Last-minute wines for the Thanksgiving win


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Between handling airport pick-ups and stocking up on essentials from cranberry sauce to ingredients for your great aunt’s famous stuffing, it’s tough to find time for wine. That’s why we’ve put together a list of last-minute favorites that will pair beautifully with your Thanksgiving dinner and impress even the most discerning in-law.


Photo credit: Dr. Heidemanns-Bergweiler

The Mosel is home to some of Germany’s very best Rieslings, and Dr. Heidemanns-Bergweiler Riesling QbA is no exception. Riesling and Thanksgiving are well-matched, since the wine’s lightness, acidity and fruitiness make it a perfect companion to sweet dishes like candied yams as well as rich sides like stuffing. Boasting an 88-point rating from Wine Spectator, Dr. Heidemanns-Bergweiler Riesling QbA offers great flavors of peach and ripe apple. Hints of cream and honey give this wine a delightful finish that will pair perfectly with your first, second and third helpings of turkey.

There are many reasons to love Pinot Noir. But one of its signature strengths plays a critical role during the holidays: It’s hard to find a food it doesn’t complement. This year, we’re toasting with Pinot Noir that hails from one of America’s hottest wine-making regions, Willamette Valley, Oregon. Kudos Pinot Noir Yamhill-Carlton District, Willamette Valley, is a perfect wine to give thanks with on name alone. It also happens to be a wonderfully flavorful wine with notes of black cherry and raspberry accented by aromas of white pepper, spice and rose.


And last, but certainly not least: Muirwood Chardonnay Reserve Zanetta Cuvee, a wine that often makes our recommendation list, given its incredible value and delightfully expressive qualities. Produced from two vineyards in California’s famed Monterey County, it possesses flavors of pear and peach with a finish of vanilla and spice that lingers on the palate. The ripe fruit flavors of the wine counterbalance the richness of many Thanksgiving dishes, as well as the savory, earthy flavors of turkey.

Between last-minute grocery store trips and wondering again why you decided to host Thanksgiving, stop by Total Wine & More, and we’ll be ready with the most essential ingredient when it comes to celebrating the holidays.

You can also shop our Thanksgiving selections online by clicking here.

“Let The Wine Speak For Itself” and Other Amazing Wine-isms from Bloom Vineyards Winemaker Julie Brown


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Julie_SmallImage credit: Bloom Vineyards

Editor’s note: We sat down with the Julie Brown, the winemaker for Bloom Vineyards in Seattle, WA. If you’ve never tried a Bloom Vineyard wine, they’re great – and we found the winemaker to be pretty impressive herself! Read on:

What inspired you to join the wine industry?

You know, that’s a really funny question. I grew up in Los Angeles and if you had asked me what I was going to do, I would have said mechanical engineering. That was my plan until it was time to actually go to college.  I went into business management, deciding I wanted to be the CEO of some business; didn’t know and didn’t care what kind. Then I moved to Washington and knew NOTHING about the wine industry. I was offered a job as a wine club manager which, after I figured out what it was, made sense with my business management background. So I said “why not?” That harvest, the winery threw me into the cellar to help out and I decided there was no way I was ever going to leave. Not only did it touch on the paperwork tracking/business side of my brain that I liked, but also the creative art side of my brain that I LOVE! Good news: as it turned out, I wasn’t half bad at it. The rest is history.

Having worked in so many different wine regions of the world, do you have a favorite?

I actually don’t. Every varietal grows so differently in every region that I have favorite regions for particular varietals and wine styles, but that is about it. Living in Washington, the Columbia Valley will always hold a major place in my heart but it still isn’t a blanket favorite.

What is your favorite variety to make? To drink?

bloomblendImage credit: Bloom Vineyards

I love to make blends. I look at it like painting. You get all these fantastic colors that on their own are gorgeous but then you get to see how they fit together and express your style. You end up making an art piece that is so different from everything you started with. Because of that, I love to try other winemakers’ blends. Through blends, you get an inside look at their true styles when they aren’t limited to a varietal or wine region style. However, if I’m sitting down for a glass of wine, it depends on what I’m doing or eating. Inside in the winter, curled up reading a book, I love a nice bold Cabernet. Outside on the patio, I’m grabbing that Pinot Grigio without hesitation. BBQ-ing, I’m leaning more toward a Chardonnay or a lighter Red Blend (I normally BBQ pork).

