4 Wines to Have on the Thanksgiving Table

It's almost that time to wake up early, watch the parade, make the pumpkin pie, and decorate the table for Thanksgiving! I look forward to this day every year not only for the mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes (potatoes are my favorite) but because its the day that I can put multiple wine glasses at each place setting, open a ton of bottles, and force my family to try everything while I enthusiastically shout out what wine to try with which dish (it really is a dream come true). Just kidding, I don't force anyone to drink wine. But it is pretty awesome getting to taste each wine with the side dishes and having those "aha!" moments where something works really well.

With that, I give you my top 4 wines to have on your Thanksgiving table this year and every year after this. Since you'll hopefully have plenty of people over to drink 4 bottles of wine, this is a great way to get variety onto the table and avoid buying multiple bottles of the same wine. Woohoo!

What wine to do you pair with Thanksgiving dinner? I say, pair 4 of them! Here are the top 4 wines that must be on your Thanksgiving dinner table | Lessons in Libations

1. Sparkling Wine

What better way to celebrate Thanksgiving than with sparkling wine?! Not only are bubbles great for the holidays, but they also pair with the many flavors of the meal. Each time you take a sip of sparkling wine, the bubbles scrub your tongue clean, giving you a fresh palate for the next bite of food you take. With all the flavors going on in Thanksgiving side dishes, sparkling wine will help cleanse your palate.

You have lots of choices when it comes to bubbles, depending on your budget. Cava, Prosecco, Champagne...all good. My biggest piece of advice, however, is to spend at least $10 on that bottle of bubbly. Any less, and you risk the bottle being force-carbonated which might give you a nasty hangover for Black Friday. (And nobody wants that).

Dani's Picks:

  • Nino Franco Prosecco Brut $
  • Freixenet Brut $
  • Roederer Estate Brut Rosé $$
  • Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Brut $$$

2. Riesling

Riesling is an absolute MUST at the Thanksgiving table! There are lots of sweet flavors in the dishes, so you need a sweet wine to balance them out. However, don’t go buying late-harvest, dessert-style Rieslings as they are way too sweet and heavy to pair with dinner. Instead, opt for a Kabinett Riesling from Germany or a domestic off-dry example. These wines are great pairings for Thanksgiving because the sweetness of the wine matches the sweetness in the food and won't overpower even the lightest dishes.

Dani's Picks:

  • Dr. Loosen "Dr. L" Mosel, Germany $
  • Chateau Ste Michelle Columbia Valley, Washington $
  • Dr. Loosen "Blue Slate" Kabinett Mosel, Germany $$
  • Elk Cove, Willamette Valley, Oregon $$

3. Beaujolais

Thanksgiving is my favorite time to drink Beaujolais. It is actually the first red wine I think of when preparing my wine list for the big day. I partly enjoy it so much with this holiday because I never seem to drink it any other time of the year, even though it's a great little wine with a very small price tag. A light red wine made from the gamay grape, Beaujolais boasts vibrant flavors of bright red fruit and even a bit of candied "grapeiness". Its a crowd-pleaser, as usual sweet-wine drinkers even warm up to it, and it pairs incredibly with Thankgsiving. You can usually find a cheap Beaujolais under $10, but for a few dollars more, you can get the best of the best, Cru Beaujolais. I say if you get one wine to go with Thanksgiving dinner, make it this one. Note: Beaujolais Nouveau hits stores in November each year, so it should be very easy to find.

Dani's Picks:

  • Any Beaujolais-Villages
  • Any Beaujolais that says "Morgon", "Brouilly", or "Moulin-a-Vent"
  • Favorite producers: Joseph Drouhin and Georges DuBoeuf

4. Pinot Noir/Red Burgundy

Like Beaujolais, Pinot Noir is a great wine for Thanksgiving because it is light, fruity, and low in tannin. Thanksgiving dishes are not heavy  so these light-bodied wines will complement, rather than overpower, them. Personally I suggest a Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley or Burgundy as these are usually the lightest and have a bit more earthiness to them than their California counterparts.

My Picks:

  • Erath, Willamette Valley, Oregon $
  • Adelsheim Vineyards, Willamette Valley, Oregon $$
  • Flowers, Sonoma Coast, California $$
  • Any red burgundy--look for Savigny-Les-Beaune or Nuits-St. Georges for good values

Other Favorites of Mine

Gewurztraminer or Cabernet Franc are also great additions to the Thanksgiving table if you are feeling a bit more adventurous. Just stay away from big wines like Nebbiolo and Cabernet Sauvignon, unless you have guests coming over that will not settle with anything else (in which you should make them bring their own wine. Just saying.)

