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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Tasting Notes: Planet Oregon Pinot Noir

This past weekend, Kevin and I made a trip to Edenton, North Carolina (close to the Outer Banks) for the wedding of Kevin's good friend. Edenton is a very picturesque and quaint town, but for about an hour or so before Edenton, there isn't much around. We were going to be in the middle of nowhere at dinnertime, so we did some TripAdvisor searches to see what was around at various stages in our trip. We came across this cute restaurant in Tarboro, North Carolina, called On the Square that had a great wine selection and yummy sounding dinner menu, so we decided to stop there. The owners of the restaurant have impressive resumes and are Advanced Sommeliers themselves, so it was a great hidden gem to come across! The sommelier on staff recommended this wine with our meals, so we went with it.

The Facts

  • Producer: Soter Vineyards
  • Region: Oregon; Majority in Willamette Valley
  • Vintage: 2014
  • Variety: Pinot Noir
  • Where I purchased: Restaurant
  • Price: $20 retail
  • Eyes: The color of this wine was more toward a "masculine" Pinot Noir with deeper purple colors and a darker red than others. I was surprised by the deepness of the color and was relieved since I don't always enjoy Willamette Pinot Noirs.
     
  • Nose: The sommelier had described this wine as being fruit forward and having more cherry aspects than the earthiness that can come with Oregon Pinot. I found that to be true on the nose with definite aromas of cherry. There were also notes of blackberry and raspberry, which I love!
     
  • Mouth: The aromas that came through on the nose definitely showed up when I tried the wine. I picked up on the "cherry cola" flavor the sommelier mentioned and also picked up on the dark berries I caught in the aroma. I didn't get much earthiness, which was a relief since that's my preference. The wine was acidic, but not overly so.
     
  • Thoughts: This wine was a pretty good pick, but I would not say the sommelier hit it out of the park with what I described to her. I used words like "bold", "spice", and "bite" and she didn't really hit those notes. The wine lacked that spiciness or tannic aspect, but overall was fruity and a good pairing with the chicken. I liked the story behind the wine... The grapes are sourced from certified sustainable vineyards and are bottled in a certified  sustainable winery. Also, for every sale, $1 is donated to the Oregon Environmental Council which safeguards the health of those in Oregon by working for clean air, clean water, and healthy food. Overall, would I get it again? Probably not in a restaurant, but I wouldn't rule it out totally. Is it a good price point? Absolutely, $25 in a restaurant with retail at $20 is awesome. If you like Pinot Noirs with a little heft to them, but not too much, I think this is a great choice for you! 

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Note: I'd likely give this 2.5 bunches if I wanted to get technical. I wasn't wowed but it's definitely not a full on two bunches either. It was just a little too Oregon-y for my taste.

Tasting Notes: Reference Point Pinot Noir

I can't believe another week has slipped by. I am looking forward to "busy season" ending next week, but in the meantime, I'm trying to take some time to myself to do the things I love like watch a movie with my husband, walk my dog, and drink some wine! Last week was hectic for the both of us, which meant that most of our meals consisted of grabbing something quick. Today, however, we were able to cook a nice meal which just begged for a good glass of wine.

We purchased the Reference Point from a local "fine foods" shop during its grand opening of a second location. They had tastings of lots of different things, from beer cheese to charcuterie to ginger beer to wine. The store had two different distributors there with about 8 or 10 different wines to try. When I tried this particular wine, I am so glad I said I liked it because the distributor was actually the producer of Reference Point! He had a small plot of land in Oregon, but also had a lake house in the area, which is what brought him to North Carolina. I liked the wine and he was friendly, so I bought a bottle.

The Facts

  • Producer: A very small producer. Their bottle indicates Maren LLC.
  • Region: Willamette Valley, OR
  • Vintage: 2014
  • Variety: Pinot Noir
  • Where I purchased: Reid's Fine Foods
  • Price: $24.99
  • Eyes: Not uncommon for Pinot Noirs, this wine was a translucent, garnet color. It was definitely light, but not as light as some of the other Pinots I have seen. 
     
  • Nose: I thought this wine had a great nose. I definitely got a strong raspberry aroma as well as a hint of something earthy and maybe even vanilla.
     
