The 2020 Guide to Thanksgiving Wine

It’s no surprise that Thanksgiving is one of our favorite holidays. Who doesn’t love a rich and filling meal with tons of wine, surrounded by friends and family. In 2020, however, things are just a little bit different due to COVID-19. With virus cases spiking, many of us are foregoing big family gatherings for smaller, more intimate affairs at home. Even if your state hasn’t limited gatherings, 2020 might just be the perfect year to mix up your usual plans and think creatively.

We have some suggestions for keeping things safe, fun, and of course filled with plenty of wine to keep you satisfied.

What are some ways to keep me safe in this COVID era?

Limiting gathering size is probably most important. In NYS, for example, the directive is to cap gatherings at no more than 10 people. While it might be hard not seeing all of your extended family, consider setting up a Zoom call to chat with your aunts or grandma you might only be able to see once a year. (This is a great guide for recreating some of the usual hijinks that happen on Turkey Day.)

If you live in a warmer climate, hosting outside is a great way to keep things properly ventilated. If that’s impossible due to the colder weather, consider keeping some windows open, turning on overheard fans, or an air purifier to increase circulation while everyone is inside, particularly while masks are off.

Do I have to cook a turkey this year?

Turkey is obviously a Thanksgiving staple but many people, with smaller gatherings in 2020, are wanting to keep things simple, meaning no turkey. The NY Times recommends roast chicken, lamb shanks, and even mushrooms as alternative main dishes. Send out a group text to get a pulse for what everyone wants if you haven’t already ordered a turkey.

How do I know what wine to pick?

The first rule when picking wine is to always pick things you like to drink, first and foremost. If you prefer reds, stick to reds. If whites hit the sweet spot for you, stay that route.

That being said when ordering wine for guests, we recommend picking light or medium bodied versatile wines that can appeal to a broad range of palettes. We love the wacky, experimental wines but maybe Thanksgiving isn’t the time to pull them out, unless you have an adventurous crowd. If you’re dining with the risk averse, they might not end up having anything to drink.

What are some of your suggestions for this year?

Tried and true around Thanksgiving is Beaujolais. For a more discerning crowd, it’s hard not to go wrong with Métras, of which we have some large format bottles. For more budget friendly suggestions, the Michel Guignier Granite is an absolute winner, with lovely cherry notes and impressive minerality.

2020 has provided spades of Nouveau wines from California and the one we’re carrying right now, which tastes like Minute Maid fruit punch (in the best possible way), is from Las Jaras. If you don’t like tannic wines, this is 100% up your alley.

On the white side of things, we’re really excited about the Octavin, Clé À Molette. Don’t worry that you or your guests don’t really know this grape. The wine is lower in ABV and would make an exceptional aperitif (though it also would do well with the meal itself). We also always love Riesling for hearty meals. The acid is the perfect foil for fatty turkey and buttery sides. Our current offerings range from the liter bottle of Brand under $20 to the lovely, pricier offerings from Joh. Jos. Prm.

And, as is our motto, when in doubt pick up a bottle of sparkling wine. It’s truly hard to go wrong with some bubbles during the holiday season.

How much wine do I need to get?

This question is always tricky because it really comes down to the drinking habits of guests. If you know someone isn’t drinking, order less (and think about a thoughtful mocktail for them). But if your guests are into wine, it’s good to consider a bottle per person. Remember that’s it’s always best to have more than you need. You can send people off with wine that hasn’t finished or save it if you haven’t yet binge watched The Crown on Netflix.

What about non-wine drinks?

We love the idea of doing an aperitivo before dinner. The Faccia Brutto, Amaro Alpino adds some cooling eucalyptus and pine notes to the mix. For after dinner, when bellies are full and that tired feeling has settled in, consider some freshly brewed coffee or a little Fernet to aid in digestion. The possibilities are really endless.

No matter where you end up on Thanksgiving or what you might eat and drink, we hope that this year’s holiday is full of food, laughter, and family, even if you’re smiling through a computer screen.

Food Friendly Fall Wines

Though you can’t really tell it’s November outside with these 70 degree days, fall is definitely here, with Thanksgiving just over two weeks away. Though outdoor dining in the city is powering on, with makeshift structures being erected everywhere, there’s something extra comforting and cozy about a home cooked meal or delivery from the folds of your couch. And the added advantage? Being able to pop open a bottle of wine you paid half the price for.

Which means this week’s blog is focused on well priced, versatile wines that will stand up to an array of meals. This quest took us to find a zippy Austrian wine in a signature Coke shaped bottle; to the Niagara region of New York for a one-of-a-kind sparkler made with grapes, pears and honey; and a beguiling four varietal pet nat from Germany that makes unfined and unfiltered a palette pleaser for everyone.

Claus Preisinger, Puszta Blanca! (2019)

Claus Preisinger, Puszta Blanca! (2019)

Claus Preisinger is one of our absolute favorite Austrian winemakers. We’ve long enjoyed his value friendly Puszta Libre! in its signature Coke bottle but his Puszta Blanca! in that same signature shape is equally as charming and clocks in at under $20.

It features 60% Grüner Veltliner, 35% Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc), and 5% Muscat Ottonel. This slightly hazy yellow hued wine has a fresh nose of herbal brine and lime oil. Fresh apples notes provide just a hint of roundness while notes of lemon candy make your mouth pucker for another sip. The finish is quite serene with a return of that just perceptible salty quality, like taking in the sea air on a calm day. 

