Hello friends. It’s that time of year again; time for our Greatest Holiday of the Year offer (note: per the request of several of our shipping list members, we’re blasting this out a few weeks earlier than normal, in hopes that these wines can make it into your respective homes in time for said Greatest Holiday):
Oh Thanksgiving: take one part solemn occasion to step back with friends and family and give thanks for all we hold dear, one part excuse to drink heavily in the company of loved ones; add a dash of 3am Black Friday shopping; add a pinch of salt and a half cup of heavy whipping cream; stir.
Our uniquely American paean to gluttony, Thanksgiving is, indeed, The Greatest Holiday of the Year. I spend about as much time choosing wines for the Thanksgiving table as film-stars spend choosing outfits for the red carpet. The hemming and hawing, the emotional outbursts, the prima donna behavior: it’s all there.
But what could be more fun?!
Generally, wines for Thanksgiving should display the following characteristics:
1. Low alcohol.
It’s a marathon, not a sprint. You want to be buzzed enough that Uncle Bruce’s jokes are funny, but you don’t want to be passed out before the cranberry sauce slithers out of the can.
2. High acid.
Have you seen the horrors of the Thanksgiving table? Turkey dark meat next to green bean casserole; corn-bread-sausage stuffing next to sweet potato-marshmallow casserole; Red Hot Jello “Salad” (an optimistic term if ever there was one) next to mashed potatoes. It’s almost enough to make a trained wine professional turn to beer. Or whiskey. But no! Said trained wine professional will then remember that the hallmark of a versatile wine is acidity, and if high versatility is needed on Thanksgiving, then high acid is needed on Thanksgiving, enough acid to cleanse that battered palate right out and prepare it for the next round of culinary abominations.
3. Moderate price.
Thanksgiving is, statistically speaking of course, the most likely day of the year to host someone who will drop an ice cube (or two) into their wine, someone who will mix their wine with Sprite, and/or someone who will mix their red and white to make “moonshine rosé.” This is not the day to bust out the Grand Cru Burgundy; this is the day to seek out values.
Given all that, here is this year’s mix of Thanksgiving wines. Open these on that magical fourth Thursday, and you’ll end up with as much Thanksreceiving as Thanksgiving, amirite?
Many of you are familiar with Rubentis, the rosé version of Ameztoi’s Txakolina. This is its more traditional white-wine cousin, made almost entirely with Hondaribi Zuri. Like the Rubentis, this is bottled with some residual CO2, which lends the wine its signature semi-sparkle. To date, we’ve only sold this through the extras shelf in the warehouse, and I think Pat and Matt and I have ended up buying most of those bottles. 2013 just seems to be an outrageously good year for Txakolina, and our team can’t get enough of this stuff. Racy and nervy, saline and mineral, this is a perfect wine to kick off a long day of drinking.
Of course the geeks from Tanzer’s IWC managed to publish a review of this: International Wine Cellar (Josh Raynolds): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 91pts.”
Remember earlier this year when we did an offer based entirely on wines from Thomas Calder Selections? He’s an export agent (see this Wine Spectator article for a great primer on Calder’s role) who has an uncanny ability to find well-priced, terroir-expressive, low-impact wines that outperform their respective tariffs and always turn up more frequently in restaurants than at retail. No surprise then, that when I went looking for a Muscadet to include in this offer (I have a tendency to guzzle Muscadet on Thanksgiving from the moment the clock strikes noon, and yes, sometimes even a little before), it was a Calder Selection that rose to the top of the heap.
This is Bruno Cormerais’ entry-level Melon de Bourgogne, and it has everything I love about this category: nervy intensity, a sturdy mineral-acid spine (think chalk and lemon), fruit as a bit player, an alluring leesiness, and a resolute drinkability. I know lots of folks are playing with longer aging for Muscadet, or more expensive oak elevage, but for me, this is a category beautiful for its simplicity, its neutrality. It’s a blank canvas that is painted by the colors of your meal, perfect for a day like Thanksgiving.
We’ve offered the 2011 and 2012 vintages of this intriguing Oregon rosé, but both times at $23.99 ($21.99 TPU). Trade folks tend to get a little jittery when summer turns to autumn and they’re still sitting on mountains of rosé, so we get offered a number of good deals on the pink stuff this time of year. In this instance, we took the entire remaining parcel of Jim Prosser’s lovely wine in order to secure the best possible tariff.
