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Chill Out About Thanksgiving Wine

Why do so many people make holiday wine so complicated?
Photo by: David Yellen

Posted: Nov 19, 2014 11:20am ET

When I was a greenhorn wine writer, I believed there was a perfect wine for Thanksgiving. It was just a matter of finding the right one, right? One year, I uncorked 20 carefully selected bottles with a few friends and laid out a full spread—roast turkey, sweet potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, the whole shebang.

The Chardonnay complemented the turkey but clashed with the stuffing. The Gewürztraminer was great with the bird and the sweet potatoes but not the cranberries. I thought the dry rosé was the best choice but there was little enthusiasm from the others. In the end, Beaujolais and the Pinot Noir fared best all around but were less than ideal.

My conclusion? Wine people overthink Thanksgiving.

Just chill.

My advice is to put out a spread of wine, a bottle of this and that, so friends and family can experiment themselves as they eat. Below are a few of my current favorites worth seeking out. WineSpectactor.com subscribers can read more detailed reviews by clicking on the links. Also, look for my colleague Alison Napjus' report on 2014 Beaujolais Nouveau later this week.

What are you planning to open on Thanksgiving?

Argyle Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 2012 (90 points, $27)
Lithe and polished with tea leaf–accented cherry flavors.

Charles Smith Riesling Columbia Valley Kung Fu Girl Evergreen 2013 (91, $12)
Lots of zing and nectarine and peach flavors.

Fel Pinot Gris Anderson Valley 2013 ($25)
A new label and name for Mendocino favorite, Breggo. A sleek and classy Alsace-style white.

Girard Zinfandel Napa Valley Old Vine 2012 (90, $24)
Jammy with black cherry but light on its feet.

Groundwork Grenache Central Coast 2012 (87, $20)
Fruit-forward and zesty with raspberry.

Hess Select Pinot Noir Central Coast 2012 (88, $20)
A value Pinot with surprising style and guts for the price.

Rombauer Chardonnay Carneros 2012 (92, $34)
A bold California style for those who like their wine to have big flavors like the turkey dinner itself.

Trimbach Gewürztraminer Alsace 2012 (90, $26)
Well-cut, with dried apricot and a smoky minerality.

Joseph Trdinich
Mars, PA —  November 19, 2014 3:26pm ET

I have two cru beaujolais' from Henry Fessy that I tasted at the Pennsylvania state store. Going to try gamay this year!
Dallan Schenk
Oakley, Idaho —  November 19, 2014 8:50pm ET
Just change the main course from turkey to a nice beef rib roast! Serve a BIG RED! Problem solved! I may be biased, being in the beef business.
Daniel Sherer
Windsor, CA, USA —  November 20, 2014 2:43pm ET
Tim…I can’t think of a wine that doesn’t work for a full blown Thanksgiving dinner. I used to say Merlot from Napa, then Pinot Noir from Russian River, then I moved to a Super Tuscan, once it was 1990 Beaucastel (a little too “earthy” for my guests), sometimes Pomerol, once it was Chateau de la Maltroye Batard-Montrachet 2005 (I still remember the honey, peaches and pears!) once it was a Two Hands Samantha's Garden Shiraz and on and on. Now I simply, as you suggest, pull out a variety wines and we all try to convince each other that what we like the best is the perfect match! As our children have reached the drinking age they are drinking Coke and talking about some new exotic fruit infused vodka with the sweetness of a 5 pound bag of sugar. In the end, it’s all about family and friends giving true “thanks” and sharing a table of good food and drink.
Dave Reuther
Deerfield, Illinois —  November 21, 2014 1:28pm ET
Dry Creek 2012 Heritage Vines Zinfandel and 2013 Kung Fu Girl Riesling
Joel Viger
Cranbrook B.C. —  November 22, 2014 1:51am ET
What? Thanksgiving was in October!
Steve Ross
Thousand Oaks, CA —  November 23, 2014 5:26pm ET
I'm a fan of Oregon Pinot Noir, but my favorite whine is when everyone complains that they're so full.
Missouri —  November 26, 2014 10:47am ET
This year 98, and 02 Salon, along with 89 Haut Brion!
Steve Breen
Glen Ellyn —  December 2, 2014 12:55pm ET
2012 Winderlea Rose of Pinot Noir. Perfect!

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