Thanksgiving Wines


Thanksgiving Wines 

Selecting a great Thanksgiving wine doesn’t have to be a source of stress and it doesn’t have to break the bank.  There are a lot of different flavors and textures on your Thanksgiving plate, so you really want a “bridge” wine that will harmoniously blend and stand up to the cornucopia of goodness on your holiday table.  Your wine selection should be a vinous highlighter working in concert with every dish, not competing for top billing!  Consider starting your festivities with a sparkling wine as an aperitif and then opt for a white and a red selection for your main course and let your guests decide what pairing they enjoy the most.

White Wines: In general, when it comes to selecting versatile Thanksgiving wines, look for a white wine with mouthwatering acidity like an off-dry Riesling from Germany, an Alsatian Gewürztraminer or an unoaked Chardonnay to cut right through the gravy and cream sauces. If you typically prefer a heavier, oaky and buttery Chardonnay, it will overpower your meal.  A moderately oaked Chardonnay with vibrant acidity will be the better option with this meal. A floral and aromatic Viognier or dry to off-dry Petit Manseng can also work wonders with your Thanksgiving Feast.

Red Wines: When it comes to red, opt for a fruit-forward wine like a Pinot Noir or Beaujolais with vibrant acidity and moderate tannins.  Keep in mind, turkey is a blank canvas and is pretty lean, so something too tannic will compete against the food.  A Cabernet Franc can be a nice option too, with its typical notes of raspberry, violet and sage. This can work wonders with a sausage, sage & cranberry stuffing. Cabernet Franc is considered the Pinot Noir of Bordeaux and Virginia is producing some exceptional bottles of this varietal.  A dry rosé or off-dry rosé is also another excellent option, it’s approachable and versatile with good acidity and it tends to please both white and red wine drinkers at your table.

Episode 12: Jon & Mills Wehner, Chatham Vineyards

Oysters Half ShellJon and Mills Wehner of Chatham Vineyards join me on this episode of Crystal Palate’s Wine Country on WCHV to talk about the unique wine growing region of Virginia’s Eastern Shore.

The Eastern Shore is probably best known for its vibrant fishing and crabbing communities. While the briny, delectable and various oyster offerings and sweet Chesapeake crab get the lion’s share of attention, there is something quite unique about the terroir here that is garnering interest across Virginia and beyond.

Jon, a second-generation Virginia wine grower, talks about the evolution of Virginia wine since the late 70’s. Jon also discusses his minimalistic winemaking philosophy and talks about his success with planting not only Chatham’s award-winning Chardonnay, but bordelais varietals on the sandy, loam soils surrounded by the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. Jon’s wife Mills also joins us on the program to tell us about Virginia’s Wine and Brine month that celebrates one of the most classic wine and food pairings in the world, plus she gets personal and shares what its like to raise their three children on the farm.  You can catch a new episode of Crystal Palate’s Wine Country every Saturday at 8:30 on Cville 107.5 and 1260 WCHV.  Enjoy the show! You can also watch my mini-documentary on Chatham Vineyards below.

Visit Chatham Vineyards:

232 Chatham Road
Machipongo, VA 23405

Tasting Room Hours

Open Daily 10 am – 5 pm Apr – Dec.
Closed Tuesdays & Wednesdays Jan – Mar.
Closed for major holidays.


Chatham Vineyards

A second generation winemaker is turning historic land into world class wine along Virginia’s beautiful Eastern Shore. Sommelier Crystal Cameron, owner of Crystal Palate introduces you to the Wehner family and invites you to take a detour off Highway 13 and experience this hidden gem for yourself.  Watch video below and read Crystal’s recent article on Chatham Vineyards on

Video Courtesy: Norvell Rose


Chatham Vineyards Church Creek “Steel” Chardonnay

Sometimes the best things in life can be found down the road less traveled. Chatham Vineyards on Virginia’s historic Eastern Shore is no exception to this rule. The 400 year old farm is nestled between the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.  The maritime climate and sandy loam soil create the perfect dynamic for world class wines.

We are kicking off our celebration of Virginia wine month with Chatham’s Church Creek “Steel” Chardonnay.

Tasting Notes

Aromas of meyer lemon, quince, honeydew melon and slight tropical undertones of pineapple are present on the nose along with honeysuckle, wet stone and a hint of salinity.

