Hello friends. It’s that time of year again; time for our Greatest Holiday of the Year offer.
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.
I’ve threatened on many an occasion to do a themed Thanksgiving for the wines (like, all sparkling!; or all Loire!; or all magnums!) but I always end up going back to a glorious mishmash. That said, 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, 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?
Sauvignon Blanc sees some of its highest expressions in the Loire Valley. Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé have rightly put this region on the map for SB. This particular Sauv Blanc, however, gets the more generic Val de Loire label, which brings the pricing way down and also means some extra research is required to figure out where it comes from. Bernier is actually growing Sauvignon Blanc in… drum roll… the Muscadet de Sevre et Maine appellation (wines that use that appellation on the label have to be made from the Melon de Bourgogne grape), on very rocky soil (predominantly black and white mica). The result is a clean, crisp wine that over-delivers its price point and presents a wonderful opportunity to kick off Thanksgiving consumption. It captures the Sauv Blanc trinity – grapefruit, grass, and mineral – and offers a bone-dry, rippin’-acid palate. Juicy and mouthwatering (12% listed alc), it is a pure, honest Loire SB.
The Savoie, on the alpine French border with Switzerland, produces stunning whites that – until recently – rarely hit these shores. Most never left the region, because their textural mix of bright acid and creamy texture make them perfect pairings with the ooey-gooey fondues and raclettes of this part of the world (I know: commence drooling). This is 100% Jacquere (one of the indigenous varieties of the region) from a Cru area of the Savoie called Montmelian, along the boomerang-shaped hillside between Grenoble and Albertville that make up the best part of the Savoie (called la combe de savoie). Done entirely in stainless steel, this clocks in at a brisk 11.5% listed alc and offers an alpine mix of fruit (pineapple, nectarine) and a big chalky mineral kick. Despite the low alc, this offers an appealing creaminess of texture, and finishes with a salty citric lick that invites the next sip.
Continuing our Tour d’Alpes, Novacella is also in serious alpine country. This part of the Alto Adige in Italy is closer to Munich than to Venice. Abbazia has been around since 1142, an Abbey founded by the Augustinian Order of Canons Regular, and they’re justifiably famous for a series of piercingly beautiful white wines. This year, the Gruner stole the show for me, and it is a wonderful Thanksgiving option because if its unique savory character. This one opens with a nose of sweet pea and green lentil, fresh hay and peach fruit. The richest of the three whites (13.8% listed alc), it is an intense, delicious bringer of pleasure. The weight almost evokes Chardonnay, but the flavor profile couldn’t be more different. I love how this one plays with a traditional bread stuffing; it’s like plugging in a lightbulb behind all the fresh herbs and celery and carrot.
I generally view Thanksgiving as the end of the line for the previous year’s rosés. And yeah, I know, I know, some rosés can age, but for me, once we get past Thanksgiving, I’d probably rather just wait until next year’s crop starts appearing in March. Turkey day really does present a lovely opportunity for one last bit of pink-drinking. A good rosé like this one is versatile for food-pairing, but also works beautifully as a festive cocktail to kick off the day. Saint Roch is a classic Provencal rosé: 50% Grenache, 50% Cinsault. This is a liquefied memory of summer, from the inscrutable sun-face on the label to the juice inside, which mixes strawberry and melon, rosewater and mineral, all on a brightly acidic frame. There’s richness to the fruit (13% listed alc), and it is perfectly balanced by the juicy, mouthwatering acid.
By all rights this deserves its own offer, but the remaining schedule for 2015 looks tight. I didn’t want this one to slip into 2016, and then it hit me: this is the perfect Pinot Noir for the Thanksgiving table. Black cherry fruit, leafy forest-floor complexities, silty minerals, all on a charming, richly-textured frame. Glorious. And it sounds like this is another result of the high-yield/high-quality 2014 vintage in Oregon, and the “grand cascade effect” we first discussed in our recent Walter Scott offer.
Renegade is Trey Busch’s negociant label, and it has become well-loved by our list members. Trey has his finger placed squarely on the pulse of northwest winemaking, and if there’s an interesting juice-buying opportunity, chances are he knows about it. We’ve offered rosés and Grenaches, Cabernet Francs and Malbecs, red wines and Mourvedres and Chardonnays, under the Renegade label. But never Pinot (I think because Trey has never bottled one until now). Here’s what Trey has to say about this Pinot: [TEXT WITHHELD]
Thivin’s Cote de Brouilly is a glorious wine, one of my favorites in this big diverse wine world. It’s a mood-lifter wine for me, one that I open at the end of a lousy day because it’s way harder to be grouchy after a glass of this than before. 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 mountain berry fruits.
First come first served on all of these with no upper limits. All the wines should arrive within the next week or two, at which point they will be available for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.