free run juice

turkey time, get the wine

Thanksgiving is a smorgasbord of events. Cooking. Company. And confusion, if you don’t know what wine to pour.

So if pairing wine for the holiday has you feeling like this:

Just stick with grapefriend and you’ll soon be feeling like this:

My one rule: drink American, for obvious reasons. OK, let’s get started and take this course by course.

cocktail hour

Since our rule is drink American, let’s be clear that bubbles won’t be Champagne. Champagne has to come from the region of Champagne, and if we’re sticking to wines made in the US then it’s called sparkling wine. My go-to is Domaine Carneros, which is founded by the Taittinger family that makes excellent Champagne. The Brut is well priced at $36, but I also really love the Blanc de Noirs (made from all Pinot Noir) and the rosé which is $42. For special occasions, I bust out Le Rêve, which is much pricier at $115 but the bubbles are really elegant and fine and everyone always extra-loves it. 

main shebang

I love these people who give pairing rules for Thanksgiving. It’s a total mess of a table, with everything from white meat to brown meat, and sweet potatoes to green vegetables. How on earth could there be a precise pairing? There isn’t, so go for a white and red that can appeal to broad tastes. 

I know people like to whine about Chardonnay these days and the griping over a butter bomb is well deserved. But Chardonnay is fantastic with roasted things and buttery things, so just seek out a few that are more restrained. Kutch from Sonoma Coast is on the more elegant side, and I also like Napa’s Newton which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.

Pinot Gris is often a bit lighter-bodied than big, bold Chardonnays, but still robust enough for all the rich food on the table. I really like the ones from Oregon’s Willamette Valley, like Eyrie or Ponzi, both which are less than $20.

So now for reds, I tend to go lighter here since the dark meats aren’t too heavy. Gamay is lovely but I haven’t had a ton of good American ones (would love to know if anyone else has), and I love Heitz’s super fresh-berried Grignolino (amazing for only $22.50) but that grape’s from Piedmont and in pretty small quantities here.

Pinot Noir is always a crowd pleaser. There’s a lot made in the US but many can be overly fruity. Look for ones from Anderson Valley or (again) Willamette Valleywhich I find to be more balanced and restrained.

fruit & nuts 

At our Thanksgiving table, the fruit and nuts course can last longer than the meal. I highly, highly recommend you add it to your feast agenda, because tawny portwith roasted nuts is absolute perfection. It’s often described as having a roasted almond flavor, so pair it up with some actual roasted almonds and you can imagine how awesome it is. Throw in a fig or two, maybe even wrapped around a roasted walnut, and your grapey gratitude will be off the charts.

I’ll make an exception here to my drink American rule because my favorite tawny ports are from, naturally, Portugal. Try Graham’s or Taylor Fladgate. A 10 or a 20 year is very good and about $30-50, but honestly if you walk through anyone’s door with 40 year you’ll be invited back forever. Those are like $200 but the age gives it deep orange, spice and luscious nuttiness and at some point you really should treat yourself.


For more great pop culture and wine pairings all year long, sign up for the monthly newsletter here or below:




pour out your thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s