Selecting the perfect Thanksgiving wine doesn’t have to be a source of stress and it doesn’t have to break the bank. Consider starting your festivities with a sparkling rosé as an aperitif and then opt for a white and red option for your main course and let your guests decide what pairing they enjoy the most.
When it comes to selecting the wines, look for a white wine with moderate to high acidity like a Riesling or minimally oaked Chardonnay to cut right through the gravy and cream sauces. You also want something with some structure to stand up to the heavier dishes. When it comes to red wine, opt for a fruit forward like a Beaujolais or Pinot Noir with moderate tannins. Keep in mind, turkey is a blank canvas and pretty lean, so something too tannic will compete against the food. Even an aged Cabernet Sauvignon can work well, since the tannins have had a chance to mellow. After you have spent all day in the kitchen, the last thing you want is for the wine to overpower your meal. You want the wine to become a vinous highlighter working in concert with every dish, not competing for top billing!
In my top 10 under $30 list you’ll find a couple of classic selections from around the world and a few hidden gems that will please even the pickiest palate. I encourage you to drink outside the b0x and explore a new wine this holiday season. Cheers!
Gruet Brut Rose, New Mexico, USA – SRP: $16.99
This is hands down one of the best sparkling wines for the money. Aromas of rose petals, juicy strawberry, raspberry, cherry, cranberry and fresh baked danishes give way to a fruit forward palate with refreshing acidity. Serve this as an aperitif or keep it simple this year and select this wine to serve with everything on your Thanksgiving table. The sparkler is made from 100% Pinot Noir and will be a real crowd pleaser!
Schramsberg Blancs de Noir, California, USA – SRP: $30
America’s oldest sparkling wine house never disappoints. The Blancs de Noir is a perfect choice for any celebration. This sparkling wine is made in the traditional method with a blend of 85% Pinot Noir and 15% Chardonnay. Aromas of meyer lemon, peach, raspberry, toasted hazelnut and fresh baked croissants dance in your glass. The palate boasts layers of delicious candied pineapple, crystallized ginger, and sweet citrus notes with a fine bead and refreshing acidity.
Hi-Def Riesling, Mosel, Germany – SRP: $16
It’s time to rethink Riesling this holiday season. Riesling is one of the most versatile wines on the planet and a no-brainer when you have many layers of complex flavors on your dinner table. The high acidity and low alcohol content offers a nice counterpoint to many dishes. This off-dry wine has layers of jasmine, bright citrus and juicy stone fruit on the nose followed by a hint of spice. The palate echoes the flavor profile and adds a burst of vibrant acidity and a touch of residual sugar. Other Rieslings to consider in this price point are the Dr. L Riesling from Dr. Loosen and the Kung Fu Girl Riesling out of Washington State.
Michael Shaps “Spring Meadow Mountain” Chardonnay, Monticello, Virginia SRP: $24
Yes, you read that right. A Virginia Chardonnay! Michael Shaps has garnered a reputation for being one of the top winemakers in Virginia and his Chardonnay from Wild Meadow Vineyard does not disappoint. Complex layers of sweet meyer lemon, baked apple, pear skin, hazelnut and kettle corn dance in your glass. The palate echoes the aromas and adds a touch of sweet spice and toffee. The wine has a creamy mouthfeel, refreshing acidity and a long lingering finish. Read my full review on the Michael Shaps Chardonnay here.
Jefferson Viognier, Monticello, Virginia – SRP: $26
Viognier is an excellent choice for Thanksgiving. It’s an exotic aromatic white grape that has the floral characteristics of a Riesling and the body of a Chardonnay. Viognier loves exotic dishes like Thai and Indian food, but I really find it works well with many of your Thanksgiving side dishes. This is an aromatic wine with notes of sweet jasmine, honeysuckle, nectarine, candied lemon, tangerine zest and tropical fruit. The palate echoes the aromatic profile and finishes with hints of cardamom, ginger and white pepper. This medium bodied wine has a round mouthfeel, good balance and a soft lingering finish. It’s a real crowd pleaser. Jefferson sells out quickly, you may be able to find a bottle at your local wine shop in Virginia. Other great alternative include the Michael Shaps, Chrysalis and Veritas Viognier. Read my full review on the Jefferson Viognier here.
Reds & Rose
Von Buhl Spatburgunder, Mosel, Germany – SRP: $20
Spatburgunder is the German name for Pinot Noir, This is a cool climate Pinot at its best. The Von Buhl boasts floral aromas of violet, bright red berry flavors of strawberry, raspberry and cranberry and a touch of mandarin zest lead to a palate bursting with red fruit, lively minerality and piercing acidity. This wine is the perfect compromise for the red & white lovers in your life.
Barboursville Cabernet Franc Reserve, Orange County, Virginia, USA SRP: $24
Did you know that Cabernet Franc is considered the Pinot Noir of Bordeaux? It’s also a parent grape to the more robust Cabernet Sauvignon. Cab Franc is a lighter and more herbaceous often giving off hints of raspberry, plum, violet & sage. The Cab Franc Reserve from Barboursville is one of the best examples of this grape in the United States. Aromatic layers of plum, raspberry, cherry, cedar, cigar box, dusty violet, sweet spice and a touch of sage are inviting to your senses. The palate is well integrated with velvety tannins and long lingering finish. This is a perfect companion paired with sausage, sage & cranberry stuffing!
Jean Marc Burgaud Morgon, Beaujolais, France – SRP: $25
If you think all Beaujolais are simple and a little too fruity, think again. While Beaujolais Nouveau is designed to be a drink now proposition, the Beaujolais Cru’s can be mind blowing with layers of complexity. Beaujolias is a region located in southern Burgundy. The wines from this area are made from the Gamay grape. When searching for a Beaujolais, look for appellations on the label like Morgon, Fleurie or Cote de Brouilly. You’ll find great quality in the $20-$25 price point. If you want a splurge, seek out a selection from the Moulin-Vent appellation.
This fruit forward wine has aromas of juicy red berries, cherry and candied notes with hints of graphite on the nose. The palate is bone-dry and filled with intense red fruits, vivid minerality and soft lush tannins.
Siduri Pinot Meunier, Sonoma California, USA – SRP: $25
Pinot Meunier is part of the holy trinity of grapes allowed in Champagne along with its distant cousin Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. This is an excellent alternative to Pinot Noir. Domaine Chandon from Carneros also makes a lovely version!
The Siduri offers aromas of juicy red fruits that are followed quickly by a meaty, earthy characteristic with hints of smoke, anise and mushroom. This is a medium bodied wine with good acidity, soft tannins and a lingering finish.
Hendry Zinfandel (Block 7 &22), Napa Valley, California, USA – SRP: $30
If you are searching for a bolder option this year that won’t overpower your meal, consider this great Zinfandel from Hendry Vineyards. They have been producing wine in Napa for more than 70 years and they do an exceptional job. This is such a warm, inviting wine with fruit forward aromas of juicy berries, cherries, plum and vanilla bean followed by some earthy and savory characteristics of asian five spice, cedar, tobacco. The 2010 vintage offers smooth tannins and a long lingering finish. Cheers!