Choosing wines for Thanksgiving is both the easiest and hardest job we have. While it is almost impossible to make to make a bad choice, it is equally difficult to make a perfect choice. Why? The foods on the table are as diverse as will ever be presented on one table. Will you be trying to match the spicy sausage stuffing, the sweet tart cranberry dressings or the buttery creamy texture of whipped potatoes or even the pureed squash soup? And don’t forget the slightly gamy flavor of a roasted turkey. We’re sure you get the picture. While we might not find the perfect wine either, we will guarantee that all the wines we will help you pick out will match some portion of your meal.
For most meals, we advocate one wine per course. This meal, however, we believe it is best to serve the wines family style, as you probably do with the food. Because your guest list might be as diverse as the dishes you plan on serving, we are happy to supply you with advice for serving red wines, white wines, dessert and/or sparkling wines. Whether you prefer to serve all whites or all reds, or a few selections of each. Or even if you want to start the evening with a sparkling wine and carry it all the way through the meal, listed below are some of our general and more specific recommendations for the holidays.
Much of the appeal of Thanksgiving dinner is found in the wonderful aromas coming from the kitchen while the meal is being prepared. And a very aromatic red wine such as Pinot Noir fits right in and adds its own unique appeal. Generally light in body, with soft texture as a counterpoint to its lovely aroma, Pinot Noir is easy to love, especially among the many flavors of Thanksgiving.
For those who like their red wines hearty and full of flavor, a Grenache, Syrah, or Zinfandel will nicely balance even the most flavorful and spicy Thanksgiving fare. Grenache, with its bright and fruity exterior and complex spicy hidden charm, may be the best overall match of the three. Whether from the Rhone Valley in France or California, or even Australia (where they are called ‘Shiraz’) Syrah offers great depth of color and flavor, with a decidedly peppery note that many find delicious.
Similarly, Zinfandel is a sturdy red wine with lots of spice on its own to satisfy the hunger for lots of flavor to go with the meal. While it may be a little bit big for this meal, its American heritage still plays well at this holiday.
2009 Pinot Noir, Cartlidge & Browne, California
2010 Cotes Du Rhone-Belleruche, Chapoutier, Rhone, France
2010 Allure de Robles, Rabbit Ridge, Paso Robles, California
2007 Cuvee Sommeliere, Chateau Flaugergues, Coteaux de Languedoc, France
2004 Rioja Reserva, Ondarre, Logrono, Rioja, Spain
2008 Cabernet Sauvignon-Alexander Valley, Stuhlmuller, Sonoma, California
2006 Zinfandel-Hugo, Oriel Wines, Russian River, California
2009 Pinot Noir
Cartlidge & Browne, California
Aromas of cherry cider, plum jam, and spice cake. Vigorous and full-flavored, notes of cherry cobbler, fresh plum, and toffee.
2007 Cuvée Sommelière
Chateau Flaugergues, Coteaux de Languedoc, France
A powerful, well-structured red, with a strong minerally cast to the red berry and kirschlike flavors. Very focused, with intense milk chocolate and mocha notes driving the fresh finish. Drink now through 2015. ~ Wine Spectator 91 points (Top 100 wines of 2010 – #50)
2004 Rioja Reserva
Bodegas Ondarre, Logrono, Rioja, Spain
“Black cherry, licorice, smoke, tobacco and tar notes mingle in this firm, lively red. Maturing now, but shows balance and length. Still fresh, this brings you back for another sip. Drink now through 2016.” ~ Wine Spectator 91 (Top 100 wines of 2010 – #58)
2007 Cabernet Sauvignon-Alexander Valley
Stuhlmuller, Sonoma, California
Vivid ruby. Musky redcurrant and cherry on the nose, with notes of tobacco and herbs giving an old-school Bordeaux impression. Firm, focused red fruit flavors gain flesh and sweetness with air and pick up suggestion of darker fruit. Dusty tannins add grip and focus to the long, chewy finish. I like this wine’s blend of depth and vivacity. ~ International Wine Cellar 90 points
One of the best pairings for Turkey, and many of the traditional side dishes, is Chardonnay, a wine nearly always made in a dry, but fresh and fruity style. Choose a full-bodied, ripe, fruity Chardonnay from California, Australia, or France, and you’ll have a wine that serves well from appetizers through the meal. A slightly more crisp wine that also goes well with the traditional meal is Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand or the Loire Valley in France, with its bright fruit acidity and plenty of herbaceous character to complement the many spices in the stuffing and side dishes. Those who favor a lighter and more delicate white wine will find Riesling from Germany or Grüner Veltliner from Austria a great match for Thanksgiving dinner. The light floral aroma of Riesling and its soft, fresh fruit flavors fit nicely into the array of seasonings this traditional dinner offers, and the hint of sweetness offered by most Rieslings gives this wine great appeal for many palates. The wines of Alsace are also great matches for this meal. The dry style of the aforementioned Riesling or the spicy Gewurztraminer makes a unique combination with a sausage stuffed turkey dinner.
