skin on (from about 1 apple), or any tart apple (keep in mind a crab apple is about half the size of a standard one)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped Bosc pear, skin on (from about 1/2 pear)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped ripe plantain (from about 1/2 plantain)
  • 1 tablespoon sliced almonds, toasted
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch ground star anise
  • Pinch ground cloves
  • Pinch ground allspice
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1. Heat oil in sauté pan over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes. Add tomato and deglaze the pan for 2 minutes, then add sweet vermouth.

2. Add chopped raisins and apricot and let cook until 3/4 of the liquid has been reduced, 5 to 7 minutes, then add chopped apples and pear and cook for 5 minutes.

3. Add plantain, almonds and spices and stir. Add sugar and cook for 8 minutes, stirring constantly until the fruit absorbs the liquid. The fruit should be cooked but not mushy.

4. Remove from heat and cool down in the pot for at least 10 minutes until at room temperature.

  • 6 quail, boneless breast, wings and leg bones attached
  • Ground black pepper
  • Sea salt
  • 6 slices bacon

1. Preheat a conventional oven to 350° F. Pat quail dry and season with fresh ground pepper and a pinch of sea salt, then wrap each with a slice of bacon and secure with toothpick.

2. Divide the stuffing into 6 equal parts and stuff the quail, reserving 4 ounces of the filling for garnish.

3. Sear the quail in a large pan—working in batches if needed—on low heat for 3 minutes, then flip them and sear for another 3 to 4 minutes until they reach a golden-brown color. The goal is for the bacon to render but not burn.

4. Transfer quail to a baking rack and cook in the oven for 37 to 40 minutes.

For the pomegranate mole:

  • 3 tablespoons corn oil, divided
  • 11 whole garlic cloves
  • 1 purple onion, diced
  • 3 cups pomegranate seeds
  • Pinch ground star anise
  • Pinch allspice
  • Pinch clove
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 1/4 cup sliced raw almonds
  • 2 dried guajillo peppers, or substitute pasilla or puya peppers
  • 6 cups pomegranate juice

1. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large pot over medium heat, stir in garlic and onion and cook about 5 minutes, until soft, then add pomegranate seeds and stir for 4 more minutes.

2. Add ground spices, raisins, sesame seeds and almonds. Stir for 2 minutes, then add the guajillo peppers and pomegranate juice and cook for 10 minutes.

3. Pour carefully into blender and blend thoroughly to a smooth texture, then pass through a strainer to remove the seeds.

4. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in shallow pan over medium heat, pour in the sauce and “fry” the mole for 5 to 7 minutes and set aside.

For the butternut squash puree:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • Pinch ground cloves
  • Pinch ground star anise
  • 3 butternut squash, seeded, halved and roasted in a 300° F oven for 1 hour
  • 1 tablespoon honey

1. Place butter and spices in a saucepan and melt together over medium heat for 3 minutes.

2. Scoop the roasted butternut squash out of the skin and into a blender. Add melted butter and puree together until smooth. Add the honey and briefly blend again to combine.

1. Place a smear of butternut squash puree on the serving plate.

2. Place a stuffed quail on the puree.

3. Pour a few ounces of mole over the quail. Garnish with a few bits of the stuffing strewn about and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds. Serves 6 appetizer portions, or 3 as a main course.

8 Bold Red Wines

Note: The following list is a selection of outstanding and very good wines from recently rated releases. More options can be found in our Wine Ratings Search.

KOKOMO

Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley 2018

WS review:A zesty and plump red, with wild berry, toasted sage and cracked pepper flavors that build layers toward polished tannins. Drink now through 2027. 1,200 cases made. From California.—Tim Fish

55 MALBEC

Cabernet Sauvignon Paraje Altamira Zaha Toko Vineyard 2017

WS review: Big and ripe, with unctuous dark fruit, blueberry and Asian spice flavors that offer creamy accents. Dark chocolate and mocha notes fill the finish to the brim. Drink now through 2025. 1,000 cases made. From Argentina.—Kim Marcus

TURLEY

Zinfandel Howell Mountain Cedarman 2017

WS review: Densely structured, with a polished exterior, offering deep blackberry, bitter chocolate and licorice flavors that expand toward broad-shouldered tannins. Drink now through 2029. 1,204 cases made. From California.—T.F.

BEDROCK

Zinfandel California Old Vine 2018

WS review: Plump and zesty, with lively raspberry and smoked pepper flavors that speed toward lively tannins. Drink now through 2024. 4,000 cases made. From California.—T.F.

MASSERIA ALTEMURA

Primitivo di Manduria Altemura 2016

WS review: A harmonious red, sweetly juicy but still fresh and focused, with savory accents of smoke, toast and dried rosemary playing off the fruit flavors of raspberry preserves, black cherry coulis and spiced orange peel. Medium- to full-bodied, showing lightly chewy tannins on the finish. Drink now through 2026. 7,500 cases made. From Italy.—Alison Napjus


Hugo Ortega’s Sweet-and-Savory Stuffed Quail Feast for Thanksgiving

Fitting for this year’s smaller celebrations, the Houston-based chef’s recipe is served with butternut squash puree and a Oaxacan-style pomegranate mole. Pair it with a Zinfandel blend or other bold red

Chef Hugo Ortega’s origin story goes above and beyond the classic American dream. Born in Mexico City, Ortega moved to Houston in 1984 at age 17 with little money, virtually no resources and a substantial language barrier. He hustled his way to a job as a dishwasher at Backstreet Cafe, a recently opened spot for low-key American fare owned by Tracy Vaught.

Working with what he did have—a love of cooking, ingrained in him from childhood—Ortega earned a position as a line cook at the restaurant. “Our culture is about cooking and working the land, and celebrating life in a very personal way,” he says of the source of his passion. He went on to graduate from culinary school and continued to climb the kitchen’s hierarchy.

Fast-forward about three decades, and 55-year-old Ortega is now executive chef of Backstreet Cafe and co-owner with Vaught, who is now also his wife. The duo have evolved the restaurant into a renowned seasonal American bistro with a Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence–winning wine list, and that’s only one piece of their H Town Restaurant Group. In addition to Origen in Oaxaca, their Houston culinary empire includes Xochi, inspired by the indigenous flavors of the Mexican city the seafood-focused Caracol, and an upscale spot in Houston’s Montrose neighborhood called Hugo's. Ortega says opening his eponymous restaurant marked a major “turning point” in his life, giving him the chance to feature deeply personal cuisine, an idea he credits to Vaught.