  • Mouth: The flavor profile of this wine was definitely more on the feminine side, with red berry and a cola flavor. However, the vanilla aspect added some depth to the wine that sometimes I think is lacking from light bodied Pinot Noirs. 
     
  • Thoughts: As I thought at Reid's, I really like this Pinot Noir. It has more body than some of the other Willamette Valley Pinots we've had, but it's also toward the lighter end so it pairs well with a lot of food. We served halibut with roasted veggies, and I personally thought it went well with that meal. But then again, I drink red with more than I probably should! Overall conclusion is that I would definitely recommend this wine to anyone who enjoys Pinot Noir. For those in the Charlotte area, stop by Reid's to grab a bottle (or have a glass). If you're not, I worry that you may not be able to find a bottle, but please let me know if you do! 

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Tasting Notes: Coelho Atracao Pinot Noir

It's no longer 2015, but this is the fifth wine from my Total Wine 2015 Challenge. I figured I had until they put out another list.

The Facts

  • Producer: Coelho Winery
  • Region: Willamette Valley, Oregon
  • Vintage: 2012
  • Variety: Pinot Noir
  • Where I purchased: Total Wine
  • Price: $21.99
  • Eyes: This wine is a very bright red or cherry red color. I could see through this wine, which supports the fact that this wine was medium bodied. Based on swirling the wine, it appeared to have lower viscosity, which likely means medium alcohol level. Here is a good, brief article that elaborates on that relationship.
     
  • Nose: This wine smelled like ripe red fruits to me. Fruits that came to mind were cranberry and strawberry. I did not see any hint of oak or spice aromas.
     
  • Mouth: When I tasted this wine, I did not get any tannin and high acidity, which is common for Pinot Noir. It was a more "feminine" Pinot Noir meaning it had more of the red fruit, jammy, and cherry cola flavors.
     
  • Thoughts: To be honest, I was very confused by this wine. To me, it was very jammy with little depth. However, when I looked this wine up on Total Wine's website, it was described as having notes of cedar, spice, and chocolate. Regardless of this disparity, this wine just really didn't do it for me and there are other wines I prefer at that price point (or even less). However, remember, tastes in wine are so subjective! If you love lighter, fruit forward red wines, then give it a go!

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Tasting Notes: Cardwell Hill Cellars Pinot Noir

The Facts

  • Producer: Cardwell Hill Cellars
  • Region: Willamette Valley, Washington State, USA
  • Vintage: 2011
  • Variety: Pinot Noir
  • Where I purchased: Total Wine
  • Price: $30
  • Eyes: Almost a raspberry red color. Darker than the majority of pinot noirs I have seen. Had a beautiful maroon color while pouring into my glass.
     
  • Nose: I had difficulty getting much of a nose on this one. I should probably invest in a pinot noir glass mentioned in my glassware post. Anyway, I smelled red berries first, something akin to strawberries, and then something I deemed "unidentfiable". My nose was familiar with the smell, but I couldn't pin point the word to associate with it. It was earthy, but not musty. Maybe iron? Or wet rocks? That is the closest I came to recognizing it.
     
  • Mouth: Full bodied for a pinot noir. Fruit forward with a hint of sourness.
     
  • Thoughts: I really enjoyed this wine, especially for a pinot noir as I typically shy away from the varietal. I'm glad this blog is forcing me to try new things and to broaden my wine horizons beyond big, bold cabs and red blends. Anyway, I enjoyed it, but not sure if I'd get it again as an everyday wine at its price point, but I will definitely be looking to try more Pinots from the Willamette Valley region.

I compared my notes to what Total Wine had out of curiosity and was surprised to find that I had hit some of the same things they had published, likely from the producer. Their notes were: Raspberry, cherry, cinnamon, green tomato & mineral notes on finish. Other descriptors were: elegant, raspberry, cherry, full-bodied.

Disclaimer: This is the first "tasting notes" I have done both on the blog and personally. I have never kept track of what I drink beyond maybe writing the name of the wine in my Notes on my iPhone and then never referencing it again. I have never had any formal training on how to taste beyond a Wine 101 class at my local Corkbuzz (post on this place to come later) and the tasting section was pretty generic, so needless to say, this will not be even close to perfect. But the trick to getting to perfect? Practice! So that is what I'm doing. 

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