The Best Wine for Thanksgiving?

which wine

Last week we asked 3 local chefs to give us their best advice for preparing a the best Thanksgiving dinner.  It was great to hear the different opinions of seasoned pros.

Now I know what to do with my turkey,  and I’ve got my sides lined up, but what about wine?

My plate is usually loaded with sweet, savory, spicy, creamy, light and heavy goodness. It’s a thing of beauty. Facebook-worthy, really, but I digress. Is there anything that will do all of these flavors justice? Does it even matter at all what you drink?

To find out, I asked 3 local wine experts to weigh in with their opinions. I was pretty surprised at some of their answers. Maybe you will be too. Remember these are only their opinions. They don’t know what you like, but they do have a lot of experience, so I might take some of their advice.

First up, David Dagnino.

David Dagnino

David Dagnino

David is Assistant Manager and Wine Director at Selland’s Market and Cafe, 5340 H St., Sacramento. You can also find David most Wednesdays at Selland’s El Dorado Hills, conducting the weekly Wednesday wine tastings.  Apparently, he also has a sense of humor and is a decent writer. Check it out:

Stop your whining and start the wining….

Turkey day is near and you are wondering what special bottle or bottles of wine will rise to the occasion.

Perhaps you might be thinking of sticking with something familiar just to be safe. Do that and you’ll most likely bore yourself to sleep before you even get the tryptophan into your bloodstream.

I personally try to stay away from the overused Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, although I am willing to make the exception on a well balanced, earthy and reasonable priced Pinot Noir, if I can find one.

You could choose to spend an arm and a leg on the wines you bring to the feast but I think it is more fun to look for the values.

Go into a boutique wine shop and ask the opinion of the wine buyer, sommelier or wine steward. The wine buyers or sommeliers often get to try many of the wines that they have on their shelves. A skilled wine professional should be able to assess what your palate is like and steer you into something unique and enjoyable to be paired with your holiday feast.  With that being said, I will offer some general ideas.

For whites, I especially like Riesling, Albariño, Viognier, Gewürztraminer or even something fun like a Vinho Verde. These varietals are highly aromatic and acidic. I prefer them bone dry to dry but if you like your wines a bit sweet feel free to go for that.  Just make sure you have the acidity to balance the sweetness.

Another wine to consider for Thanksgiving is sparkling wine. A brut or brut rose is what I would go for. Sparkling wines tend to pair well with everything. If you are looking for a sparkling with a little sweetness you might consider a Proseco or possibly a demi-sec.

For red wines, try not to get something too tannic like a monster Cabernet Sauvignon. Look for something medium to medium full bodied. This will help compliment the bird and all of the fixings rather than overwhelm them. Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre or a blending of the three could work well. One might even consider a Crianza or Reserva from the Rioja region of Spain. Other thoughts include, Zinfandel, Beaujolais Nouveau from Burgundy, France or even a Nero D’Avola from Sicily.

Don’t forget about rosé when you are thinking of pairing. I don’t personally recommend white Zinfandel but if that’s what you like go for it. When I choose a rose, I am most often enamored by Provencal rosé from France. They are very dry and packed with minerality, acidity and notes of red fruits. There are plenty of domestic producers of dry rosé as well if you can’t find French. Again, ask your wine professional.

For dessert, I usually go for a nice tawny port with pumpkin pie or pecan pie. Things like apple pie or a pear tart go very well with a late harvest Riesling. Once again, be sure these wines are packed with a high level of acidity to balance the sweetness.

Ultimately, there are no steadfast rules to wine pairings with your turkey day dinner. If all else fails, stick with what you like to drink and that will be perfect, but if you are like me and want to be adventurous, get out there and try something new!


jeff back

Jeff Back

Taking David’s advice of finding a small retailer, I asked Jeff Back, certified Sommelier and owner of the Back Wine Bar and Bistro, 25075 Blue Ravine Rd – Ste 150 – in Folsom, and opening soon, the Folsom Tap House.  You can enjoy wines at the restaurant, or take them home to enjoy. Jeff has limited space, so he is very careful about what he puts on his shelves.  Here are his recommendations:

Rack & Riddle Blanc de Noir, Sonoma County – Our best selling sparkling wine with just a hint of color. This wine bursts
with wild strawberries and crisp apples. Smooth, seamless and beautiful drink! Sourced from Organically grown vineyards. A perfect compliment
to honey baked ham. Retail $22

Omero Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley, OR 2011 – This is not your typical light Italian Pinot Grigio style. This wine has body and character. Peaches and
nectarine with medium to full body with enough acidity to work with those pesky wine killer cranberries. Retail $18

Jules Melange Vin Rouge, Napa Valley, CA 2010 – This Cabernet Franc blend is grown in a little nook of the Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley. Chewy dark fruit with a beautiful lush finish. A hint of toasty oak and vanilla pairs nicely with a smoked turkey. Organically grown. 500 cases
produced. Retail $30

Susana Balbo Malbec, Mendoza Argentina, 2011 – A full throttle deep wine with flavors of blackberry liquor, mocha, truffle and crushed wild berries. This is a seriously good wine and delivers exceptional value. Sustainable viticulture. Retail $35/btl



Last but not least, Jim Farrell, Wine Manager at Total Wine and More in Folsom. Jim has been in the wine biz for 20 years, and is a certified Sommelier.  As a wine buyer for a large store, he has the opportunity to taste and buy wines from all over the world.

Here are some of his favorites for Thanksgiving this year:

Jim says that sparkling wines are always a nice choice for Thanksgiving because they are celebratory and go with almost anything.  Try Enza Prosecco, (also comes in a rose style), from Italy – $9.99

For a red, Jim likes Pinot Noir, saying they are light enough to go well with turkey, and suggests Alouette 2012 from Sonoma County, made by Camus.  $24.99.

A good Chardonnay to try is the Muirwood Zanetta 2012. It has a rich creamy buttery component that is still very popular.  $16.99

Jim also says you may want to give a Gewertraminer a try.

Lastly, avoid heavy reds such as Cabernet Souvignon or Bordeaux, as they can be overpowering.


So, it looks like the experts might differ on specific wines, but all agree that lighter, well-balanced wines match up best with the varied dishes we like to serve on Thanksgiving.

My wife was happy to hear that all three recommended sparkling wines, as those are her favorites. I think I’ll pick up the Proseco suggested by Jim, and that Blanc de Noir from Jeff’s shop. I’ve got a Pinot I bought from Laetitia in the San Luis Obispo area, and although Cabs are supposed to be out, I’ve got a 19 year old bottle that I’ve been looking for a reason to open.

What about you? Do you have a favorite, or will you try something new?  Let us know:

Whether you choose, be safe, and have the best Thanksgiving ever.

Cheers and blessings from the Heard family and the MyFolsom gang.