Thanksgiving is a time of togetherness, above all else, a time when we can gather together our families – both actual blood relatives and those we love so dearly they might as well be – and remember all we have to be grateful for. For many people cooking is an act of love; for sommeliers and other wine lovers, pouring a glass of their favorite vino is a similarly impassioned act. On Thanksgiving, combining the two is a chance to honor those we care about the most with something that makes a meal better and memories a little brighter. To that end, we wanted to create a list that emphasizes not the “best” wines, which often tends to skew a little too expensive for the average family, but ones at every price point that are delicious, special, and worthy of a place on your turkey-topped table.
Happy Thanksgiving – Cheers!
There are several white varietals that would pair well with your Thanksgiving spread (Viognier, Burgundy, Chablis) but Riesling is one of the best. Snacking on peanut butter and celery while you cook? Riesling works. Serving spiced sweet potatoes with dinner? Riesling works here, too. The balance between sweetness and acidity makes it a very food friendly wine, and it’s people friendly, too; even people who “don’t drink wine” usually find a Riesling palatable.
Save: Château Ste. Michelle Columbia Valley Riesling 2013, $8 – BUY IT
Château Ste. Michelle’s CV Riesling is like making Grandma’s secret pie crust recipe: it’s reliable, you know everyone’s going to like it, and there’s something comforting about having it on the table. Vintage to vintage you know this wine is going to be crisp and focused with a minerality and slightly bitter note – think citrus pith – that keeps things more interesting than the crazy low price tag may indicate.
Stretch: Dr. Loosen Whelener Sonnenuhr Spatlese 2014, $30 – BUY IT
Dr. Loosen is a family winery that has been in operation for more than 200 years, a commitment to tradition that’s the perfect accompaniment for Thanksgiving dinner. The estate is committed o low yield, high-quality wines that tell the story of the land they come from, and this is no exception. There is stone fruit and even a bit of a tropical undertone, but the acidity and minerality are the real stars. This wine really evolves the longer it’s open, so pop corks early on and see how it changes as the night progresses.
Splurge: Zind-Humbrecht Clos Windsbuhl Riesling 2012, $95 – BUY IT
This is not a shy wine. Rich and redolent with mango, peach, lemongrass, galangal, and a perfumey touch of rose petal, just for starters, there’s also a niggling vein of smoke that unfurls through the wine as you drink it. Trust us – no one will care about a dry turkey if they have a glass of this. The 2012 vintage is definitely age worthy, so buy a few extra bottles to revisit when your time to host rolls around again.
As with the whites, red wine on Thanksgiving could easily go in several different directions. Gamay, or Beaujolais, is a good choice, as are Zinfandel (the red stuff, not the pink or “white”), and even Cabernet Franc (especially if you’re swapping out turkey for ham), but our favorite is Pinot Noir.
Save: Murphy-Goode California Pinot Noir 2013, $15 – BUY IT
While some budget-priced California Pinot Noirs can tilt a little too far towards the overripe and muddy side of things, Murphy-Goode sources their grapes from coastal vineyards that thrive in cooler weather. The sea air keeps grapes from maturing too quickly, and the result is a surprisingly lively Pinot that pairs just-ripe red fruit with baking spice and an herbal quality that makes this wine especially ideal for mushroom and sage stuffing or morel-topped green bean casserole.
Stretch: Domaine Serene Yamhill Cuvee Pinot Noir 2012, $48 – BUY IT
It sounds strange to say that a $48 wine is a value, but this beauty drinks like you paid double the price. There’s tart cherry and spice, jammy strawberry and scattering of something vaguely nougat-like. It’s almost hard to place your finger on what exactly lies beneath this wine’s bright and intriguing exterior, but it’s beguiling enough to demand you come back again and again to figure it out.
Splurge: Domaine Denis Mortet Gevrey-Chambertin Mes Cinq Terroirs 2013, $105 – BUY IT
Laser-focused and yet wild, richly fruit and floral yet well grounded in the terroir Burgundy is so very known for… this wine has everything a Pinot lover could want, and it’ll probably convert some people, too. There is definite complexity and balance, surprisingly so for a young wine, but that just means you can open it up now and still enjoy a beautiful bit of the Old World with your mashed potatoes and extra extra gravy. That’s enough to make us very thankful indeed.
Sparkling wine is always a good idea. Start your meal with a toast, greet guests at the door with a palate-perking rosé, or end the night with something imminently suitable for such a festive occasion. We won’t even tell – heck, we’ll applaud you! – if you serve it for brunch the next day. Turkey eggs benedict, anyone?
Save: Segura Viudas Brut Cava, $10 – BUY IT
This Cava has floral and apple notes that bridge summer and fall beautifully. It’s a bit “rougher” than the refined bubbles you’ll get in pricier bottles, but when you’re pairing it with sage stuffing and a football game, it seems right on target.
Stretch: Roederer Estate L’Ermitage 2007, $45 – BUY IT
The L’Ermitage was just granted the #60 spot on the 2015 edition of Wine Spectator’s Top 100 list. It has great ratings, but for us it’s all about the flavor and feel: the bubbles are so small they coat your tongue like liquid velvet, and the creamy, nutty, apricot-cloaked deliciousness will complement your pre-turkey baked brie and post-meal apple pie equally well.
Splurge: Egly-Ouriet Grand Cru Blanc de Noir Les Crayeres, $155.00 – BUY IT
At $155 it’s definitely not for the faint of heart, but the Les Crayeres is worth every single penny. It’s a single-vineyard Champagne made with Pinot Noir grown on 70-year-old vines. Traditional bursts forth from every bubble, along with warm spice, zesty citrus, and plenty of minerality reflecting the chalky soil it’s grown in. Balanced, beautiful, and practically unbeatable.