Thanksgiving is hands-down my favorite meal of the year—Christmas of course wins the “favorite holiday” category, but let’s face it…what other meal do you have mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes on the dinner table at the same time?! (theoretically, I know I could do this any time, but it is more special if it only happens once a year!)
This is a holiday that exemplifies everything I stand for—enjoying a great meal around the dinner table with family and friends. This is a holiday that’s ALL about giving thanks, spending time with those you love, cooking, eating great food, and relaxing. It’s what I aspire to do every day of my life.
Thanksgiving also happens to be my favorite because I use it as an excuse to open a bunch of wine and beer, give everyone at least 5 glasses to *taste* said wine and beer, and have fun pairing with the myriad of side dishes on the table. It really is a dream come true for me.
Although I open about 9 different wine and beers every year, no matter how many people are over, I want to make things easy for you and give you my two must-have wines for the Thanksgiving table plus a couple of “runners up” that you can choose to add to your holiday as well.
Wine #1: Beaujolais
Bow-jo-what? Bow-Jo-Lay. This is THE wine to buy for Thanksgiving if you only plan to drink one thing all night. Beaujolais comes from Burgundy, France, and is made from a grape called Gamay. The wine is light-bodied like Pinot Noir and has lots of red fruit (think tart cherry, currant, and cranberry) going on. It also tends to be a bit herbal and earthy, depending on the kind you get. A wine that tastes like cranberries and has herbal notes to it is going to be PERFECT with Thanksgiving. Bam.
- Joseph Drouhin Beaujolais Villages $
- Georges DuBeouf Beaujolais Villages $
- any Cru Beaujolais $$
- Cote de Brouilly
Even better is that Beaujolais is kinda out of fashion right now, so you can get a GREAT bottle for under $20. Beaujolais Nouveau comes out around this time every year so that is a fine option, or if you want to spend a few extra bucks go for Beaujolais Villages. And then if you want to get really fancy you can do a Cru Beaujolais. Any of these will be perfect with Thanksgiving. If you don’t think you will like this wine, please just trust me and try it with this meal. It is such a good pairing that it won’t matter if you like bigger reds or whatever your reason is.
Wine #2: Riesling
Before you go all “I don’t like sweet wine” on me here, let’s think about the kinds of dishes that are served at Thanksgiving: sweet potatoes. Cranberries. Creamed Corn. I see a lot of sweet dishes on the Thanksgiving table. Sweet food does NOT go well with dry wine. Any Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, whatever that you put on the table that doesn’t have sweetness to it will not work with food that has sweetness. Therefore, Riesling is awesome with Thanksgiving because it has great acidity (perfect for food pairing) and a hint of sugar which will match any sweetness in dishes. Make sure to pick one that isn’t dry, but also don’t pick one that is dessert-sweet. We’re looking for off-dry or “kabinett” level here.
- Elk Cove Estate Riesling, Willamette Valley OR $$
- Dr. Loosen "Blue Slate" or "Dr. L", Mosel Germany $$
- Chateau Ste Michelle Riesling, Columbia Valley WA $
Similar to Gamay, this is a good pick if you can’t find Beaujolais or are really that afraid of trying something new.
- Rodney Strong Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley CA $$
- Adelsheim Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley OR $$
- Erath Pinot Noir, OR $
this wine often has some residual sugar in it, acting like Riesling while pairing. Gewurztraminer is also known as the “spicy” grape, meaning it carries spice aromas and flavors like cinnamon, clove, ginger, and allspice (matching many flavors on the table)
- Trimbach Gewurztraminer, Alsace France $$
- Columbia Crest Gewurztraminer, Columbia Valley WA $
This is a great wine to have before dinnertime because it can get the party going. It also provides a nice palate-cleanser throughout the meal because those bubbles will scrub flavors off your palate. If you pick an off-dry style (one with a hint of sweetness), it will also pair well with dishes on the table (please refer back to the Riesling comments to understand why).
- Roederer Estate Sparkling Wine, Anderson Valley CA $$
- Any Champagne
- Freixenet (or any) Cava, Spain $
Looking for a wine to pair with pumpkin pie? Sorry, I’m not a fan of wine with pie. Beer wins that race. But if you must, opt for a sweet wine like Riesling or Moscato. Personally I might have some Bailey’s and coffee this year.