“Thanksgiving Wines” has become an annual favorite of mine to write. I enjoy the challenge of trying to find wines that pair well with a Thanksgiving meal—not as easy of a task as one might think.
I definitely favor white wines over red wines for this once-a-year meal, but the type of white wine you choose is key. The amount of oak is always something I wrestle with. On the one hand, the wine needs to be “big” enough to stand up to the richer aspects of the meal. Dark meat turkey, gravy and even a green bean caserole all call for bigger style whites. This usually means white wines with ample oak that have gone through some malolactic fermentation. As such, California Chardonnays can be a wonderful pairing for this meal, however I lean towards the less oaky ones with ample acidity to cut through the fattiness of the meal. For 2022, I have two Chardonnays listed (both from California).
Versatility and minerality are equally if not more important. Thanksgiving is a motley group of foods with a lot of different dishes serving as supporting cast to the main actor, turkey with gravy. This means you need a wine that can go with myriad flavors (sweet, salty, savory), with plenty of minerality and acidity to pair with the fattier apsects of the meal.
Alas, here are my 2022 “Thanksgiving Wines” selections, with a variety of price points (ordered by least – most expensive) from a variety of regions.
Chapoutier ‘Bila-Haut’ Cotes du Roussillon Blanc 2020 (SRP $15)
A blend of Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Macabeu, Vermentino and Marsanne, this Cotes du Roussillon Blanc from world-class Rhone Valley producer M. Chapoutier, is round and rich, yet balanced with good minerality, ample acidity and tons of bright flavors. Alluring white peach, quince and lemon zest give way to saline and limestone notes on the finish.
A versatile wine for food pairing, you can serve this with your Thanksgiving meal or with hors d’oeuvres before. With an average SRP of $15 (even lower at some discount stores) this is also a wine you should consider buying a case of for Thanksgiving and the Holiday season.
2021 Garofoli Supèra Verdicchio Di Matelica DOC (SRP $16)
Dating back to 1871, Garofoli is the oldest family-owned winery in the Marche region of Italy. While Garofoli may be an old winery, the Supèra is relatively new and the winery’s first foray into Verdicchio di Matelica.
The grapes for this Verdicchio are from the higher elevation Matelica Valley where the Garofoli family is working with a young and innovative grape grower. Referred to as a “mountain wine” by Garofoli, this Verdicchio teams bright and tangy notes of lemon peel and tangerine with mellower notes of pine nuts and bread pudding.
2021 La Valentina Pecorino Colline Pescaresi IGT (SRP $18)
Established in 1990, La Valentina is a good example of the modern winemaking renaissance happening in Abruzzo, a region long undervalued for its quality wine production. A true believer in sustainability, the winery avoids the use of artificial or chemical products and estate vineyards are farmed organically (or in transition towards organic).
The Pecorino grape thrives in the rocky slopes and maritime climate of Abruzzo—the areas clay, limestone, and gravel soils and microclimates a great mix for a grape that is known for being difficult. but more than worth the effort.
The light hue of this wine (very pale yellow) is misleading. Citrus, stone fruits, minerals and acidity literally explode out of the glass, with very little oak presence—which I love. Like the ‘Bila-Haut,’ this is a versatile wine that will match with your smorgasbord of Thanksgiving spoils, but can also be served as a cocktail wine beforehand.
2020 Trivento Golden Reserve Malbec (SRP $20)
I have always liked Malbec as a plush, soft tannin, mellow alternative to bigger Bordeaux varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon. However, I have always felt there was a ceiling to its quality. That is before I met Germán di Cesare, chief winemaker at Bodega Trivento—one of Argentina’s top Malbec producers, in the foothills of the Andes Mountains. Both of the reserve Malbecs I tried were extrememly approachable, complex and paired beautifully with our lunch at mid-town Manhattan’s L’ Amico restaurant.
