A Vinous Thanksgiving

The traditional Thanksgiving menu, with its wide range of savory and sweet flavors, presents many opportunities for food and wine pairing. We asked the Vinous team of critics for their top Thanksgiving wine recommendations. JOSH RAYNOLDS’ CLASSIC THANKSGIVING TABLE Thanksgiving was my late mother-in-law’s favorite holiday, by far. The huge, all-day feast that she put together for up to 50 people, plus late-night arrivals for an after-party, ran the gamut of traditional fare. We’ll be scaling it back this year, both the number of people and the dishes served, so that means a centerpiece of two turkeys, one roasted in the classic fashion and the other smoked, in a nod to my Oklahoma roots. Then the add-ons: curried deviled eggs, Caesar salad, Maryland crab soup, fresh oysters and clams, smoked turkey and andouille gumbo, cornbread and chorizo stuffing, bacon/cheese/potato cake, mashed russet and sweet potatoes and whatever else somebody comes up with at the last minute. There’ll be a few American cheeses, likely Jasper Hill Bailey Hazen Blue, Cabot Clothbound Cheddar and Winnimere, Cowgirl Creamery Mt. Tam and Pleasant Ridge Rush Creek Reserve, followed by a couple of pies, pumpkin and pecan. My wine selections focus squarely on the United States and on value, meaning the sort of wines that we feature weekly as Vinous Favorites. Food flexibility is important given the wide range of dishes that will be on the table. For a red wine from Oregon, I would be looking for the vibrant 2018 Patricia Green Cellars Pinot Noir Reserve ($28), the elegant 2018 Arterberry Maresh Pinot Noir Dundee Hills ($29) and also the graceful, complex 2018 Walter Scott Wines Pinot Noir La Combe Verte ($28). ERIC GUIDO’S ITALIAN TABLE So you want to pair a wine with the myriad of flavors, textures and aromas of Thanksgiving, which can run the gamut from succulently sweet to rich and nutty and, finally, the ever-challenging white meat covered with tangy cranberry sauce and gravy? This is always one of my favorites topics each year; because in the end, after we spend far too much time trying to bend our brains around the perfect pairing, the answer is usually far simpler than we ever imagined. To set the ground rules straight, I’m envisioning the traditional Thanksgiving table. We have turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes (possibly sweet potatoes - no marshmallows for me, please), an assortment of roasted vegetables spanning from carrots to brussels sprouts, green beans, corn, gravy and cranberry sauce. Frankly, the easiest answer is to have more than one wine available at the table. Something zesty, fruity and fun, something dark, earthy and animal, and something lifted, pure and with a gentle sweetness - of course, bubbles can’t hurt either. That said, depending on the size of your party, this may not be an option; and so, we’ll go on the premise that you need that one perfect wine. Being that my first love is Italy, that’s where I’m going to steer you. First thing’s first, keep in mind that the most important thing to pair your wine with is the main event: The Turkey. The moment you start worrying about the other items on the table is the moment your head begins to throb. My pairing from the Northeast of Italy took no more than a matter of seconds to arrive at: Gewürztraminer. This is a classic pairing for turkey and all the fixings. A good Gewürtz brings the spice, exotic florals and ripe fruit with a kick of vibrant acids, which works wonders with white meat, even when there’s a dollop of cranberry sauce; and let’s not forget that gorgeous golden skin. One of my favorites from recent tastings is the 2019 Gewürztraminer Tradition from Cantina Terlano ($29). DAVID SCHILDKNECHT’S FAVORITES FROM GERMANY AND AUSTRIA Fifty-plus years ago, my affair with wine scarcely budding but memories of the Rheingau fresh and fond, I instinctively – and, as it turned out, aptly – chose wines of then-prestigious Schloss Vollrads for the family Thanksgiving table. Today, Weingut Josef Spreitzer sources a Winkeler Jesuitengarten Riesling halbtrocken Alte Reben (from very nearby) and a Hattenheimer Engelmannsberg Riesling feinherb that recall those impeccably-balanced Vollrads Rieslings of the 1960s. Both exhibit sub-threshold but supportive sweetness, sadly rare among contemporary German Rieslings, which develop their distinctive flavors and equips them to tackle culinary situations into which analytically dry bottlings fear (or at least, should fear!) to tread. While exhibiting restraint and complexity once deemed synonymous with “Rheingau,” either wine is at once distinctive enough not to get lost amid a diverse menu and luscious enough to charm those diners not bent on scrutinizing vinous nooks and crannies. Amazingly, not just the delectable vintage 2018 renditions but also the profoundly delicious 2017s and 2016s are still in U.S. markets for $20-25. ELLEN CLIFFORD’S DELECTABLE PICKS Some may not realize that Chinon offers more than just red wine! I’d kick things off with a grape that can be many things (sweet! dry! sparkling!) but to me, is everything: Chenin Blanc. And it’s fun to say you are drinking Chinon Chenin. Domaine Bernard Baudry La Croix Boissée Chinon Chenin Blanc 