“She surprised me by asking, ‘What about if you cook your home cooking?’” Ortega recalls. “That was overwhelming at the time, but it eventually shaped into being where we are today … and I can’t thank Houstonians enough and people abroad who have supported us through so many years.”

Ortega and Vaught’s 23-year-old daughter, Sofia, is now part of the family business too, after earning her undergraduate degree at Tulane University in New Orleans and a graduate degree in hospitality management from the University of Houston. “I could not be happier for our Sofia to believe in what we do,” Ortega says. “And we see her every day, so that makes it perfect.”

Ortega is a big fan of occasions centered around quality time with family. “Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays of the year,” he says, though he uses the day to take a break from his typical kitchen duties. “I let Tracy do the cooking and I just wash the dishes and assist, and that makes a good team.”

The dish Ortega shares for this year’s celebrations lends itself to teamwork, with multiple components that come together for a feast that’s worth the effort: Bacon-wrapped quail stuffed with a filling studded with fruits like plantain, apples, apricot and raisins, served with a butternut squash puree and a pomegranate mole.

While mole is often associated with using cocoa as an ingredient in a savory application, there are actually numerous variations of this traditional sauce, though it’s reliably rich, complex and made with blended chiles. This Mexican cooking staple is close to Ortega’s heart, as it’s one of the dishes he learned during while living with his grandmother for three years in Oaxaca as a child. “That changed my life forever,” he says.

He puts his own spin on the sauce by incorporating pomegranate into the recipe here, one of several fruit-infused, seasonal moles he has been playing around with over the past five years. This past summer, for example, he experimented with a mole with mango, and another with pineapple. He says pomegranate is the right fit for fall, and for this particular dish. “It just goes wonderful with quail … and the recipe feels very seasonal,” he says. “Pomegranates have a very, I would say, silky and sweet-and-sour flavor, and then with the spices and the peppers, it really went nicely, but didn’t overpower the small bird.”

This recipe yields six appetizer portions to serve pre-turkey. But Ortega notes that two quail per person are enough for an entrée, so the recipe can easily be doubled or work as-is for a group of three—a timely alternative to a whole turkey, since many families will likely experience a downsized version of Thanksgiving dinner this year.

The first step is grinding all of the necessary spices and setting them aside to use later. Though you may be tempted to save time by buying them pre-ground, Ortega strongly advises against that. “When you grind your own peppercorn or spices, the oils and fragrance are there, so personally I think it’s a must,” he says. “Forget, for a little bit, about the spices you’ve had in your cabinet for a while, and do something fresh.”

It takes a certain amount of spices for the grinder to run smoothly, so you’ll wind up with more than the recipes require. But as Ortega points out, there are endless possibilities for putting that excess to use, from rubbing onto other poultry to sprinkling onto vegetables. “You can do pheasant, or you can do Cornish hen or turkey with it … and Tracy mentioned sweet potatoes.”

To go with the bold, spice-kicked flavors here, H Town Restaurant Group beverage director Sean Beck pulls a wine that’s just as bold: Tres Sabores ¿Porqué No? Napa Valley 2018, a lush, Zinfandel-dominant red blended with Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon. “It delivers the flavor and texture needed to work well with the depth of Mexico's legendary mole,” Beck told Wine Spectator. “The juicy red fruit and hints of chocolate and brambly spice do well with the smoke of the bacon-wrapped quail. The pure, fleshy fruit vibes with the sweet, baked spice notes of the butternut squash and the perfume of the pomegranate mole.”

Vaught echoes this idea, adding that Zinfandel is the right grape to showcase for this pairing since it’s “packed with fruit and gives you a real zap.”

While California is highlighted on their restaurants’ wine lists, Vaught and Ortega have also long been champions of Mexican wines, which they note have increased in both availability and quality. “We opened Hugo’s 19 years ago, and we were one of the few restaurants here in Houston that started a wine program with Mexican wines,” Ortega says. “Years later, we still have our program, and it’s stronger than ever … it’s wonderful to give Mexican wine the attention it deserves.”

Below, Wine Spectator shares eight more full-flavored wines from regions around the world—including Argentina, Chile and Italy—to pair with Ortega’s quail and add some international flair to the all-American holiday.

Bacon-Wrapped Stuffed Quail with Butternut Squash Puree and Pomegranate Mole

For preparing the spices:

  • 1 large piece of cinnamon
  • 4 star anise
  • 6 cloves
  • 6 or 8 allspice berries

Separately for each spice, grind in a spice or coffee grinder. Set aside to use specified amounts of individual ground spices in the recipes for the stuffing, mole and squash puree. You won’t use it all, but you need a minimum amount to actually grind them.

  • 1 tablespoon corn oil (or any neutral oil)
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups canned diced roasted tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons sweet vermouth
  • 1 tablespoon chopped raisins
  • 1 tablespoon chopped dried apricot
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red apple, skin on (from about 1/2 apple)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped green apple, skin on (from about 1/2 apple)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped crab apple, skin on (from about 1 apple), or any tart apple (keep in mind a crab apple is about half the size of a standard one)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped Bosc pear, skin on (from about 1/2 pear)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped ripe plantain (from about 1/2 plantain)
  • 1 tablespoon sliced almonds, toasted
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch ground star anise
  • Pinch ground cloves
  • Pinch ground allspice
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1. Heat oil in sauté pan over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes. Add tomato and deglaze the pan for 2 minutes, then add sweet vermouth.

2. Add chopped raisins and apricot and let cook until 3/4 of the liquid has been reduced, 5 to 7 minutes, then add chopped apples and pear and cook for 5 minutes.

3. Add plantain, almonds and spices and stir. Add sugar and cook for 8 minutes, stirring constantly until the fruit absorbs the liquid. The fruit should be cooked but not mushy.

4. Remove from heat and cool down in the pot for at least 10 minutes until at room temperature.

  • 6 quail, boneless breast, wings and leg bones attached
  • Ground black pepper
  • Sea salt
  • 6 slices bacon

1. Preheat a conventional oven to 350° F. Pat quail dry and season with fresh ground pepper and a pinch of sea salt, then wrap each with a slice of bacon and secure with toothpick.

