Two Thanksgiving Wines

Thanksgiving is next week! I can hardly believe it. Kevin and I celebrated early with his family and my parents since everyone will be all over the place this year. I always like setting a pretty table and using our wedding crystal! In case you missed it, last week I put out a little Thanksgiving Wine Guide to help with pairing options. This week, I actually have two specific recommendations (a white and a red) that I think would be great accompaniments to your Thanksgiving dinner, assuming it's a traditional one. Both are from the United States, too!

Acrobat Pinot Gris

In my guide, I stated that a Chardonnay was a classic pairing. However, when I was researching pairings, I saw several references to Pinot Gris as well. I'd never bought a Pinot Gris before, so I was excited to give it a whirl this year. First, you may be thinking, what is Pinot Gris? Pinot Gris is more commonly known as Pinot Grigio! Same grape, just different name and different styles. This article from Wine Spectator describes it very well, but the short hand is that Pinot Gris is usually richer and creamier while Pinot Grigio is crisp and clean. 

Acrobat Pinot Gris.jpg

The Facts

  • Producer: King Estate
  • Region: Oregon
  • Vintage: 2015
  • Variety: Pinot Gris
  • Where I purchased: Whole Foods
  • Price: $14.99 

The wine is a dusty, pale gold color. Even from the beginning, it looked slightly different from the Pinot Grigios I have had in the past! The wine smells of peach, lemon, and something tropical... pineapple, perhaps. It is very pleasant to drink! It's got a nice, balanced acidity. It cleans your palate without it being so mouth puckering (like a Sauvignon Blanc, for example). My mom, who has an aversion to a lot of acid, even liked this one! I got the taste of apple and pineapple, but there was also a creaminess of texture. No oak or vanilla, in my opinion, but the texture was definitely there. This would go so well with the all of the creaminess at Thanksgiving dinner (hello, gravy and mashed potatoes!). Finally, it should be noted that it was a Wine Enthusiast 2016 Best Buy pick, and received 91 points from them. I don't always live by point ratings, but I'd have to agree with their opinion on this one!

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Samuel Robert Winery Vintner's Reserve Pinot Noir

If you read my review of the Ropiteau Pinot Noir, you know I'm skeptical of inexpensive Pinots. That doesn't mean I'll stop trying because just like with Cabernet Sauvignons, I'm on the hunt for delicious and affordable options. I saw this Samuel Robert Pinot at Total Wine, it had a good rating from Wine Enthusaist, it was on sale, and it was a pick of one of the staff members. I was sold!

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The Facts

  • Producer: Samuel Robert Winery
  • Region: Willamette Valley, Oregon
  • Vintage: 2015
  • Variety: Pinot Noir
  • Where I purchased: Total Wine
  • Price: $14.99 

I was extremely surprised by the nose. It smelled so complex for only $12.99 (I got it on sale, and I think it still is)! There was cherry, of course, but also some cinnamon and a hint of earthiness or decaying leaves. "Decaying leaves" doesn't sound good when reading it, but you know that smell of fall? I personally love it. When I tried the wine, it was less bold in flavor than I expected based on how the wine smelled. The spice was missing on the palate, but there was some good cherry and cranberry flavor. The fruit flavor and acid was well balanced, not being jammy or too thin. If you can catch this on sale at your local Total Wine with a coupon or in-store promotion, it is definitely a great bang for your buck! Even at its full price of $14.99, I think it's a great value. I really enjoyed my small tasting glass and am looking forward to opening the full bottle later! For now, this is the best Pinot Noir I've had recently for less than $20, so I'm giving it four bunches.

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Pink Peppercorn Beurre Blanc

After that title, you may be thinking, "Wait, did I read that correctly? Is this becoming a food blog?" Answer: No, it's not. BUT when I make a recipe that is oh-so-delicious, and I happened to have a well-paired wine with it, I just have to share. This recipe was sent to me by my dad, but is courtesy of a great restaurant in Highlands, North Carolina -- Wild Thyme. If you're ever in the area, be sure to check them out!

