The Wine Idiot Reviews: Thanksgiving Edition!
I love the holidays. Completely unashamed to admit it. LOVE. THE. HOLIDAYS. From the very first jack o'lantern in CVS to the curbside Christmas trees of January 2nd, I love it all. I start listening to Christmas carols 'round about November 15th--because there are SO many good Christmas songs and such a teeny-tiny window in which to listen, it just makes sense to make the most of it.
And if Halloween is the kickoff to the holiday season, Thanksgiving is the first touchdown (see what I did there APROPOS SEASONAL SPORTSBALL ANALOGY I AM KILLING LIFE RIGHT NOW). With so many different flavors flying around the traditional Thanksgiving feast, it can be super-challenging to decide on a wine, either to bring or to serve.
That's where I come in.
What to Bring
Let's get some things sorted straight out of the gate. Have you been invited to a Thanksgiving dinner where you need to look like a grownup who's got his/her shit together, but you're a little too broke to bring an expensive bottle of anything? Bring a bottle of Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs or Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir. I know you can get the Schramsberg (a sparkling white wine) at Trader Joe's, but not entirely sure on the Au Bon Climat (a Pinot Noir that can definitely be purchased at any halfway decent wine store, like K&L Wine Merchants). Both are around $20, were recommended to me by people who know wines, are just DELICIOUS, and are widely available--which indicates they must appeal to a wide audience. And both sparkling wines and Pinot Noir are apparently good solid go-to Thanksgiving wines.
What to Serve
Now, what if you're hosting your own Thanksgiving? Elin McCoy, wine correspondent for BloombergBusiness, says in this great article on Thanksgiving wine that it is silly to splurge on wine for dinner:
"Thanksgiving isn’t the time to pull out a special, fabulous bottle. In the midst of the inevitable multigenerational chaos, it won’t get the attention it deserves. Having plenty of wine on hand is far more important, which is why I budget no more than $25 a bottle. (Save your big bucks for New Year's Eve.) "
So if you're on the cheap-wine-for-TDay bandwagon, I've got a little treat for ya. First of all, I rounded up a list of wines I've reviewed that I think would do nicely at Thanksgiving dinner. In the article above, McCoy suggests you "put out a bunch of highly versatile wines—bubbly, red, white, and rosé—so people can chose for themselves." So here's what I suggest you pick up at your local Trader Joe's:
- Mayhall Tibbs Pinot Noir (couldn't find it at the Trader Joe's in Toluca Lake, but it may still be available at other locations)
- Caretaker Pinot Noir (if you can't find the Mayhall Tibbs, this is a good substitute)
- Ocean View Pinot Noir ($5 more expensive than the Caretaker, but I liked them equally)
- Trader Joe's Platinum Reserve Chardonnay, Oakville (if it's still in stock)
- Pacific Grove Chardonnay (I was on the fence about including this but its caramel-y-ness is a neat feature)
- Valréas Cuvée Prestige Côtes du Rhône Villages Red Table Wine (if you want something bolder than Pinot Noir)
I haven't yet reviewed a rosé from Trader Joe's in part because I've never LOVED a rosé I got from there. But if you're into rosé, McCoy recommends Schramsberg Mirabelle Brut Rosé which I bet can be found at TJ's (definitely at K&L).
The Mock-Thanksgiving Taste Test
Now, here's what makes this a special edition of the Wine Idiot Reviews. In this article from Sunset, two sommeliers provide a whirlwind of suggestions for wines that work on the Thanksgiving table. Two of the wines they suggested are Grüner Veltliner (a dry white) and Zinfandel (a peppy red). Two of my favorite Trader Joe's go-to bottles that I have not yet reviewed JUST HAPPEN TO BE Grüner Veltliner and Zinfandel!!! So guess what I did the other night...
If you guessed I opened two bottles of wine and microwaved a Trader Joe's Turkey Tenders with Mashed Potatoes and Gravy to do a mock-Thanksgiving taste test, YOU WOULD BE CORRECT. Because I'll take one for the team, you guys.
LET'S DO THIS!
Floriana Grüner Veltliner, 2014 ($4.99)
I should start by saying that grüner veltliner is in general one of my favorite wines, and this bottle is probably my VERY FAVORITE bottle of wine at Trader Joe's. It's a crisp, low-alcohol white wine that costs a whopping $4.99. I tasted my first grüner veltliner at a wine bar during the summer when I had gotten bored with pinot grigio, and it has become my go-to summer wine. However, one of the sommeliers in that article I mentioned above calls out grüner veltliner by name as pairing well with Thanksgiving flavors, so I figured it was a great excuse to break it out again!
