Thanksgiving Wine: Street Exchange with a Beer Drinker!

23 Nov
I had a funny exchange on a freezing street corner: A co-worker approached me, needing some wine help and at the same time, unwittingly offering me some interesting constructive criticism.
“JvB, you know I’m a beer guy and have no time… or honestly, any interest to read your wine blog. But I can’t go to the liquor store and say ‘gimme a thanksgiving dinner wine’ because I have done that before and they point at a row of stuff that nobody enjoys. I just need enough to sound like I know what I’m looking for, and to choose ONE decent bottle of wine for Thanksgiving. Can ya PLEASE do me a frickin’ favor and give me ONE wine to buy instead of a hundred options?”
I bit my tongue down on my sarcastic reply. His point was immediately taken. This guy actually wanted help, and here I was. I was determined to give him the tools he needed to succeed with both the wine store and his in-laws.
“No problem,” I smiled. “Let’s narrow it down to three possible types,” I suggested. “Consider white, red, or rosé, by who will drink it and what the meal will be.”
“Standard meal, it’s usually turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, gravy, sweet potato casserole, green beans, and pie for dessert. They’ll make a very traditional afternoon turkey dinner that lasts 2-3 hours,” he explains. “My wife, her sister and their parents are the wine drinkers, I’ll have a sip of wine to toast the meal but will move to beer as soon as I can and end up watching football as soon as I can.” His directness and lack of BS is refreshing.
“Sure. And a price range?” I ask. “You want box wine or to impress the in-laws?”
He scoffs. “It can’t look or taste cheap, but don’t break the bank. I’ll probably buy two bottles of it and ideally I’d like to spend below $50, tax included.”
“Ok, got it,” I tell him. “Let me offer you only two suggestions and you can take that to your wine store. For this meal, you want something with plenty of crisp fruit and acidity. If I had to buy only one bottle, I’d look for something that matches the range of the meal, so you’re smart to want one _nice_ bottle, either a good rosé or a pinot noir. Ask your wine store to show you their best value in both pinot noir and good rose’ in the under $25 range.” (He nods, thumbs a few keys on his phone, taking notes.)
“For the pinot noir, I’ll toss you a few names that will all be in the $25 and under range that are big crowd pleasers: Drouhin, Cloudline, Meiomi, Oyster Bay. They represent the premiere regions making Pinot noir today: Burgundy (France) , Willamette Valley (Oregon), California, and Central Otago (New Zealand). They will probably offer you a bunch of medium-fancy bottles in the $20-25 range, which is where you find the higher quality stuff, but there is plenty of great value under $25. If nothing that sounds good comes up in your wine store and you feel lost, ask for Pepperwood Grove from Chile as a last-minute “under-the-radar” stealth wine in the $10-12 range. It’s a solid last resort that still tastes great.” (More typing, his eyes bugged out and he nods while trying to keep up as I dictate.)
For rosé, anything that doesn’t immediately feel impressive is probably not worth your time for this choice. Don’t expect to see anything useful in the under $15 unless the clerk swears it’s amazing. Tell them it has to be 89 points or better and drink like a $40-50 bottle to be worth your time, OK?” (Another quick nod, followed by a quick moment of  eye contact. He’s still typing. The last thing I need is for him to come back and blame me for a poor wine choice. I’m feeling the pressure.)
I saw the opening and seized it. “For an important family meal like this one, you might want to consider one white and one red if your wife or mother-in-law prefers white wines,” I blurted out. “The most common white bordeaux is Mouton-Cadet Bordeaux Blanc, a nice white blend that constantly wins awards and sells dirt cheap from $9-11 per bottle. Toss it in the fridge and have it as a safety bottle,” I suggest. My buddy is furiously typing more notes on his phone. I’d give my left arm to see how he tried to spell these, but that would be a very bad move on my part. “A white bordeaux blend should have good complexity which helps it to pair with the entire meal for those who are more dedicated white wine drinkers.”
“OK, good idea,” he says. “Thanks!” He turns to leave. “Oh, can I text you from the wine store if I’m feeling lost?”
“Sure!” I reply, stifling my inner snark a second time. “Or you could read my blog, print it out and take it with you to shop, you know?”
But he’s already disappeared into the crowd of tourists, theatre-goers and early Christmas shoppers.

à votre santé!


4 Responses to “Thanksgiving Wine: Street Exchange with a Beer Drinker!”

  1. Kat November 21, 2015 at 11:31 am #

    Love it! I would love to know what he ended up choosing and what the responses are at dinner about his choices. Even the beer drinker needs to know about wine at times. I get beer drinkers all the time at the winery and it’s a challenge, but rewarding to see them realize wine isn’t all that bad. They just never bothered to try it before. Kudos to you for biting your tongue. 😉


    • jimvanbergen November 21, 2015 at 6:13 pm #

      Hey Kat! Thanks for your kind words. So I know the answer here, because I learned from my experience. Around New Years, he told me what he chose: He bought the wines I gave him exact names for: Pepperwood Grove Pinot Noir and Mouton Cadet Bordeaux Blanc. He said they “sounded fancy enough without being expensive”, and that both wines got good approval- the Mouton Cadet is evidently one of his mother-in-law’s favorites. When I said “now you can try experimenting with other wines” he gave me a sharp look of “what, are you f’in kidding me?” and said quite bluntly, “thanks, but now I know what to buy.”
      I’ll take the partial win. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. jimvanbergen November 19, 2015 at 4:12 pm #

    Reblogged this on jvb uncorked and commented:

    I’ve had people tell me “This is Thanksgiving for the REST of us!”
    So here you are… Thanksgiving Wine Advice for the Beer Drinkers.


  3. Mark Frink November 27, 2014 at 6:18 pm #

    Having lived in Portland for many years, I’d echo the ‘Willamette Valley’ recommendation. You should taste the ones that never make it out of the state. Next time you’re in Oregon, go to the nearest Fred Meyer and buy all you can get into your suitcase.


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