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Thanksgiving, still to this day, remains the day when the most wine is consumed in the United States! To this end, you have a bunch of people walking up and down the wine aisles of the grocery store in a zombie-lie state, with not a clue as to what they’re doing. I hope to alleviate that stress, and I even went so far as to provide a printable Thanksgiving wine shopping list!
The problem, of course, with the “traditional” Thanksgiving meal is that there are soooo many different flavors and texture on your plate, that pairing wine with them can be a tiny nightmare (First World problems at their finest!). That’s why it’s completely impossible, no matter who you are, to select ONE WINE that will pair with EVERYTHING!
I’ve therefore come up with Thanksgiving wine suggestions in seven different categories. There’s nothing like a little overkill….
I suggest Gewurztraminer [guh-vertz-tra-mee-ner] and I suggest that it’s not from this country. This, out of all my suggestions, will be the only wine which will not be domestic. Why is that? Well, I think the French and Germans do a better job of making Gewurz. Same goes for Riesling. Sure there are some good examples coming out of the colder climate States (Washington and New York, for example), but in order to keep it varietally correct, France and Germany are the places to be.
Gewurztraminer tends to be inherent with a spicy cinnamon and nutmeg character, and is usually accompanied by a hint of sweetness. This makes it a perfect dual-purpose wine to keep the sweet wine drinkers happy, and also serving as a great accompaniment to pumpkin and/or apple pie.
Viognier. It isn’t one of the most widely recognized white grapes, and that’s why I’m throwing it into the mix here!
Viognier [vee-oh-n’yay] is made into one of the most aromatic white wines available. With crisp citrus flavors, surrounded by subtle herb and mineral notes, Viognier makes a prime pairing candidate for turkey and mashed potatoes.
Thanksgiving is the ONE time of year when “Chardonnay-haters” are made to eat their words! People seem to have taken a severe disliking to oak in their wine, and that’s ok, but you’re going to need at least a little oak in your Chard if the wine is to stand against the richer dishes at the table. If your Thanksgiving meal is going to consist of pecans, walnuts, apples, pears, stuffing and various baking spices, a big and bold oaky buttery Chardonnay will be your best friend!
Pinot Noir all the way baby! The emphasis with Pinot is usually skewing towards red fruit, and so with cranberry sauce, it’s a match made in Thanksgiving heaven.
Pinot Noir has grown to become a staple wine of Thanksgiving; and once again, since this is a uniquely American holiday, it’s a good idea to stick with Pinot from the U.S.
Pinot from California/Oregon has a tendency to rich and packed with sweeter red fruit. There’s a chance that a lighter Pinot (such as that from Burgundy) may lose its way in the sweet/savory/salty mix that is the typical Thanksgiving meal, so looking for a wine that is all about sweet fruit can be a great option.
The problem that some people find with Pinot Noir is that it’s too light for their particular palate. In the same respect, Cabernet or Shiraz can both be too heavy, with so much tannin, heavy dark fruit and “grip” that it completely annihilates their tastebuds. This is where Merlot throws on its purple super-hero cape and steps in to save the day!
Merlot doesn’t have to resemble a thin, weak, sweet red/blue fruit smoothie! Nope!
When done “right” (however you want to define that), a well-made Merlot will show well-balanced ripe raspberry and black cherry, a medium body and a long finish. Merlot has a fairly high sugar level and a low total acidity, allowing it to be paired with a large range of food options, and let’s not forget that no wine does a “smooth finish” better than Merlot!
What’s more ‘American’ than Zinfandel!?!?
“Oh, I don’t know…Chuck Norris wearing only a stars and stripes Speedo, round-house kicking a terrorist in the face, as he simultaneously sings Party in the U.S.A by Miley Cyrus…”
…ok…maybe that’s more American than Zinfandel…and you’re weird….
Zinfandel is about as American as it gets, and we’re going to completely gloss-over the fact that the grape has been proven to have its origins in Italy…
Zinfandel really can be made into all kinds of different styles: from the lighter and softer types which sometimes gets confused for a Californian Pinot Noir, all the way through to the powerful high-octane examples which find a perfect place paired with steak, ribs, burger and BBQ .
The bonus with Zin over other full-bodied red wines is that although they tend to be dry in style, their fruit-forward nature lends an impression of sweetness, thus helping to blend together with the food on your Thanksgiving table.
Nothing, and I repeat NOTHING gets the party started like bubbly! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, a bottles of bubbles can be one of the most food friendly wines available. Sparkling wines shouldn’t be just considered “for the holidays.” A good bottle of bubbly will bring both elegance and phenomenal food-pairing versatility to virtually any meal; and especially with Thanksgiving, these wines will really shine!.
If you’re looking for something sweeter, I don’t think you can ever go wrong with Moscato as a dessert-style wine. The bonus behind Moscato right-now is that with it being such a “hot grape”, wine brands are rushing to get theirs to market. The only downside is that the quality of Californian Moscato is sometimes questionable.
Paul Blanck, Gewürztraminer, Alsace, France. – $18
Hugel et Fils, Gewürztraminer, Alsace, France. – $14
Domaine Zind-humbrecht, Gewürztraminer, Alsace, France. – $30+
P.J. Valckenberg, Gewürztraminer, Rhine, Germany. – $14
Villa Wolf Dr. Loosen, Gewürztraminer, Pfalz, Germany. – $14
Bridlewood Viognier, Central Coast, California – $12
Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc/Viognier Blend, California – $12
Cline Cellars, Viognier, Sonoma, California – $14
Darioush Winery, Viognier, Napa, California – $30+
Stags’ Leap Winery, Viognier, Napa, California – $24
Mer Soleil, Chardonnay, Central Coast, California – $25
Waterbrook, Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, Washington State. – $12
Grgich Hills, Chardonnay, Napa, California. – $30+
Rendez-Vous Chardonnay, Clarksburg, California. – $24
William Hill, Chardonnay, Napa, California. – $20
Layer Cake Pinot Noir, Central Coast, California. – $16
Primarius Pinot Noir, Oregon. – $16
A to Z Pinot Noir, Oregon. – $18
Ramspeck Pinot Noir, Napa, California. – $18
On Point, Pinot Noir, North Coast, California – $35
Bonterra Merlot, Mendocino, California. – $12
Meeker Merlot, Sonoma, California. $40+
Waterbrook Merlot, Columbia Valley, Washington State – $16
Sterling Vineyards Merlot, Napa, California. – $18
Markham Vineyards Merlot, Napa, California. – $18
Seven Deadly Zins, Zinfandel, Lodi, California. – $12
Apothic Red Blend, California. – $10
Ridge (various labels), Zinfandel, Sonoma, California – $26+
Earthquake, Zinfandel, Lodi, California. – $25
Ravenswood “Old Vines”, Zinfandel, Lodi, California. – $12
J Brut, Sonoma, California, Sparkling Rose. – $26
Domaine Chandon Brut California Sparkling. – $14
Schramsberg “Blanc de Blancs”, Napa, California, Sparkling. – $28
Laetitia Brut Cuvee, Arroyo Grande Valley, Sparkling. – $24
Roederer Estate, Anderson Valley, Brut Rose. – $20