Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays of the year. It’s one of several holidays when our entire family gets together for a good portion of the day which is always very enjoyable.
The question that always comes up from friends at Thanksgiving is what wines should be served throughout the Thanksgiving Day. This is always a fun topic to discuss since there are so many choices. In addition to the comments I am making about which of my wines to consider for Thanksgiving, I have also reached out to a couple of other wine pros for their thoughts and comments.
My Thoughts on Our Wines for Thanksgiving:
I may still be a little old fashioned in my thoughts. But, I still like to pair white wines with white meats. In which case, I am recommending our white wines first and then switching to a couple of our tasty reds.
2015 Glenwood Cellars Chardonnay
Chardonnay isn’t one of the top white wines recommended for Thanksgiving. Wines such as Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Albarino and Viognier hold the top spots for whites.
However, I’m recommending my 2015 Glenwood Cellars Chardonnay because it is more Old World in its flavor profile. It’s more like a Viognier wine than a big oaky California Chardonnay. Whether it’s our Glenwood Cellars Chardonnay or another Old World-style one, Chardonnays are worth consideration of for Thanksgiving. Here are our tasting notes on the 2015 Glenwood Chardonnay:
“Pristinely clear and golden straw in color, aromas of yeasty citrus, white flowers, ripe pear and rich crème brulée are inviting and satisfying all on their own. The palate then takes it to another level with poached pear, green apple, white peach and a nice touch of butterscotch on the finish. An excellent example of that delicate balance between bracing acidity and supple texture that makes the best Chardonnay such a pleasure all on their own or at the very best tables around the globe.”
2016 Glenwood Cellars Sauvignon Blanc
Our 2016 Sauvignon Blanc will pair well with most Thanksgiving food. This is a well-balanced wine which scored 91 out of 100 points when rated by Wine Enthusiast magazine. Here are the tasting notes:
“Beautifully pale hay in hue, vibrant aromas of dark pink grapefruit, cantaloupe, tropical flowers, lemongrass and lime zest get the salivary glands fired up right away. What follows is a celebration of lively lime, fresh passionfruit, white peach and nectarines in the glass that is guaranteed to put a smile on your face. Full of bracing acidity, yet balanced with enough texture to make this an excellent partner at the table with food.”
2015 Glenwood Cellars Pinot Noir
I really enjoy this Pinot Noir and I believe you will as well. Here are the tasting notes:
“2015 was a year of exceptionally low Pinot Noir yields all across Sonoma, with small clusters and tiny berries providing impressive color, concentration, structure and tannin to the finished wines. Delicate and tightly wound aromas of dark berry, cola nut, mint, rose petal and fresh earth are refined and captivating. One sip reveals the serious intensity of the vintage, with gorgeous palate presence and tremendous length revealing dark cherry, black raspberry, cola and cloves, and a hint of black licorice completing the ensemble.”
2015 Tiedemann Adler’s Blend Red Wine
If you want a little more robust red than Pinot Noir, I would recommend that you try my Zinfandel-based Adler’s Blend. It is a blend of 50% Zinfandel, 30% Petite Sirah and 20% Lagrein. Here are the tasting notes:
“Adler’s Blend is a very young and complex red wine. The color is a deep, dense red/purple with a tinge of black. Because the wine is young, it has a tight nose. The wine has a high alcohol level of 15.2% (which is common in Zinfandel). The high alcohol level, coupled with the acidity from the Petite Sirah, might overpower your palate if the wine isn’t given time to air in a glass or decanter. This decanting will open up the nose, and soften the mid palate of the wine and beginning of the finish.
“On the palate there are juicy fruit flavors of dense black fruits with a little hint of oak. This combination makes the palate pure and vibrant. Again, the denseness of fruit coupled with some acidity reveals the wine’s youth. The combination of the wine’s youth, alcohol level and spiciness produce a rather hot, complex finish. This finish goes on to coat your mouth and then provide a degree of chewiness. The finish lingers for a nice period of time. This wine should drink well for the next 10 to 12 years.”