What are your favorite wines to pair with Thanksgiving dinner? Let me know in the comment

What Wine to Pair with Roast Chicken

Roasted Chicken is not as hard as you think. Put a glass of Pinot Noir alongside it and you've got yourself a meal!

Whether you purchased a rotisserie chicken at the store or are cooking one yourself, roast chicken is an easy dish to pair with wine. But which varietal really is best?! Read on to find out!

Roast Chicken is soooo easy to make. Why are people so afraid to cook it? Granted, purchasing a cooked rotisserie chicken at the store is very convenient, but it is much cheaper to just buy a raw chicken yourself and cook it at home. All you need is a few hours of oven time--believe it or not, this dish takes less time working in the kitchen than most of my other recipes! I've also noticed that you get much more meat for your money if you purchase a raw bird rather than a cooked rotisserie. Bonus!

But however which way you want to acquire your roasted chicken, the meal's not complete without a wine, right?!

Roasted Chicken is one of the easiest meals to make, honest! I don't know why people waste their money on overpriced rotisserie chickens when you can get much more meat with your money on a raw one

The Wine Pairing

I think the third or fourth post I made on this website was a beer pairing with roast chicken (don't mind the terrible pictures!). Although I love a good beer with my chicken, I have to admit that wine wins this battle. There's just something about the crispy, slightly greasy chicken skin complementing an acidic, earthy wine.

For any roasted chicken dish, find a good bottle of Pinot Noir to accompany it. This one is an easy pairing--any Pinot Noir should work as there are none I can think of that would overwhelm this chicken. Why does Pinot Noir work so well? Pinot is light, so it won't drown out the natural chicken flavors. The bright, red fruit dominating Pinot Noir's palate will trick your mind into thinking its a sweet sauce to complement the meat. If the wine has any earthiness (think potting soil, cedar, or herbaceous flavors), it will act like a natural seasoning for the crispy roasted chicken. Drool.

I'm a big fan of Oregon Pinot Noir myself, but really, any region will work with this dish. Whether you pick a fruit-bomb Pinot Noir or a cool-climate, restrained example, you won't be disappointed at its match with roasted chicken.

Dani's Regional Pinot Noir Picks for Roasted Chicken:

  • Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
  • Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
  • Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
  • Napa Valley Pinot Noir
  • New Zealand Pinot Noir
What Wine Should You Pair with Roasted Chicken? A light, fruity Pinot Noir!

The Recipe

There are lots of recipes out there on how to roast a chicken, but I like to keep it simple. This recipe just uses a few lemons, salt and pepper to bring out the natural flavors of the chicken. Don't forget to use the leftover bones and meat to make your own chicken broth!

Easy Roast Chicken with Lemons

Prep time:  10 mins

Cook time: 1 hour 30 mins

Total time: 1 hour 40 mins

Serves: 4-6 servings


  • 1 3-5 pound chicken
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • 2 lemons


  1. Preheat oven to 350 F
  2. Wash the chicken inside and out with cold water. Let it sit for a few minutes at an angle to drain the excess water, then pat dry with paper towels (also inside and out).
  3. Sprinkle the chicken generously with salt and pepper, inside and out. Use your fingers to rub the seasonings into the skin.
  4. Roll each lemon with a bit of pressure onto a countertop to soften them up. With a fork, prick each lemon all around to expose the inside juice.
  5. Place the lemons inside the bird's cavity.
  6. With kitchen string, tie the legs together; not too tight, just to hold them in place close to the rest of the bird.
  7. Put the chicken into a roasting pan, breast facing down. No need to add any oil or additional cooking liquid. Place it into the upper third of the preheated oven.
  8. After 30 minutes, turn the chicken over carefully so that the breast faces up. Cook for another 30-35 minutes.
  9. Turn the heat of the oven up to 300 degrees and cook for an additional 20 minutes. Total, the chicken should cook about 20-25 minutes per pound (so a 4 pound chicken would cook for about 80 minutes).
  10. When the chicken is finished, remove from the oven and carve. No need to remove the lemons from the cavity. Use any juices in the pan to serve over the meat.


