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The first time sommelier DLynn Proctor fell head over heels for wine, it wasn’t when he was drinking it. Instead, it was while watching a somm, as they are typically called, in action, blind-tasting a deep, rich Italian red wine called Brunello.

“I had never seen anything like it,” he said. “It was almost mystical seeing a person decipher every component in the glass.”

That moment and the experience of watching a sommelier in a restaurant moving around the tables, making recommendations and commanding the respect of diners, propelled Proctor on a path toward becoming one of the leading sommeliers in America. He was named “Best Sommelier in America” by Wine & Spirits magazine in 2008, and Proctor was also a finalist in the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs Société Mondiale du Vin “Best Sommelier in America Competition” in 2008 and 2009. He was featured in the documentary Somm, which followed four leading wine experts through their tests to become recognized as master sommeliers, one of the most difficult achievements in the food world. The sequel, Somm: Into the Bottle, recently premiered at the Napa Valley Film Festival and will be screened in cities across the country during the winter and spring. 


He said the sequel felt like a prequel in many ways: “We were able to actually explain and make sense of what we were talking about in the first film: the sites, planting, production, barrels, scores and more.”

Proctor added, “It was an incredible experience opening and tasting nine of the rarest wines in the world, including the 1962 Penfolds Bin 60A Coonawarra cabernet Kalimna shiraz—the seventh-greatest wine ever made.”


So what does this master of the grape recommend for Thanksgiving?

Proctor offered up five suggestions with some pairing notes:

“Loire Valley chenin blanc is incredible because of the fresh sweetness it offers to counteract the tart cranberries that would be served with dressing.


“Australian Eden Valley riesling, and its bone-dry style, light weight and racy citrus acidity, works well with salads and starters that are usually passed around the table. Think riesling and cornichons, creamed onions and mashed turnips.

“Gamay from Beaujolais in southern Burgundy is perfect with slightly sweet and glazed hams. The tart fruitiness of gamay will lift the ham to new heights.


“Coonawarra cabernet from the Limestone Coast sings with peppery-seasoned turkey. Turkey in nature can be dry, and the acidity in a maritime-climate cabernet, and its smokiness, brings the turkey, along with the sides, to life.

“Champagne to take it home. I personally love ending an incredible meal with Champagne because you can literally just sit back, sip and enjoy Thanksgiving NFL games after the long day with family and friends.”


Martin Johnson writes about music for the Wall Street Journal, basketball for Slate and beer for Eater, and he blogs at both the Joy of Cheese and Rotations. Follow him on Twitter