When you’re not making wine, what do you like to spend your time doing?

Anything and everything. I tend to have TONS of hobbies—some I’m good at, most I’m not—but I figure if you can’t laugh at yourself every once in a while, you’re not living right. I try to go on adventures with my friends like trying to find Mt. Rainier (unsuccessfully…it’s a long story), or hanging out at a local bar with my friends.

How do you “Bloom”?

I “Bloom” by painting and drawing. It was my first passion in life and something I will always do! In high school and college I took every studio art class I could take. My favorite past time is sitting on the deck (at my grandma’s house because I don’t have her view), looking over the river with a glass of wine in one hand and charcoal pencil in the other, headphones in my ears, and listening to music loud enough so that nothing else in the world existed but me, the wine, the pad of paper, and Mother Earth ahead of me!

What is your general wine-making philosophy?

grapesbloomImage credit: Bloom Vineyards

Let the wine speak for itself. If you start with great grapes, you end with great wines, and I like to let the wine tell me what it wants. During fermentation, if you taste the wine every day it will tell you what to do. After fermentation, don’t fuss with it so much. Take a step back and let it happen. I’m a big believer in tasting your wines to figure out what they want, not relying on numbers like pH or sugar levels so much. That being said, you do have to look at some numbers, just don’t put everything in them. I like to think about it like this: when you make lemonade from scratch at home I’m sure you have a basic recipe with so much sugar, so much lemon juice, and so much water, right? But when you add all that in, do you just assume it is perfect and serve it or do you taste it? It’s the same idea: taste it and see what it needs.

What are some of your favorite “wine moments” when you either discovered the magic of wine or gained a new level of appreciation for it?

My first harvest I remember walking through the vineyards with the winemaker, absorbing everything I could possibly learn from him and tasting everything. I did not know ANYTHING about what I was looking for but I tried my best to remember and hold onto that information all throughout harvest. The next year, walking through the vineyards again and tasting things, all of a sudden I knew what he was talking about I could taste the differences in the grapes. I could taste and understand what most likely would stay and what would go away as the wine developed. I thought that was the most amazing thing ever! Every year as I walk through the vineyards tasting, I pick up more and it’s the most beautiful thing.

What would people be surprised to know about you?

I moved straight from Los Angeles to Prosser, Washington. And no, not for a guy. I did it all on my own accord.

Which is your favorite Bloom wine from the current vintage and why?

bloomsImage credit: Bloom Vineyards

Outside with my friends and/or family on a gorgeous summer day, nothing beats a chilled glass of Bloom Pinot Grigio! Between the acid, fruit and clean crispness of the wine, you can’t go wrong. It goes with just about any food (especially a nice cheese plate) and is so easy to drink. Cheers!

What did the Pilgrims drink?


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Basket of fruits and vegetables

Only two contemporary accounts of the first Thanksgiving dinner in 1621 are known to exist. They describe the wild turkey bagged by the Pilgrims and the venison brought by members of the Wampanoag tribe. But neither answers the critical question: What did the Pilgrims drink?

There was no California Pinot Noir for the first revelers – there wasn’t even a California. Yet despite their Puritanical inclinations, the Pilgrims certainly would have been interested in having alcoholic beverages on hand. In the early 17th century, potable water was hard to come by. Beer, cider and spirits, with alcohol levels that kept bacteria at bay, were safe choices.

Pilgrims packing for the journey on the Mayflower, which would last 66 days, had been urged to bring provisions including beer, cider and “aqua-vitae,” or distilled spirits. It’s hard to imagine those kegs and bottles weren’t drained by the long trip, the grueling winter and the busy spring and summer setting up the Plymouth Colony.