2. Divide the stuffing into 6 equal parts and stuff the quail, reserving 4 ounces of the filling for garnish.

3. Sear the quail in a large pan—working in batches if needed—on low heat for 3 minutes, then flip them and sear for another 3 to 4 minutes until they reach a golden-brown color. The goal is for the bacon to render but not burn.

4. Transfer quail to a baking rack and cook in the oven for 37 to 40 minutes.

For the pomegranate mole:

  • 3 tablespoons corn oil, divided
  • 11 whole garlic cloves
  • 1 purple onion, diced
  • 3 cups pomegranate seeds
  • Pinch ground star anise
  • Pinch allspice
  • Pinch clove
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 1/4 cup sliced raw almonds
  • 2 dried guajillo peppers, or substitute pasilla or puya peppers
  • 6 cups pomegranate juice

1. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large pot over medium heat, stir in garlic and onion and cook about 5 minutes, until soft, then add pomegranate seeds and stir for 4 more minutes.

2. Add ground spices, raisins, sesame seeds and almonds. Stir for 2 minutes, then add the guajillo peppers and pomegranate juice and cook for 10 minutes.

3. Pour carefully into blender and blend thoroughly to a smooth texture, then pass through a strainer to remove the seeds.

4. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in shallow pan over medium heat, pour in the sauce and “fry” the mole for 5 to 7 minutes and set aside.

For the butternut squash puree:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • Pinch ground cloves
  • Pinch ground star anise
  • 3 butternut squash, seeded, halved and roasted in a 300° F oven for 1 hour
  • 1 tablespoon honey

1. Place butter and spices in a saucepan and melt together over medium heat for 3 minutes.

2. Scoop the roasted butternut squash out of the skin and into a blender. Add melted butter and puree together until smooth. Add the honey and briefly blend again to combine.

1. Place a smear of butternut squash puree on the serving plate.

2. Place a stuffed quail on the puree.

3. Pour a few ounces of mole over the quail. Garnish with a few bits of the stuffing strewn about and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds. Serves 6 appetizer portions, or 3 as a main course.

8 Bold Red Wines

Note: The following list is a selection of outstanding and very good wines from recently rated releases. More options can be found in our Wine Ratings Search.

KOKOMO

Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley 2018

WS review:A zesty and plump red, with wild berry, toasted sage and cracked pepper flavors that build layers toward polished tannins. Drink now through 2027. 1,200 cases made. From California.—Tim Fish

55 MALBEC

Cabernet Sauvignon Paraje Altamira Zaha Toko Vineyard 2017

WS review: Big and ripe, with unctuous dark fruit, blueberry and Asian spice flavors that offer creamy accents. Dark chocolate and mocha notes fill the finish to the brim. Drink now through 2025. 1,000 cases made. From Argentina.—Kim Marcus

TURLEY

Zinfandel Howell Mountain Cedarman 2017

WS review: Densely structured, with a polished exterior, offering deep blackberry, bitter chocolate and licorice flavors that expand toward broad-shouldered tannins. Drink now through 2029. 1,204 cases made. From California.—T.F.

BEDROCK

Zinfandel California Old Vine 2018

WS review: Plump and zesty, with lively raspberry and smoked pepper flavors that speed toward lively tannins. Drink now through 2024. 4,000 cases made. From California.—T.F.

MASSERIA ALTEMURA

Primitivo di Manduria Altemura 2016

WS review: A harmonious red, sweetly juicy but still fresh and focused, with savory accents of smoke, toast and dried rosemary playing off the fruit flavors of raspberry preserves, black cherry coulis and spiced orange peel. Medium- to full-bodied, showing lightly chewy tannins on the finish. Drink now through 2026. 7,500 cases made. From Italy.—Alison Napjus


Hugo Ortega’s Sweet-and-Savory Stuffed Quail Feast for Thanksgiving

Fitting for this year’s smaller celebrations, the Houston-based chef’s recipe is served with butternut squash puree and a Oaxacan-style pomegranate mole. Pair it with a Zinfandel blend or other bold red

Chef Hugo Ortega’s origin story goes above and beyond the classic American dream. Born in Mexico City, Ortega moved to Houston in 1984 at age 17 with little money, virtually no resources and a substantial language barrier. He hustled his way to a job as a dishwasher at Backstreet Cafe, a recently opened spot for low-key American fare owned by Tracy Vaught.

Working with what he did have—a love of cooking, ingrained in him from childhood—Ortega earned a position as a line cook at the restaurant. “Our culture is about cooking and working the land, and celebrating life in a very personal way,” he says of the source of his passion. He went on to graduate from culinary school and continued to climb the kitchen’s hierarchy.

Fast-forward about three decades, and 55-year-old Ortega is now executive chef of Backstreet Cafe and co-owner with Vaught, who is now also his wife. The duo have evolved the restaurant into a renowned seasonal American bistro with a Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence–winning wine list, and that’s only one piece of their H Town Restaurant Group. In addition to Origen in Oaxaca, their Houston culinary empire includes Xochi, inspired by the indigenous flavors of the Mexican city the seafood-focused Caracol, and an upscale spot in Houston’s Montrose neighborhood called Hugo's. Ortega says opening his eponymous restaurant marked a major “turning point” in his life, giving him the chance to feature deeply personal cuisine, an idea he credits to Vaught.

“She surprised me by asking, ‘What about if you cook your home cooking?’” Ortega recalls. “That was overwhelming at the time, but it eventually shaped into being where we are today … and I can’t thank Houstonians enough and people abroad who have supported us through so many years.”

Ortega and Vaught’s 23-year-old daughter, Sofia, is now part of the family business too, after earning her undergraduate degree at Tulane University in New Orleans and a graduate degree in hospitality management from the University of Houston. “I could not be happier for our Sofia to believe in what we do,” Ortega says. “And we see her every day, so that makes it perfect.”

Ortega is a big fan of occasions centered around quality time with family. “Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays of the year,” he says, though he uses the day to take a break from his typical kitchen duties. “I let Tracy do the cooking and I just wash the dishes and assist, and that makes a good team.”

The dish Ortega shares for this year’s celebrations lends itself to teamwork, with multiple components that come together for a feast that’s worth the effort: Bacon-wrapped quail stuffed with a filling studded with fruits like plantain, apples, apricot and raisins, served with a butternut squash puree and a pomegranate mole.