2018 (about $45) is dry, slightly spicy, and honeyed. It makes me think, spiritually, if not precisely flavor-wise, of a hot spiced tea punch my dad makes for Thanksgiving that’s composed of lemonade and orange concentrate, tea, sugar, cloves, and cinnamon. I secretly always hope there are leftovers so I can drink it cold, and the Baudry Chinon Chenin is making my chilled dreams come true. Plus, the high acid contrasted by full golden body would allow it to be enjoyed throughout the meal - particularly with cranberry sauce and buttery potatoes, I think. I plan to test this hypothesis this year. REBECCA GIBB MW – A KIWI TAKE The first Thanksgiving celebration was held by white colonists in 1621 to celebrate the first successful corn harvest on American shores, but it would be another two decades until New Zealand was discovered by Dutchman Abel Tasman and another two centuries before the first vines took root in New Zealand. The country’s wine industry was forged by visionary immigrants from Britain, France, Dalmatia and Lebanon, and it remains truly international today. Thus, it seems only fitting that on America’s annual national holiday I select New Zealand wines with American associations to match your turkey-laden platters. Pair your bird with a glass of Sheth & Smith Heretaunga Chardonnay 2018 ($28), a ripe yet perfectly proportioned barrel-fermented style from Austin-born businessman Brian Sheth and New Zealand Master of Wine Steve Smith. NEAL MARTIN – IS IT THANKSGIVING, OR CHRISTMAS? I was asked to recommend wines for Thanksgiving Day. Well, first I had to look up “Thanksgiving Day”. Here on the other side of the Atlantic, it is just something we see in films such as Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Miracle on 34th Street or Thankskilling - just in case you have not seen it - a 2009 horror featuring, and I quote, “a demonic turkey”. We Brits cannot understand why our American cousins hold a celebration that involves eating an enormous turkey so close to Christmas, another celebration that involves an enormous turkey. So I researched this annual celebration because I do not want to advise on wine without knowing exactly what it is for. Apparently the roots of Thanksgiving Day are traced back to pilgrims that emigrated from England in 1621, so be thankful this was before Brexit and quarantine restrictions, otherwise they’d still be stuck at Plymouth filling out forms. The Thanksgiving dinner originates from those first settlers that wanted to celebrate a bountiful harvest. Now this made me ponder: Why we don’t we have our own Thanksgiving? Here it is only celebrated in two places. Firstly in junior schools, when pupils are encouraged to raid parents’ larders to donate food to local charities. This result is hundreds of tins of out-of-date semolina being redistributed to families having to live off tins of semolina. The only other place it is celebrated is on the Scottish island of Summerisle, as depicted in the 1973 film The Wicker Man. Their recipe uses a police sergeant rather than an enormous turkey. I suppose if the good folk of Summereisle had used an enormous turkey it would have made for a less interesting film - unless it involved a demonic turkey. Another factoid that I discovered is that Thanksgiving is held on the fourth Thursday of November, which made me wonder if my wine recommendations are unnecessary since families will surely still be drinking all that excess Beaujolais Nouveau. Now that I am completely au fait with Thanksgiving, the question is: What to drink with enormous turkey, demonic or not? I have selected a few bottles from regions that I cover. Starting with a white, forget everywhere else and head to the country that is producing killer whites at giveaway prices – South Africa. I would suggest the 2018 Cartology from Chris Alheit ($45), as good a Chenin Blanc as you will find from the Cape’s boy wonder. ANTONIO GALLONI – A LITTLE BIT OF EVERYTHING Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. For starters, it is a quintessentially American holiday that brings together people of all faiths. The central theme – the idea of giving thanks – is very different from other more commercial and/or celebratory. To be sure, 2020 has been an extremely challenging year, and yet I am feeling very thankful as the end of November approaches. When it comes to food and wine pairings, I admit I am more of a “eat what you like and drink what you like” kind of person. The traditional Thanksgiving menu, with its wide range of savory and sweet flavors, presents some challenges, but nothing that can’t be met with a few good bottles. I am starting with Champagne. Obviously. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but nothing sets the mood like a good glass of bubbly. Alexandre Chartogne’s NV Brut Cuvée Ste.-Anne ($51) is one of my favorite affordable Champagnes. It captures all of the textural richness of his top wines at a fraction of the price. I especially love Rosé Champagne this time of year. Aurélien Laherte’s NV Extra Brut Rosé de Meunier ($56) is a fabulous choice. --Vinous, A Vinous Thanksgiving, November 2020 To read the entire piece and discover all the Vinous recommendations, check out the full article on Vinous now.