Pumpkin Patch Mini-Pumpkins

So historians assume the Pilgrims got to work brewing fresh beer. Early crops of barley, a critical ingredient in the standard recipe, did not thrive. But the settlers “were a resourceful lot and would have found ways to make fermented drinks from whatever they had available from the land,” notes Rob Hill, a Certified Cicerone™ and author of the Total Wine & More “Guide to Beer.” Happily, native pumpkin – perhaps known to the settlers as pompion – was available in abundance. Pumpkins are filled with fermentable sugars, so for Pilgrims pumpkin was not a flavoring (as it is in most modern pumpkin ales) but a substitute for malts in the brewing process.

Also growing wild around the Cape Cod settlement: apples. Cider had been a popular drink in Europe for centuries by the time the Pilgrims pushed off for North America, so they knew just what to do with the crab apples they found. Apples could be pressed into fresh juice, which could be made into hard cider. (Later, they found a way to further distill cider into the spirit applejack.)

Close up of apples in wood crate in apple orchard

It turns out the Pilgrims were quite the trendsetters – their table included beers and ciders that, almost 400 years later, are modern seasonal favorites. A pumpkin beer has the perfect autumn flavors to complement Thanksgiving dinner. And the refreshing effervescence and acidity of dry hard cider means it’s still a great choice to accompany a rich Thanksgiving meal.

The pilgrims didn’t have cranberry sauce (sugar was a scarce commodity) and they didn’t have pie (wheat flour, for crust, would come later), but it’s likely they enjoyed beer and cider at their first Thanksgiving. Visit Total Wine & More to find pumpkin beers and ciders that’ll add a bit of history to your 2015 feast.

Here’s to a very happy Friendsgiving


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View from above friends toasting wine glasses

The good news: Thanksgiving now comes twice a year. The bad news: Your favorite pants only have so much elasticity. Although the main event may still be 12 days away, this Thursday you can mark a new tradition—Friendsgiving. This faux holiday is an occasion for close friends to get together and mark the start of the holiday season before departing for their respective family homes. Like Thanksgiving, it involves two of Total Wine & More’s very favorite things—food and drink. To get you into the Friendsgiving sprit, we share some go-to punch recipes that are perfect for parties of all sizes.

It doesn’t get more seasonal than cider. Thanks to its sweet and refreshing apple flavor, cider is a nice complement to just about anything your friends cook up. Chilled Cider Punch, courtesy of Saveur, is a great idea for pre-dinner drinks and like the very best recipes, it’s easy to make.


Photo credit: Saveur Magazine

Chilled Cider Punch (Serves 15-20)

  • 8 cups apple cider
  • 1 750-ml bottle dry hard cider
  • 3 12-oz. bottles ginger beer
  • 1½ cups Irish whiskey
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Several dashes orange bitters
  • Sliced oranges, for garnish
  • Cinnamon sticks, for garnish

Combine the ciders, ginger beer, whiskey, lemon juice and bitters in a punch bowl. Stir. Top with orange slices and cinnamon sticks. Serve over ice and enjoy!

Gin may be a polarizing spirit, but could you think of a better time to enjoy a spirit that’s known for its “piney” profile than the start of the holiday season? Food & Wine’s Mother’s Ruin, which is aptly titled given the obstacles matriarchs face this month – from cooking a 20-pound turkey to keeping the familial peace – will convert even gin’s biggest critics.


Photo credit: Food and Wine

Mother’s Ruin Punch (Serves 8)

  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup chilled club soda
  • 1½ cups gin
  • 1½ cups fresh grapefruit juice
  • ¾ cup fresh lemon juice
  • ¾ cup sweet vermouth
  • 2¼  cups chilled Champagne or sparkling wine
  • 3 sliced grapefruit wheels, for garnish

Add sugar and club soda to a large pitcher and stir until sugar is dissolved. Stir in gin, grapefruit and lemon juices and sweet vermouth and refrigerate until chilled, approximately 1 hour.

