- 2018 Petiole Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon ($8.99 @Trader Joe’s, California)
- 2019 Riddle Chardonnay, Edna Valley, California ($5.99 @Trader Joe’s, California)
When you ask people for their favorite wine pairing for the traditional Thanksgiving meal, two wines seem to top the list: Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The former almost falls into the no-brainer category, but the latter is a bit more tricky, that is if you are pairing it with the main course. A friend of mine regards Chardonnay as the wine you drink while preparing the feast, and the Pinot Noir the one that gets paired with the main event. But if you plan to pair a Chard with the main meal, or give your guests a choice, this style (a bit more crisp than buttery) would be ideal.
A good rule of thumb when pairing wines with food is: more acidic wines with fatty foods. That is why Italian reds taste so darn good with things like Risotto or Fettucine Alfredo. Thus, these two cool climate wines (cooler climate means lower sugars and more tartness and acidity – perfect for cutting fat and refreshing the palate!) are good choices, especially if you don’t want to “break the bank.” Although if you’re like me and are planning a much smaller gathering this year than in a typical year (and 2020 has been anything BUT) you could justify – and better afford – some really pricey bottles on your holiday table. Some other varietals to consider: Riesling, Gewurtztraminer and Viognier in the whites category. For reds, Sangiovese, Spanish Rioja and, of course, Pinot Noir. Rosé and Champagne would be nice too.
But all that said, you really can’t go wrong with these two, especially if you’re looking to “value engineer” your wine budget:
Tasting Notes:The 2018 Petiole Pinot Noir is garnet red in the glass with aromas of ripe red berries, cherry cola, mild baking spices and herbs. On the palate, the wine is smooth with cherry, anise, and black pepper, and then there’s a kick of acidity mid-palate with soft tannins, and a dry, smooth and long finish. Note that the wine opens up nicely and softens after some time breathing, pull the cork on this 1-2 hours before serving.
Willamette Valley is Oregon’s leading wine region. With nearly 600 wineries, it has two-thirds of the state’s wineries and vineyards. It is recognized as one of the premier Pinot Noir producing areas in the world. Buffered from Pacific storms on the west by the Coast Range, the valley follows the Willamette River north to south for more than a hundred miles from the Columbia River near Portland to just south of Eugene. To the east, the Cascade Range draws the boundary between the Willamette Valley’s misty, cool climate and the drier, more extreme climate of eastern Oregon.
At its widest point, this long, broad valley spans sixty miles. Overall, the climate boasts a long, gentle growing season – warm summers with cool evenings; bursts of Indian summer into fall; mild winters followed by long springs. In ideal years the maritime climate provides the best conditions possible for growing the cool-climate grape variety for which Oregon is best known: Pinot Noir. In lesser years, fall weather can be tricky. By this measure the Willamette Valley compares with the Burgundy and Alsace regions of France. But the often finicky Willamette Valley makes it one of the preeminent regions for Pinot Noir in America.
Now, let’s move south to California’s Edna Valley, and our featured Chardonnay
Several things about this bottling caught my attention when I first spied it at Trader Joe’s. The first was the familiar Riddle label. You may recall that we reviewed the Riddle 2018 Pinot Noir and proclaimed it a crazy good value. Other things that made this wine appealing was the appellation – Edna Valley is known for producing really fine Chardonnay. Plus, this wine is Estate Bottled, another indicator of quality. But I would be lying if I didn’t also say that the $5.99 price tag really piqued my curiosity – could lightning strike twice with the Riddle label. The answer is an emphatic yes!
This is a delicious, highly drinkable example of what the Edna Valley has to offer – light gold in color; layer upon layer of ripe fruit with notes of green apple, Meyer lemon, and pineapple; crisp & balanced acidity; and subtle notes of vanilla and crème brulée that linger on your tongue. Pair this one with a hearty salad, a white-sauced pasta dish, or…a roasted turkey and a plateful of sides!
Like the Willamette Valley, Calfornia’s Edna Valley (on the Central Coast) is a cool climate region known for world class Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Morning fog, moderately sunny days, and cool afternoon breezes produce a long growing season. The cool climate and long growing season are among the key factors that bring out the best in Chardonnay.
And if your weekend finds you shopping at your local TJ’s, keep an eye out for our Lucky 13 list of TJ’s wine. It’s a veritable shopping list!
If you’re headed to Costco soon, you can find our most recent reviews of Costco wines here in our Lucky 13 list of Costco wine finds.