Sextant Wines

Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir 2018

The best sextant vintage of Pinot yet! Vibrant bright cherry, lively wine that evolves in the glass. Perfect thanksgiving wine, which is why I paired it with the delicate pork tenderloin tonight. Has enough racy acid to challenge the vinaigrette accompanying the couscous salad. Lovely! ‘Tis the season! www.freerunjuicewine.com — comment and tag me if you would like a discount code! Cheers friends! — 3 years ago

Neil, Paul and 6 others liked this

Domaine Bernard Baudry

La Croix Boissée Chinon Blanc Chenin Blanc 2018

Gulped this down way too fast and too young. But we need some summer joy today 🌞 — 3 years ago

Chris, Hugh and 18 others liked this

Smith & Sheth

Cru Heretaunga Chardonnay 2017

this is a pleasantly surprising bottle of sauvignon blanc. it’s got a pretty nose of pear and lychee. and the palate is really well structured and balanced, very impressed. 9.0 and a thumbs up! — 4 years ago

Ron, Alex and 2 others liked this

Domaine d'E Croce (Yves Leccia)

Cuvée YL Blanc l'Île de Beauté Vermentino Blend 2017

Just absolutely delicious. High toned fruit yet with some grip. Pomegranate, raspberry and spice. Wish I had bought another bottle for thanksgiving — 3 years ago

Chris, Erik and 4 others liked this

Laherte Frères

Extra Brut Champagne Rosé De Pinot Meunier

Deep salmon color with some copper hints. Medium intensity perlage. Displaying a highly expressive bouquet of strawberry and pink grapefruit, along with raspberries and spice. Trace notes of brioche and honey compliment. Luscious cream and a touch of oak.

100% Pinot Meunier and 2.5 grs dosage, this is taut and delightfully dry, as the extra brut would suggest. High acidity and vibrant as all get out. Very crisp and racy, this is a different breed. Expertly balanced, this is full bodied and more than a bit hedonistic.

On the palate, the fruit is remarkably crisp and fresh. The red fruit is effervescent on the tongue and the generous amount of spice balances things out. Rose petal, dried herbs, and mint also make an appearance. Just a spectacular rosé all around. Not for the faint of heart but it’s just right for me.
— 3 years ago

Jason, Dawn and 14 others liked this


Pretty! Cheers!


Cuvée Sainte-Anne Brut Champagne Blend

Incredible value, consistently excellent, and a fine example of grower champagne that punches well above its weight. Lemon and lemon curd and green apple and yeast/brioche. Aggressively mineral and taut as a wire but round on the palate after the zing wears away, with a long and zesty finish that lingers. This is always an excellent food wine and better that than a cocktail wine. Somehow it both cuts and amplified everything I’ve ever paired it with. — 5 years ago

Doctor, P and 13 others liked this
Max Kelly

Max Kelly

Great description of a great wine, although I’m not sure what to make of the typo “taut as a wife.” 😉
Doctor No

Doctor No Premium Badge

Well, Max, you’re married now. You’ll figure it out.
Max Kelly

Max Kelly

Well played.

Concentric Wine Project

Columbia Valley Gamay Noir 2018

A nice refreshing and traditional take on a gamay wine. This would be perfect for Thanksgiving. — 3 years ago

Josh, Ira and 8 others liked this

Patricia Green Cellars

Reserve Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2018

Black and purple fruits, medium bodied, mild tannins, white pepper. Delicious with game meats, lamb, mushrooms — 3 years ago

Alex and jesus liked this

Walter Scott

La Combe Verte Pinot Noir 2018

Just oozes freshness and spring time. What a great sub-$30 wine — 4 years ago

Mike, Daniel and 10 others liked this
Kevin Løk

Kevin Løk

Thank you for some text! I need to know the deets about your wine, sire.