Other Chicken Recipes and Pinot Noir Pairings

What Wine to Pair with Lemon Chicken and Other Chicken Recipes
What Wine to Pair with Lemon Chicken and Other Chicken Recipes
What Wine to Pair with Cedar Plank Salmon
What Wine to Pair with Cedar Plank Salmon
What Wine to Pair with Beef Bourguignon
What Wine to Pair with Beef Bourguignon

Classic Wine Pairing: Beef Bourguignon and Pinot Noir

Its about time we start looking at some classic food and wine pairings. Beef Bourgignon is a French staple and the fanciest version of a stew I've ever devoured. Read on to learn about this classic dish and what wine to serve alongside it!

Do you ever have a hankering to make a meal that really takes some elbow grease? A meal that takes you over a day to prepare, plus spend a few more hours of active kitchen time? Beef Bourgignon (made the right way!) is your best friend, if that's the case. By the time Andrew and I had this dinner on the table, I was tired, cranky, and ready to order a pizza. This meal was WORK. But, like most meals that that take time, this was worth it.

Beef Bourguignon homemade paired with a Red Burgundy (Pinot Noir). Classic wine pairing | CaretoPair.com
Beef Bourguignon homemade paired with a Red Burgundy (Pinot Noir). Classic wine pairing | CaretoPair.com

The Pairing

What we have here friends is a classic dish with a classic pairing. If you don't speak French (or just never made the connection), Beef Bourgignon comes from Burgundy--the small-ish, yet very powerful region in France famous for dijon mustard, creme de cassis, epoisses, and the most expensive wine in the world.

Yep that's right, Burgundy holds the award for the most expensive wines in the world (if you thought Bordeaux was the most expensive, you were close--that's the second most expensive region). I remember one day I had to deliver 2 bottles of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti to a hotel guest. While holding the bottles I thought to myself "I have $30,000 in my hands...cost". I've never gripped a bottle of wine so hard in my life!

Okay back to the pairing...now theoretically, you're going to need 2 bottles of wine for this meal. One to drink (of course), and one to marinate the stew in for a whole day. Yes--beef drowned in wine for an entire day.

Now, the bottle that you use for the marinade should not be a $2 bottle. It should be a bottle of a wine that you would actually drink, so no cooking/jug wine! The classic type of wine to use would be a Burgundian Pinot Noir but those can get pricey. I'm pretty sure the cheapest one I found at Total Wine was $15 which wasn't too bad. If you don't want to go over $10, you can really use any red wine, but to keep this recipe authentic stick with a Pinot Noir.

On to the bottle you should DRINK with this (not so) beautiful Beef Bourgignon. Generally I think we assume big flavors from big meat, like beef, demand big wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, or Merlot. But for this pairing we keep it in the Burgundy family and serve Red Burgundy, aka Pinot Noir, with the meal.

Beef Bourguignon Paired with a Classic, Red Burgundy | CaretoPair.com
Beef Bourguignon Paired with a Classic, Red Burgundy | CaretoPair.com

Dani's Favorite (affordable) Red Burgundy Producers

  • Joseph Drouhin
  • Olivier LeFlaive
  • Faively
  • Bouchard
  • Evening Land

If you don't have access to a Burgundian Pinot Noir, an earthy pick from the Willamette Valley is a decent substitute. Try Domaine Drouhin or J. Christopher, if you can find it.

Boeuf Bourguignon Made the Classic Way, Plus the Perfect Wine Pairing | CaretoPair.com
Boeuf Bourguignon Made the Classic Way, Plus the Perfect Wine Pairing | CaretoPair.com

The Recipe

I have had a big urge to feature some classic dishes on this website. I've been on Pinterest a bit too much lately (as if that's a thing) and as a result have been seeing way too many crazy, innovative recipes. While that's great and all, I'm going to remember that I am not an innovator myself. I like following recipes. Good Recipes. And I like pairing them with wine. That's what I'm good at. So, here is my favorite recipe for beef bourgignon courtesy of Anne Willan in her Country Cooking of France cookbook (which you should most definitely buy).

Classic Wine Pairing: Beef Bourguignon and Pinot Noir


Dani (CaretoPair.com)

Prep time:

24 hours

Cook time:

5 hours

Total time:

29 hours



Recipe adapted from The Country Cooking of France Cookbook, Anne Willan.


