Thanksgiving (“you won’t want pumpkin again”)

Thanksgiving is my favorite Holiday.  It’s all about fellowship, food, family and friends.  It has nothing to do with religion or gifts.  I like the idea that all across America, people are sitting down and pretty much having the same thing for dinner.  Even those less fortunate are often able to have turkey for dinner.  Unity for your fellow Americans…Let’s Eat!

I don’t have tips for specific wines for Thanksgiving…but I have suggestions, and I will let you know what wines I usually select to accompany Thanksgiving dinner.  I have many thoughts on food/wine paring, but I will keep this as simple and as straight foward as possible.

 First off, know your audience.  How many people?  Do you guests appreciate good wine?  I usually select about 6 bottles of wine to potentially open if the dinner is at my house.  Stay fluid and flexible.  Of the six wines I have set aside, I will probably open 4 bottles.  What I open depends on the side dishes are being served and how much my guests appreciate the first bottle I  open…the Champange.

I always start off with Champagne.  It’s the start of the Holiday Season, so start things off with a very good Champagne.  Not only does starting with Champagne give me the opportunity to enjoy something good, it is also litmus test in regards to how much my guests appreciate wine.  If my guests appreciate the Champagne, I know I can open good (expensive) bottles of wine with dinner.  Don’t, under any circumstances, waste your best wines on the wrong audience.  I start the evening with a non-Vintage Champagne.  Piper-Heidsieck. It’s about $40/bottle.



Personally, I don’t like “sparkling wine.”  I like French Champagne.  Not American.  Not Italian.  Not Spanish.  Why only French?  because it’s the best.  I can really taste the terrior of Champagne (French).  The minerals are striking and the balance is exceptional.  Everyone should know what their favorite non-vintage Champagne is.  Try many “sparkling wines” and see what works for you.  As for the good vingage Champagnes, only open these for very special (two’s company, three’s a crowd) occasions.

 After the Piper-Heidsieck.  I go with high acid, low alcohol wine.  I don’t select wines that will overpower the food and the occasion.  Thanksgiving is about fellowship and food,  not  wine.  I open a Rose (!) and Rhone style wine, or a Rhone varietal (grenache, malbec).

  Thanksgiving (1) 

Thanksgiving (2)   

Rose wines are fantastic with Thanksgiving.  Especailly, and once again, French.  I don’t serve a white wine.  I go with a high-acidity, low-alcohol, inexpensive Rose wine.  I do like American Rose wines, but they are often “fruit foward” and don’t accompany food as much as French Rose.  And I have found American Rose to be more expensive and have a higher alcohol content.  American Rose is about the fruit, French Rose is about the terrior.  I love Rose by the producer Domaines des Corbillieres.  It’s inexpensive ($10) and excellent with food.  I said it’s inexpensive, not cheap.  I load up on a few bottles Domaines des Corbillieres in the Summer, knowing I will always open a few bottles in the Fall.  Find what Rose works for you.  Domaines des Corbilliers Rose is my “go to” wine with food.

For a red wine I pick something that works well with fowl (turkey).  Rhone style wine are nice.  Bonny Doon Cigar Volant.  Inexpensive.  Consistent.  If I can find a Magnum of Cigar Volant, I hold onto it and open it for Thanksgiving.  For game I like Rhone varietal wines (grenache, malbec, or syrah).  I recently had a fantastic 2005 Malbec that I highly recommend, Seven Hills from Walla Walla Valley (Washington State).  Also, you cannot go wrong with a Chateauneuf-du-pape.

 Why high-acid?  Acid “cuts” the gamieness of fowl.  It re-sets and cleanses the palate.  Acid adds to the finish.

 Why low-alcholol?  Because ETOH can overpower food.  It amplifies heat and clashes with spice.

For desert, I like Port.  If your guest appreciate the wine you have open thus far, go for  a non-vintage Port.  Port goes well with sweet potato pie.  Pumpkin pie, you’re on your on…because anyone who has ever had sweet potato pie, won’t want pumpkin again (Al Jarreau).

Thanksgiving (4)

This is a young vingate Port.  The photo is for demonstration only, I will not actually open this 2000 vintage Port until at least 2020.  But you get the idea.

After dinner, sitting front of the TV…break out the grappa.  Grappa and football…it’s All American.

In summary…

1) know your audience

2) be flexible with your wine selection, have a diverse selection of wines to choose from

3) it’s Thanksgiving, do not let the wine surpass the food or the occasion.  Resist the temptation to “show-off” big wines.  But, if you’re at someones house, and they want to show off, don’t discourage them from opening the 1970 Bordeaux.

4) start with Champagne, a good Champagne

5) try a Rose wine, suprise your guests and yourself

6) Rhone-style wines and varietals, from America or France

7) keep your acid high, and your alcohol low (8-10% for a Rose)

8) if serving a dessert wine, make sure the wine is slightly sweeter than the dessert

9) sweet potato pie, not pumpkin

10) drink responsibly and take resposibility for the welfare of your guests


Published by Reg

I am a vinophile. I was born and raised in San Francisco. I graduated from Morehouse College in 1986 and received my M.D. from UCSF in 1991. I am a happily married, living and working in San Francisco.

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