Something happened to my brain during the lockdown phase of this pandemic. Like most people, I grew depressed and a bit anxious. I was let go at my full-time place of employment, and was burning through single malt samples in an attempt to calm myself and have a little bit of enjoyment during what has and continues to be a most horrific situation (please stay safe). I was looking for any sort of escapism I could find.
Then a Christmas miracle happened: late one evening/early morning last summer, I stumbled upon a Hallmark Christmas movie, a cinematic experience I’ve often heard about but never experienced first-hand. Compared to my normal movie watching preferences, it was vacuous, it was insipid, it was vanilla. But it was also the exact thing I needed: it was kind, it was easy, and it required very little existential soul-searching or thematic analysis. It was a loofah for every part of my dry, exhausted soul.
I slowly became drawn into their world, which was kind of easy: as a child growing up in Michigan, my parents would take me Bronner’s, the world’s largest Christmas store, during summer trips. I would joyously stroll the aisles looking at the latest ornaments, lights, and displays. It was the escapist connection I had desperately sought. I started watching (my wife had no idea) movies whenever the opportunity presented itself, usually while she was at work and I was applying for a new job or unemployment benefits. I joined Facebook fan groups, I religiously listened to a podcast, and began keeping a small Moleskine notebook filled with notes about my favorite movies, actors, and actresses. I checked IMDB credits to determine whether my favorite films were the product of one consistent screenwriter or a cohort. It is a habit I’ve yet to break, and this time of year is simultaneously the best and worst time for a Hallmark Christmas film buff: Christmas in July. A marathon featuring Hallmark’s finest and/or most horrific movies running for almost the entire month.
So when a PR person approached us to review this year’s Hallmark Christmas wines, I leapt at the opportunity to make worlds meet. For this season, Hallmark Wines (an ongoing subsidiary of the company of which I was wholly unaware) has bottled two vintages in celebration of the mid-season: a 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon and a 2019 Sauvignon Blanc. They are also branching out into the ready-to-drink/canned beverage world with a new line of Rose’ Wine Seltzers, which will no doubt excite other members of our staff.
Here’s how they taste.
2018 Hallmark Cabernet Sauvignon “Jingle” – Gentle but incredibly fruit-forward, there’s plenty of dark cherry and red licorice at first, with faint hints of milk chocolate and clove towards the finish. This would not be out of place in the finest dining establishments of small-town British Columbia or suburban Ohio, paired with a basket of perfectly staged yet untouched dinner rolls and a well-cooked portion of meat. Wine snoots can mock the concept of Hallmark wines all they wish, but I’ve sampled far worse from some of the more reputable names in the industry. B+
What to watch with while drinking Jingle:
Christmas at the Palace (July 30, 11 pm EDT) – It has all of the elements of a good fantasy Christmas movie: it has royalty, it has figure skating, it is charming and will appeal to the sappiest of die-hard romantics. It doesn’t star any of their bigger names, but it does the job well.
Christmas at Dollywood (July 31, 9am EDT) – It might be a little early for wine with a 9am showing, but if you’ve read this far, you’ve earned a glass no matter what time it is. This stars Saint Dolly and Danica McKellar in one of her better performances for Hallmark. And it has Dolly. If you’re a big Danica fan, Crow For Christmas is also worth checking out at 7pm EDT on July 24.
2019 Hallmark Sauvignon Blanc “Joy” – There’s a muted tropical profile on the nose, full of pineapple, peach, and lemon throughout that finishes with a slight medicinal quality. Not as lively or immersive as other Sauvignon Blancs available in this price range, but something which would definitely be served on the menu at one of the food trucks from 2020’s You’re Bacon Me Crazy. In a world of Alicia Witts and Jen Lilleys, this is most definitely an Aurora Teagarden. B-
What to watch with while drinking Joy:
Christmas at Pemberly Manor (July 28, 5pm EDT) – This movie serves well as a gateway into the wild, wide world of Hallmark. It somehow magically crams every single holiday romantic comedy cliché and Jane Austen nod (the guy’s name is Darcy!) into one film and doesn’t really get going until the final 30 minutes, but it’s still worth watching. At least it’s not Christmas at Graceland.
A Royal Christmas (July 25, 5pm EDT) – Hallmark veteran Lacey Chabert and legend Jane Seymour lead the cast, and it’s truly one of the quintessential Hallmark Christmas movies that doesn’t involve careers in journalism, food trucks, or discovering the true meaning of the season. Full of predictable plot twists that’s saved by some great acting. Well worth chugging the rest of the bottle and enjoying, then taking a nap before dinner.
If being full of flavor is a key metric by which the pair is judged, Jingle certainly outweighs the Joy. But regardless of your flavor preference, you’re getting a pair of reasonably priced bottles of wine to enjoy during your reasonably harmless cinematic experiences. Gotta go, Reunited at Christmas is about to start.
$28 per two pack / hallmarkchannelwines.com