The palate echoes the aroma profile and provides a perfect foil for briny oysters and other shellfish.  This is a crisp dry balanced wine with refreshing acidity.  The minerality and flavor profile is reminiscent of an old world Chablis. A true expression of what the Chardonnay grape should taste like.

The best part, this wine retails for under $20!

Perfect Pairings

This wine is a classic pairing with oysters. In fact, Chatham is hosting its annual Merroir & Terroir event coming up in November where they pair local oysters with the “Steel” Chardonnay.

In addition to oysters, this is a perfect pairing with an array of seafood, poultry dishes and my Chesapeake Crab & Corn Chowder.  The sweet briny crab meat brings out the fruit characteristics in the wine and the refreshing acidity cleanses your palate in between bites. This is a marriage made in heaven!

In addition to the “Steel” Chardonnay, the Wehner family is having some great results with Bordelais varietals, most notably the Cabernet France.  We will review that wine later this month. It’s definitely worth the short detour of Highway 13 to stop in and savor some of the great wines from Virginia’s Eastern Shore.

I had the opportunity to spend the day with the winemaker, watch the video.

Thanksgiving Wine Pairings: Uncorked

Selecting the perfect Thanksgiving wine  pairings can leave you with a serious case of heartburn, but it doesn’t have to be so difficult. Whether you are hosting the holiday meal or simply in charge of bringing the wine, let me help ease that holiday stress by taking the guesswork out of Thanksgiving wine pairings.

I always like to start with a glass of sparkling for the appetizer course as a nice way to wake up your palate. I also like to serve a white and red option with the main course.

My favorite varietals for Thanksgiving include the white aromatic grapes (Riesling, Gewurtztraminer and Viognier), Chenin Blanc and of course Chardonnay.

I had the opportunity to attend the Virginia Wine Summit last month at the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond. We sampled Viogniers from around the world and the Virginia Viogniers really made quite an impression. At its best, Viognier has the creamy viscosity of Chardonnay, the floral, fruit and spice notes of a Riesling or Gewurtraminer and the refreshing acidity of a Sauvignon Blanc, making it a very attractive partner for your Thanksgiving feast.

When it comes to red, think about wines that boast bright fruit and good acidity. I gravitate to Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Gamay (Beaujolais) and Cabernet Franc. A little wine trivia – did you know that Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc are the parents of Cabernet Sauvignon? I also wouldn’t rule out a great rosé especially from Provence. Many people only drink rosé in the summer, but you are really missing out. This is perhaps one of the most versatile Thanksgiving wine pairings with its bright red fruit and vibrant acidity. This is a wine that should be served chilled and is bound to please both red and white drinkers. If you are looking for one wine to get you through the entire meal, reach for a sparkling rosé.  I love the J Brut Rosé as a nice mid-price option or if you want to splurge reach for the Veuve Clicquot Rosé Brut.

Pinot Meunier is a clone of Pinot Noir and is one of the grapes used in Champagne. The best examples boast fruit notes of raspberry and cranberry in addition to nice herbal and floral notes which make it a lovely match with that homemade cranberry sauce and stuffing.  I am going to make a sweet sausage and sage stuffing with cranberries, this is sure to be a match made in heaven!

Keep in mind that turkey has a pretty neutral flavor, so you really want to keep your side dishes in mind when choosing your wines. Most sides tend to have lots of cream and butter, so I really try to choose wines that have a crisp refreshing acidity that will cut through that fat and cleanse your palate in between bites.

If you are serving ham instead of turkey, a Cabernet Franc or Gewurztraminer will be your best choice. With so many options, why not try drink outside the box and try something new this year?  Now, “Go eat your food with gladness and drink your wine with a joyful heart for it is now that God favors what you do.”  ~Ecclesiastes 9:7

Happy Thanksgiving!

Note: Most of the vintages listed below are current releases. Sparkling wines listed without a vintage are non-vintage or NV.

Sparkling Wine

Inexpensive (Under $15)

Mid-Price ($15-$30)

Premium ($30-$50)

Splurge ($50 & Over)

White Wine

Inexpensive (Under $15)

Mid-Price ($15-$30)

Premium ($30-$50)

Splurge ($50 & Over)

Red Wine

Inexpensive (Under $15)

Mid-Price ($15-$30)

Premium ($30-$50)

Splurge ($50 & Over)