Jim starts out with single-vineyard Pinot from the 30+-year-old vines of Temperance Hill Vineyard. He whole-cluster presses it, ferments to dryness with wild yeasts, and tosses it into neutral French barrels. Then it gets weird. He adds dead Chardonnay lees into those barrels, which has two effects: it strips color (making the wine an even paler pink), and it adds an earthy broadness to the mid-palate. According to Jim, these are techniques that were used in fin-de-siècle Champagne. Well, if it’s good enough for dead Champenois, it’s good enough for us! The result is wild: a wine that looks like rosé but acts more like a still Blanc de Noirs Champagne, with leesy bready notes paired with strawberry and peach fruit. It puts supple flesh on a sturdy acid spine and rolls into a mouthwatering, minerally finish.
Domestic Gamay Noir is rare to begin with, and most of it is crap. Too harsh? Maybe it would be kinder to say that most of it lacks varietal typicity. But a tasting of Elemental’s Passe-Tout-Grains (an homage to the Burgundian word for blends of Gamay Noir and Pinot Noir) back in September was a head-turner, and at that moment, I penciled this one in for our Thanksgiving offer. We’ve offered one Elemental wine in the past, their 2009 Auxerrois way back in mid-2011. I think it’s safe to say that this winery (a personal side label for the folks who make Witness Tree wine) focuses on non-mainstream wines.
This one is a 70/30 blend of Gamay Noir and Pinot Noir. The entire production is a mere 49 cases, and only a handful were sent from Oregon up to Washington. This nails Gamay character, with its ethereal mix of bright red fruits and dark minerals and exotic spice. The Pinot fruit adds some good Oregon black cherry flesh to the proceedings, but ultimately this is a mouthwatering vin de soif, clocking in at 12.5% listed alc and humming across the palate like a spark on a live wire.
For what it’s worth, I may well have more bottles of this vintage of this wine in my personal cellar than any other. Cote de Brouilly is one of ten “Cru” sub-regions in Beaujolais, and it’s a tiny Cru encompassing the slopes of Mont Brouilly. More specifically, here is where Thivin is located, on the southwestern slope of the mountain, a slope with a 48% grade (note: here is what 50 year old Gamay Noir vines on a 48% slope look like).
Kermit Lynch, who has been importing Thivin since 1979, describes the wine as “…a country squire who is not afraid to get his boots muddy. Handsome, virile, earthy, and an aristocrat.” Well said. For me, Thivin represents an unparalleled translation of earth into wine, an ethereal mix of volcanic minerals and the brightest red fruits. We offered the 2011 vintage back in 2013, and somehow through a stroke of serious luck, our importer in town has ended up with the (better, and earlier) 2010 vintage, with another 18 months in bottle, and at a lower tariff.
It has been really difficult to hunt down good domestic Pinot Noir at a $15 price point. We’ve had some success with John Albin’s Lorelle Pinot, and otherwise it has mostly been crickets. But man oh man, does Ross’ new bottling cut through the clutter. A pan-Willamette Valley blend aged for a year entirely in French oak (20% new), this clocks in at a nervy 12% listed alc. It presents a swirling mass of blackberry and rhubarb fruit, loamy earth, fresh thyme, and barky birch-beer notes. The mix of briskness and palate weight is spot on here, and the insistent earthiness is unexpected at this price point. A total live wire, this possesses all the versatility we need for the turkey table. Ross has proved he can produce incredible bang-for-the-buck Cabernet with his Glaze label; how thrilling to see him apply the same principles to Oregon Pinot.
Originally offered back in April, and deserving of a reoffer because of what a perfect Thanksgiving wine this is. From a family with deep connections to the PacNW comes this Pinot Noir from Rully, at the gate of the Cote d’Or. Many of the soils are similar to the fancier neighbors to the north, but the pricing is quite different. 2010 was a glorious, crystalline vintage across Burgundy, yielding Pinots ethereal, appetizing, and characterful in turn. That’s certainly true of this little beauty, with its precise, expressive aromatics of black cherry, silty minerals, and star anise. The nose evokes fruit and spice and soil in turn (the influence of new wood – just 10% here – is within a rounding error of zero). The palate contains a core of pure cherry fruit, framed by insistent citrusy acids and earthen/mineral bass notes. A marvel of verve and nervy energy, this rolls into a finish redolent of cherry-pit bitters, eagerly inviting the next sip.
Please limit order requests to 42 bottles total (mix and match as you like), and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wines that aren’t already in the warehouse should arrive in about a week, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.