The kids are waiting not-so-patiently in the car; the sweet potatoes are clad in aluminum foil, and the soothing playlist for the ride to dinner is already locked in place. But there is just one little problem: You forgot you promised to bring the wine to Thanksgiving this year. To top it off, your mother-in-law only likes easy-drinking reds; your snobby cousin won’t drink anything conventional, and your niece turns every act of consumption into a political manifesto.
With so many things on our minds during the season of giving, deciding what bottles to serve can fall by the wayside. And inflation is making it harder than ever to stick to a holiday budget. Thankfully, nine sommeliers from restaurants across the country shared the reds, whites, rosés and bubblies they would bring to Thanksgiving dinner, keeping the per-bottle price around $30 or less retail.
From the juicy reds of Beaujolais to the volcanic wines of Mount Etna to a Rhône white blend from sunny California, these wines are both distinctive and crowd-friendly—and affordable enough to stock up on in advance so you’ll never be left empty-handed during the holidays. Whatever they suggest, these somms know that the best wines are those shared with great company.
Wine Spectator: What’s your favorite Thanksgiving wine costing $30 or less?
Vincent Morrow, beverage director at 2022 Grand Award winner Press, in Napa, Calif.
As a region, this definitely falls into Sicily for me as of late, specifically Mt. Etna. We've been consuming a lot of Etna wines over the past few years because there is serious wine for the money and our other favorite regions have skyrocketed in price. Some favorites that fall under $30 include: Benanti, Girolamo Russo, Palmento Costanzo, Passopisciaro and Tenuta della Terre Nere.
My favorite Thanksgiving wine is probably by far Lapierre Morgon. I love Beaujolais in general for Thanksgiving, but that wine especially is pretty consistent year after year—[with] a really good balance of fruit and earth and a lot of those savory fall notes that you want in a Thanksgiving wine. It's not over-oaky; it's got really good acidity. It will go well with a lot of things, and it’s a well-rounded red wine for the table that you can share.
Kristin Courville, wine director at Ernesto’s in New York City
I’ve got a big crush on Telmo Rodriguez’s village wines. (Learn more about the Spanish winemaker in this video and this article.) They are gorgeous, accessible and affordable. From his Pegaso project in Cebreros, Zeta 2019 is a higher-elevation Garnacha [that illustrates] Telmo’s sharp eye for fine elegance and nuanced balance. The granite and slate soils truly show in this bottle, marrying the red and purple fruit in a sumptuous way. I am really looking forward to enjoying this one with roasted turkey, my favorite sweet potato dish and cured meats.
The design on the label also tells a really interesting story. It depicts the springs from an age-old mattress, once used to barricade the vineyard entrance from critters that ate the grapes. Telmo currently has the actual mattress as an art installation in his home. Definitely a fun story to tell around the dinner table!
Damien Graef, wine director at Award of Excellence winner Jean-Georges, Philadelphia
Prices have been going up, so it gets a little tougher because some old favorites are now creeping into the $30 range. I think the Marcillac from Domaine du Cros [a red wine from Southwest France made from a grape known as Mansois or Fer Servadou] is just such a classic, but it’s softer and floral in a way that I think works with all of those Thanksgiving flavors.
One of my favorites year after year for Thanksgiving is from Bow and Arrow in Oregon. The “Rhinestone” wine that they make, which is a blend of Gamay and Pinot Noir, is fantastic. I'm always looking for blends, but sometimes it's hard to do under $30. I also love mountain Nebbiolo, and all of those odd grapes that I think also speak to those fall flavors in a nice way.
Laura Bruno, sommelier at Best Award of Excellence winner Elements in Paradise Valley, Ariz.
I have two rules for Thanksgiving wine. The first is that the selection should feel intentional, and the second is that there must be sparkling, white and red available. Mary Taylor’s White Label series of wines [a line of appellation-labeled bottlings from small producers around Europe] makes it easy to check both of those requirements. You can grab a pair of the Bordeaux Blanc and Rouge, or Anjou Blanc and Rouge for well under $30 per bottle. The wines are beyond delicious. They have enough gravitas to stand up to the richest of turkey dinners, while also being light-footed and friendly. Tie your selection together with a bottle of the Gaillacoise pét-nat from the same line and you have the perfect trio for Thanksgiving.
I am such a sucker for white wine on the Thanksgiving table: We featured Tara Gomez's Kitá T'aya Marsanne blend [from California’s Santa Barbara County] in last year's Cote Wine Club box. She is also an Indigenous winemaker, and this was a wine she made with her tribe. She also has a great project she started with her wife called Camins, and their Grüner Veltliner is also incredible with a good holiday spread!
Andrey Ivanov, president and CEO of Bliss Wine Concierge, formerly wine director at Best Award of Excellence winner Lazy Bear in San Francisco
That is a tough one, so many to choose from. I think that I will be enjoying some of Pete Stolpman’s “GDG” (God Damn Gamay) from Santa Barbara County. Two reasons, I will be in Mexico City for work, and it works really well with most food, from turkey to Korean BBQ to the octopus dish at Elly's—one of my favorite places in CDMX. For me, this is the best Gamay produced in the U.S. It is quite unapologetically NOT Beaujolais, but it has a purity of aromatic red fruit and a bright lean texture that is just god damn delicious!
Aaron Thompson, owner/operator and sommelier at Brother Wolf and Osteria Stella in Knoxville, Tenn.
The 2020 and 2021 vintages of G.D. Vajra Langhe Nebbiolo are absolute steals for the quality of the juice. Giuseppe Vajra created their Langhe Nebbiolo to provide a young and accessible Nebbiolo that represents this region of Piedmont. It’s perfect for Thanksgiving season thanks to a fruit-forward and floral nose. It’s one of those crunchy wines that's equally complex and straightforward, spice and earth, all with a mineral backbone. It’s the kind of wine I like to drink while thinking about fall weather in Barolo and prepping the sweet and savory Thanksgiving turkey. It pairs perfectly with it if there’s any left!
Jen Reyneiri, owner of Award of Excellence winner The Grove Cucina and Wine in Hobe Sound, Fla.
Thanksgiving is the perfect time for a bottle of rosé, and the [Giovanni] Viberti La Gemella Rosata from Piedmont, coming in around $20 a bottle, will not disappoint. Unique in the fact that it’s made from Nebbiolo, the expressive notes of roses and wild berries are in perfect balance with its minerality and will accompany all your favorite turkey and side dishes, from sweet potato casserole with marshmallows to glazed brussels sprouts.