Their Eolo Malbec is the best Malbec I have ever tried, but at $100 it is very expensive for a Malbec—especially for Americans who typically think of Malbec as a relative value. At $20 though, their “Golden Reserve” is VERY good and a great value. This wine reminds me of a Napa Valley Boardeaux-style blend, with dark red fruits, anise, tobacco and spice box wafting out of the glass. This wine is very structured for a Malbec, with soft, yet prevalent tannins and complex flavors shaping it the whole way through.
2020 Inama “Carbonare” Soave DOC Classico (SRP $30)
Inama’s vineyards cover 70 acres throughout Soave Classico, mainly on and around the dormant Monte Foscarino volcano.
The region’s soil owes its characteristic to a stream of water that flows underground in the region. According to Inama, “the basalt, which characterizes the ground in most of the Soave Classico area, has great chromatic complexity…the strong character of the vineyard is evident in the grapes.”
Aromas of citrus and fresh cut flowers greet you with this Soave, followed by effervescent acidity, strong minerality and a little bit of limestone salinity on the finish—which I love! This Soave can easily stand up to your turkey and gravy while also complimenting your sides, from sweet potatoes to green bean casserole.
2021 Frank Family Carneros Chardonnay (SRP $40)
I’ve written about Frank Family wines before and for good reason—they are very good, VERY consistent and generally available Napa Valley wines at reasonable prices.
The grapes for this wine were sourced from some very reputable vineyards—primarily their estate Lewis Vineyard as well as neighboring Beckstoffer Vineyards (Napa-Carneros) and Sangiacomo Vineyards (Sonoma-Carneros).
This wine has a rich bouquet of baking spices, apple pie and Meyer lemon upfront. While only seeing partial malolactic fermentation, this prototypical Carneros chardonnay is full bodied, with pineapple, peach, and brioche bread notes upfront. Plenty of bright acidity and subtle hints of oak are revealed on the long finish. Frank Family’s “Lewis Vineyard” Chardonnay is also worth seeking out if you can find it and don’t mind the higher price point. Pineapple, pear, tangerine and vanilla custard notes are shaped by impeccable structure, ample acidity and a super long finish. This is one of the better California Chardonnays I have tried but you might need to order it directly from the winery.
Fiddlehead “Oldsville” Willamette Valley Pinot Noir (SRP $54)
Founded in 1989 by winemaker Kathy Joseph, Fiddlehead Cellars stands out as one of California’s pioneering producers dedicated to terror-driven and age-worthy wines tied to great vineyard sites. Running the winery 30-plus years, Kathy is one of Santa Barbara County’s first leading female winemakers to own both her own winery and vineyard, with a hands-on role in the farming, winemaking, and other aspects of the business.
While Fiddlehead is famous for their Santa Barbra County wines, they have also been producing outstanding Pinot Noir in the Willamette Valley for nearly 30 years. Their Oldsville Pinot Noir is indicative of Kathy’s attention to making wines that are an expression of their vineyard sites—in this case terrior driven, Burgundian-style Willamette Valley Pinot Noir.
This classic Willamette Valley Pinot is packed full of blueberries and pomegranates with undercurrents of strawberries and lavender and complimented by earth, leather and smoked meat notes. The wine finishes with tobacco, spice box and just a hint of vanilla oak—with great structure and a long, lingering finish. This Pinot Noir is a perfect match for lamb chops but will also work well with your Thanksgiving feast.
Lynmar 2018 Quail Hill Vineyard Chardonnay (SRP $63)
At the heart of Lynmar Estate is its original site, the 47-acre Quail Hill Vineyard, one of the foremost vineyard sites within the Russian River Valley. Planted in 1974, proprietor Lynn Fritz acquired the site in 1980 as a rural retreat from running an international corporation in San Francisco. Upon tasting some of the original wines sourced from Quail Hill, made by Merry Edwards at Matanzas Creek and Tony Soter at Étude, Lynn began to fully understand the site’s rare qualities. Today it remains one of the top vineyards in Russian River for world-class Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
This wine is quintessential, top-tier, Russian River Chardonnay. Tropical and citrus fruits give way to peach, pear and crème brulee, with bright acidity and limestone minerality on the finish.