While mole is often associated with using cocoa as an ingredient in a savory application, there are actually numerous variations of this traditional sauce, though it’s reliably rich, complex and made with blended chiles. This Mexican cooking staple is close to Ortega’s heart, as it’s one of the dishes he learned during while living with his grandmother for three years in Oaxaca as a child. “That changed my life forever,” he says.

He puts his own spin on the sauce by incorporating pomegranate into the recipe here, one of several fruit-infused, seasonal moles he has been playing around with over the past five years. This past summer, for example, he experimented with a mole with mango, and another with pineapple. He says pomegranate is the right fit for fall, and for this particular dish. “It just goes wonderful with quail … and the recipe feels very seasonal,” he says. “Pomegranates have a very, I would say, silky and sweet-and-sour flavor, and then with the spices and the peppers, it really went nicely, but didn’t overpower the small bird.”

This recipe yields six appetizer portions to serve pre-turkey. But Ortega notes that two quail per person are enough for an entrée, so the recipe can easily be doubled or work as-is for a group of three—a timely alternative to a whole turkey, since many families will likely experience a downsized version of Thanksgiving dinner this year.

The first step is grinding all of the necessary spices and setting them aside to use later. Though you may be tempted to save time by buying them pre-ground, Ortega strongly advises against that. “When you grind your own peppercorn or spices, the oils and fragrance are there, so personally I think it’s a must,” he says. “Forget, for a little bit, about the spices you’ve had in your cabinet for a while, and do something fresh.”

It takes a certain amount of spices for the grinder to run smoothly, so you’ll wind up with more than the recipes require. But as Ortega points out, there are endless possibilities for putting that excess to use, from rubbing onto other poultry to sprinkling onto vegetables. “You can do pheasant, or you can do Cornish hen or turkey with it … and Tracy mentioned sweet potatoes.”

To go with the bold, spice-kicked flavors here, H Town Restaurant Group beverage director Sean Beck pulls a wine that’s just as bold: Tres Sabores ¿Porqué No? Napa Valley 2018, a lush, Zinfandel-dominant red blended with Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon. “It delivers the flavor and texture needed to work well with the depth of Mexico's legendary mole,” Beck told Wine Spectator. “The juicy red fruit and hints of chocolate and brambly spice do well with the smoke of the bacon-wrapped quail. The pure, fleshy fruit vibes with the sweet, baked spice notes of the butternut squash and the perfume of the pomegranate mole.”

Vaught echoes this idea, adding that Zinfandel is the right grape to showcase for this pairing since it’s “packed with fruit and gives you a real zap.”

While California is highlighted on their restaurants’ wine lists, Vaught and Ortega have also long been champions of Mexican wines, which they note have increased in both availability and quality. “We opened Hugo’s 19 years ago, and we were one of the few restaurants here in Houston that started a wine program with Mexican wines,” Ortega says. “Years later, we still have our program, and it’s stronger than ever … it’s wonderful to give Mexican wine the attention it deserves.”

Below, Wine Spectator shares eight more full-flavored wines from regions around the world—including Argentina, Chile and Italy—to pair with Ortega’s quail and add some international flair to the all-American holiday.

Bacon-Wrapped Stuffed Quail with Butternut Squash Puree and Pomegranate Mole

For preparing the spices:

  • 1 large piece of cinnamon
  • 4 star anise
  • 6 cloves
  • 6 or 8 allspice berries

Separately for each spice, grind in a spice or coffee grinder. Set aside to use specified amounts of individual ground spices in the recipes for the stuffing, mole and squash puree. You won’t use it all, but you need a minimum amount to actually grind them.

  • 1 tablespoon corn oil (or any neutral oil)
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups canned diced roasted tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons sweet vermouth
  • 1 tablespoon chopped raisins
  • 1 tablespoon chopped dried apricot
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red apple, skin on (from about 1/2 apple)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped green apple, skin on (from about 1/2 apple)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped crab apple, skin on (from about 1 apple), or any tart apple (keep in mind a crab apple is about half the size of a standard one)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped Bosc pear, skin on (from about 1/2 pear)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped ripe plantain (from about 1/2 plantain)
  • 1 tablespoon sliced almonds, toasted
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch ground star anise
  • Pinch ground cloves
  • Pinch ground allspice
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1. Heat oil in sauté pan over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes. Add tomato and deglaze the pan for 2 minutes, then add sweet vermouth.

2. Add chopped raisins and apricot and let cook until 3/4 of the liquid has been reduced, 5 to 7 minutes, then add chopped apples and pear and cook for 5 minutes.

3. Add plantain, almonds and spices and stir. Add sugar and cook for 8 minutes, stirring constantly until the fruit absorbs the liquid. The fruit should be cooked but not mushy.

4. Remove from heat and cool down in the pot for at least 10 minutes until at room temperature.

  • 6 quail, boneless breast, wings and leg bones attached
  • Ground black pepper
  • Sea salt
  • 6 slices bacon

1. Preheat a conventional oven to 350° F. Pat quail dry and season with fresh ground pepper and a pinch of sea salt, then wrap each with a slice of bacon and secure with toothpick.

2. Divide the stuffing into 6 equal parts and stuff the quail, reserving 4 ounces of the filling for garnish.

3. Sear the quail in a large pan—working in batches if needed—on low heat for 3 minutes, then flip them and sear for another 3 to 4 minutes until they reach a golden-brown color. The goal is for the bacon to render but not burn.

4. Transfer quail to a baking rack and cook in the oven for 37 to 40 minutes.

For the pomegranate mole:

  • 3 tablespoons corn oil, divided
  • 11 whole garlic cloves
  • 1 purple onion, diced
  • 3 cups pomegranate seeds
  • Pinch ground star anise
  • Pinch allspice
  • Pinch clove
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 1/4 cup sliced raw almonds
  • 2 dried guajillo peppers, or substitute pasilla or puya peppers
  • 6 cups pomegranate juice

1. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large pot over medium heat, stir in garlic and onion and cook about 5 minutes, until soft, then add pomegranate seeds and stir for 4 more minutes.

2. Add ground spices, raisins, sesame seeds and almonds. Stir for 2 minutes, then add the guajillo peppers and pomegranate juice and cook for 10 minutes.

3. Pour carefully into blender and blend thoroughly to a smooth texture, then pass through a strainer to remove the seeds.

4. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in shallow pan over medium heat, pour in the sauce and “fry” the mole for 5 to 7 minutes and set aside.

For the butternut squash puree:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • Pinch ground cloves
  • Pinch ground star anise
  • 3 butternut squash, seeded, halved and roasted in a 300° F oven for 1 hour
  • 1 tablespoon honey

1. Place butter and spices in a saucepan and melt together over medium heat for 3 minutes.

2. Scoop the roasted butternut squash out of the skin and into a blender. Add melted butter and puree together until smooth. Add the honey and briefly blend again to combine.

1. Place a smear of butternut squash puree on the serving plate.

2. Place a stuffed quail on the puree.

3. Pour a few ounces of mole over the quail. Garnish with a few bits of the stuffing strewn about and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds. Serves 6 appetizer portions, or 3 as a main course.

8 Bold Red Wines

Note: The following list is a selection of outstanding and very good wines from recently rated releases. More options can be found in our Wine Ratings Search.

KOKOMO

Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley 2018

WS review:A zesty and plump red, with wild berry, toasted sage and cracked pepper flavors that build layers toward polished tannins. Drink now through 2027. 1,200 cases made. From California.—Tim Fish

55 MALBEC

Cabernet Sauvignon Paraje Altamira Zaha Toko Vineyard 2017

WS review: Big and ripe, with unctuous dark fruit, blueberry and Asian spice flavors that offer creamy accents. Dark chocolate and mocha notes fill the finish to the brim. Drink now through 2025. 1,000 cases made. From Argentina.—Kim Marcus

TURLEY

Zinfandel Howell Mountain Cedarman 2017

WS review: Densely structured, with a polished exterior, offering deep blackberry, bitter chocolate and licorice flavors that expand toward broad-shouldered tannins. Drink now through 2029. 1,204 cases made. From California.—T.F.

BEDROCK

Zinfandel California Old Vine 2018

WS review: Plump and zesty, with lively raspberry and smoked pepper flavors that speed toward lively tannins. Drink now through 2024. 4,000 cases made. From California.—T.F.

MASSERIA ALTEMURA

Primitivo di Manduria Altemura 2016

WS review: A harmonious red, sweetly juicy but still fresh and focused, with savory accents of smoke, toast and dried rosemary playing off the fruit flavors of raspberry preserves, black cherry coulis and spiced orange peel. Medium- to full-bodied, showing lightly chewy tannins on the finish. Drink now through 2026. 7,500 cases made. From Italy.—Alison Napjus


Hugo Ortega’s Sweet-and-Savory Stuffed Quail Feast for Thanksgiving

Fitting for this year’s smaller celebrations, the Houston-based chef’s recipe is served with butternut squash puree and a Oaxacan-style pomegranate mole. Pair it with a Zinfandel blend or other bold red

Chef Hugo Ortega’s origin story goes above and beyond the classic American dream. Born in Mexico City, Ortega moved to Houston in 1984 at age 17 with little money, virtually no resources and a substantial language barrier. He hustled his way to a job as a dishwasher at Backstreet Cafe, a recently opened spot for low-key American fare owned by Tracy Vaught.

Working with what he did have—a love of cooking, ingrained in him from childhood—Ortega earned a position as a line cook at the restaurant. “Our culture is about cooking and working the land, and celebrating life in a very personal way,” he says of the source of his passion. He went on to graduate from culinary school and continued to climb the kitchen’s hierarchy.

Fast-forward about three decades, and 55-year-old Ortega is now executive chef of Backstreet Cafe and co-owner with Vaught, who is now also his wife. The duo have evolved the restaurant into a renowned seasonal American bistro with a Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence–winning wine list, and that’s only one piece of their H Town Restaurant Group. In addition to Origen in Oaxaca, their Houston culinary empire includes Xochi, inspired by the indigenous flavors of the Mexican city the seafood-focused Caracol, and an upscale spot in Houston’s Montrose neighborhood called Hugo's. Ortega says opening his eponymous restaurant marked a major “turning point” in his life, giving him the chance to feature deeply personal cuisine, an idea he credits to Vaught.

“She surprised me by asking, ‘What about if you cook your home cooking?’” Ortega recalls. “That was overwhelming at the time, but it eventually shaped into being where we are today … and I can’t thank Houstonians enough and people abroad who have supported us through so many years.”

Ortega and Vaught’s 23-year-old daughter, Sofia, is now part of the family business too, after earning her undergraduate degree at Tulane University in New Orleans and a graduate degree in hospitality management from the University of Houston. “I could not be happier for our Sofia to believe in what we do,” Ortega says. “And we see her every day, so that makes it perfect.”

Ortega is a big fan of occasions centered around quality time with family. “Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays of the year,” he says, though he uses the day to take a break from his typical kitchen duties. “I let Tracy do the cooking and I just wash the dishes and assist, and that makes a good team.”

The dish Ortega shares for this year’s celebrations lends itself to teamwork, with multiple components that come together for a feast that’s worth the effort: Bacon-wrapped quail stuffed with a filling studded with fruits like plantain, apples, apricot and raisins, served with a butternut squash puree and a pomegranate mole.

While mole is often associated with using cocoa as an ingredient in a savory application, there are actually numerous variations of this traditional sauce, though it’s reliably rich, complex and made with blended chiles. This Mexican cooking staple is close to Ortega’s heart, as it’s one of the dishes he learned during while living with his grandmother for three years in Oaxaca as a child. “That changed my life forever,” he says.

He puts his own spin on the sauce by incorporating pomegranate into the recipe here, one of several fruit-infused, seasonal moles he has been playing around with over the past five years. This past summer, for example, he experimented with a mole with mango, and another with pineapple. He says pomegranate is the right fit for fall, and for this particular dish. “It just goes wonderful with quail … and the recipe feels very seasonal,” he says. “Pomegranates have a very, I would say, silky and sweet-and-sour flavor, and then with the spices and the peppers, it really went nicely, but didn’t overpower the small bird.”

This recipe yields six appetizer portions to serve pre-turkey. But Ortega notes that two quail per person are enough for an entrée, so the recipe can easily be doubled or work as-is for a group of three—a timely alternative to a whole turkey, since many families will likely experience a downsized version of Thanksgiving dinner this year.

