Bottleshop Diaries Entry 1: Thanksgiving

Bottleshop Diaries Entry 1: Thanksgiving

A lot has been written about wine, but much of it is just fucking insufferable. If I have to see one more photo of some douchebag in designer boots walking across vineyard land in perfect lighting looking thoughtful while listening to a craggy older Italian guy straight out of central casting talk about the unique soil types in his vineyard I’m just going to throw up.

People love to Instagram hard-to-find bottles and take gorgeous shots of vines (and bonus points for a shot of someone’s hand holding said unique soil, oh my god enough already), but most of the day to day of the wine business is just as much of a grind as any other business, if not more.  

I work at a great independent wine shop and most days I love my job. Sometimes my coworkers and I do get to taste amazing wines or go on trips or go to fancy restaurants and pop a bunch of expensive bottles. But most of what we do is pretty unglamorous: stocking the shelves, tasting 37 awful $13.33 wholesale Chardonnays to find one that is palatable, cleaning out the spit buckets (no one talks about this and it’s so disgusting), and answering the same questions over and over again. So, here are some rants, thoughts, days-in-the-life, and occasional advice from someone pretty firmly in the middle of her field.  

And to be all seasonal and shit, let’s start with Thanksgiving.

I love Thanksgiving because because it’s basically an entire day about eating and cooking. Also, I celebrate Black Friday by eating leftover pie in my pajamas. It’s my little moment of quiet, solitary joy amidst the cacophonous siege that is working in retail or the service industry during the holiday season. My boss is a sane human being and we have limited hours on Black Friday and he absolutely refuses to be open on Thanksgiving. I wish every retailer was as kind to their employees, and I encourage you all to boycott Thanksgiving Day Black Friday creep. I can only imagine how draining it is to work at a place like Walmart or Macy’s during the holidays – those folks deserve a real day off.

One thing that’s baffling to me, though, is the fretting over what to drink.

Every year, dozens of articles and dozens of customers ask the same question: what goes with turkey and all the sides?  

And every year I want to answer to the 15th customer that day who has asked me that question, well, John, how did last year go? Because we had this EXACT conversation in this exact spot in the store on this exact day last year and I feel like I’m trapped in the movie Groundhog Day.

So if you’re wondering what to have with Thanksgiving, maybe start with, I don’t know, what did you have last year when you had the exact same meal with (probably) the exact same people on the exact same day? Did you like that? Do you want something similar or different? Let’s start there because, again, SAME MEAL. It’s the SAME MEAL YOU GUYS. Why is Thanksgiving always written and talked about like we’ve never done this before? Because I’ve definitely done this before. Am I the only one? Am I in the wrong timeline? Has anyone else seen that fucking Sinbad movie, because I swear it exists. I gotta stop reading reddit late and night and probably drinking so much coffee.

So instead of writing another article about how you should drink Beaujolais or Zinfandel or foot-trodden Poulsard or whatever the fuck wine writers have trotted out this year, let’s talk about the advice everyone really needs for Thanksgiving: how to day drink.

Because for a lot of adults, Thanksgiving is one of the few times per year they drink before dinnertime. We start cooking early in the day, and because Bon Appetit or whatever said so, we think, hmm, let’s pop some bubbly. And it’s a downhill slide from there until you eat at some weirdo time like 3 or noon (why do we do this? Why can’t I just eat dinner at dinnertime?). Then by 6 everyone is in a weird, vaguely cranky stupor brought on by binge eating on top of improper daydrinking technique. That’s why everyone ends up arguing about politics. Here are some tips to help you drink smarter this year at everyone’s favorite late-capitalism, consumerist monster feast:

  1. Have a protein heavy breakfast. Don’t not-eat all day just because you’re going to eat a big meal later. You’ll start feeling spacey and cranky and anything you drink will hit you too hard. Have a real breakfast, preferably with a good protein source. You’ll enjoy the day so much more and have energy for all that cooking and arguing about Trump.
  2. Go easy while you’re cooking – You’re cooking recipes you probably only do once a year in larger-than-usual quantities, and that requires concentration. Plus you’re using knives and fire and stuff, so best to keep a clear head.
  3. Instead, if you’re cooking, have a really nice glass of something you love after you’ve done the bulk of the heavy lifting but everyone hasn’t sat down yet. Champagne is perfect for this, and you can share a refreshing pre-dinner toast with your dining companions and have a little snack.
  4. Fatty apps: fat blunts the absorption of alcohol, so things like cheese straws, or, better yet, spiced nuts are great things to nibble on with your pre-dinner drink.
  5. Don’t make cocktail hour too long. People get antsy and drink too much out of boredom before you’ve gotten to the good stuff!
  6. This is one of the few times of year when you can bring out a great bottle of dessert wine at the end of the meal with a clear conscience, because people are either staying with you, or they’ll be hanging out for awhile. And they’ve eaten a ton, so the 20% ABV in many fortified wines won’t hit them like a ton of bricks. Plus, Madeira and Tawny Port are great with all the yummy, spiced flavors of fall desserts like cinnamon and pumpkin and sticky glazed pecans. Can you tell I love pie?
  7. This isn’t a drinking tip but do all the dishes before you go to bed, no matter how tired you are. Just trust me.

Happy Thanksgiving Week, everyone! Have a wonderful, mellow holiday. Don’t hook up with your ex just because you’re both home for the holidays, and when in doubt, drink something with bubbles.


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