I was having a conversation just yesterday about the joys of Thanksgiving and they boil down to this: food and family.
And I dare say, for many of us, the food category includes wine.
My husband and I have served Thanksgiving to our big, extended Irish family since before we had children. I do recall a much, much younger me, a woman who printed out a list of Thanksgiving-friendly wine suggestions from some expert online and took it, part-and-parcel to the wine shop. It’s actually how I fell in love with Beaucastel, after buying some for that meal.
If you’ve ever paused with concern about what to serve at Thanksgiving, I’m here to relieve your fears. I’ve tasted a number of excellent wines over the past months that will be lovely with your dinner.
Rather than line up pairings—an act nearly impossible for the wide-open feast—this article highlights interesting wines that will round out a big table full of open bottles next to a supply of freshly cleaned wineglasses. There’s something for everyone to grab based on their preferences. While I don’t expect you to print my list off and order it all, I hope that you’ll too discover something that sticks around on your reliable list.
William Chris Vineyards 2017 Pétillant Naturel Rosé ($25)
This may be the first time I’ve recommended a wine from Texas, only because I haven’t had much experience with it. This year I got connected with the folks at William Chris Vineyards, who make all of their wine from Texas grapes, some they farm themselves, other they sourced from trusted growers.
I’m fascinated by this blend from vineyards in Hill Country AVA and High Plains AVA: Merlot, Mourvèdre, Malbec, Malvasia Bianca, Grenache, Moscato Giallo. Pét-nat wines sparkle naturally from an age-old method called Mèthode Ancestrale. Fermentation is stopped and the wine is bottled and capped like a beer. Fermentation then starts up on its own accord and bubbles occur in the bottle. An all-around fascinating wine to serve to your family.
Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels Syrah 2015 (around $25)
Gimblett Gravels rests in New Zealand’s Hawkes Bay region, a small district that’s gained international attention. As the name hints, deep and gravelly soils comprise the terroir and the environment is one of the best for New Zealand cooler-climate Syrah. This wine spent 14 months in new and used French barriques and tanks. Dark fruit, pepper and olive (oh, I love this in Syrah) are balanced with acidity and integrated tannins.
Rucksack Cellars Sierra Foothills Chenin Blanc 2017 ($24)
2018 is the year I discovered (for myself) El Dorado wines and I’ve been working my way through an education. Fans of high-elevation mountain fruit need to consider El Dorado. This Chenin Blanc is planted at 3,000 ft and has a creamy body due to 100% barrel fermentation. It is a textural wine but one with acidic freshness. This is a food-friendly white with 12.3% ABV for lunchtime enjoyment.
Sokol Blosser Dundee Hills Pinot Noir 2015 ($40)
This wine has received 90+-point scores from significant critics, but what caught my attention was the careful hand toward nature. There are a few things to know: 700 cases have a new closure, Origine by DIAM, which is made from cork, beeswax emulsion and 100% vegetable polyols. Sokol Blosser is one of the first in the U.S. to use it. The grapes are 100% certified organic. Also this: Sokol Blosser donates $1 for every Origine-cork bottle sold (through April 2019) to Save the Bee to fund research at Oregon State University and Washington State University honeybee labs. The link above is active to purchase. Plus, Sokol Blosser has achieved B-corp status. The wine is delicious (I actually chose to open it on my 40th birthday this fall). If you are looking for a truly aware family wine estate, this is it.
Villa Russiz Ribolla Gialla Collio DOC 2016 (ave price $28)
This is on my list with the hopes that it will please all the vegetarians out there. This variety goes well with umami mushroom flavors and sea salt veg. It’s complex in an unexpected way for folks unfamiliar with this Italian wine. A tinge of green to the pale robe, there’s a rocky savoriness balanced with the floral aromatics of this wine.
Mulderbosch Stellebosh Faithful Hound 2015 ($22)
The 2015 vintage in Stellenbosh is highly memorable. Wine Enthusiast said it “marks a golden age” for South African wine. This bottle includes the five-variety Bordeaux blend, led by Cabernets Franc and Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec. It spent time in oak, 30% new. This is your robust wine, the one for the lovers of big reds with lots of complex layers.
Eden Specialty Ciders Heirloom Blend Ice Cider 2013 ($25)
Here’s something I’ve been grappling with lately: “dessert wines” of all shape and form have been wildly impressing me. It started with Southern Rhône vin doux naturel and has extended to ice wine from Virginia and everything in between. That includes this delicious heritage ice cider. Here’s the grapple: there is a misconception about sweet wines and it happens (I think) with the vast population of people that are turned off by sweet table wine. Now, this isn’t wine, mind you, it’s heritage cider which is treated more like wine than beer. So I know that many guests may assume they don’t like sweet and/or they don’t like cider, but this stuff is so seriously delicious I think you should require your guests to take a sip before they get any pumpkin pie. They’ll thank you in true Thanksgiving style.
Bessert de Bellefon Cuvée des Moines Brut Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru ($80)
100% Grand Cru Chardonnay from Avize, Oger, Mesnil sur Oger, Cramant and Chouilly—Côtes de Blancs. This is a beautiful Champagne and I’m putting out my official Thanksgiving decree that your guests want some bubbles. This is elegantly full-bodied as well as fresh, lots of vivaciousness and high fruit notes with a sprinkling of toast and salt, balanced with creaminess. A wine that will suit your toast as well as your meal. A special occasion dazzler!
Champagne Henriot Brut Souverain ($45)
The second Champagne on my list has a slightly different, but classic, profile: 50% Chardonnay, 45% Pinot Noir and 5% Pinot Meunier, a blend of Grand Cru and Premier Cru grapes from Côtes des Blancs and Montagne de Reims included with 30% of prestige cuvée. It ages for three years in the bottle, well more than the minimum for nonvintage Champagne. Brut Souverain has that delectable element of brioche and almond with citrus and bright fruit tones. In 2018, Champagne Henriot celebrates 200 years, still family-owned.
Le Domaine Saget Pouilly-Fume 2016 ($28)
From the beautiful Loire Valley comes this Pouilly-Fume, which is 100% Sauvignon Blanc. Domaine Saget is part of a family-owned company with nine generations of history in the Loire Valley. This wine has white fruit and citrus notes, indicative of beautiful fresh vitality. It’s also impressively complex: made with indigenous yeast and aged on fine lees for nine months.