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. 

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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!

Rating: 

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.

Rating:

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Thanksgiving Wine Guide

Thanksgiving is the holiday I try not to zoom past on the way to Christmas once Halloween is over. I've noticed that stores tend to forget about it, going directly from spooky spiders and skulls to glittery ornaments and all things Santa. It's important to take a day to spend quality time with family and friends, eat a delicious meal, and reflect over all we have to be thankful for. With all of the tragedy in the world today, it feels especially important this year.

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Pairing wine with Thanksgiving is particularly tricky because most sources agree that there is too much going on in the meal for one wine to satisfy all dishes. If you have a traditional Thanksgiving meal, your plate is filled with a wide variety of flavors -- sweet, savory, green, acid, and butter. So. Much. Butter. What's the best wine to pair with all of these flavors and dishes? See below for a guide that will hopefully point you in the right direction. If you have the budget and ability, I recommend having a variety of options on the table for the various courses. 

Reds

Our families are red wine drinkers, so I know we need to have a good bottle of red on the table. This year, I plan to pair our meal with this Seghesio Family Carignane from Weekly Tasting. It is the most food friendly wine I think I've had, and the flavors will go so well with a lot at the table. The mild tannin will not overpower any of the dishes, it's got the warm spices like cinnamon, and there's a hint of tart cherry or cranberry in there. Does that not sound like Thanksgiving in a bottle?!

If you don't have access to the Carignan, I recommend a Zinfandel or lighter Pinot Noir. Classic Thanksgiving reds right there. Zinfandel has similar quailities to the Carignan I mentioned, and Pinot Noir has that earthy, acidic quality that mirrors cranberry and will go nicely with the turkey.  

My recommendations: Gnarly Head Zinfandel for the price point and availability, or La Crema Willamette Pinot Noir.

Whites

If our family is full of red drinkers, why even have a white? Butter. Green beans. That's why. A classic Thanksgiving white is Chardonnay. I'd go for one that's oaked because that malolactic fermentation will give you the creaminess you want to go with those mashed potatoes. Don't get an oaky, butter bomb, but find one that is well balanced and you'll love it!

As for green vegetables, they are infamous for being tough to pair with. Brussel sprouts, asparagus, green beans... they're all stumpers. Some would say to just re-hydrate with that course and drink water, but if you really want something to go with the veggies, I'd mimic the flavors in a Sauvignon Blanc, or if you're feeling adventurous, a Gruner Veltliner. The whites are also where you can bring in.

My recommendations: Ramey Chardonnay for a higher price point, or for a more affordable bottle, try the Olema Chardonnay. Both are from Total Wine. For the greens, try the Starborough Sauvignon Blanc, which I believe is widely available in grocery stores, or the Winzer Krems Gruner from Total Wine.

Dessert

I HIGHLY recommend having a dessert wine for all the pie. Many people will continue drinking whatever they had a dinner, and really, it's doing a disservice to the drinker and the dessert. The key for pairing wine with dessert is that the wine should be sweeter than the dessert or it will taste funky. If you don't care, then cheers to you! I've definitely done that 99% of the time. This year, I'm feeling a little celebratory and will be sure to have a 20-year Tawny Port to go with dessert. Other recommendations are Vin Santo, Canadian Ice Wine, or a late harvest Riesling.

"I can only have one bottle."

If you truly want just one bottle to go with everything, I'd choose a sparkling wine. It'll be your best bet because the bubbles will help cleanse the palate between dishes. Champagne is a great choice if your budget allows, but you can also find a good option at a lower price point. 

My recommendations: For the lowest price point, I'd try Juvé y Camps Pinot Noir Rosé Cava found at Whole Foods. For something a little more celebratory, try a bottle of Schramsberg - Blanc de Blanc or Brut Rosé would both be tasty.

I hope you all have the most wonderful holiday, and that your hearts (and bellies) will be full and happy!

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Pairing Wine with Thanksgiving Dinner

This past Friday, the husband and I went to Whole Foods for a wine pairing class for Thanksgiving dinner. I don't know if your local Whole Foods has cooking classes, but I have really enjoyed the few I've been to.

As I said, the event focused on pairing wines with Thanksgiving dinner. They had a chef that would prepare a Thanksgiving dish for us to try and then their beverage buyer paired it with a wine. We learned some good and interesting facts about the varietals and got to taste some yummy food, and now I get to share all of the knowledge with you!

Sweet Potato Biscuits with Madame Liberte Brut Sparkling Wine

I was excited to see that the evening was starting out with a sparkling wine. They are my favorite! I love the bubbles. Anyway, we were given Madame Liberte, an American sparkling wine made in New Mexico. It was a brut, so it was drier. The WF wine buyer was unable to find what grapes made up this sparkling wine, but his guess was pinot grigio, pinot noir, and chardonnay. It sold for $17.99.

The wine smelled of apples and it was a little biscuit-y for my taste, as I prefer the fresher and crisper sparkling wines, but I still enjoyed it. It paired very well with the hearty biscuits as the bubbles cleansed your palate after every bite! I highly recommend with appetizers since it doesn't leave a lingering flavor in your mouth. 

Haricots Verts with La Pierrlee Chablis

First, these sauteed haricots verts with shallots were amazing. A great way to cook green beans! Now back to the wine, the vegetables were paired with La Pierrlee Chablis, which is a Chardonnay from Northern Burgundy. It goes for $21.99.

This Chablis was very good. I tend to not like the buttery and oaked Chardonnays, so a Chablis was perfect since they are unoaked and have a more mineral flavor profile to them. There was a slight buttery characteristic which is common to the Chardonnay grape due to malolactic fermentation which changes the bitter malic acid to softer lactic acid. The minerality comes from the dead oyster shells that make up the clay ground in Burgundy, which is a great example of terroir. The lightness of the wine made you really taste the flavor of the green beans, so it'd be great with any other light foods (e.g. seafood). 

Turkey and Gravy with The Stash Pinot Noir

For the main attraction of Thanksgiving, they actually gave us two options, a white and a red. For those who prefer white, the choice was Miner's Voignier. It was a very aromatic white that paired well with the turkey and gravy since it was a much weightier and more viscous white wine. 

I'm a red person, so I focused on The Stash Pinot Noir. It is from the Santa Rita Hills AVA (American Viticultural Area) in Santa Barbara, California. This area is great to grow Pinot Noir, which is known to be a fickle grape, because the hills run east to west and grapes are cooled from the ocean breeze. This Pinot Noir had more heft to it than others with a nice dark red fruit flavor. I really enjoyed this wine, and we ended up buying two bottles for our early Thanksgiving dinner on Sunday. The Stash was being sold for $14.99.

Apple Cheesecake with NxNW Reisling

This dessert was delicious. It was a cheesecake topped with apple slices on a gingersnap crust. It was paired with a Riesling from the Horse Heaven Hills AVA in Washington state. This is an off-dry Riesling, which means it is less sweet than most people expect of a Riesling. There were notes of apple, pinapple, and peach. It was the perfect pair to the rich cheesecake! It goes for $17.99.

Overall, I was very impressed with the wine selections. While I wouldn't necessarily buy them all on a regular basis (at least not the whites), they were all fun to try and paired very well with their dishes. If you're going to Thanksgiving dinner and want to bring a bottle, I would definitely suggest any of the ones mentioned above! I also think The Stash may be making a regular appearance at our dinner table when we want a lighter red!