The first step is grinding all of the necessary spices and setting them aside to use later. Though you may be tempted to save time by buying them pre-ground, Ortega strongly advises against that. “When you grind your own peppercorn or spices, the oils and fragrance are there, so personally I think it’s a must,” he says. “Forget, for a little bit, about the spices you’ve had in your cabinet for a while, and do something fresh.”

It takes a certain amount of spices for the grinder to run smoothly, so you’ll wind up with more than the recipes require. But as Ortega points out, there are endless possibilities for putting that excess to use, from rubbing onto other poultry to sprinkling onto vegetables. “You can do pheasant, or you can do Cornish hen or turkey with it … and Tracy mentioned sweet potatoes.”

To go with the bold, spice-kicked flavors here, H Town Restaurant Group beverage director Sean Beck pulls a wine that’s just as bold: Tres Sabores ¿Porqué No? Napa Valley 2018, a lush, Zinfandel-dominant red blended with Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon. “It delivers the flavor and texture needed to work well with the depth of Mexico's legendary mole,” Beck told Wine Spectator. “The juicy red fruit and hints of chocolate and brambly spice do well with the smoke of the bacon-wrapped quail. The pure, fleshy fruit vibes with the sweet, baked spice notes of the butternut squash and the perfume of the pomegranate mole.”

Vaught echoes this idea, adding that Zinfandel is the right grape to showcase for this pairing since it’s “packed with fruit and gives you a real zap.”

While California is highlighted on their restaurants’ wine lists, Vaught and Ortega have also long been champions of Mexican wines, which they note have increased in both availability and quality. “We opened Hugo’s 19 years ago, and we were one of the few restaurants here in Houston that started a wine program with Mexican wines,” Ortega says. “Years later, we still have our program, and it’s stronger than ever … it’s wonderful to give Mexican wine the attention it deserves.”

Below, Wine Spectator shares eight more full-flavored wines from regions around the world—including Argentina, Chile and Italy—to pair with Ortega’s quail and add some international flair to the all-American holiday.

Bacon-Wrapped Stuffed Quail with Butternut Squash Puree and Pomegranate Mole

For preparing the spices:

  • 1 large piece of cinnamon
  • 4 star anise
  • 6 cloves
  • 6 or 8 allspice berries

Separately for each spice, grind in a spice or coffee grinder. Set aside to use specified amounts of individual ground spices in the recipes for the stuffing, mole and squash puree. You won’t use it all, but you need a minimum amount to actually grind them.

  • 1 tablespoon corn oil (or any neutral oil)
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups canned diced roasted tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons sweet vermouth
  • 1 tablespoon chopped raisins
  • 1 tablespoon chopped dried apricot
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red apple, skin on (from about 1/2 apple)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped green apple, skin on (from about 1/2 apple)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped crab apple, skin on (from about 1 apple), or any tart apple (keep in mind a crab apple is about half the size of a standard one)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped Bosc pear, skin on (from about 1/2 pear)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped ripe plantain (from about 1/2 plantain)
  • 1 tablespoon sliced almonds, toasted
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch ground star anise
  • Pinch ground cloves
  • Pinch ground allspice
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1. Heat oil in sauté pan over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes. Add tomato and deglaze the pan for 2 minutes, then add sweet vermouth.

2. Add chopped raisins and apricot and let cook until 3/4 of the liquid has been reduced, 5 to 7 minutes, then add chopped apples and pear and cook for 5 minutes.

3. Add plantain, almonds and spices and stir. Add sugar and cook for 8 minutes, stirring constantly until the fruit absorbs the liquid. The fruit should be cooked but not mushy.

4. Remove from heat and cool down in the pot for at least 10 minutes until at room temperature.

  • 6 quail, boneless breast, wings and leg bones attached
  • Ground black pepper
  • Sea salt
  • 6 slices bacon

1. Preheat a conventional oven to 350° F. Pat quail dry and season with fresh ground pepper and a pinch of sea salt, then wrap each with a slice of bacon and secure with toothpick.

2. Divide the stuffing into 6 equal parts and stuff the quail, reserving 4 ounces of the filling for garnish.

3. Sear the quail in a large pan—working in batches if needed—on low heat for 3 minutes, then flip them and sear for another 3 to 4 minutes until they reach a golden-brown color. The goal is for the bacon to render but not burn.

4. Transfer quail to a baking rack and cook in the oven for 37 to 40 minutes.

For the pomegranate mole:

  • 3 tablespoons corn oil, divided
  • 11 whole garlic cloves
  • 1 purple onion, diced
  • 3 cups pomegranate seeds
  • Pinch ground star anise
  • Pinch allspice
  • Pinch clove
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 1/4 cup sliced raw almonds
  • 2 dried guajillo peppers, or substitute pasilla or puya peppers
  • 6 cups pomegranate juice

1. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large pot over medium heat, stir in garlic and onion and cook about 5 minutes, until soft, then add pomegranate seeds and stir for 4 more minutes.

2. Add ground spices, raisins, sesame seeds and almonds. Stir for 2 minutes, then add the guajillo peppers and pomegranate juice and cook for 10 minutes.

3. Pour carefully into blender and blend thoroughly to a smooth texture, then pass through a strainer to remove the seeds.

4. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in shallow pan over medium heat, pour in the sauce and “fry” the mole for 5 to 7 minutes and set aside.

For the butternut squash puree:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • Pinch ground cloves
  • Pinch ground star anise
  • 3 butternut squash, seeded, halved and roasted in a 300° F oven for 1 hour
  • 1 tablespoon honey

1. Place butter and spices in a saucepan and melt together over medium heat for 3 minutes.

2. Scoop the roasted butternut squash out of the skin and into a blender. Add melted butter and puree together until smooth. Add the honey and briefly blend again to combine.

1. Place a smear of butternut squash puree on the serving plate.

2. Place a stuffed quail on the puree.

3. Pour a few ounces of mole over the quail. Garnish with a few bits of the stuffing strewn about and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds. Serves 6 appetizer portions, or 3 as a main course.

8 Bold Red Wines

Note: The following list is a selection of outstanding and very good wines from recently rated releases. More options can be found in our Wine Ratings Search.