This is a wine that would pair incredibly well with fatty, fried Austrian classics like schnitzel, though we also imagine the acid could match any fried sandwich equally well.

Liten Buffel, Mother Makes Glucose (2019)

Liten Buffel, Mother Makes Glucose (2019)

On Election Night this past week, we returned to Liten Buffel, a natural winemaker from the Niagara region of upstate New York, to help comfort us through the trials and tribulations of incoming election results. Though they make more conventional wines like Riesling or Pinot Noir that you would expect, they also take risks in exciting, new directions for New York winemakers.

Mother Makes Glucose is a field blend of grapes featuring pears and honey, which is used as a base for secondary bottle fermentation. This honey-based fermentation is the basis of Col Fondo style sparkling wine, which is a common nattier version of Italian Prosecco. It’s hard to describe exactly what it’s like without popping a bottle but think of it like a fruity grape juice Lambrusco with some lonely tannins, tart fizz, and just a hint of sweetness from the added pear and honey.

It’s a no brainer that this would pair well with a tomato pizza or any saucy pasta. Though if you’re looking for something gluten free, it’d be easy to imagine this going well with a medium rare steak.

Andi Weigand, Pet Nat (2019)

Andi Weigand, Pet Nat (2019)

One of the best things about fairs like RAW Wine is that we are able to discover new winemakers. One such winemaker is Andi Weigand, a young German upstart who is now thankfully represented by Jenny & Francois. He hails from Franken, which is typically known for inexpensive table wines we don’t see much of in the US. At under $30, though, he’s proving that he can elevate wines from the wine without breaking the bank.

This wine blends Muller-Thurgau, Scheurebe, Riesling, and Silvaner in what we describe as frizzante, or lightly sparkling. If you’re expecting a ton of bubbles, this isn’t the pet nat for you. Otherwise there’s a wonderful mix of German acidity, green apple fruit, subtle tropical vibes, and a little bit of body to round things out. Just take care when emptying the bottle as there are some larger flakes that settle at the bottom if you pour too aggressively.

This is a perfect roast chicken wine or, as Thanksgiving approaches, a great companion to a turkey and stuffing spread. Though it seems a little funky before you open it, it is actually quite approachable, even for those who might be unfamiliar with less conventional winemaking.

Until next time, happy sipping!

Unconventional Wine Week

As the leaves continue to change, and two days of gloomy skies and windy rain left us stuck inside, we decided to turn to bright and unconventional wine choices to cut through the grey.

We always have a soft spot for the Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary region so it’s no surprise that two of our choices came from Slovakia and Hungary. The first is from Slobodne (who we featured in an earlier post), and used wild hops fermented along with two fun and fresh grapes for truly one-of-a-kind results. The second is from Christina Netzl, a talented female winemaker out of Austria whose skin contact Chardonnay is a deliciously hazy treat. Our third choice took us back to California for a co-ferment that showed the cooler expression of hot climate vineyards.

Slobodne, Hopera (2019)

Slobodne, Hopera (2019)

A Sauvignon Blanc and Grüner Veltliner blend sound pretty traditional right? Yes, nothing out of the ordinary. But what would happen if you added wild hops, an ingredient traditionally used in beer making, into the mix? A wine totally unlike anything we’ve tasted before and are likely to taste on a regular basis.

Hopera, in short, is a treat. The pale yellow color intermixes with a dank and herbal nose that smells like diving into a barrel of hops flowers. As expected, a generous fruit emerges but it quickly evolves into a slightly bitter, herbal quality while mixing with lime zest and dried summer grasses. The finish provides a chalky minerality to help balance out the other flavorful components this wine possesses.

Christina, Chardonnay (2019)

Christina, Chardonnay (2019)

Christina Netzl started winemaking when she was young on her family’s farm. Since then, she’s helped to transform the vineyard operations to certified organic farming. Her Orange uses Chardonnay fermented on skins with a label that features insects on the label to celebrate natural processes in winemaking.

Admittedly, the wine is a bit reductive on the nose at first but if you give it time, there’s a lovely mixture of floral and tea-like qualities to enjoy. On the palette, generous citrus peel gives away to peachy stone fruit that is well balanced with acidity. Though it’s quite full bodied due to skin contact aging, it never feels flabby. It is always carried forward by playful spirit that defines these Austrian vineyard operations.

Florèz Wines, Lovebirds (2019)

Florèz Wines, Lovebirds (2019)

Florèz Wines are one of the hottest upstart winemakers from California. Their limited releases – typically under 100 cases – make their wines a challenge to acquire. But we are excited to be sharing some of their latest releases, even if the one we are featuring is sadly sold out. (We do, however, have some of their other wines still available.)

Co-ferments are always fun in the wine world. And what is more exciting than a blend of Grenache Blanc and Grenache Noir. These grapes typically thrive in the warmer weather plots where they’re grown but this wine shows the finesse of a lighter, cooler climate red. On the nose, we get smells of freshly laundered linens left on a sun-soaked clothesline to dry. On the palette, underripe strawberry and juicy mulberry connect to an ashy minerality and a generous tannic grip to balance the wine’s breezy inclinations, best served chilled.

Until next time, happy sipping! Though we’ve taking a break next week, we look forward to tasting again with you soon.

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