- 2020 Ocean View Pinot Noir, San Luis Obispo County, California ($14.99 @Trader Joe’s, California)
- 2019 Opolo Summit Creak Vineyard Zinfandel, Paso Robles, California ($12.99 @Costco, California)
We say “finally” in our subject line not to imply that we have been keeping you waiting for our red wine picks for the Thanksgiving holiday, although we kinda did. But that is only because these two red wines were preceded by our white wine picks last week, and our dessert wine pick the week prior. Coincidentally, these two reds – one from Trader Joe’s and one from Costco – are grown just 30 minutes from each other on the Central Coast of California. Many American wine drinkers are largely unfamiliar with the Central Coast (which is our “backyard” here in SoCal) which is too bad. The variety and quality is remarkable.
Thanksgiving is a notoriously difficult holiday to pair wines with. That’s because what is traditional in my house, may not be traditional in yours. And in both cases, it is likely that it features such a varied menu that no one wine will magically pair with everything. But we will do our best here.
My wife makes an extraordinary gravy from the turkey drippings. I apply it liberally to the potatoes, stuffing, squash and – of course – the turkey itself. So in that case, you want to go with a lighter wine with some bright acidity to complement the fattiness of all that. That is why Pinot Noir is such a good choice. (Although some would regard it as unpatriotic, so too would Italian red varieties or a red Burgundy from France, which is, after all, Pinot Noir.) But if your menu features turkey with less emphasis on the buttery fatty flavors favored in mine, Pinot might not be an ideal match. But a Zinfandel might be just the ticket. Its fruity flavors would pair nicely with the roasted meat flavors.
Pale ruby color in the glass. A bit tight, consider opening 30-60 minutes before serving as this softens things out. Aromas of red cherry, strawberry, raspberry, vanilla, clove, red licorice, tobacco, and other baking spice. Boozy nose, suggesting alcohol higher than its actual 14.3%. Dry, with medium acid, body and tannins.
The grapes for this second featured red wine from Opolo are sourced from nine vineyards in Paso Robles, an appellation justly famous for producing intense fruit forward Zinfandels. The climate of these Westside vineyards are characterized by slightly cooler growing conditions due to coastal temperatures and austere soils which produce a fruit with exceptional varietal character and expression.
Pours an opaque dark ruby color. Aromas and flavors of roasted coffee beans, lilac, blueberry, and chocolate with a round, lively, dry medium-full body and a tingling, medium-length finish displaying notes of caramel, black tea, warm mocha. Well-integrated medium tannins and a light touch of toasty oak. A dense, savory Zinfandel for hearty food pairings and…for turkey, but we forewarned, it will not pair as well with buttery sides.
Zinfandel is a popular choice on this uniquely American holiday, as it is heralded as one of the few native American wine grapes. That’s because Zinfandel found its way to California during the gold rush era. So people assumed that it must have been “born “here in the US. Not so fast…
Enter Carole Meridith, a geneticist at the University of California Davis. She began using DNA profiling techniques and determined that Zinfandel was in fact the offspring of the Plavac Mali grape from Croatia and an obscure grape called Dobričić (there will be a quiz, and yes, spelling counts!) native to the Dalmatian island of Solta just off the coast of Spilt. This was good news, but they still needed to find the actual grape’s birthplace. In 2001, her team discovered a grape that was all but extinct, but still growing in a vineyard in one of the seven towns of Kaštela, not far from Spilt. The grape was known only by its local name, Crljenak Kaštelanski meaning the “red grape of Kaštela.” DNA profiling proved that this was in fact Zinfandel. Thus the origin story of Zinfandel was complete.
But don’t let that stop you from toasting the turkey with a wine grape from Croatia, it’s a lovely country with surprisingly good wines.
Need More Wine Picks from Costco – or Trader Joe’s?
If your wine shopping excursions land you in Costco, prepare by grazing our most recent reviews of Costco wines here in our Lucky 13 list.
And if your shopping finds you at Trader Joe’s, you can find our Lucky 13 list of TJ’s wine here.