The Best Wines for Thanksgiving, According to a Sommelier
You might want bubbles for that bird.
For food lovers and home cooks, Thanksgiving is the biggest food holiday of the year. But, if you've been busy rounding up pie recipes and researching turkey techniques (to brine, or not to brine?), you may not have thought about that other essential ingredient on the table: the wine! Of course, experts agree that no matter what, it's best to drink what you like. (And remember, the bottle doesn't have to be expensive!) To celebrate this uniquely American holiday, here's a selection of all-American bottles guaranteed to complement all of your cooking for the big day.
Sparkling Wine for Appetizers and More
Don't save your bottles of bubbly for New Year's Eve: Sparkling wines are perfect for Thanksgiving! We love to pop a bottle as an aperitif to open up the appetite before sitting down to the feast and enjoy a glass with a charcuterie or cheese board as the turkey’s resting. But, you don't have to stop the sparkle-party there: these are wonderful wines to sip throughout the meal because sparkling wines pair effortlessly with most dishes on the table due to their high acidity (giving that crisp, mouthwatering feeling) and effervescent bubbles.
With a creamy texture and lively, juicy finish, J Vineyards & Winery NV Cuvée 20 is an American classic from California’s Russian River Valley. With notes of toasted almonds, dried cranberries, and ginger snaps, this will pair well with any dish on your table, from the welcome toast to the pie.
If orange blossom aromas, Golden Delicious apple, and toasted brioche flavors sound appealing, pick up a bottle of Angels and Cowboys Brut. With grapes sourced from Mendocino, Sonoma and Solano counties, this crisp California sparkler is just the thing to balance out buttery mashed potatoes.
Riseling Is Your Pairing MVP
If you're looking for a white wine that can do the nearly impossible task of complementing everything from green veggies to savory gravy to candied sweet potatoes, look no further than Riesling! The reason Riesling is so right for a decadent meal is that it's light, refreshing, and an excellent palate cleanser. It's crisp enough to help cut through all the richness of buttery mashed potatoes and delicate enough not to overpower the mild flavors of roast turkey. Riesling ranges from bone dry to sweet, so there's a style out there to please everyone at your table. (Pro tip: Turn the bottle over to the back label, and you'll see a diagram called the Riesling Taste Profile that indicates if the wine is dry, medium-dry, medium-sweet or sweet).
One of the most up-and-coming areas for Riesling is New York State: both the North Fork and the Fingerlakes have good options. Located on the North Fork of Long Island, Suhru Wines makes food-friendly wines and is known for its bright, dry whites: try their award-winning Suhru Wines Dry Riesling 2021 for an excellent palate-cleanser at the table.
Made in upstate New York's Fingerlakes region, Eminence Road "Lamb's Quarters" Riesling 2020 has a bit more richness and body, which will do well with dark meat turkey: this wine has peach and apricot flavors with a surprising finish of lime zest.
Lovers of California wine shouldn't miss Trefethen Dry Riesling 2021. While this historic family-owned winery is more famous for Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling is clearly a passion project for them. With aromas of jasmine and orange blossom leading into mouthwatering white peach flavors, this is the ideal wine to wash down that second helping of stuffing.
Sip Rosé All Turkey Day
If you think rosé is limited to summertime soirées, think again. It's crisp, refreshing, food-friendly, and most importantly: one wine that both red and white wine lovers can agree on. (Let the relatives save their debates for football or politics, not the wine!). And, because rosé is generally lower in alcohol content, it's a wine you can sip on all day without getting too tipsy or tired — as long as you're not driving, that is. Sample it while basting the turkey and enjoy it through post-dinner cleanup and still feel fresh.
Saracina Rosé of Grenache 2021 is the perfect sip to celebrate nature's bounty: the ranch the sustainably-farmed vineyards sit on is also home to beehives, olive trees, vegetable gardens, and alpacas! The wine delivers oodles of juicy red berry notes with a crisp finish.
For a silky and fresh sip, DAOU Discovery Rose 2021 from Paso Robles, California, is full of fruit tones ranging from peach, pear, nectarine, and melon. This one's a crowd-pleaser, and if your family is divided on hot-button issues like the 'dressing' vs. 'stuffing' debate, or apple vs. pumpkin pie, you can trust that this wine is one thing everyone can agree on.
Pinot Noir Is the Classic Thanksgiving Wine
Pinot Noir is arguably the most classic Thanksgiving wine, and for a reason: Those tart, tangy red fruit notes are just as complementary to fall dishes as cranberry sauce! Many Pinot Noirs also have a savory, woodsy note, ideal for pairing with autumn produce like mushrooms, squash, and herbs like rosemary and sage. Big, hearty reds like Cabernet will overpower classic Thanksgiving fare and are better to save for your Christmas roast or New Year's rack of lamb. Pinot Noir is the perfect light-to-medium bodied red to serve. Slightly chill it for an even more refreshing experience.
From Santa Barbara, California, Fiddlehead Cellars ‘728’ Pinot Noir 2015 is a true treat: winemaker and owner Kathy Joseph ages her wines in the bottle for an extended time before releasing them, so this is an opportunity to experience a Pinot Noir with added layers of complexity. A great bottle to impress the in-laws!
For a Sweet Finale, Break Out the Port
Splurge a little and open up a rich, decadent bottle of dessert wine to pair with your pie. One pairing rule for dessert is that wines should be even sweeter than the dessert; otherwise, they might taste bitter when paired with a sweet bite. For pumpkin pie, try a tawny Port like Sandeman 10 Year Old Tawny, filled red plum, hazelnut, and toffee flavors, filled with flavors of caramel, golden raisin, and toasted walnuts. Rose Ports like Croft Pink Port are a great pairing with apple or other fruit pies. And ruby Ports are a great fit if you happen to be serving chocolate, with their dark berry and cocoa flavors — we recommend Dow's Fine Ruby Port, with raspberry and cherry flavors and a touch of bittersweet cocoa in the finish.