13 Wine Experts Choose Perfect Bottles for Your Thanksgiving Table
November 21, 2016
The varied flavors of the typical holiday feast are a challenge to wine-lovers; here's how to meet it
13 Wine Experts Choose Perfect Bottles for Your Thanksgiving Table
Wine, of course, wasn't part of the original Thanksgiving dinner back in 1620. (If the Pilgrims drank anything other than water, it would have been the remains of some beer they had brought over in barrels from England.) In many households around America today, it probably still isn't a significant part of the feast.
To us, though, dinner parties call for wine, whether they involve lasagna and green salad, a big pot of bouillabaisse, or, well, roast turkey with all the trimmings. What wine goes best with Thanksgiving dinner? That depends. One favorite of many wine-lovers is pinot noir. Others prefer something rich and white, or intensely Rhône-ish. Some like sparkling wine, and there's even a contingent that reaches for rosé.
We asked some of our regular wine writers, along with sommeliers and other wine-conscious restaurant folk, what their ideal wine for the Thanksgiving table would be.
Sacramento grocer and respected wine authority Darrell Corti, a member of The Daily Meal Council, replied to our request with a scenario suggesting why we turn to him so often for counsel on matters of food and drink: "For some four years now, since there are only four of us at Thanksgiving, we go to dim sum for lunch. But this isn't all. First we meet at my home and have a decently mature bottle of Bollinger RD and foie gras. Then proceed to lunch at a very good dim sum house here in Sacramento. There would be a couple of whites and a red there along with suitable dishes — not just dim sum, but noodles with lobster, roast squab — you get what I mean. Then back home for a nap if required, otherwise just talk. Then mid to late afternoon, mince tarts and other desserts, then a suitably matured vintage port with a couple of savouries and by 6 p.m., my friends are back on their way home, leaving me to read a bit (or pretend to) and so to bed!"
Alma Rosa El Jabali Vineyard Brut Rosé 2013 ($65)
We can never have enough sparkles, and the fine fizz here serves the dual purpose of refreshing and also cleansing one's palate on our annual day dedicated to gastronomical gluttony. From Santa Barbara County pinot noir pioneer Richard Sanford, the wine delivers a bright, focused, and unpretentious experience. Pale salmon in color with succulent strawberries and cherries on the palate and a rich yet mineral-driven finish, it is the essence of sensational sparkling wine.
— Rashmi Primlani, The Primlani Kitchen
Domaine Saint Nicolas "Le Haut des Clous" Fiefs Vendéens 2013 ($20)
This stunning white from the southern mouth of the Loire comprises biodynamically grown chenin blanc (80 percent), chardonnay (15 percent), and groslot (5 percent), and is for me is the perfect match for a juicy, salt-brined Thanksgiving turkey and its accoutrements. Burnished gold in the glass, already adding a beautiful aesthetic to the table before you've even taken a sip, it opens with oxidative aromatics of white flower blossom and poached pear/apple sauce with the added fragrance of clove; it's almost like a side dish unto itself! Whiffs of iodine (the vines grow next to the salt marshes), a very attractive unctuous mouth feel of baked quince, and a finish with stony minerality, the Les Clous will complement your Thanksgiving dinner to the last bite.
— David Sawyer, former sommelier/manager, Husk, Charleston
Perissos Texas High Plains Roussanne 2014 ($28)
This gold medal-winner at the 2015 San Francisco International Wine Competition is a very ripe expression of roussanne with pronounced notes of tropical fruit, peach, and banana. Its authoritative weight in the mouth and long, harmonious finish will let it shine at the holiday table. (Impossible to find outside Texas, it may be ordered directly from the winery at  549-3048.)
— Andrew Chalk, wine contributor to The Daily Meal
Domaine Huet Vouvray Le Haut Lieu Demi-Sec 2015 ($38)
Thanksgiving is a ridiculously hard meal to pair with one single wine, but Vouvray from the Loire is your best bet! Acidic yet soft, fruity, and earthy chenin blanc is the base of this wine, and that's going to take you far as you navigate through the salty, buttery, herbal, tart, and sweet notes that come part and parcel with the dishes of the day. This particular Vouvray is a touch sweet, which will complement, rather than clash with, stuff like sweet potatoes and cranberry relish. The pear and apple flavors will add another dimension to the salty mashed potatoes and roast turkey, and should you choose to fry your bird, a little bright acidity, fruit flavor, and sweetness will be a knockout, too. This wine's acidity means it can even handle acidic greens (green beans, asparagus), an amazing feat. The perfect combination of sugar, acid, and fruit flavor make Vouvray the perfect wine for the entire meal. Domaine Huet is the most renowned producer in Vouvray and with good reason. Every wine, every vintage is the picture of flawless farming that results in wines with perfect balance.
