The Best Wines for Thanksgiving Dinner
Thanksgiving represents one of the biggest food celebrations in American culture. It is a day for breaking bread with friends and neighbors, and it is a day for celebrating the bounty our land has to offer. For this reason, we are firm believers that a Thanksgiving feast should be paired with American wines.
Luckily, our great, winemaking nation offers a wide selection of varieties and styles of wine to suit every taste preference. It isn’t hard to find a homegrown bottling that will shine at your table, whatever style of wine you happen to like.
That’s why GAYOT’s list of the Best Thanksgiving Wines includes wines from several different American wine regions. We know you can find something in these wine recommendations to suit your budget, your taste preference and help you celebrate the true meaning of this all-American holiday.
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1. Peju Province
Varietal: Proprietary Red & White Blend
Origin: North Coast, California, USA
When most people think of American wine, the first place they think of is the Napa Valley. But they probably don’t think of a wine like this one!
A family-run operation in Rutherford, Peju Winery is known for its reds, including Cabernet Franc and Merlot. However, this unique blend, sold only at the winery, is the one that makes our list of the best Thanksgiving wines.
The current release of Province is a proprietary blend of white grapes from the 2017 vintage and red grapes from the 2016 vintage. The result is something we consider to be the one wine that will please everyone at the table. The guest who is just starting to get into wine will appreciate the approachability. That grumpy uncle who doesn’t like anything? The wine’s faint sweetness should put a smile on his face. Even serious collectors will love this wine for its originality. It offers flavors of strawberry, raspberry and even a hint of cranberry relish with soft tannins and a touch of vanilla.
For more information, visit the Peju Winery official website.
2. 2016 Grounded Wine Company Collusion Red Table Wine
Watch our exclusive video interview with winemaker Josh Phelps, founder of Grounded Wine Co.
Varietal: 43% Merlot, 34% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Malbec, 4% Syrah
Origin: Columbia Valley, Washington, USA
There’s a misconception about the climate of Washington state. It is often incorrectly assumed that the entire state receives very little sunshine, but the truth is that the eastern part of the state receives as much as 300 sun-kissed days per year. That makes Eastern Washington an ideal region for growing bold red wine grapes.
So, if you appreciate bold reds, this is a region you’ll want to explore, starting with the Grounded Wine Company. This relatively new winery is the vision of winemaker Josh Phelps. He’s the son of Chris Phelps, one of the Napa Valley’s most sought-after consulting winemakers. Grounded Wine Company is the younger Phelps’ attempt to build his own legacy, and he’s already being called a “rising star” of the American wine scene. Best of all, he’s doing it while only using grapes from sustainably grown vineyards.
We’ve selected Phelps 2016 Collusion as our pick for an affordable red wine worthy of any Thanksgiving table. This red blend offers aromas of blackberry and cooked cranberry, rounded out by notes of vanilla and cedar. Ripe cherry dominates on the palate. However, it’s that lingering note of baking spices on the finish that will make you want to come back for more.
For more information, visit the Grounded Wine Company official website.
3. 2018 Gundlach Bundschu Gewürztraminer
Varietal: 100% Gewürztraminer
Origin: Sonoma Coast, California, USA
Gewürztraminer is one of those varietals touted as a great Thanksgiving wine. Its classically floral aromas feel like a breath of fresh air when paired with this traditionally heavy meal.
We’ve chosen this particular dry Gewürztraminer in part for sentimental reasons. Gundlach Bundschu is one of Sonoma County’s oldest winemaking estates. A family-run operation, this wine tradition has carried on for six generations. That makes the Gundlach family a true emblem of American winemaking history.
But make no mistake, we did not put this wine on our list simply because of American tradition. This Gewürztraminer is worthy even without the pedigree! Its aromas of jasmine, honeysuckle and a hint of spice are alluring. In the mouth, the wine almost dances across the tongue with flavors of pineapple, stone fruit, lychee and vanilla. Yet, it finishes clean, making it a welcoming palate cleanser after the turkey and fixings.
For more information, visit the Gundlach Bundschu official website.
