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