  • 2 lbs boneless beef chuck
  • 1 lb boneless beef shank
  • vegetable oil
  • 3 Tbsp flour
  • 2 Cups good-quality beef broth, preferably homemade
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 1 stalk celery, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp whole peppercorn
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 2-3 sprigs fresh parsley
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1 bottle of red wine (make it Pinot Noir!)
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 pieces of bacon
  • 20-24 baby onions
  • 12 oz button mushrooms, quartered if large


  1. A day before serving, marinate the beef. Cut the beef into 2-inch cubes and trim any excess fat off. Place into a deep bowl and add the onions, carrots, and celery. Pour the marinating wine over the meat and veggies and stir to mix. Add the garlic, peppercorns, and cloves on top. Cover and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours, stirring once or twice.
  2. Preheat the oven to 325 F. Drain the marinated beef and veggies over a colander and bowl, capturing the wine from the marinade (but separating the liquids from the solids).
  3. Separate the pieces of meat and pat them dry with with paper towels. Heat 3 Tbsp of vegetable oil over high heat in a large dutch oven. Add the meat in batches, browning each about 4-5 minutes. Set to the side once browned and continue frying all the meat until completed.
  4. Add the drained vegetables to the pan and fry until they begin to brown, 5-7 minutes. Stir in the flour and while stirring continuously, cook for another 1-2 minutes. Add the reserved marinade wine to the pot and bring to a boil.
  5. After the wine has been boiling for a minute, add back in the meat and add enough beef broth to cover the contents of the pot. Bring back to a boil, then transfer to the oven and simmer until the beef is completely tender, 2 1/2-4 hours. Stir occasionally and add more broth if the sauce gets too thick.
  6. Meanwhile, make the garnish. Cook the bacon in a frying pan and allow to cool. Cut/slice the bacon into tiny pieces.
  7. Melt half the butter in a frying pan and add the baby onions. Saute over low heat, stirring often to make sure they color evenly, about 15-20 minutes. Set aside.
  8. Add the remaining butter to the pan with the mushrooms and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until tender, about 3-5 minutes. Set aside with the bacon and onions in a large bowl.
  9. When the beef is done, remove from the oven and lift them out of the stew with a draining spoon. Add them to the bowl with the garnish. Discard the herbs and any excess fat from the sauce.
  10. Strain the sauce over the beef and garnish pressing hard on the onions and carrots to extract as much juice as possible. Stir everything together, then put it all back in the dutch oven. Reheat over the stove for 5 to 8 minutes to blend the flavors.
  11. Finally, serve the beef bourguignon in bowls garnished with toasted croutes. (Simply toast some hearty bread, dip in melted butter, then dip into chopped parsley for presentation). No need to serve Boeuf Bourguinon over potatoes or any other carbohydrate--the stew itself will be very filling alone.


Boeuf Bourguinon Wine Pairing | CaretoPair.com
Boeuf Bourguinon Wine Pairing | CaretoPair.com

Happy Pairing!

Wine Pairing: Cedar Plank Salmon with Garlic Basil Aioli

This recipe pairing is inspired by the incredible experience I had last year at Oregon Pinot Camp. Can you guess what wine I paired it with?! Read on to discover this awesome dish and my love for Oregon wines.

Last summer I attended Oregon Pinot Camp (OPC) 2014 and it was INCREDIBLE. I may not have shown it much on the blog yet but I am absolutely in love with Oregon wine. Its perhaps my favorite region to visit in the US and the wines are some of my favorite to promote. Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris are the two most planted grape varietals from there, but personally I'm a huge fan of their Chardonnay. More of that on another post though.

Pinot Camp elevated my love for Oregon to a whole new level. From camp, I learned just how much the wineries stick together and promote one another. Instead of competing with each other for wine sales, they understand that if they support the region as a whole, everyone will be successful. So sweet!

Oregon Wine Regions Plus a Pinot Noir Salmon Pairing | CaretoPair.com
Oregon Wine Regions Plus a Pinot Noir Salmon Pairing | CaretoPair.com

Oregon Pinot Noir

Oregon Pinot is different. Or should I say...different than what we're used to. The trend these days seems to be big, juicy, over-extracted, high-alcohol Pinot Noir. Personally I don't understand it--why not just drink a bottle of syrah if you're going down that route? Since Oregon has a very cool climate for grape-growing, their Pinot Noir generally can't get that ripe and juicy. The result? Very light, aromatic wines with great acidity and medium alcohol. Which means these wines go great with food.