KOKOMO

Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley 2018

WS review:A zesty and plump red, with wild berry, toasted sage and cracked pepper flavors that build layers toward polished tannins. Drink now through 2027. 1,200 cases made. From California.—Tim Fish

55 MALBEC

Cabernet Sauvignon Paraje Altamira Zaha Toko Vineyard 2017

WS review: Big and ripe, with unctuous dark fruit, blueberry and Asian spice flavors that offer creamy accents. Dark chocolate and mocha notes fill the finish to the brim. Drink now through 2025. 1,000 cases made. From Argentina.—Kim Marcus

TURLEY

Zinfandel Howell Mountain Cedarman 2017

WS review: Densely structured, with a polished exterior, offering deep blackberry, bitter chocolate and licorice flavors that expand toward broad-shouldered tannins. Drink now through 2029. 1,204 cases made. From California.—T.F.

BEDROCK

Zinfandel California Old Vine 2018

WS review: Plump and zesty, with lively raspberry and smoked pepper flavors that speed toward lively tannins. Drink now through 2024. 4,000 cases made. From California.—T.F.

MASSERIA ALTEMURA

Primitivo di Manduria Altemura 2016

WS review: A harmonious red, sweetly juicy but still fresh and focused, with savory accents of smoke, toast and dried rosemary playing off the fruit flavors of raspberry preserves, black cherry coulis and spiced orange peel. Medium- to full-bodied, showing lightly chewy tannins on the finish. Drink now through 2026. 7,500 cases made. From Italy.—Alison Napjus


Hugo Ortega’s Sweet-and-Savory Stuffed Quail Feast for Thanksgiving

Fitting for this year’s smaller celebrations, the Houston-based chef’s recipe is served with butternut squash puree and a Oaxacan-style pomegranate mole. Pair it with a Zinfandel blend or other bold red

Chef Hugo Ortega’s origin story goes above and beyond the classic American dream. Born in Mexico City, Ortega moved to Houston in 1984 at age 17 with little money, virtually no resources and a substantial language barrier. He hustled his way to a job as a dishwasher at Backstreet Cafe, a recently opened spot for low-key American fare owned by Tracy Vaught.

Working with what he did have—a love of cooking, ingrained in him from childhood—Ortega earned a position as a line cook at the restaurant. “Our culture is about cooking and working the land, and celebrating life in a very personal way,” he says of the source of his passion. He went on to graduate from culinary school and continued to climb the kitchen’s hierarchy.

Fast-forward about three decades, and 55-year-old Ortega is now executive chef of Backstreet Cafe and co-owner with Vaught, who is now also his wife. The duo have evolved the restaurant into a renowned seasonal American bistro with a Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence–winning wine list, and that’s only one piece of their H Town Restaurant Group. In addition to Origen in Oaxaca, their Houston culinary empire includes Xochi, inspired by the indigenous flavors of the Mexican city the seafood-focused Caracol, and an upscale spot in Houston’s Montrose neighborhood called Hugo's. Ortega says opening his eponymous restaurant marked a major “turning point” in his life, giving him the chance to feature deeply personal cuisine, an idea he credits to Vaught.

“She surprised me by asking, ‘What about if you cook your home cooking?’” Ortega recalls. “That was overwhelming at the time, but it eventually shaped into being where we are today … and I can’t thank Houstonians enough and people abroad who have supported us through so many years.”

Ortega and Vaught’s 23-year-old daughter, Sofia, is now part of the family business too, after earning her undergraduate degree at Tulane University in New Orleans and a graduate degree in hospitality management from the University of Houston. “I could not be happier for our Sofia to believe in what we do,” Ortega says. “And we see her every day, so that makes it perfect.”

Ortega is a big fan of occasions centered around quality time with family. “Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays of the year,” he says, though he uses the day to take a break from his typical kitchen duties. “I let Tracy do the cooking and I just wash the dishes and assist, and that makes a good team.”

The dish Ortega shares for this year’s celebrations lends itself to teamwork, with multiple components that come together for a feast that’s worth the effort: Bacon-wrapped quail stuffed with a filling studded with fruits like plantain, apples, apricot and raisins, served with a butternut squash puree and a pomegranate mole.

While mole is often associated with using cocoa as an ingredient in a savory application, there are actually numerous variations of this traditional sauce, though it’s reliably rich, complex and made with blended chiles. This Mexican cooking staple is close to Ortega’s heart, as it’s one of the dishes he learned during while living with his grandmother for three years in Oaxaca as a child. “That changed my life forever,” he says.

He puts his own spin on the sauce by incorporating pomegranate into the recipe here, one of several fruit-infused, seasonal moles he has been playing around with over the past five years. This past summer, for example, he experimented with a mole with mango, and another with pineapple. He says pomegranate is the right fit for fall, and for this particular dish. “It just goes wonderful with quail … and the recipe feels very seasonal,” he says. “Pomegranates have a very, I would say, silky and sweet-and-sour flavor, and then with the spices and the peppers, it really went nicely, but didn’t overpower the small bird.”

This recipe yields six appetizer portions to serve pre-turkey. But Ortega notes that two quail per person are enough for an entrée, so the recipe can easily be doubled or work as-is for a group of three—a timely alternative to a whole turkey, since many families will likely experience a downsized version of Thanksgiving dinner this year.

The first step is grinding all of the necessary spices and setting them aside to use later. Though you may be tempted to save time by buying them pre-ground, Ortega strongly advises against that. “When you grind your own peppercorn or spices, the oils and fragrance are there, so personally I think it’s a must,” he says. “Forget, for a little bit, about the spices you’ve had in your cabinet for a while, and do something fresh.”

It takes a certain amount of spices for the grinder to run smoothly, so you’ll wind up with more than the recipes require. But as Ortega points out, there are endless possibilities for putting that excess to use, from rubbing onto other poultry to sprinkling onto vegetables. “You can do pheasant, or you can do Cornish hen or turkey with it … and Tracy mentioned sweet potatoes.”

To go with the bold, spice-kicked flavors here, H Town Restaurant Group beverage director Sean Beck pulls a wine that’s just as bold: Tres Sabores ¿Porqué No? Napa Valley 2018, a lush, Zinfandel-dominant red blended with Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon. “It delivers the flavor and texture needed to work well with the depth of Mexico's legendary mole,” Beck told Wine Spectator. “The juicy red fruit and hints of chocolate and brambly spice do well with the smoke of the bacon-wrapped quail. The pure, fleshy fruit vibes with the sweet, baked spice notes of the butternut squash and the perfume of the pomegranate mole.”