In addition to my opinion on Thanksgiving wines I thought it would be interesting to reach out to several friends who are in the wine industry and get their takes.
Tom Welsh’s Thanksgiving Wine Recommendations:
Tom Welsh is the General Manager at Tapastrie restaurant in South Bend. Tom is also a Level 2 Sommelier. Here are Tom’s recommendations for Thanksgiving wines:
“The conventional wisdom for Thanksgiving wines tends to be Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Indeed, both are versatile with different foods and both are general crowd pleasers.
“I certainly agree that you can’t go wrong with these choices, but would recommend a less oaky Chardonnay to contrast with the fat and gravy involved with a meal such as a white Burgundy or a domestic Chardonnay made in the Burgundy style (like the Glenwood Cellars Sonoma Chardonnay). Santa Barbara Chardonnays are also fresh and clean. Australia’s Margaret River region in the southwest makes wonderful refreshing Chardonnay wines as well.
“A domestic or New Zealand Pinot Noir or a Villages-level or Bourgogne Rouge Burgundy will be fruitier than a higher-end red Burgundy, which is made for aging and will likely have more acid and tannins than you might want with this meal.
“But if you want to stray out of the box a little, there are plenty of other lighter reds and palate cleansing whites to consider. Try a crisp, dry Riesling from Alsace, Australia or Germany. Also, from Alsace, a Pinot Blanc or Pinot Gris would be great. Dry but fruity Chenin Blanc wine from South Africa, California and the Loire Valley in France (Vouvray or Savennières) is a great choice too. On the fuller bodied side, a Viognier from France’s northern Rhone, Washington state or from Paso Robles in California would be excellent.
“For reds, the Cru Beaujolais from France (Moulin-a-Vent, Morgon or Fleurie regions) have the soft ripe fruit to pair with turkey, but also the structure to stand up to beef should prime rib be on the menu. Grenache based reds from southern France, Dolcetto from northern Italy or a Merlot from California would always fit the bill.
“And of course Champagne and its sparkling cousins from California, France, Spain and Italy should be considered…at least before the meal, but throughout as well if you wish. Sparkling wines go with everything!
“I apologize if I made this more complicated, but thankfully there are many appropriate wines to pair with a Thanksgiving meal. As always, my first pairing rule is drink what you like. But branching out and trying new things like these wines mentioned here, will ultimately result in a greater range of wines that you like!”
Sam Beck Jr.’s Thanksgiving Wine Recommendations:
Sam Beck Jr., CSW, CSS, district manager of the wine division of Republic National Distributing Company in Indianapolis, shared his thoughts on wines for Thanksgiving.
“Thanksgiving is here and the most common question I am asked is: What kind of wine should we drink? If you listen to conventional wisdom then Riesling and Gewürztraminer will most likely be the answer. But if you’re a little more adventurous and would like to try a new wine for your family dinner, I have some suggestions for you.
“First, it’s important to note that the key to any food and wine pairing is for you and your guests to enjoy yourselves. Food and wine are meant to bring friends and family together. The traditional meal of Thanksgiving should not be the day to “educate” your family and friends on the complexities of your wine selection. Rather, your selection(s) should complement the range of foods served throughout the day.
“My family is large. My wife’s family is large. We celebrate Thanksgiving with both families every year on back-to-back days. Since both families are large, each attending family is typically assigned a portion of the main course or dessert to bring with them. This presents major problems for pairing the “perfect wine.” We need to assume that not every person attending is going to share our same passion for the wine selection(s).
“I’ll never forget the time my wife and I were asked to host our first Thanksgiving. We had just purchased our second home and it was large enough to accommodate the entire family. I was still very new in the wine business and I was reading all I could about wine. At the time, the ’97 vintages of Napa were still a very hot commodity and I was fortunate enough to have a couple bottles. My mother-in-law arrived at our house early to get the turkey started. Even though my wife and I were trusted to host dinner, we still weren’t trusted to make dinner! I remember planning the wine selections and being excited to try the wine but even more excited to have everyone else try the wine. I had visions of my family hurling compliments at me for my genius wine selections and generosity. It was going to epic.
