Wine for Thanksgivng: Quick Picks

winePhoto by gcfairch, via Flickr

Last year here on the blog, I wrote two posts on picking wine for Thanksgiving. It was the first time covering the subject for me, but it’s a tried and true annual staple for wine writers. And it’s often one that is forced and full of clichés from “there are no rules”! to “you must follow these tips!”

So instead of rehashing all of the suggestions and tips, I’m just going to keep it simple. Here are the links to last year’s posts:  Critics’ Tips and My Tips.  And below you’ll find two of the wines that I’m bringing to this year’s Thanksgiving dinner.

But first, here’s the MOST important tip that you’ll ever need – make sure you buy enough wine!



2010 Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc + Viognier – $12

From the Winery: “This unique marriage of two varietals that would never share the same bottle in their native France unites the crisp, honeyed fruit of Chenin Blanc with the plush body, light floral aromas and juicy stone fruit notes of Viognier, for a wine that is both sophisticated and easy to enjoy.”


2009 Erath Pinot Noir, Oregon – $19

From the Winery: “This lustrous beauty showcases aromas of raspberry pie with pleasing hints of mint, citrus and a provocative suggestion of smoke. Fresh and bright flavors on the palate are balanced with a blend of juicy cherry and racy pomegranate. An easy sipper yet enough acidity to pair beautifully with your favorite dish.”


Wine for Thanksgiving: My Tips

So many choices… (Photo by William Couch, via Flickr)

If you read yesterday’s post, or any article on pairing wine for Thanksgiving, you’re likely thinking that there’s no easy or simple answer. All told, there are probably too many opinions on the matter. No wonder it can seem overwhelming.

But in reality, it’s not that difficult. In fact, it can be fairly simple and straightforward. Just give yourself a few ground rules, come up with a game plan ahead of time and stick to it. The trick, in my mind, is not to over think it. And if your guests aren’t thankful for the wine you’ve provided with Thanksgiving dinner, well, no dessert for them.

For this post on Thanksgiving wine pairings, I’ve laid out a set of five tips for selecting wines and included a set of my personal picks based on those tips.


Justin’s Thanksgiving Wine Pairing Tips

1. Pick wine that you like. This is by far the best way to keep the whole process simple and relatively stress free. If there’s a wine you know you like, chances are other people will as well. Plus, it’s always good to go with what you know over taking a risk on a wine that you’ve never tasted before.

2. Include both reds and whites (and bubbly and rosé too). Worried that not everyone likes red wine or vice versa? Easy, include both. And if you’re really ambitious, throw in a bottle of bubbly or even rosé.

3. Mix it up with a variety of options. Expanding on the previous tip, include a variety of wines to choose from – a couple of whites, couple of reds, etc. This is a sure bet  to keep the crowd satisfied. If someone doesn’t like riesling, you’ve got chardonnay to serve. Zinfandel not your thing? Here’s a pinot noir.

4. Buy American. It is Thanksgiving, after all. Aside from the 4th of July, it’s the most American of American holidays. Embrace it. Besides, there’s plenty of excellent American wines of all stripes to choose from.

5. Don’t break the bank. Buy enough. The first part of this tip definitely makes the second part much easier. When serving wine to a large crowd at a big meal like Thanksgiving, there’s no need to break out the super expensive stuff. And there’s plenty of value wine to be found under $20. While you don’t want to go overboard, it’s usually best to be sure you don’t run out of wine. About a half bottle per drinking guest is a good formula – and you can always keep what’s leftover.


Justin’s Thanksgiving Wine Picks

In keeping with the tips above, I’ve selected a set of wines that I would love to serve at Thanksgiving dinner. For the most part, I’ve kept the selections to wines priced under $20. I’ve tasted all of the wines this year and you’ll notice something of an East Coast influence, with four wines from Virginia and New York. Personally, I don’t drink very much sparkling wine, so that category is excluded from my picks.

Rosé :

2009 Wolffer Estate Rosé Table Wine, Long Island, New York ($13) An excellent Provence-style rosé from one of the top wineries on Long Island. Yes, Long Island. This was my favorite rosé of the year, hands down.


2009 Linden Vineyards Vidal Riesling, Virginia ($19) The first of two Virginia picks, tropical fruits, slight sweetness, and nice acidity make for an excellent wine that will pair well with a variety of side dishes and desserts.

2009, Keswick Vineyards Viognier, Monticello ($22) Viognier is an up-and-coming varietal in Virginia, and this wine is a shining example. Aromatic, flavors of apples and pears, bright acidity and refreshing. A wine that should match well with the big flavors of the meal.

2008, Four Vines Naked Chardonnay, Santa Barbara ($12) A unoaked, light bodied and crisp chardonnay. A great value, especially for those looking to avoid a California oak-bomb chardonnay.


2007, Erratic Rock Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley Oregon ($15) This Oregon Pinot is an excellent value wine.  Cherry and earthy aromas matched with a well-balanced structure and fruit forward flavors.

2007, Shinn Estate Vineyard Wild Boar Doe, North Fork Long Island ($30) A Bordeaux-style blend might be considered too big of a wine for the meal, but this Long Island blend leads with merlot (40%), displaying dark fruit, spice, and vanilla flavors, with ripe but not overpowering tannins and a nice finish.

2008, Owen Roe Sinister Hand,  Columbia Valley ($24) An excellent Rhone-style blend from the Pacific Northwest, ripe red fruit, savory, herbaceous and earth flavors make for a great pairing.