Pour punch into a large bowl. Slowly stir in Champagne and add grapefruit wheels on top of the punch. Toast to your mother’s formidable spirit and enjoy.

When it comes to food and drink, there are few as passionate as author, TV host and foodie extraordinaire Alton Brown. That’s why we follow his lead when it comes to whipping up one of our favorite winter drinks, the beloved Hot Toddy.

Hot Toddy (Serves 13)

  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • ½ cup natural brown sugar
  • 4 cups water
  • 2½ cups Scotch whisky
  • Nutmeg, freshly grated

Combine the lemon, sugar and water in a 2- to 3-quart slow cooker set on high. Cover and heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves completely, for 20 to 30 minutes.

Stir in the Scotch. Set the slow cooker to low, serve with lemon slice and nutmeg and return for seconds.

While we may be fresh out of nutmeg, Total Wine & More has all the spirits and mixers you need to help make these recipes a reality – and make you a Friendsgiving legend. Stop by our stores to stock up for our favorite new holiday or shop online.

We’re Open in Maple Grove, Minnesota!


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We’ve got some exciting news for our Minnesota fans, but we need you to control yourselves. We’re opening a brand new Total Wine & More in Maple Grove at the Arbor Lakes shopping center today.


Okay, you can get a little excited about it.

Break out the fine wine glasses, grab your bottle openers! This will be our fifth store in the greater Minneapolis area, and we want you to help celebrate our Grand Opening. The fun starts at 4 p.m. on Thursday November 5, so plan on stopping by for tastings and events featuring wines, spirits and beers including Caymus Vineyards, The Calling, Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery, Boulevard Brewing, Svedka Vodka and Jameson Irish Whiskey. Head to our website for a full list of events at our new store.

During our Grand Opening weekend, you can shop and support a local cause in the community at the same time. Join us November 5-7 to help support the Hennepin Health Foundation. Total Wine & More will donate a portion of our Grand Opening sales during this time to the foundation.


Grab a cart and stock up from November 5-7 to help support the Hennepin Health Foundation.

Bring your friends, family and coworkers — and don’t forget to make everyone who misses out jealous by posting your fun Grand Opening experiences (#totalwineGO).

We’ll be posting the latest updates to our FacebookTwitterInstagram and other social media channels, so connect with us to stay totally up-to-date. We can’t wait to see you at our new store!

Hard Cider’s Second Act


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Hard Apple Cider Ale

Over the past few years, hard cider—a colonial favorite and beverage of choice for our Founding Fathers—has skyrocketed in popularity. In 2014, hard cider sales reached 54 million gallons, making it the country’s fastest-growing alcoholic beverage. At Total Wine & More, we’ve been known to toast with a hard cider or two, and you’ll find our shelves are stocked with some of the world’s best ciders.

Woodchuck may be a “macro-cider” by industry standards, but that doesn’t make its Amber Draft Cider any less delicious. Slightly sweet, it’s fermented with champagne yeast, which helps maintain the big red-apple flavors. If you’re looking to really get into the spirit of the season, try Woodchuck’s Fall Harvest, which boasts flavors of nutmeg, cinnamon and a hint of American white oak.

In addition to the traditional apple ciders, we carry a variety of flavors from pear and raspberry to pineapple and apricot. The offerings from California’s Ace Ciders are sure to satisfy anyone’s taste buds. Ace Perry Cider, which has won numerous accolades, sets the standard in the pear category. Ace Pumpkin Cider and Ace Pineapple Cider have likewise attracted their fair share of attention, the former offering a taste akin to pumpkin pie.


Across the pond, Europe has been producing hard cider for centuries, with Britain’s cider history stretching as far back as a thousand years. With so much time to perfect their craft, it’s no surprise that English cider producers are doing a remarkable job. From Crispin to Samuel Smith, you’ll discover great ciders that balance the dry and the sweet.

Even if you live somewhere that may not provide the chance to wear many cozy sweaters, you can still get into the spirit of the season stopping by Total Wine & More’s local stores to stock up on some delicious hard cider.