Vaught echoes this idea, adding that Zinfandel is the right grape to showcase for this pairing since it’s “packed with fruit and gives you a real zap.”

While California is highlighted on their restaurants’ wine lists, Vaught and Ortega have also long been champions of Mexican wines, which they note have increased in both availability and quality. “We opened Hugo’s 19 years ago, and we were one of the few restaurants here in Houston that started a wine program with Mexican wines,” Ortega says. “Years later, we still have our program, and it’s stronger than ever … it’s wonderful to give Mexican wine the attention it deserves.”

Below, Wine Spectator shares eight more full-flavored wines from regions around the world—including Argentina, Chile and Italy—to pair with Ortega’s quail and add some international flair to the all-American holiday.

Bacon-Wrapped Stuffed Quail with Butternut Squash Puree and Pomegranate Mole

For preparing the spices:

  • 1 large piece of cinnamon
  • 4 star anise
  • 6 cloves
  • 6 or 8 allspice berries

Separately for each spice, grind in a spice or coffee grinder. Set aside to use specified amounts of individual ground spices in the recipes for the stuffing, mole and squash puree. You won’t use it all, but you need a minimum amount to actually grind them.

  • 1 tablespoon corn oil (or any neutral oil)
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups canned diced roasted tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons sweet vermouth
  • 1 tablespoon chopped raisins
  • 1 tablespoon chopped dried apricot
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red apple, skin on (from about 1/2 apple)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped green apple, skin on (from about 1/2 apple)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped crab apple, skin on (from about 1 apple), or any tart apple (keep in mind a crab apple is about half the size of a standard one)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped Bosc pear, skin on (from about 1/2 pear)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped ripe plantain (from about 1/2 plantain)
  • 1 tablespoon sliced almonds, toasted
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch ground star anise
  • Pinch ground cloves
  • Pinch ground allspice
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1. Heat oil in sauté pan over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes. Add tomato and deglaze the pan for 2 minutes, then add sweet vermouth.

2. Add chopped raisins and apricot and let cook until 3/4 of the liquid has been reduced, 5 to 7 minutes, then add chopped apples and pear and cook for 5 minutes.

3. Add plantain, almonds and spices and stir. Add sugar and cook for 8 minutes, stirring constantly until the fruit absorbs the liquid. The fruit should be cooked but not mushy.

4. Remove from heat and cool down in the pot for at least 10 minutes until at room temperature.

  • 6 quail, boneless breast, wings and leg bones attached
  • Ground black pepper
  • Sea salt
  • 6 slices bacon

1. Preheat a conventional oven to 350° F. Pat quail dry and season with fresh ground pepper and a pinch of sea salt, then wrap each with a slice of bacon and secure with toothpick.

2. Divide the stuffing into 6 equal parts and stuff the quail, reserving 4 ounces of the filling for garnish.

3. Sear the quail in a large pan—working in batches if needed—on low heat for 3 minutes, then flip them and sear for another 3 to 4 minutes until they reach a golden-brown color. The goal is for the bacon to render but not burn.

4. Transfer quail to a baking rack and cook in the oven for 37 to 40 minutes.

For the pomegranate mole:

  • 3 tablespoons corn oil, divided
  • 11 whole garlic cloves
  • 1 purple onion, diced
  • 3 cups pomegranate seeds
  • Pinch ground star anise
  • Pinch allspice
  • Pinch clove
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 1/4 cup sliced raw almonds
  • 2 dried guajillo peppers, or substitute pasilla or puya peppers
  • 6 cups pomegranate juice

1. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large pot over medium heat, stir in garlic and onion and cook about 5 minutes, until soft, then add pomegranate seeds and stir for 4 more minutes.

2. Add ground spices, raisins, sesame seeds and almonds. Stir for 2 minutes, then add the guajillo peppers and pomegranate juice and cook for 10 minutes.

3. Pour carefully into blender and blend thoroughly to a smooth texture, then pass through a strainer to remove the seeds.

4. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in shallow pan over medium heat, pour in the sauce and “fry” the mole for 5 to 7 minutes and set aside.

For the butternut squash puree:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • Pinch ground cloves
  • Pinch ground star anise
  • 3 butternut squash, seeded, halved and roasted in a 300° F oven for 1 hour
  • 1 tablespoon honey

1. Place butter and spices in a saucepan and melt together over medium heat for 3 minutes.

2. Scoop the roasted butternut squash out of the skin and into a blender. Add melted butter and puree together until smooth. Add the honey and briefly blend again to combine.

1. Place a smear of butternut squash puree on the serving plate.

2. Place a stuffed quail on the puree.

3. Pour a few ounces of mole over the quail. Garnish with a few bits of the stuffing strewn about and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds. Serves 6 appetizer portions, or 3 as a main course.

8 Bold Red Wines

Note: The following list is a selection of outstanding and very good wines from recently rated releases. More options can be found in our Wine Ratings Search.

KOKOMO

Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley 2018

WS review:A zesty and plump red, with wild berry, toasted sage and cracked pepper flavors that build layers toward polished tannins. Drink now through 2027. 1,200 cases made. From California.—Tim Fish

55 MALBEC

Cabernet Sauvignon Paraje Altamira Zaha Toko Vineyard 2017

WS review: Big and ripe, with unctuous dark fruit, blueberry and Asian spice flavors that offer creamy accents. Dark chocolate and mocha notes fill the finish to the brim. Drink now through 2025. 1,000 cases made. From Argentina.—Kim Marcus

TURLEY

Zinfandel Howell Mountain Cedarman 2017

WS review: Densely structured, with a polished exterior, offering deep blackberry, bitter chocolate and licorice flavors that expand toward broad-shouldered tannins. Drink now through 2029. 1,204 cases made. From California.—T.F.

BEDROCK

Zinfandel California Old Vine 2018

WS review: Plump and zesty, with lively raspberry and smoked pepper flavors that speed toward lively tannins. Drink now through 2024. 4,000 cases made. From California.—T.F.

MASSERIA ALTEMURA

Primitivo di Manduria Altemura 2016

WS review: A harmonious red, sweetly juicy but still fresh and focused, with savory accents of smoke, toast and dried rosemary playing off the fruit flavors of raspberry preserves, black cherry coulis and spiced orange peel. Medium- to full-bodied, showing lightly chewy tannins on the finish. Drink now through 2026. 7,500 cases made. From Italy.—Alison Napjus