Hello friends. That time has come again. Today we present 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; a dash of 3am Black Friday shopping; add a pinch of salt and a half cup of heavy whipping cream; stir.
Our beautiful American paean to gluttony, Thanksgiving is, indeed, The Greatest Holiday of the Year (at least it is for me). Before I had kids, I would choose wines for the Thanksgiving table the way film-stars choose outfits for the red carpet (hemming and hawing, emotional outbursts, etc.). Nowadays, the process is streamlined somewhat, but still: this has to be one of the most fun pairing exercises of the year.
I tend to have pretty strict rules about Thanksgiving wines. Ignore them at your peril.
1. Low alcohol.
It’s a marathon, not a sprint. You want to be buzzed enough to hear Uncle Bruce’s opinions about the election without losing your mind, 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 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. You won’t see a TPU price above $20 today.
Given all that, here is this year’s six-pack of Thanksgiving wines.
Many of you are familiar with (and in love with) Rubentis, the rosé version of Ameztoi’s Txakolina. We offer that rosé every spring, but this white version is more of a rarity. We did offer the 2013 vintage (as part of another Thanksgiving offer), but the 2014 earned a 92pt review from Josh Raynolds in Vinous, and that vintage disappeared (no review yet for the ’15, thank goodness). Like the Rubentis, this is bottled with some residual CO2, which lends the wine its signature semi-sparkle. At just 10.5% alc, this is almost too easy to put away. The austere alpine fruit, the rippin’ acid, the salty-mineral-oyster-shell finish: all add up to a thrilling, racy way to kick off Thanksgiving day.
I continue to be seduced by the white wines of Northern Italy, which can offer outrageous value. This one comes from San Floriano del Collio (location here), about as far east as you can get in Italy, just adjacent to the border with Slovenia. From a 25-year-old single vineyard, this is done entirely in stainless steel to preserve the fresh Sauvignon Blanc fruit, which expresses itself aromatically in grass-tinged grapefruit, kiwi, and chalk. The plump fruit (on the mid-palate especially) is balanced beautifully by this wine’s natural grapefruity acidity. The overall package drinks like baby Sancerre, and with a lot of Sancerre moving into the $30s, this is a fine value indeed for lovers of Sauvignon Blanc.
Is it an accident that it took as more than seven years in business before offering an Italian Pinot Grigio. Uh, no. Because if you want to slug back a bottle of Santa Margherita PG to ease the pain of a long workday, you probably don’t need Full Pull for that. Well, leave it to the Abbazia to change my mind. This winery has already appeared in two previous GHotY offers: Schiava in 2013, Gruner Veltliner in 2015 (we also offered their Sauvignon last summer). This is one of those wineries that gives folks that where-has-this-wine-been-all-my-life kind of vibe. I know we’ve had at least two list members visit Abbazia since we began offering the wines. The winery sits in a part of the Alto Adige closer to Munich than to Venice. Founded in 1142 as an Abbey for the Augustinian Order of Canons Regular, Abbazia is justifiably famous for a series of piercingly beautiful white wines. This year, the PG was the star, with beautiful honeyed apples and pears, apple blossom floral notes, and plenty of alpine minerality. The texture and weight (13.5% alc) are so pleasing here; there’s a sense of palate presence that belies Italian PG’s dullard reputation. This is closer to Alsacian Pinot Gris than to what many of us would associate with Italian Grigio. If you’re a PG curmudgeon like me, you owe it to yourself to let this wine change your mind.
Most Verdicchio that gets imported to the US is Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi, but there is a second DOC in the Marche for Verdicchio, and that’s Matelica (yes, pronounced like the band). Further inland and at higher altitude, Matelica is just one-tenth the size of Castelli, but the quality is considered better, due to lower permitted yields and better hillside vineyards. What I love especially about this wine are its green notes – fresh herbs and celery leaf – that pair perfectly with a traditional stuffing. They complement a core of intense grapefruit and passionfruit mineral. Vinous (Ian D’Agata): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 91pts.”
Each of our past two Thanksgiving offers has contained Chateau Thivin’s Cote de Brouilly, a fantastic Cru Beaujolais. That one is sold out across Seattle right now, but Thivin’s brilliant, somewhat rare, Beaujolais-Villages rosé is available, and at summer-is-over-we-need-to-move-this-rosé pricing. It is all Gamay Noir, given about 24 hours on skins before direct-pressing. It begins with a nose of strawberry, blood orange, and cucumber. The palate offers a fresh, clean, transparent expression of Gamay. There’s just-right weight (13.5% alc) and old-vine intensity here (this comes from a 1-hectare plot of 50-year-old vines), and a perfect vein of blood-orange acidity to balance the flesh. Rosé is wonderful on the Thanksgiving table, and this is a special rosé.
As you’ve probably noticed, I like to mostly drink white and pink wines on Thanksgiving. But I always make room for a light red or two, and this year that comes in the form of Colene Clemens. This is a winery that has been on my radar for some time. The great wine writer Neal Martin has been effusive in his praise in Wine Advocate, and we were all set to offer this winery’s 2012 Margo Pinot Noir last year until that one landed on Wine Spectator’s Top 100 list and disappeared. I’ve been itching for a chance to offer a Colene Clemens wine, and the timing is perfect here, as they’re offering a year-end discount that takes this wine considerably lower than its $28 release. Wine Spectator (Harvey Steiman): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 91pts.” I love this wine for its fragrant, evocative nose, which marries rose petals to cherry fruit and anise and underbrush. And on the Thanksgiving table, I love it especially for its propulsive energy and robust acid spine. It’s among the stronger $20 Pinots I’ve tasted so far in 2016.
No upper limits on orders, but I will say: the two we may need to allocate are the Ameztoi and the Thivin. For both of those, we bought out the remaining stock in Seattle to support this offer, and that wine should be arriving Tuesday. For the remaining wines, we’re going to place an initial order tomorrow, so those too *should* arrive Tuesday and be available for pickup as early as this upcoming Thursday, or for shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.