2008 Bourgogne Chardonnay, Vignerons de Buxy, Chalonnaise, France
2010 Chardonnay-Dylan, Oriel Wines, Sonoma, California
2009 Riesling-Horse Heaven Hills, NxNW Wines, Columbia Valley, Washington
2009 Vouvray-Fondraux, Domaine Champalou, Loire Valley, France
2007 Chardonnay-Amphitheater, Varner, Napa, California
2010 Bourgogne Chardonnay
Vignerons de Buxy, Chalonnaise, France
This winery is the cooperative work of 120 families in the Cote Chalonnaise in Burgundy. Founded in 1931, the coop has endured some very difficult financial times through the perseverance of many hands. This wine showcases the purity of the fruit by aging the wine in stainless steel tanks. A pure taste of Chardonnay, offering apple, mineral and earth flavors. This is straightforward, balanced and moderately long.
2009 Vouvray-Les Cuvee des Fondraux
Domaine Champalou, Loire Valley, France
The Champalous’ barrel-raised, demi-sec 2009 Vouvray Cuvee des Fondraux smells alluringly of quince, honeysuckle and linden flower. A silken palate of hazelnut cream, honey butter, quince preserves, with lime and fresh pink grapefruit leads to a persistently luscious, moderately but judiciously sweet finish. The invigoratingly zesty and refreshingly juicy citrus elements of this wine are what preserve it from the fate of most Vouvrays of its vintage, namely lacking a bit of clarity and liveliness, and being perhaps more fun to taste than to actually drink. This beauty should keep well for at least 6-8 years, not that many wine lovers – perhaps unfortunately – will put that statement and this wine’s aging potential to the test. ~ Wine Advocate 90-91 points
2009 Chardonnay-Amphitheater Block
Varner, Napa, California
The 2009 Chardonnay Amphitheater Block emerges from the glass with layers of fruit. It shows gorgeous up-front richness, then finds its center of minerality on the mid-palate. It is a large-scaled, beautifully balanced wine loaded with personality. Smoke, minerals and citrus linger on the multi-dimensional, saline finish. ~ Wine Advocate 96 points
Sparkling & Dessert Wines
These two types of wine help to make a holiday truly festive. Whether you are welcoming guests with a little Champagne or ending the meal with something sweet these wines will be quite at home on your table.
Sparkling & Dessert Wines
2009 Late Harvest Torrontes, Santa Julia, Mendoza, Argentina
NV Riondo Spago Prosecco, Veneto, Italy
2010 Moscato d’Asti-Primo Bacio, Scagliola, Piedmont, Italy
NV Brut Champagne, Duval-Leroy, Vertus, France
2000 Delaforce Vintage Port 375ml
NV Brut Champagne
Duval-LeroyVertus, Champagne, France
An elegant wine, with a delicate grain and subtle, citrusy acidity. Offers flavors of yellow apple, clementine and licorice snap, with hints of marzipan and coconut and a fresh, creamy finish. Drink now through 2018. ~ Wine Spectator 92 points
2000 Delaforce Vintage Port
Full medium ruby. Roasted black raspberry and cassis lifted by musky espresso and an exotic smoky, peaty element. Dense and rich; sweet and approachable but with shape and grip. A bit youthfully grapey in the mouth, with smoke and earth notes. Finishes with building, slightly austere tannins and very good length. ~International Wine Cellar 90 points