Bordeaux 2014: An Overall Assessment


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Image courtesy Laure Marie Ducloy

Image courtesy Laure Marie Ducloy

By Panos Kakaviatos for Total Wine

We asked our friend Panos Kakaviatos of Wine Chronicles to recount his days this year at en primeurs week (or “wine futures” week) to help bring our readers to latest information on the 2014 vintage from Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Rhône Valley and Port. This is the final segment, in which he offers an overall assessment of the 2014 Bordeaux vintage.

The final numbers proved to meet expectations of UGCB president Olivier Bernard, who reported some 20,000 participants coming to taste 2014 barrel samples: the highest number of participants since the 2009 barrel tastings in 2010, he said.

Customers certainly have dollar signs in mind.

Bernard, who is also owner of Domaine de Chevalier, reiterated a call to chateaux to release wines at a “sensible price” for Eurozone countries, which should allow a favorable exchange rate to provide a discount for buyers elsewhere (including us in the United States).

“If Europe is a buyer, then the U.S., U.K., China and Japan will purchase 2014 futures,” Bernard said. Well, we shall see.

As for the quality of the vintage, it was good to read positive feedback from fellow wine writers across the globe.

Take veteran Danish taster Izak Litwar. He remarked that “not a single bad wine” was to be found in the Left Bank, with especially strong performances in Pessac-Léognan, Pauillac and Saint Estephe. Like others tasters, he appreciated the tonic aspect of the whites – both sweet and dry – given the high acidity of the vintage. And although the Right Bank was not as homogenous in quality, “some stunning wines have been made there.”

It is always reassuring to find fellow writers who agree with you, too. For example, the great Bordeaux-based author and critic Jane Anson agrees with me that two of the very best barrel samples were Vieux Château Certan in Pomerol and Montrose in Saint Estephe. And we both were impressed with Langoa Barton, in one of its best from barrel performances ever.

Blind tasting Rauzan Gassies 2

At a blind tasting of Margaux wines, almost everyone in the room – from over 10 different countries – marveled at the strong performance of Château Labegorce.

For veteran Swiss wine writer Yves Beck, 2014 comes off as a “very good year” with some “great wines”.

According to Paul Pontallier of the famous Château Margaux, “It is not quite as good as 2010, 2009 or 2005, but it is the best of the very good recent vintages.” Many observers agree with that notion.

Perhaps Niko Dukan of Croatia put it best: “Bordeaux certainly needed 2014, especially after the extremely difficult vintages before.”

As a lover of wines with vivacity and freshness, I particularly recommend the vintage and my message to Total Wine buyers is you can seek out 2014 with confidence. The team at Total Wine will work hard to get you a very broad selection, so you will be able to find whatever style (and price point) you want.

Check out my full notes at If you have any further questions you can send me a tweet or write me at

Celebrate Fall With Our Favorites


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The official start of fall heralds much more than the arrival of everything pumpkin spice. The change of seasons brings with it specialty beers and ciders that we look forward to every year.

A true celebration of Germanic brewing tradition, this year’s Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest is a collaboration between the California-based brewery and Brauhaus Riegele of Augsburg, one of Germany’s oldest family-owned breweries. The beer, which boasts a deep golden hue, gets its rich and complex malt flavor from the use of traditional German Steffi barley.


However, fall truly begins with the release of Shiner Oktoberfest. A craft brew favorite that’s received national acclaim, Shiner Oktoberfest won a Gold medal at the renowned Great American Beer Festival—and for good reason. Upon pouring, you’re greeted with aromas of sweet malt with hints of burnt sugar and earthy hops in the background. The beer offers a clean finish and nice balance with sweet roasted malt flavors countering touches of hop bitterness.

At Total Wine & More, you’ll find many other Oktoberfest standouts from Samuel Adams to Harpoon, as well as other specialty styles that come but once a year. Southern Tier Pumpking Ale’s 90-point rating from Beer Advocate is well deserved. Big flavors of pumpkin pie, nutmeg and cinnamon are bolstered by the rich and creamy nature of the beer. It’s truly autumn in a bottle. Other illustrious members of our Pumpkin Ale selection include Dogfish Head Punkin Ale, Shipyard Pumpkinhead Ale and Blue Moon Harvest Pumpkin Ale.