— Elizabeth Schneider, wine writer and sommelier
Château Mont-Redon Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc 2014 ($39)
A classic Châteauneuf blend of grenache blanc, clairette, bourboulenc, roussanne, and picpoul, this wine has the blend of fruitiness and savoriness, the structure, the weight, and the acidity to go well with white or dark meat, vegetables and stuffing, and also a savory and not overly sweet pumpkin pie.
— Roger Morris, wine contributor to The Daily Meal
Zind-Humbrecht Rangen de Thann, Clos St. Urbain, Riesling Grand Cru 2012 ($75)
An elegant, weighty wine, deep yellow in color with a smoky nose and a mineral-rich, spicy, almost meaty flavor. This is a wine that will stand up to the sweetness of the candied yams, the tartness of the cranberry sauce, and the pungency of the Brussels sprouts, while drawing out the flavor of the turkey.
— Colman Andrews, editorial director, The Daily Meal
Château d’Aquéria Tavel Rosé 2015 ($13.99)
I have been drinking Château D’Aqueria for many years and it is consistently outstanding and a great value. It is also one of our favorite wines to have with Thanksgiving turkey! The 2015 is true to form and will grace our table this Thanksgiving. Made with grenache, syrah, cinsault, and clairette, the wine has a light red color with a faint golden hue and a lovely floral tinged perfume with berry and cherry nuances. Rounded, supple, and lush with loads of red fruit flavors, this is a rosé with depth and is very flavorful and delicious.
Badenhorst Family “Secateurs” Red Blend 2012 ($16)
We are several years into a true revolution in the wine world of South Africa, the “Swartland Revolution,” with the new generation of winemakers in the region realizing drastic improvements in the quality (and quantity) of their wines. Old-vine vineyards, long gone wild, are being brought back into production under the care of this new class of top-notch winemakers. Adi Badenhorst is among the best of them. A blend of shiraz, mourvèdre, old-vine cinsault, and really old-vine grenache, this wine explodes with gorgeous red fruit and food-loving acidity — and it is a steal. It pairs beautifully with everything from redfish with brown butter to Thanksgiving turkey (hopefully with sage stuffing) to a rosemary-scented rack of lamb.
— Dan Davis, "wine guy," Commander's Palace, New Orleans
Château Thivin Côte de Brouilly 2012 ($25)
Although Thanksgiving is often associated with Beaujolais nouveau (for no other reason than the legal release date in France coincides with this American holiday), the Beaujolais cru wines are in a whole other category. This year, I will be popping a bottle of Château Thivin's Côte de Brouilly. This wine has notes of red berries (some say raspberry, others bilberry), hints of violets, earthiness with a touch of spiciness, and silky tannins — just enough to provide the perfect match for the turkey without creating any conflicts with potentially spicy or challenging side dishes.
— Renée B. Allen, director, Wine Institute of New England
Acorn Sangiovese 2013 ($30)
The fruit comes from Alegria Vineyards, Acorn’s estate vineyard in the Russian River Valley. As with all their wines, this sangiovese is a field blend. In this case, 23 different clones of sangiovese are co-fermented with canaiolo and mammolo. Red fruit aromas such as bing cherry and apple are present on the nose. The palate shows off leather as well as sour red fruits (cranberry and pomegranate). Chicory, black pepper, and a dusting of dark chocolate are all present on the long finish. Firm, racy acid lends to the incredible food friendliness of this wine. The varied bounty of the typical thanksgiving table is a perfect match for this extraordinary California take on Italy’s greatest grape.
— Gabe Sasso, wine contributor to The Daily Meal
Foxen Winery Santa Maria Valley, Pinot Noir 2013 ($34)
While Beaujolais has been an obvious choice for many years as a Thanksgiving wine (and there are many great examples on the market), Thanksgiving is a very American holiday and I like to pour a domestic wine for this occasion. If I were to choose one wine to go on the Thanksgiving table it would be a Central Coast pinot noir, particularly from Santa Barbara or the Santa Maria Valley. This one is light in body so it won’t overwhelm the turkey. Along with fall spice aromas of clove, cinnamon, and allspice, its fruit flavors mirror that of the Thanksgiving table’s tart cranberry relish. Most importantly, it’s delicious and sure to please everyone at the table!
— Scott Geisler, general manager, 1921 by Norman Van Aken, Mount Dora, Florida
Tablas Creek Esprit de Tablas Rouge 2014 ($53)
For the perfect Thanksgiving red, I don’t have to look any further than this wine from The Daily Meal’s Winery of the Year 2016. A blend of mourvèdre, grenache, syrah, and counoise, this gorgeous wine is everything a good Rhône blend should be. The nose and palate are heady with dark red fruit, plum, and blackberry with just enough mineral and spice to add complexity and interest. It has a lusciously round, silky mouthfeel and beautiful structure with near-ideal fruit/acid balance and a long, soft finish with silky tannins. Purely elegant, it would complement and enhance virtually all of our traditional Thanksgiving dishes.
— Anne Montgomery, wine contributor to The Daily Meal