So back to the Pink Peppercorn Beurre Blanc... what's not to like? Shallots. Butter. Pepper. All things I love, so bring it on. The recipe is super easy with the most difficult part being keeping your arm from cramping with all of the whisking. The recipe is below, but if you prefer to download and print, you can get the recipe here!

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Pink Peppercorn Beurre Blanc

  • 1 tbsp shallot, minced
  • 2 tsp pink peppercorns
  • 8 tbsp unsalted, cold butter
  • 2 tbsp dry vermouth
  • 2 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
  • Salt
  • White pepper
  • Lemon juice, if desired (I recommend!)

Get your mise en place together! Mince the shallots. Crush the pink peppercorns using a mortar and pestle, or a ziploc bag and a mallet works just fine, too. Cut the chilled butter into tablespoon-sized pieces, and set aside.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the shallots, vermouth, white balsamic vinegar and crushed pink peppercorns. Bring mixture barely to a simmer, and allow the mixture to be reduced by about two-thirds, stirring the mixture constantly, until it reaches a syrupy consistency.

Reduce the heat to the lowest setting, and whisk in the cold butter cubes, one piece at a time, to slowly form the emulsion. Once all of the butter has been incorporated into the peppery-vermouth mixture, season it generously with salt and white pepper. If needed, add a few dashes of lemon juice to tweak the flavor of the sauce.

Keep an eye on the completed beurre blanc while you prepare the rest of your meal, making sure to keep the sauce warm to the touch and whisking often to prevent the smooth sauce from splitting.

The sauce works well on any white, flaky fish (halibut, sea bass, snapper, etc.), but would also be great on scallops. Pair it with a medium to full body white wine that balances a creaminess with acidity (Chardonnay -- maybe even with a little bit of oak, Sémillon, Pinot Gris, etc.). What wine did we have? This white, or vinho branco, from the Dão region of Portugal found in my Spain & Portugal Weekly Tasting pack. 

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Dão is certainly more well known for its reds, but their dominant white grape is Encruzado, which is also the main grape in this Prunus wine. Encruzado was described as being similar to Viognier, and I definitely agree. It was very aromatic, which is so characteristic of Viognier. To me, the wine smelled and tasted of white peach and had a great mouth coating quality. It was buttery in texture but the apple notes and acidity kept it from feeling too heavy. This creamy texture went so well with the weight of the sauce. Weekly Tasting said it'd be a crowd pleaser, and I can certainly tell why. Easy drinking with different features that could appeal to every type of white wine drinker. Plus, it has a pretty label! Gotta love wines that are pretty AND taste good. While it's definitely different than the whites I typically go for, Prunus Vinho Branco gets three bunches in my book!

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Fiesta Time: What to drink this Cinco de Mayo

Fiesta time, cha-cha-cha! Tomorrow is Cinco de Mayo! In the United States, I feel like this holiday is an excuse to eat your weight in chips and guacamole and cheers with a margarita. Nothing wrong with that! Being from Texas, I love Tex-Mex food and I personally think I make the best margarita around, so I'm looking forward to celebrating. And just in time for the holiday, here are two drink options for you to feel festive!

Classic Fresh Margarita

I know this is a wine blog, but I can't help it. This margarita recipe is the BEST, so it is totally worth sharing! If you like margaritas with fresh ingredients, you'll love this recipe, and it's SO simple to make for one (or multiples!). Disclaimer: I found this recipe out on the internet somewhere several years ago and have been making it ever since. I apologize to whoever published it, I want to give you credit, but I honestly can't remember where it came from since Kevin and I have it memorized.

For one serving, you will need the following:

  • 2 oz tequila - We stock Hornitos Plata in our bar, but feel free to use your favorite!
  • 1.5 oz lime juice - Usually about 1-2 limes, depending on ripeness.
  • 1 oz orange juice - Do yourself a favor, and just buy it from your grocery store. Fresh squeezed is the best, but something like Tropicana works great, too!
  • Agave nectar to taste - I usually start with 1/2 tsp and work my way up from there.

The recipe is THAT SIMPLE, y'all. Pour all of the ingredients into a shaker, shake away, and then pour over ice. Yum!