Naturally, no discussion of our fall favorites is complete without mentioning cider, which has experienced a meteoric rise in popularity over the past several years. We offer a variety of fruit ciders from apple and pear to pineapple, apricot and yes, pumpkin. In addition to popular favorites like Angry Orchard and Woodchuck, we have many other great domestic ciders from Ace, Austin Eastciders and Hornsby’s, as well as a fantastic international selection.

So give fall a proper welcome by stopping by any of our locations to stock up on the season’s very best offerings.

We’re Opening in Brookhaven, Georgia!


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Hello Brookhaven! We hope you have your glasses ready, because we’re opening a new store in your town with 8,000 wines and 2,500 beers to fill them. We’ll also have plenty of cigars, gifts and accessories to browse.


Yes, that’s the correct reaction.

Our new store is in Brookhaven Plaza, and the doors will open at 9 a.m. October 29.  Stop by later that day at 4 p.m. and join us for our Grand Opening extravaganza! We’ll have tastings, events and more including wines and beers such as Dr. Heidemanns-Bergweiller, The Calling, Chateau Ste. Michelle, Red Brick and Second Self. You can find all the details on upcoming tastings, classes and other events at the events page on

We’re extremely excited to open our fourth store in Georgia, and even more so to be opening in the growing Brookhaven community. So we decided to celebrate and do some good for the neighborhood during our Grand Opening. Stop by and shop at our new store October 29 through November 1 and you’ll be helping to support the Woodruff Arts Center, the largest arts educator in Georgia. We’ll donate a portion of our Grand Opening sales during this time to the art center.


Bring your friends, family and coworkers — and don’t forget to make everyone who misses out jealous by posting your fun Grand Opening experiences (#totalwineGO).

We’ll be posting the latest updates to our FacebookTwitterInstagram and other social media channels, so follow us there to stay totally up-to-date. We’re looking forward to seeing you at our new store!

Trick-or-Treat at Total Wine & More


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Halloween may still be a week and a half away, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get a head start on trick-or-treating. We’ve selected some of our favorite beers and wines that will satisfy all types of candy cravings. After all, there’s nothing more terrifying than an empty bar.

1. Lindemans Framboise

lambic framboise

The hopivores at DRAFT Magazine gave this Lambic a 91-point rating, so it comes with credentials, which also include a gold medal at the 2013 U.S. Open Beer Championship. With a refreshing raspberry flavor and perfect balance of sweetness and acidity, this Lambic is truly candy for beer lovers.

2. Young’s Double Chocolate Stout


Young’s award-winning Double Chocolate Stout is for those whose Halloweens often end with piles of candy bar wrappers. A combination of chocolate malt and real dark chocolate means this beer lives up to its name. Upon opening, you’ll be met with aromas of dark chocolate, mocha, caramel and vanilla, which are followed by delicious flavors of roasted malt and chocolate.

3. Cherry Kijafa


This Danish apéritif is rich and smooth, boasting a lovely tart cherry flavor that puts those trademark cherry lollipops to shame. If you’re looking to enjoy a pre-Halloween treat, add this cherry wine to club soda and serve over ice for a frightfully refreshing cocktail.

4. Red Decadence Chocolate Wine

As the name suggests, this wine is truly decadent with flavors of black cherry, blueberry, plum and, of course, dark chocolate. A flawlessly balanced sweet wine, we couldn’t think of better company when catching up on our favorite horror movies.

5. White Ghost Cocktail

Sometimes, there’s nowhere to rum. George Ocean Coconut Rum, one of our new favorite spirits, takes center stage in our White Ghost cocktail, which will satisfy even the most discerning poltergeists. With the inclusion of banana and orange liqueur, the drink’s flavors are reminiscent of the taffy candies we’ve come to know and love.


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