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Great Wines for Your Thanksgiving Table
Get ready – they’re coming! Yes, the holidays
will be here before you know it, and right behind will be
all your holiday guests.
Hosting holiday gatherings can be exhilarating and stressful
at the same time. Choosing the menu, preparing the shopping
lists, organizing the recipe cards, decorating, strategically
planning the seating arrangements, and of course, selecting
the appropriate wine list to match. Red or white? Sweet or
dry? Budget or extravagant? Simple or complex? The possibilities
It sometimes seems like you need to break out an Excel spreadsheet
for these affairs!
Nevertheless, we do love it, because a well-organized holiday
party is both fun and rewarding, so let’s get down to business
and discuss some helpful party-planning hints for the upcoming
OK, let’s assume that you have just agreed to host Thanksgiving
dinner at your home this year - now all the excitement (and
work) begins. Although I typically start with the wine list
and work backward to the food menu, most hosts and hostesses
would probably begin with the menu and work forward to the
wine, so we’ll stick with tradition and go to the food menu
Some of my favorites and family traditions are as follows:
• Roasted turkey
• Oyster dressing
• Turkey dressing (with plenty of fresh sage)
• Fresh cranberries baked in Grand Marnier (don't forget
to light it!)
• Fresh broccoli spears seasoned and topped with white wine
• Fresh baked rye and pumpernickel bread served with red
• Pumpkin and pecan pie topped with fresh whipped heavy cream
Now for the vino! There are two camps in my family (and
probably yours as well): red and white consumers. Of
course, we will
need to accommodate both. For the menu I have selected,
these styles of wine would be wonderful matches:
Riesling from Germany, Oregon or California. A Dry
Riesling will be less sweet and more acidic than a normal
Riesling, making it a more food-friendly wine.
from Oregon, California, or Alsace, France. This grape varietal has plenty of spice to match
any dressing and truly brings out the herbs used in most
•Chardonnay from California or Burgundy, France. I would
choose an un-oaked version so the fruit flavors can shine.
A highly oaked wine could very well overpower the food
– not a good thing on Thanksgiving.
Noir from Oregon or Burgundy, France. The Pinot Noir grape
is perfect for this time of year. It is not too
tannic, so you don’t have to worry about it overpowering
the turkey or other lighter-style meats you may be
serving. It also has plenty of fruit flavors to bring out
and spices used in many of the traditional recipes,
and is just a crowd pleaser in general for almost all red
Noir from Beaujolais, France. This grape varietal is very
similar to the Pinot Noir. In fact, they are grown
in the same wine region in Burgundy, France. The Gamay
Noir tends to be just a little more fruit-forward than
Pinot Noir, so if you have a few guests that like a
little more fruit flavors coming through, this is a nice
from California. A luscious, full-bodied, dry red Zinfandel
is typically one of the most fruit-forward
red wines California has to offer. It has lots of spice
and dark berry flavors to complement your Thanksgiving
and is a staple at my house during the holidays.
Muscat from California. This wine complements all kinds
of desserts, or it can even be the dessert itself.
It is usually less expensive than European dessert
wines, and is so sweet and luscious that you can drink
it with just
about any sweet dessert you prepare.
from Bordeaux, France. This is a fabulous dessert
wine made with Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and occasionally
the Muscadelle grape. The grapes tend to be late-harvest,
providing a wonderful, sweet flavor with a more syrupy
If you want to splurge, try a Sauterne, but be
that you will pay for this treat.
From these choices, you then need to decide how many different
wine selections to offer, what price ranges to choose from,
and how much of each to provide at your gathering. These
answers truly need to be based not only on your budget, but
also on your guests’ level of wine expertise.
In my family, we have a mix of both wine connoisseurs and
“special occasion” wine drinkers, so I typically try to select
wines from several categories so that I can have something
for everyone that meets my budget. The key is to make your
family and friends feel that they are enjoying a wine you
personally selected for them, and one that complements the
meal you have worked so hard to prepare.
If you still have questions about your wine list, don’t
hesitate to stop by your trusted local wine merchant and
discuss your menu and guest list with them. Provide as many
details as you can and I assure you they will be more than
happy to help you plan and select your wine list. As a wine
boutique owner, I know how much pleasure I get from helping
folks plan the perfect holiday experience, so don’t be shy
about asking for help, and above all, have a splendid Thanksgiving
holiday with YOUR family and friends.
If you would like recipes for any of the dishes mentioned
in this article, or need just a little more help in pairing
wines with your menu, please call 816.505.WINE and ask to
speak with Jennifer.
Stanton is the proprietor of Wines by Jennifer in Parkville,