NV, Rosenblum Cellars Vinter’s Cuvee, California ($13) Zinfandel, the American wine – and not the pink stuff either. At 13.5% alcohol, this is a lighter, medium-bodied wine with nice flavors of cherry, berries, and spice. 

A note on the links, prices and availability: I’ve linked directly to all of the wineries included above. The prices listed are based more or less on retail prices that I’ve seen for these wines, not necessarily the prices quoted on the winery websites. Many of the wines can be found in wine shops and grocery stores in DC (Bell Wine & Spirits, Whole Foods, Safeway), with the Virginia and New York wines being the exception. To find good deals on these wines, I recommend using

Wine for Thanksgiving: Critics’ Tips

Photo by Paul Goyette, via Flickr

Brine or no brine? Roast or deep fry? Mashed or whipped potatoes? Brussels sprouts or green beans? Homemade stuffing or the good stuff in a bag? How many pies to bake? Assigned seats at the table or a free for all?  Forget worrying about all of that stuff.  It’s time to focus on what’s really important – finding the right wines to go with the big Thanksgiving meal.

Every year we find ourselves asking the same question – what wine should I serve at Thanksgiving dinner? But just as Thanksgiving comes and goes every year, so too does the never-ending annual barrage of wine pairing advice.

So, if you’re having trouble deciding what wine to serve at the dinner table this Thanksgiving, here’s a big long list of tips and advice from various wine critics and writers to help get you through the day.


The New York Times’ Eric Asimov weighs in with the top picks from his annual Thanksgiving wine tasting, along with a few helpful tips to ease the stress of picking wines for the meal. Crisp and refreshing Burgundies and slightly sweet and acidic Oregon wines topped the list for whites. Fresh and fruity Bordeaux-style blends and lighter bodied zinfandel with lower alcohol levels and came out on top for the reds.

Food and Wine magazine included a several different items on picking wines for the big meal, including a great selection of bargain syrahs (I’d drink a Bonny Doon syrah any day of the week). A useful Top 10 list covered several affordable whites, reds, and even rosé; and Gary Vaynerchuk, of Wine Library TV fame, weighed in with a few of his personal picks as well.

Washington Post wine writer David McIntyre’s Thanksgiving picks run the gamut with Argentinian sparkling wine, a white blend from Arizona (a winery backed by Maynard James Keenan, of the band Tool), mourvedre, apple wine, and American rieslings. Another McIntyre article covers a variety of sparkling wines to get you through the holiday season.

Serious Eats put in some overtime this year with their Thanksgiving wine picks. Start here for general wine picking tips. Looking for tips on a certain type of wine? They’ve got plenty of picks for bubbly, chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, pinot noir, zinfandel, and even more red wines.

Epicurious has selection of five wines along with pairing suggestions for various Thanksgiving side dishes.

Good Wine Under $20 has 20 Thanksgiving friendly wines for under $20. Value is key when trying to please a big crowd at Thanksgiving.


Wine not your thing? Well, you’re in luck. Both the Times and Serious Eats have recommendations for hard ciders to serve at you table.

Still not your thing? Just want a good beer? Serious Eats has your back again with a few craft beer picks. And the Huffington Post has a selection of 6 beers to consider as well.

Holiday Helpings at Bread for the City

I love Thanksgiving. It’s one the best holidays we have. And while I’m incredibly thankful to be able to enjoy the bounty of the holiday in the company of family and loved ones, there are many people who simply can’t afford that luxury.

That’s why I’m writing this post today. More importantly, that’s why I’m asking you to help provide much-needed holiday meals to families that are struggling every day to put food on the table – meals that will give other families something to be thankful for this holiday season.

Over the next two weeks, I’m working to raise money for  Bread for the City’s annual Holiday Helpings food drive. Bread for the City is a local non-profit that provides services such as food, clothing and medical care to vulnerable people throughout Washington DC. Every year the Holiday Helpings food drive provides turkey dinners with all the trimmings to thousands of low-income families.

This year, Bread for the City has a goal of serving 8,000 meals and they need your help. Just $29 will provide a meal for a family of four. $116 will provide meals for four families. But any donation, no matter how big or small, will help. So I hope you will join me in making a donation today.

Please click here to make a Holiday Helpings donation.

Thanks for your support and Happy Thanksgiving.

*If you are able to make a donation, pleas let them know I sent you by writing “Will Blog for Food” in the comment section of the fundraising form. Thanks!

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving is hands down one of the best holidays we have. It’s uniquely American. And no matter who you are, what you do, where you coome from, what religion you practice, what gender you choose to be with or marry, or the color of your skin, we all get to celebrate this holiday. And then there’s the food!

I can only be so grateful to be able to write a blog about food. Given the disparity between those that have access to quality food and those that do not, it’s truly a remarkable thing. We’re facing some tough times in our country right now. The economy is in the tubes. And while the election has at least given me plenty to be hopeful for, I’m also keenly aware of the fact the it will take time for things to get better. Yet, in a couple of days, family and friends throughout the country will gather around a table to break bread, give thanks, and enjoy each others company. In my opinion, the timing of Thanksgiving couldn’t be any better this year.

But it’s worth noting that there are plenty of people that are feeling the pain of these times more than you or me. So as we head into the holiday season, I encourage you to not only give thanks this year, but to extend the holiday spirit to others that are in more need. Here’s a list of groups helping coordinate food donations and meals in the DC area. Right now, these groups need more help than ever.

DC Central Kitchen
425 2nd Street, NW,
Martha’s Table
2114 14th Street, NW
Miriam’s Kitchen
2401 Virginia Avenue, NW
Bread for the City
1525 7th Street, NW
SOME (So Others Might Eat)
71 O Street, NW