4. 2016 FEL Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
Varietal: Pinot Noir
Origin: Anderson Valley, California, USA
The Anderson Valley is one of California’s lesser-known wine regions. If you are familiar with this fairly remote, northern California AVA, it’s probably because you love Pinot Noir.
Although there are many great Pinots to choose from in the Anderson Valley, our pick is from FEL. It is a fairly new winery, started in 2009 when Lede Family Wines purchased a relatively obscure, family winery in this Pinot-producing region.
The FEL Anderson Valley Pinot Noir is a wine with remarkable aromas. Its floral bouquet features rose petals, violets and hints of rosemary along with cherry and cocoa. The palate is fresh and lively with red fruit flavors and a luxuriously silky texture.
For more information, visit the FEL Wines official website.
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5. 2016 Korbel Rouge
Varietal: 100% Pinot Noir
Origin: Sonoma Coast, California, USA
If your guest list includes adventurous diners, then this is a wine choice to get them excited. Pinot Noir is always a welcome choice at the Thanksgiving table, but very few tables will be adorned with a sparkling Pinot Noir!
That’s why we’re recommending this surprising and rather charming bottling from Korbel. Not only is it a great value, but it’s the wine most likely to get your guests’ attention. A sparkling wine made in the méthode champenoise, it’s festive yet serious enough to support a traditional meal. It offers aromas of cassis, with just a whiff of musk. It has the body and structure of a nice Pinot Noir, yet the effervescence gives the wine a sense of lightness. It truly is a crowd-pleasing red.
For more information, visit the Korbel official website.
6. 2016 Beekeeper Cellars Montecillo Zinfandel
Varietal: 95% Zinfandel, 5% Petite Sirah
Origin: Sonoma Valley, California, USA
Zinfandel is often called “America’s grape.” That’s part of what makes this grape a popular choice for the Thanksgiving table. However, Zinfandel is also a popular choice because many wine drinkers love how the robust fruity flavors this varietal tends to exhibit match with the flavors of turkey and salty stuffing.
Beekeeper is a boutique winery in California’s Sonoma County specializing in this varietal. The winery currently produces two different Zinfandels, either of which would sure to be a welcome addition to any Zin lover’s Thanksgiving table.
We’re recommending Beekeeper’s Montecillo Zinfandel because we love the complexity of fall flavors found in the nose and on the palate. It offers hints of espresso, cedar, sage and spice, with the sweetness of dried blueberry and cranberry. The wine lingers long. If you’re looking for a special occasion Zinfandel, this would be the wine.
For more information, visit the Beekeeper Cellars official website.
7. 2014 Lang & Reed ‘Two-Fourteen’ Cabernet Franc
Varietal: Cabernet Franc
Origin: Napa Valley, California, USA
A Napa Valley wine is a classic choice for your Thanksgiving table. The Napa Valley is definitely a region with any number of special occasion wines worthy of your meal. Although most Napa Valley red wine lovers will probably instinctively reach for a Cabernet Sauvignon, we’re inclined to recommend something different.
Lang & Reed is a winery focused on Cabernet, but not Cabernet Sauvignon. This winery produces what’s recognized as some of America’s best Cabernet Franc.
We’re recommending Lang & Reed’s ‘Two-Fourteen’ as our Napa Valley Thanksgiving wine because of its structure and balance. The wine’s name comes from the single grape clone used to make this wine, Clone 214 from France’s Loire Valley. It offers ripe blueberry and blackberry aromas and flavors, but an underlying savory, dried herb note and hint of black pepper is what really gives it a special character. This Cabernet Franc lingers long on the palate and is sure to please any lover of Napa reds.
For more information, visit the Land & Reed Winery official website.
8. 2017 The Eyrie Vineyards Pinot Gris, Dundee Hills
Varietal: Pinot Gris
Origin: Dundee Hills, Oregon, USA
If you want to make American winemaking history a part of your Thanksgiving celebration, then a Pinot Gris from The Eyrie Vineyards makes an outstanding choice. You see, this pioneering winery in Oregon’s Willamette Valley produced the United States’ first Pinot Gris.
