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 clickinghere.
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.
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!
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?
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!
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’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 Facebook, Twitter, Instagram 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!
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.