As I mentioned in our weekly newsletter, I have some fairly strong opinions about what wines work for Thanksgiving dinner and why. This is my 34th Thanksgiving I have worked in a retail wine store during the holiday and I have tried just about everything over the same time. Some wines I opened knowing in my heart they were wrong, but the proof in this case, is in the dressing. As a caveat I will also say that if you love wines that contradict my opinion and you think they work, then that is all that really matters.
To begin, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I learned this appreciation from my dad who took great delight in preparing an impressive, and sometimes experimental meal honed from the great cooking magazines of the time; Gourmet, Bon Appétit and of course Southern Living. (Even though I grew up near Pittsburgh, PA.) Dad always told me he preferred Thanksgiving to Christmas because the holiday was about spending time with family without the stress of gift giving. While I understood this at the time I also now realize that even more important, food was his love language that he desired to share with us. Like many men raised post WWII he could not easily show his emotions and a big, time consuming meal was his way of giving everyone a hug.
For our own Thanksgiving meal the menu is dictated by many family favorites that I inherited from my wife’s family. It is a time honored selection of favorites that we all love and provide many interesting, or challenging food pairings. If you are interested in watching the process and the wines I think work with each dish then follow our Instagram story this Thursday.
It’s not a party until the bubbly is flowing. Here are three great options depending on your taste preference and budget.
Collalbrigo Prosecco Brut DOC ($22)
Our newest discovery for Prosecco and a slightly drier than norma style. Made from estate grown fruit and hand harvested, a great example of a more serious style.
Les Clos Maurice Cremant de Loire Volupte ($34)
One of our discoveries this summer that is turning out to be a huge favorite. Made from Chenin Blanc and bottle fermented, this is superb Champagne quality without the price tag.
Godme Champagne Brut Rose Grand Cru ($68)
This has been a store and family favorite for about five years, the latest disgorgement is Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the Godme’s Grand Cru holdings on the north side of the Montagne de Reims. Rich, intensely focused with crystalline tincture of red fruits.
For me the best white wines for Thanksgiving are fruit driven and dry or mostly dry. Obvious oak flavor is the enemy of dry white meat which only accentuates the lack of moisture.
Andre Brunel Cotes du Rhone Blanc Cuvee Becassone 2019 ($19)
An old favorite makes a return after almost 10 years. Made from Roussanne, Clairette and Grenache Blanc, this wine has a lovely peach and tangerine nose, soft, fruit driven palate and plenty of weight.
Boeckel Pinot Blanc Non Filtre 2020 ($22)
Many examples of Pinot Blanc are benign, in fact I frequently describe the variety as having as much character as white paint on white canvas. Here this old vine, unfiltered example pumps up the volume with ripe tropical fruit notes kissed with honey and apricots.
Heinrichshof Riesling Dry 2021 ($25)
A recent discovery from a family who farms in the middle Mosel village of Zelting. The vines cling to impossibly steep hillsides and display a sheer minerality and intense fruit that cuts through any creamy sauces or dark meat/ham.
Robert Perroud Beaujolais Blanc 2021 ($23)
Most are surprised that Beaujolais makes white wine too, but realize that the region is adjacent to the Macon. Perroud is a new superstar in our world making a stunning example that 1/3 is aged in neutral oak. That helps give the wine texture but no oaky flavor. Serve this for a richer wine experience and to satisfy your “only Chardonnay for me” drinker.
Rieslingfreak Riesling No. 10 2021 ($38)
I frankly do not think there is a better white wine to serve with Thanksgiving than Riesling, and this dry example from Australia puts an exclamation point on the statement. Made by a winery in the Barossa Valley who only makes Riesling, this wine is a stunning example that would dominate many German tastings. Richer than the wine above, with intense focus and great length.
I do not automatically jump to red wine for Thanksgiving but that is most of what we sell and certainly works great. Like above the key is freshness and wines that are not too heavy so they do not overwhelm the delicate flavors on the table.
J Boulon Brouilly 2021 ($19)
I hoped our Boulon fall allocation would stretch through the holidays but it will not, 25+ cases have already evaporated and this is the only one left of any significance. Here you have old vine Gamay fermented in stainless tank, as pure as it gets. Crunchy, earthy, fruity, it works with so many foods but custom built for turkey day. It is also at least 20% cheaper than any of the other Cru bottlings.
Baptiste Duperray Freres Glou Glou Gamay 2022 ($25) – Liter!
I am jumping the gun as this is also the weekly feature for the week of Thanksgiving, but it is so good! This is the heir apparent to the Lapierre Raison Galois that is now more expensive than it should be. Made from organically farmed, old vine Beaujolais, fermented in concrete and pure strawberry, cranberry and pomegranate. Did you notice this is a liter!
Thistledown Gorgeous Grenache 2021 ($20)
While most Rhone wines from France are too alcoholic for Thanksgiving, here is a lighter weight version of Grenache made by two Masters of Wine. It is juicy and crunchy, then softens in the middle and lingers for quite a while.
Les Clos Maurice Saumur Champigny Voltige 2020 ($25)
If you want a bit more weight and less crunch, look no farther than this dynamite Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley. This is made from 40 year old vines, fermented in concrete and has no sulfur added at bottling. It has good weight and texture, with black and blue fruit flavors that linger for a long time.
Hyland Pinot Noir Petit Estate 2022 ($32)
One of the oldest vineyards in the Willamette Valley, this one is even from a single site and labeled as McMinville AVA. It shows sour cherry and cranberry aromas, then forest floor and leather. A lovely example and a great value for appellation specific Willamette Valley
La Raimbauderie Sancerre Rouge 2021 ($42)
Did you know that some producers in Sancerre also make red wine and they are 100% Pinot Noir. In this region the wine is lighter and more delicate, but with bright fruit and superb length.