This Grüner Veltliner is refreshing, and though it's definitely sweeter than more expensive (and higher quality) grüner veltliners, it's not syrupy. I taste pear and starfruit, but it's not tangy/acidic. There's no sourness, just a light, dry, crisp minerality.
And when it comes to pairing it with food, OH MY GOD THAT SOMMELIER WASN'T KIDDING. It goes SO well with Thanksgiving flavors! First of all, I should say...the Trader Joe's Turkey Tenders microwave meal thingy? It's terrible. Don't get it. Ever. It's not worth it. Just get a turkey sandwich from Subway or something. But it did the trick of at least representing Thanksgiving flavors, and this Grüner Veltliner just sings with turkey and potatoes and gravy. I actually also ate a celery root bisque soup (which I made from scratch because I'm basically Betty Crocker) and it was sooooooo delicious with that!
What the bottle says: "Light. Dry. Fresh and lively with appetizing aromas of lemon and apple and just a touch of white pepper. Great with chicken, seafood, and finger food."
What the Wine Idiot says: Yup. Agreed.
ABV: 12%, definitely on the low end.
Who's responsible for this? "Bottled by: Binderer St. Ursula Weinkellerei, Bingen, Germany" (but it is also somehow a Product of Hungary and the wine's origin is listed as Hungary)
Do I need a corkscrew? NOPE! Screw-top, baby.
What do smarter people say about it? Jason from Jason's Wine Blog says: "A slight spritz to start, this one is simple, dry and straight forward showing lemon notes with medium acidity and spiced edges. While it has some, it lacks that white pepper kick I crave in a Gruner."
Should I bring it to a friend's house? If they're into interesting whites, but it probably won't knock any socks off. It's really just great wine for the value. And I seriously cannot emphasize enough that this would be a GREAT WINE FOR THANKSGIVING.
Peachy Canyon Incredible Red Zinfandel, 2013 ($9.99)
This wine was a recommendation from another one of those helpful TJ's wine experts. It's been one of my go-to reds for a couple years--I only stopped buying it because I was getting a little bored. It's delicious--great for sipping on as you're preparing dinner, and even better when paired with red-friendly foods. I think I've paired it with pizza, and also...no yeah, I've probably just had it with pizza.
So I wasn't expecting it to be EARTH-SHATTERINGLY AWFUL when paired with the TJ's Turkey Tenders. But OH MY GOD. It was so horrifically bad that I spit it out and poured the rest of the glass down the sink. There is just something REALLY OFF about how this wine interacts with gravy (even terrible gravy). I mean, whereas the Grüner Veltliner elevated the terrible microwave dinner, this wine made me want to just give up on the entire project. I definitely DO NOT RECOMMEND serving this at Thanksgiving.
That being said, it is usually one of my favorite reds. I honestly don't know what went wrong. I corked it and drank it two days later with my neighbor Marti and we both agreed it was a delightful sippin' wine. So, don't give up on it. But don't get it for Thanksgiving.
What the bottle says: "Made in a traditional style, this zinfandel originates from dense, ripe grapes offering an array of delicious characteristics. A bright and pleasing wine, every glass is packed full of berry flavors and balanced with lightly toasted oak and mild spice aromas. Enjoy pairing this wine with every occasion."
What the Wine Idiot says: Sure. EVERY OCCASION BUT THANKSGIVING. Otherwise, I completely agree with how they're representing this wine--pleasing berries and toasty oak and mildly spicy, you betcha. Right there with ya.
Who's responsible for this? "Produced & Bottled by Peachy Canyon Winery, Paso Robles, CA"
Do I need a corkscrew? Yessir.
What do smarter people say about it? J. Squire reviewed this wine on Amazon, and I thought it was mostly interesting for what he says about Peachy Canyon wines in general: "Peachy Canyon is known for their zinfandels, and Incredible Red is their widely-known, lowest price, crowd-pleasing mass market opener for anyone new to the vineyard. It's a great place to start in a tasting and pairs well with most fall-inspired menus. Start with Incredible Red and work your way up to Para Siempre, their delicious Bordeaux varietal. Or, if you are feeling inspired, visit the vineyard in Paso Robles. I promise it will be the most affordable of all the tasting rooms you visit." We all know I loves me some Paso Robles wine, so this will be on my to-do list next visit.
Should I bring it to my friend's house? Yes, definitely, it's a real crowd-pleaser. FOR ANY OCCASION BUT THANKSGIVING.
I hope you guys enjoyed this special edition of the Wine Idiot Reviews! I'm gonna go take a nap now, because Thanksgiving.