Common Descriptors of Oregon Pinot Noir:

  •  Red Cherry
  • Strawberry
  • Cranberry
  • Mushroom
  • Potting Soil
  • Dried Leaves

Speaking of food, I had a revelation towards salmon while at Pinot Camp (FINALLY I tell you why I'm featuring Salmon but talking about Oregon in this post!). Long terrorized by the worst salmon my Mom had ever made me eat as a kid, baked with ZERO seasonings, its the truth when I say I have never been a fan of the fish. Its just so...fishy. On the last night of Pinot Camp, however, the wineries hosted a traditional Oregon salmon bake. It was a crazy party and the best salmon I've ever had. Check out that fire!

OPC Oregon PInot Camp Salmon Bake 2014 Recipe and Wine Pairing | CaretoPair.com
OPC Oregon PInot Camp Salmon Bake 2014 Recipe and Wine Pairing | CaretoPair.com

As you can see in the picture, they get this huge fire going and hang the salmon fillets on wooden spikes. Let me tell you, that fire was HOT. We tried to roast marshmallows on it after dinner and no one could get near it.

The salmon was fantastic just in the way it was prepared, but what I really fell in love with was the garlic basil aioli they served it with. So much that I told myself that I would make a blog post about it. A year later, I finally did it!

The Pairing

Obviously if salmon is a traditional dish of Oregon, its a natural match for Pinot Noir. Salmon is a heavy, oily fish that can stand up to red wine better than most fish. However, since Oregon Pinot Noir is not a heavy red wine, it does not overwhelm the fish like other reds would. The garlic and basil in the aioli can be difficult ingredients to pair with wine, but the herbal characteristics in Oregon Pinot complement those flavors. On top of all that, the char you get on the salmon and all those delicious flavors from the cedar plank resonate with the fruit in the wine, tying the whole meal together.

My favorite Oregon Pinot Noirs (it was so hard to only pick a few!)

  • Adelsheim Vineyards
  • Benton-Lane Winery
  • Cooper Mountain Vineyards
  • Domaine Drouhin
  • Domaine Serene
  • Elk Cove Vineyards
  • Panther Creek
  • Penner-Ash Cellars
  • Roco Winery
  • Soter Vineyards

Okay lets be honest...I love them all.

The Recipe

This recipe does not require a huge fire in your backyard like the one above (although that would be awesome if you had that setup). To make the salmon in a similar way, all you have to do is buy a cedar plank from the grocery store. These planks are usually right in the seafood section for your convenience! We served the salmon with a delicious homemade rice pilaf and grilled summer squash. Its a beautiful and delicious weekend meal for date-night in.

Cedar Plank Salmon with Garlic Basil Aioli

Author: Dani 

Prep time: 2 hours 15 mins

Cook time: 40 mins

Total time: 2 hours 55 mins

Serves: 2

Garlic-Basil Aioli Inspired by selfproclaimedfoodie.com


  • 1 Wild Caught Salmon Fillet (skin-on okay)
  • olive oil
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic salt
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp garlic, minced (about 3 cloves)
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 Cup basil leaves
  • 1/4 Cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 Cup vegetable oil


  1. Soak the cedar plank in water or wine (to give it some flavor) for 2 hours (or at least 20 minutes). The longer the better on this one
  2. Preheat a gas grill to high. After 15 minutes, reduce it to medium low
  3. To make the garlic aioli: combine the minced garlic, yolks, lemon juice, and basil leaves in a food processor; pulse to combine. Slowly add the olive oil and vegetable oil in a small stream while processor is running. Combine the black pepper, smoked paprika, and garlic salt in a small bowl
  4. Rinse the salmon thoroughly and pat dry with paper towels. Brush it with the olive oil, then with the black pepper, paprika, and garlic salt mixture
  5. Place the salmon onto the cedar plank, skin-side down (we had to use two planks since our salmon was so big!)
  6. Place the salmon on the plank onto the grill grates and cook for about 30-40 minutes. When the salmon is cooked through but slightly pink in the middle, it is done. Try not to lift the lid during the cooking process until you think the salmon might be done--it is tempting, but lifting the lid will let the smoke and heat escape, cooking the salmon inconsistently.

Okay....one more picture. This was the sunset as seen from Anne Amie Vineyards. Sooooo beautiful.

Willamette Valley Sunset | CaretoPair.com
Willamette Valley Sunset | CaretoPair.com

Happy Pairing!