What Bottle to Bring to a Thanksgiving Potluck?
Two can’t-miss options: Riesling and Pinot Noir.
I’m the Sunset wine editor. It’s no shocker that for my family’s Thanksgiving dinners, I’m expected to bring the wine. But my siblings don’t make it easy! One year, the turkey might be roasted with rosemary; the next, rubbed with ground chiles and smoked. The dressing might involve sourdough and chanterelles or cornbread and chorizo. The dishes my creative, improvisational family might bring are hard to anticipate, and I can’t know all the flavor profiles involved until the day we all gather. All of this adds up to a serious wine challenge. When the only thing I know about the dishes I’ll be matching is that they’ll be spicy, sweet, and savory, I opt for wines with three main characteristics: generous fruit, good acidity, and minerality or earthiness.
My go-to white is Riesling. Its racy acidity handles vinaigrettes; its stone-fruit flavors snuggle up to fruit and root veggies. And if it’s a tiny bit sweet, even better. The flavor cacophony that is Thanksgiving makes a little tang and sugar a good thing. On the red front, I pick Pinot Noir. It’s also high in acidity, with red berry/cranberry fruit that works well with cranberry sauce. Pinot often also has layers of warm baking spice, resiny herbs, forest floor, and mushroom notes that link to the rotating ingredients of the day. Stick with these two varietals, and you will be sure to have a bottle that will play well with the dishes being served, even if there are a few flavor curveballs thrown.
Chateau Ste. Michelle (Columbia Valley). The nose is all peaches and cream, edgy with pleasant petrol; lemon flavors and tart green apple follow with a peach redux on the finish.
Elk Cove Estate (Willamette Valley). Fresh green apple and haunting honeysuckle; the touch of sweetness is countered by zippy white peach and lime, so the wine seems quite dry.
Long Shadows Poet’s Leap (Columbia Valley). Floral aromatics and pretty stone fruit combine for elegance, with a core of acidity creating perfect balance in this slightly off-dry wine.
Trefethen Family Dry (Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley). Vibrant green apple and citrus rounded by floral aromas, fuzzy peach skin, and tropical notes.
Pinot Noir Picks
Domaine Drouhin Oregon (Dundee Hills). A whiff of cloves and woodsy herbs leads to well-balanced tart red fruit through a long, silky finish.
Dutton-Goldfield Dutton Ranch (Russian River Valley). Elegant, briary cherry/berry fruit (close to loamy source), sprinkled with pepper.
MacRostie (Sonoma Coast). Bright red cherry cola leads, seasoned with cinnamon, fresh herbs, and a balancing earthy character.
Merry Edwards (Sonoma Coast). Pretty raspberry melds with loam and lovely florals, with hints of clove and cinnamon.
Talley Estate (Arroyo Grande Valley). Deep cherry fruit over layers of red earth, florals, dried herbs, pepper, and a kick of orange peel.