Strawberry Sparkling Sangria

For those out there who may want to change things up from a classic margarita, this is a great alternative. Berries and peaches are coming into season, so now is a great time to celebrate spring and Cinco de Mayo all in one! It's sweeter than my margarita recipe, but super tasty with spring fruit flavors! 

Strawberry Sangria 1

For about 4 servings (give or take), you will need:

For the strawberry simple syrup:

  • 1/2 cup strawberries
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water

For the sangria:

  • 1 cup strawberries
  • 1 ripe peach
  • 1/2 cup blackberries
  • 1/2 cup strawberry simple syrup
  • 1/2 cup brandy
  • 1 bottle of sparkling brut rosé

1. Make the strawberry simple syrup.

For this simple syrup, combine the sugar and water. Bring to a boil, gently stir until the sugar dissolves and then add in the strawberries. Turn down the heat and let it simmer for 5-10 minutes, or until the strawberries look like they've lost their color. Strain the simple syrup into another container and throw the strawberry bits away. Let the syrup cool fully (took about an hour in the fridge). 

Strawberry Sangria 2

2. Dice the peach and add the berries to the pitcher. Pour brandy and cooled simple syrup over the fruit. Stir well! Let this mixture marinate for a while, at least an hour.

Strawberry Sangria 3

3. I'd use a stemless wine glass or a double old-fashioned glass for this cocktail. I found that the sangria tasted best when I poured the sparkling wine directly into the glass as opposed to including it in the pitcher. Also, in my opinion, the perfect ratio of sangria mix to wine for a serving is 1/3 mix, 2/3 sparkling wine. Feel free to adjust to your taste, and be sure to put some of the fruit in the glass! 

Strawberry Sangria 4

I hope that you all enjoy yourselves (and be safe!) this Cinco de Mayo.

Tasting Notes: Höpler Riesling

Kevin has declared that he loves Riesling. I think we had it at a tasting once and he was surprised by the dry Riesling, so ever since then he has tried to find good Rieslings by the glass when we go to restaurants with respectable wine lists. When we were in Highlands about a month ago, the wine shop had an Austrian Riesling on their machines. I tasted it, liked it, and bought a bottle to do a more official tasting at home. 

The Facts

  • Producer: Höpler
  • Region: Burgenland, Austria
  • Vintage: 2013
  • Variety: Riesling
  • Where I purchased: Mountaintop Wine Shoppe*, Highlands, NC
  • Price: $19.99

*Mountaintop Wine Shoppe in Highlands, North Carolina. If you're ever vacationing there, check it out! They are the nicest people with a GREAT selection and great prices. Bobby, the owner, is super knowledgeable and friendly. It's difficult for us to leave without a case to take home.

  • Eyes: This wine was a clear, pale yellow color and almost had a greenish tint to it. It was not very viscous which implies lower alcohol. This is normal for Riesling since they tend to have more sugar content. Most people associate Riesling with sweet wines, but in fact, there can be (and this particular one is) a dry Riesling. This wine had about 11% alcohol, so the viscosity did not lie!
     
  • Nose: This white smelled very good. There were notes of lemon citrus, green apple, and peach. Doesn't all of those flavors sounds awesome? It was like spring or summer in a glass.
     
  • Mouth: This wine is super refreshing! I served it "refrigerator" cold and it was perfect for the warm evening we were having. The fruitiness that was on the nose definitely came through when I actually tried it, and I could especially taste the apple. It was tangy and acidic and everything I like in a white wine.
     
  • Thoughts: This is a great choice! As I mentioned above, it's everything I want in a white wine... fruity, acidic, and refreshing. I liked the apple notes a lot and the smell was delicious. I know Riesling gets a bad rap in the United States for being a super sweet wine, but that doesn't have to be the case. I am going to have to agree with my husband on this one and say that dry Rieslings are definitely a wine I will have to start drinking more of! 

As a random side note, I came across this post about the winemaker of Höpler (a Höpler himself) on Wine for Normal People. Check it out if you'd like to read more about the winery!

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