Eyrie’s founder, David Lett, planted his Pinot Gris in 1966. Grapes from those original vines made it into the winery’s Dundee Hills Pinot Gris.
But this cuvée is for more than just the history buffs among us. It is without question one of America’s finest Pinot Gris and one that’s very attractively priced. Wine lovers will appreciate its complexity and texture. A beautifully aromatic wine, it offers tropical fruit aromas and flavors, including lychee, star fruit and passion fruit. Don’t be fooled into thinking this is a sweet wine, though. It is bone dry and elegantly structured with a faint minerality on the finish.
For more information, visit the Eyrie Vineyards official website.
9. 2015 Channing Daughters Brick Kiln Chardonnay
Origin: The Hamptons, New York, USA
When wine drinkers select a white wine to serve with Thanksgiving dinner, it’s very often a Chardonnay. So, we knew we couldn’t leave this beloved varietal off of our Best Thanksgiving Wines list. However, we’re recommending a Chardonnay from an American wine region we’re willing to bet most wine lovers have yet to discover.
Channing Daughters is a winery representing wines produced from all three of Long Island’s AVAs. It is also a winery committed to the environment and is a founding member of Long Island Sustainable Winegrowing.
The winery’s Brick Kiln Chardonay comes from grapes hand-harvested in Bridgehampton — that’s right, in the heart of the Hamptons! It’s a medium-bodied Chardonnay with notes of Bartlett pear, dried apple, yellow nectarine and lemon acidity. There’s a salinity on the finish that quite literally makes the mouth water for the next sip.
For more information, visit the Channing Daughters official website.
10. NV Gruet Blanc de Noirs
Varietal: 75% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay
Origin: New Mexico, USA
Sparkling wine isn’t the typical choice for a traditional Thanksgiving table — but we say, why not? A good sparkling wine fits all the criteria for what you want from a Thanksgiving wine. It has cleansing acidity to wash down the meal; it’s never so bold that it overpowers your holiday foods. It also has the bonus of bringing a celebratory air to the table.
For a home run of a Thanksgiving sparkling wine, we’ve chosen a bottling that should not only please your guests with its structure and flavor but one that might surprise them as well.
Gruet is New Mexico’s first sparkling wine house. The winery came on to the scene in 1989 with the release of a Brut and Blanc de Noirs, and it’s that Blanc de Noirs that we’re recommending as one of our Best Wines for Thanksgiving. A pale salmon colored wine, it offers flavors of both red fruits and baked autumn pears. It offers softness on the palate and yeasty and faintly earthy notes on the finish.
For more information, visit the Gruet Winery official website.
11. 2016 Wente Vineyards Winemakers Selection Counoise
Varietal: 100% Counoise
Origin: Livermore Valley, California, USA
Counoise is a dark-skinned grape most commonly found in France’s Rhône region. It’s known as a red grape with good acidity and a slightly peppery flavor. (Both are attributes to be enjoyed in a Thanksgiving wine.)
Although the grape is predominantly used in France, Wente Vineyards in California’s Livermore Valley makes an attractive single-varietal wine from the lesser-known grape. It offers luscious notes of plum and cranberry with sage and black pepper lingering on the finish. It’s a relatively delicate red with mild tannins and just the right acidity for cutting through the weight of a Thanksgiving meal.
For more information, visit the Wente Vineyards official website.
12. 2017 Maha Estate Before Anyone Else
Varietal: 100% Clairette
Origin: Adelaida District, Paso Robles, California, USA
If Thanksgiving is more about the wine than the food at your table, you need a bottle of Before Anything Else. It’s the perfect wine for stumping your guests who love to guess the varietal. That’s because this unusual white from Paso Robles is made with Clairette. (It’s a white grape used in the Rhône as well as in making Vermouth.)
Maha’s rendition, produced biodynamically, offers pretty aromas of honey, tangerine and quince. In the mouth, it’s big on body and huge on texture. Mouth-filling, it is creamy on the tongue and slips down with a silky, oily finish and lingering cashew flavor. It’s a wine that demands attention and challenges the senses in a most pleasurable way.
For more information, visit the Maha official website.