“As the day went on, I opened the two “show stopper” wines to decant them. Both wines were 1997 Napa Valley. Both were rated above 90 points (90+ scores were rarer then). The first was Cosentino “M Coz” Meritage. The second was Caymus Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. I opened both, sampled each, pour them in my best decanters, placed them neatly on the table, and waited eagerly for dinner. My wife asked me to run to the store to get something she had forgotten. I grabbed my keys headed for any open store in a five-mile radius. I don’t remember what item I was sent chasing but I do remember what happened when I came home. I placed the bag of eggs or butter or whatever on the kitchen counter and saw that one of my decanters had been moved and wine was clearly missing. Nearly half the wine was gone. I could feel my ears getting hot as my brain was trying to process what was going on. Before I could shout every expletive known to man I saw a wine glass on the counter. The glass was filled to the rim. I now had more questions than answers but at least I knew I could pour it back into the decanter and then hide it until dinner.
“As I walked over to retrieve the massive glass of wine I spotted something that I literally could not process. The glass was filled with ice cubes. Half the Cosentino was lost. My vision was lost. There was not going to be any compliments on my wine genius or my generosity. My family simply didn’t share my passion for wine. At first I was upset with my mother-in-law but I quickly understood it was my fault. It was my fault for projecting my vision on everyone else. I wanted those wines to be “perfect” but they could only be “perfect” by my definition of “perfect.” My mother-in-law ended up drinking the entire glass and we had a fantastic Thanksgiving. In retrospect, the wine was “perfect.” Lesson learned.
“In conclusion, tamper your expectations and select wine for all to enjoy, even if you don’t love it. For starters, I always like to choose a dry sparkling wine to sip on as everyone grazes the selections of finger-food appetizers. Champagne, California sparkling wine or Prosecco are great choices. For the sweet-wine lovers: Moscato d’Asti and Sparkling Brachetto make great choices. A few brands to recommend: Taittinger Brut La Francaise, Schrmasberg Brut or Brut Rose, or Ruffino Prosecco; Castello del Poggio Moscato d’Asti and Banfi Rose Regale are great for the sweeter wine drinkers.
“For the main course it’s nice to have at least two selections: one red and one white. I like using Pinot Noir because of the wine’s versatility in pairing with a variety of flavors. I also like using Beaujolais Villages or the traditional Beaujolais Nouveau. Each offer light, fruity styles that everyone can enjoy. For white selections, Riesling and Gewurztraminer are certainly the perennial favorites but Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris will work great as well. There are no shortages of any of these wines and they are available everywhere and at a mixture of price points for every budget. A few brands from the red wine selections to recommend are King Estate Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon or a Boen “Tri-County” Pinot Noir from California; Louis Jadot Beaujolais Villages, Burgundy; or Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau, Burgundy. For the white wine selections: Pacific Rim Riesling, Columbia Valley, Washington; Leonard Kreusch Gewurztraminer, Rheinhessen, Germany; Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough New Zealand; Sonoma-Cutrer Chardonnay, Russian River, California; and Acrobat Pinot Gris, Oregon, will all work for a variety of dishes served at almost every table.
“I hope you and your family enjoy your time together this Thanksgiving. There is no such thing as a “perfect” wine selection for Thanksgiving but there are plenty of choices the will complement the perfect day with your loved ones. Cheers!”
The art of pairing wine with food is largely a matter of personal taste and preference. As I have mentioned many times in this blog, regardless of what someone might say is the proper pairing of wine and food YOU should always drink what YOU like.
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Until next week,
Calendar of Events
- December 4 – Cabernet Franc Day
- December 20 – National Sangria Day
- December 31 – National Champagne Day