The Wine Idiot Reviews: The Girl Scout Cookie Pairing Edition!
If you, like me, love both wine and Girl Scout cookies, I bet you were super-excited to see "How to pair wine with your favorite Girl Scout cookies" show up in the LA Times, or Thrillist's drool-worthy infographic, or Vivino's 12-pairing taste-test results. I know I was.
I reached out to my friend Natasha Perez (née Norman mah girl got murried!!!) to see if she was likewise excited. She was. "THIS WILL BE SO GREAT FOR THE BLOG!" we crowed, and off I went to Trader Joe's.
I had purchased four boxes of cookies (more just seemed insane)--Thin Mints, Samoas, Rah-Rah Raisins, and Savannah Smiles. I parked myself in the TJ's wine aisle and pulled up the aforementioned articles on my phone and got to pairing.
And instantly realized...the people who wrote these articles are into: 1) very obscure wines, and 2) VERY expensive wines.
First of all, WTF is a Brunello even?!?! I asked the TJ's employee who was unpacking chips across the aisle and he was all, "uhhhh I don't think we have that."
The second thing I realized was that, if I got the recommended wines (if TJ's even had them), I would be spending upwards of $100 on this project.
I made an executive decision. I would purchase four VERY cheap bottles of wine to pair with the cookies. Hopefully I'd be able to find some of the recommended varieties; if not, I was just gonna have to guess.
First up was something to go with the Savannah Smiles. I figured this would be pretty easy--these are lemon cookies, so I wanted something slightly lemon-y. The TJ's employee recommended the Les Portes de Bordeaux Sauvignon Blanc. Done.
Next up--Thin Mints. The LA Times and Vivino recommend a Brunello; Thrillist and Oola suggested a merlot--a much more TJ's-friendly variety. My new wine-aisle friend recommended the Viñas Chilenas Rosario Estate Merlot. Into the cart it went.
The Rah-Rah Raisins were tougher. Malbec, Zinfandel, Bordeaux, and Pinot Noir were all suggested. How was I supposed to pick ONE??? My wine-friend recommended I go for a blend--the Chariot Gypsy Red, a blend of merlot, zinfandel, and Petite Syrah (and apparently some other stuff maybe, they call it a "secret blend of dry red wines," check out my full review here).
And finally, Samoas. Those chocolate-y, caramel-y, coco-nutty rings of bliss. Thrillist suggests sweet whites, but Vivino suggests a Rioja--yep, that's a red. Oola, on the other hand, suggested port--A SWEET RED. C'mon, guys. What the hell. I made another executive decision and grabbed Trader Joe's Petit Reserve Riesling, because I already had two reds and I haven't yet reviewed a Riesling.
- 4 boxes of Girl Scout cookies: $20
- Les Portes de Bordeaux Sauvignon Blanc: $5.99
- Viñas Chilenas Rosario Estate Merlot: $3.49
- Chariot Gypsy Red: $4.99
- Trader Joe's Petit Reserve Riesling: $5.99
Total bill: $40.46
Guess what? Turns out, when you're drinking lots of wine and eating lots of cookies with your friends, the best-laid plans of wine/cookie pairing go right out the window.
We tried, though. First, we cracked open the Viñas Chilenas merlot. Because I wasn't drunk yet, I was able to be discerning and somewhat articulate about this one. Wish that hadn't been the case. Guys--it's god-awful. I mean, this was as bad as that Cherry Blossom Pinot Noir. MISERABLE. NOT WORTH $3.49! Our notes were: "bland, waxy, notes of aluminum and plastic."
We thought maybe pairing it with the cookies would make it better. The merlot was supposed to go with the Thin Mints--this was in fact THE ONLY WINE/COOKIE PAIRING I HAD PLANNED THAT HAD BEEN RECOMMENDED BY A PROFESSIONAL. And? How did that go for us?
It nearly killed us all. It was SO ABOMINABLY BAD we all almost spit the cookies out. Our notes: "EW!!!!" and "tastes like medicine" and "super sour!"
With this depressing start, we decided to toss out the rulebook completely and open the box of Samoas--we had to see if anything could redeem this awful wine. Natasha's husband Carlos asked if he was supposed to dip the cookie in the wine--general consensus was that could only be an improvement.
SHOCKINGLY...this worked! The merlot was suddenly sweeter with the samoa ("it pops more," quoth Natasha), and it did pair well(ish) with the chocolate and coconut. But none of us wanted a second glass.
So we tossed the rest of that bottle and opened the Trader Joe's Petit Reserve Riesling. By this time, this whole project had started to fall apart, so all the notes I wrote down were "sweet, good, apple-y" and "I feel like there's a lemon in this one." I honestly don't know what that last one means--like, it tasted like lemon? Or like someone had left an entire lemon in the bottle? No idea. This wine was ok. I mean, after the merlot I was just grateful it didn't make me wanna vomit, but I don't remember what it tasted like at all. I DO remember thinking I would have to find a different riesling for a proper review at a later date.
I think at this point we were eating all the cookies indiscriminately, and I was taking lots of photos of Natasha's adorable dogs. We did finish that bottle and we still had lots of cookies, but we didn't want the night to end quite yet, so we opened the sauvignon blanc.
Natasha and I both agreed this was actually good wine. Years ago we bonded over our mutual love of pinot grigio, and I have never met a sauvignon blanc I enjoyed, so we were both pretty surprised. It's crisp, light, lemon-y, just a teeny bit grassy, and very very drinkable. In fact, it was SO good (and such a good price) that I bought another bottle to do a "serious" review as I watched the Super Tuesday results come in with my mom.
And, if you still care of the point of this whole project, the sauvignon blanc was EXCELLENT with the Savannah Smiles.
We didn't even open the Chariot Gypsy Red, which turned out to be for the best because I drank it a couple days later and it was great (sorry Natasha and Carlos).
DON'T CONDUCT A GIRL SCOUT COOKIE/WINE PAIRING TEST.
Unless you have an unlimited budget and are willing to eat a TON of cookies, THIS IS THE DUMBEST PROJECT. You need to buy a separate wine for every stupid kind of cookie, you have to open as many bottles of wine as you do cookie boxes, and then if you just do tastings of the wine you'll be trying to cram several cheap bottles of opened wine into your fridge.
I can unequivocally recommend pairing the Les Portes de Bordeaux Sauvignon Blanc with Savannah Smiles, but that's the only thing I feel comfortable saying. And I would also recommend the bottle that didn't make it to this pairing: the Chariot Gypsy Red.
Oh, I also feel comfortable saying DO NOT BUY the Viñas Chilenas Rosario Estate Merlot. Look, Serious Eats (a blog that is MUCH better at this stuff than me) actually liked it: "The crowd-pleasing Viñas Chilenas Merlot was sweeter and smoother, with some sage or even menthol flavors toward the end. This fruity wine would be great with hard, salty cheeses or even a salmon dish." Maybe I just really don't like menthol-flavored wine. But if you have tried any of the other wines I've reviewed and feel like our palates are similar, you will NOT LIKE THIS WINE.
Also, I would hold off on trying the Trader Joe's Petit Reserve Riesling until I can find one I would rather recommend. Again, I could be wrong--Elliot Mercer writing at Vivino likes it: "Smells steely. Tropical- pineapple, orange, lychee. Sweet to start. Off-dry at finish. One of the best Rieslings for this price." But I won't be buying another bottle.