Thanksgiving is a time for family, friends… and a very crowded dinner table. From the perennial favorites like turkey to the outliers (Aunt Ida’s “special casserole”), there are a ton of flavors duking it out for space on your plate.
When it comes to wine, instead of trying to pair each wine with a specific dish, your best strategy is to create a wine buffet, stocked with versatile bottles that can easily swing from cranberry sauce to green bean casserole. Let guests explore the range and find one (or all!) that suits their palates. Here, we break down some of our top picks.
One of Napa’s seminal producers, Chateau Montelena’s legacy can be tasted in their Chardonnay, Napa Valley, CA, 2016. It hits all the classic notes you expect from a chardonnay and pairs well with creamier dishes, but the minerality and structure give legs to this age-worthy bottle (no wonder it slayed during the Judgement of Paris).
For any guest that claims riesling is “too sweet,” introduce them to Hermann J. Wiemer‘s Dry Riesling, Finger Lakes, NY, 2017. Luscious peach and apricot flavors are balanced with slate and minerality. What makes riesling so appealing for the feast is the ability for its naturally high acid content to cut through fattier foods.
Gewürztraminer plays a dual role at the meal: it’s a lovely aperitif to sip on while (im)patiently waiting for the turkey to be carved, but it’s also a classic pairing with spicier flavors. Gundlach Bundschu‘s Gewürztraminer, Estate Vineyard, Sonoma Coast, CA, 2017, is a lychee and ginger delight; with great body and slightly viscous texture, it’s a stellar example of this grape.
Instead of the light and fruity version you sipped all summer, opt for a rosé that has a few more savory tones in its profile. The Cantine San Marzano, Tramari Rosé, Puglia, Italy, 2017, is bright, bracingly acidic, and redolent of strawberries and cherries, but a mineral, herbaceous undercurrent offers an element of complexity that will suit this meal quite well.
If you’re only going to have one red wine option, make it a pinot noir. Its red-fruited, earthy character pairs well with a range of flavors, while its lighter body ensures it won’t overwhelm the turkey or any lean proteins. Long Meadow Ranch‘s Pinot Noir, 2015, from their newer Anderson Valley estate in Mendocino County, jumps with cherry, raspberry, and strawberry notes, along with white pepper and an earthy layer.
Chianti Classico, with its foundation of Sangiovese, is another Turkey Day winner. Cecchi, Storia di Famiglia, Chianti Classico, Tuscany, IT, 2015, pops with red berries up front and exhibits a slight tone of rose. Those velvety tannins and long length won’t overwhelm the palate. Plus, with a name that translates to “family history,” is there any better wine for Thanksgiving’s family theme?
For a slightly offbeat red wine option (much like your Uncle’s jokes), Alheit Flotsam and Jetsam, Cinsault Stalwart, South Africa, 2017, is an underrated grape that’s starting to capture winemakers’ attention. This lighter-bodied wine is bright and fresh with lively red fruit (it also works well served slightly chilled).
For those felled by indecision, sparkling wine is always the answer. Domaine Carneros, Le Rêve Blanc de Blancs, Napa Valley, CA, 2011, founded by the famed Champagne family, Taittinger, offers a creamy, mouss-y texture, baked fruit, and brioche, all balanced with lovely minerality.
Looking for something less traditional? The William Chris Vineyards, Pet Nat Rosé, Texas, 2017, starts with delicious strawberries and cream, but then a savory, almost cider-like quality comes through. Less effervescent than a regular sparkling wine, it’s a fun little number for the Thanksgiving table.
When the parade of pies starts hitting the table, it’s time to open up a wine that compliments the meal’s finale: W. & J. Graham’s Vintage Port, Portugal, 2016. For Port, vintages are only declared in the best years, and 2016 was considered a record-breaking year, where nearly all port houses declared the vintage. Cassis and plum are the backbone of this luscious and balanced sweet sipper.
At the end of the day, Thanksgiving is about appreciating those around you and being thankful for the moments when we can share delicious food and wine together.
Cover Photo Courtesy of Facebook: Domaine Carneros Winery