The Perfect Complement: Thanksgiving recommendations

lain@winetalk.orgNovember 23, 2011 

One of the biggest challenges when preparing for Thanksgiving is choosing wine that will satisfy everyone's differing tastes. I recently reviewed tasting notes for the past year, reopened some of the wines and tried some new ones to see what would be crowd-pleasing and an excellent food wine for Thanksgiving.


The wine that works best with turkey, stuffing and all of the other holiday flavors is the Pacific Rim Gewurztraminer from Washington ($11). This wine layers notes of allspice and pear, with a delicate floral and fruit nose, great acidity and a touch of sweetness. It's a perfectly balanced wine that will bring out the flavors of the turkey, stuffing and desserts. If you prefer something a little more full-bodied and less sweet, Carmel Road Monterey Chardonnay ($18) is a great choice. It has notes of pear, vanilla and creamy lemon bar. This chardonnay has loads of finesse and elegance. It would work well with turkey but also would stand up to quail and other game birds. If a real mixed bag of guests are coming by and you need something that will keep everyone happy, Kendall-Jackson's Summation white ($17) is a blend of sauvignon blanc, viognier, chardonnay and five other white grapes. The blend has notes of tropical and stone fruits, and a floral touch.


To me, the wine that always says "the holidays have begun" is Beaujolais Nouveau. It is always released the third Thursday of November. One that is consistently delicious and affordable is Georges Duboeuf Beaujolias Nouveau 2011 ($10). This wine is full of ripe strawberries and cherries, and notes of spice and acidity, but it has all the freshness and style of a perfect food and everyday get-together wine. If you are serving beef or venison along with turkey, you might want to also have a more full-bodied red. Franciscan Merlot ($23) is a terrific choice. Waves of black plums, dark chocolate, blackberries and a touch of oak, fill out each sip and would pair perfectly with more full-bodied meals that a cabernet might overpower. If you want to have a big cabernet, Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($105) would be a show-stopper. It has big, lush dark fruit notes along with hints of leathery earthiness and creamy jam-like feel on the finish. This is a big gun for a serious meal.


From our neighbor North Carolina, Biltmore Estate is producing a Blanc de Blancs Brut ($32) made from 100 percent chardonnay grapes grown at the estate. It has layers of delicate citrus zest and pineapple notes in each dry, refreshing sip. Another winner is J Sparkling Rose ($28), with notes of strawberries, rose petals and a delicate dryness. A new sparkling wine is Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi Brut ($10). It delivers flavors of apple, creamy ripe pears and a zip of citrus zest on the finish. All of these wines pair perfectly with seafood, especially shellfish, and fruit dishes. For dessert you might want to think about a port, especially if you are serving chocolate or nutty dishes. Cockburn's Special Reserve Port ($16) delivers a concentrated dark plum and blackberry nose, and a velvety red berry sweetness in each sip.

Lain Bradford is a wine writer and reviewer who has achieved his first level master sommelier certificate and is working toward his Certified Wine Educator degree. Follow him at

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