Find the “best” Thanksgiving wine, by embracing contradictions

So I have decided to leap into thanksgiving talk a bit early, and go over this well covered but confusing topic: that is how to choose a wine for Thanksgiving. There are as many options in the world of wine there are people. The true question of what to serve at Thanksgiving is actually two separate questions that I will try to break down clearly: What wine goes well with Turkey and the standard accompaniment  , AND how to serve wine for a larger group with varying tastes.


For the traditional thanksgiving fare, Turkey is in the fore, yielding some difficult flavors and textures to work with. Turkey tends to soak up pretty any flavor you match with it, which makes it easy to run roughshod with a bold wine. The fixings tend to be quite full flavored and rich. So delicate flavor that won’t overwhelm, and enough food friendly acidity is key. Hence, the full bodied white or light red. I will also cover some great outliers that will satisfy the fans of big California red wines.

To start as people lounge around a kitchen, the smells antagonizing the stomachs, start with Sean Thackrey’s Pleiades XXIV (22$), it’s light enough for an aperitif, but could pair with a lighter meal too. For a crowd that appreciates the earthier, tarter wines that transform a meal, you could choose a nice Southern Italian Etna Rosso, even Palari’s Faro (70$) from that volcanic region if you wanted to spend a little extra. The impeccable balance and intense minerality make it one of the best food reds I can think of.

If you have to have that classic Pinot Noir and nothing else will suffice (or keep your guests in line) Oregon’s Cristom makes Pinot at several price points (20-40$) that will satisfy any group. Also look at Soter’s North Valley Pinot Noir (20$) from Northern Willamette. Its robust and earthy and can stand up to anything short of Pumpkin pie and sibling rivalries.


But Poultry being Poultry, your guests might clamor for chardonnay, while a lean Chablis would cut through the stuffing and a fine Mersault would impress, more flavor and body is going to serve you well for a white wine, so go with an Oregon Chardonnay from Big Table Farm (45$). The humble farmers at Big Table are out Burgundying Burgundy with this 2013 bottling featuring full lush notes of lemon meringue and crushed gravel. Best of all it doesn’t need to be served ice cold, and will improve as it warms up on the table in front of the family. You can also go out on a limb and pick up an outstanding Verdicchio from either Villa Bucci (20$) or Fattoria La Monacesca (30$). Classico or Riserva, These wines have all the minerality and structured you need for each and every course.


So these light reds and full whites cover a lot of territory in taste and food, but there are plenty of full ripe red wines from California for those who just don’t give a s%&t about what goes well with Turkey, and I would be remiss if I ignored that demand. What’s going to taste good and get everyone prepared for a long holiday season? Limerick Lane from Sonoma has made waves with their old vine Zinfandel, but its their outstanding Syrah/Grenache (30$) blend that is a force to be reckoned with. It is decadent, its ripe, and can be drunk alone or with the meal. Across the Atlantic, the previously reviewed (here) Domaine du Gour de Chaule Gigondas (25$) is a nice old world alternative with rustic acidity and herbaceous aromas. You could go a step further with another high level offering from Sean Thackrey, either his Petite Sirah (45$) or even his Pinot Noir (45$), which is fairly full bodied as well.


Maybe at this point you are shouting at the screen, “Rory! I have 25 people coming over, I can’t serve them these wines, they’ll drink me to the poorhouse!” Ok first, I occasionally feel that way with just one guest (me), but there are wines abound that you won’t feel bad about serving (or paying for). My favorite options are the Felsina Chianti (16$), which is earthy, fruity and infinitely variable, or Planeta La Segreta (11$) from Sicily, with its rustic minerality and sun drenched fruit.

Whatever your go-to wine is for thanksgiving, you’re going to end up balancing the needs of a group of family member’s and the meal that they are gathering around. When in doubt, open two. Good Luck.



Author: The Ex-Sommelier

Former sommelier with the Batali & Bastianich Restaurant Group in New York. Now a Los Angeles based wine writer and consultant.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s