Great Wines for Thanksgiving
What's the best wine to go with turkey and all the trimmings? Here are our top bottles for your Thanksgiving table
The pressure is on when it comes to choosing wine for the holiday. Yes, we’re all looking for fine bottles that can also handle cranberry sauce and sweet potatoes. But we also want something everyone can start drinking early and keep drinking late—just to, say, survive any family issues that may arise.
Leaving the latter aside for the moment, the former is fairly easily solved. To taste good with the range of flavors turkey and all the fixings include, wine (red or white) needs to have generous fruit flavors. Happily, this gives Westerners the perfect excuse to drink local, because our regions tend to get a lot of sun, and consequently our reds and whites ooze fruit compared to, say, their Old World counterparts.
The other general character a good Thanksgiving wine needs is a lack of tannin, that drying, astringent texture you feel when you’re sipping a heavy red like Cabernet Sauvignon. Even whites can have a bit, generally picked up from barrels instead of skins and seeds (which is why a heavily oaked Chardonnay isn’t your best bet). The parts of the meal that lean sweet and spicy turn a dry, tannic wine astringent and sour.
With these filters in mind, we’ve assembled a variety of wines that will do the day proud. And why not offer them all? Together, they help solve the family conundrum: Anyone who prefers sweet(ish) can go for the Riesling; the discoverers can explore Grenache; and the cognoscenti will feel good about Pinot. Issues tend to melt when everyone’s loving what’s in their glass.
Grenache (and Blends)
Cherries and cinnamon often team up in Grenache, with a freshness that balances the heft of most turkey menus (keeping everyone from hitting the carpet way too soon). In a traditional “GSM” Rhône-style blend—Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre (which in the West sometimes includes other Rhône reds too)—wild and dark layers help loop into both the exuberance and the savoriness of our traditional fare.
Halter Ranch 2015 “CDP” (Adelaida District, Paso Robles; $35) A complex blend of Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah, and Tannat, with strawberry and dark cherry over wild herbs, spice, and minerality.
Novelty Hill 2014 Stillwater Creek Vineyard Grenache (Columbia Valley; $28) High-toned violet aro-mas wrap around earthy cherry and rhubarb layered with coriander spice and mocha.
Tablas Creek 2015 “Côtes de Tablas” (Adelaida District, Paso Robles; $35) A mineral-driven blend of Grenache, Syrah, Counoise, and Mourvèdre, edged with crushed herbs and generous with textured layers of berry, cherry, mocha, and pepper. Just the right kind of wild.
Deep, jammy fruit laced with warm spices and chocolate makes Zin a friendly red partner for all things Thanksgiving. Plus, it’s the only mainstream wine the country (more specifically, California) can claim as its own: We make the best in the world; in fact, we make most of the Zin in the world. Just stay away from the highest-alcohol versions if your menu pushes the spice envelope; alcohol punches up the heat effect.
Dry Creek Vineyard 2014 Old Vine Zinfandel (Dry Creek Valley; $32) A deeply concentrated Zin, full of savory herbs, exotic spices, and dark plum and cherry fruit.
Ridge 2015 East Bench Zinfandel (Dry Creek Valley; $32) A lovely, pinpoint balance of juicy, briary berries, pretty florals, and earth.
St. Francis 2014 Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel (Dry Creek Valley; $48) Rich, concentrated blueberry and blackberry fruit is layered with warm spices and mouth-filling textures.
Don’t abandon the bubbles when the appetizers are gone! Their texture, plus the lovely acidity of sparkling wine and the stealth red fruit that rosé versions harbor, add up to one of the best Thanksgiving matches of all time. Bring on the spice rub, the oysters in the dressing, the nuts in the salad, the cheese sauce on the broccoli … and, of course, that cranberry sauce.
Laetitia 2014 Brut Rosé (Arroyo Grande Valley; $34) Its pale salmon color belies bright red berry flavors and crisp citrus in this elegant wine.
Roederer Multivintage Brut Rosé (Anderson Valley; $29) A riot of bubbles carries minerally citrus flavors and the delicate red fruit of Pinot Noir.
Schramsberg 2014 Brut Rosé (North Coast; $45) Earthy layers of hazelnut and mushroom ground vibrant cherry and rhubarb carried by tiny, mouth-filling bubbles.
One of the most aromatics of whites, Riesling meets the big flavors of the day with a bushelful of fruit. And as whites go, the variety is also deceptively mouth-filling and braced with acidity, giving it the wherewithal to keep up with everything from the sweet potatoes to the sausage in the dressing. And in this case, a touch of sweetness in the wine is your friend.
Chateau Ste. Michelle & Dr. Loosen 2015 “Eroica” Riesling (Columbia Valley; $20) The barest touch of sugar lifts apricot, nectarine, and green apple flavors, followed by a dry lemon-lime finish.
Chehalem 2015 Three Vineyard Riesling (Willamette Valley; $20) Beautiful citrus and bracing acidity balance a touch of sweetness, with grapefruit, green apple, and apricot mixing on the finish.
Styring 2014 “Whimsy” Estate Riesling (Ribbon Ridge, Oregon; $20) Off-dry but beautifully fresh, with sweet apple and peach notes balanced by layers of minerality and citrus.
With its typical baking spices and red berry flavors, Pinot doesn’t just work well with traditional Thanksgiving dishes—it’s a seamless extension of what’s on the table. But it’s not all about fruit: The wine’s loamy qualities beg for the likes of mushroom gravy. If wine-loving friends are ringing your doorbell this year, spring for a special bottle.
Anaba 2014 “WestLands” Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast; $54) Perfumed with violets and loam; brambly wild berries are layered with savory spices and dried herbs.
Merry Edwards 2015 Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley; $48) A downright sexy mix of earth, chocolate, cloves, and rose petals on the nose leads to a rush of berries edged with citrus.
Patz & Hall 2015 Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast; $48) Minerals, florals, and warm baking spices add lovely layers to bright red berry, cherry, and cranberry fruit.