Best Wine for Thanksgiving? Don’t sweat it!

Turkey with wine

I love wine, and I’m hoping that if you’re reading this, you do, too.

For many years, I’ve asked read articles, searched the web and asked the experts for advice, seeking to answer the question, ‘hat’s the best wine for Thanksgiving?’

I’ve encountered two problems with this. First, the typical Thanksgiving meal consists of a wide variety of divergent tastes. Turkey, ham, roast beef, sweet potatoes and cranberries, together can pose a pairing challenge.

Along with ethnic or regional favorites, lumpia, raviolis, tomales, my wife’s outstanding Cajun cornbread stuffing, etc., and it’s enough to drive a wine snob mad.

Second, there are too many experts and articles out there, and many with differing opinions!

‘Go with sweet to go with the low fat turkey’, ‘go for high acid to cut through the high-fat dishes’, ‘a lighter red is more food friendly’, a big, fruity red goes well with a wide variety of tastes.

You know what, it’s all true. So, what to do?

Jeff Back, owner of Folsom’s Back Wine Bar and Bistro says, “Drink what you want! Its not a fine dining experience!”

That’s great advice, but still, we work hard to put together a great meal, and it’s nice to have a good wine to drink with it.

While there are no hard and fast rules, here are some general guidelines, gleaned from years of reading, asking and tasting and drinking:

  • Whites – Go for light and fruity  – Reisling and Gewertraminer are classics, but also consider Viognier (Holly’s Hill makes a great one). For something with a little more acidity, try Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc.
  • Sparkling – Who doesn’t like a nice sparkling wine? They are fun and go with a wide variety of foods. Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noir is a favorite.
  • Rose – A Grenache Rose can be fabulous, and yes, White Zinfandel is still around.
  • Lighter reds – Gamay is probably the most widely recommended, and with good reason. It’s an easy drinking wine with a lot of flavor, and appeals to a lot of different palates. An earthy Pinot Noir is also a good choice.
  • Deeper Reds – A big California Zinfandel is a great choice; smooth and jammy with a hint of pepper. So many good ones coming out of Lodi. Klinker Brick makes several worth trying. A bold and fruity Syrah, not too tannic,  is another excellent choice.

In general, it’s recommended that one stays away from big, tannic wines, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Syrah, and Sangiovese.

Again, these aren’t rules.

These are wines I’m recommending come from years of advice from fools and to experts. Sometimes the fools are better at it!

What’s going to be on my table you ask? A little of everything. I’ve got a group ranging from novices to veteran wine drinkers, some who don’t care and don’t see what all the fuss is about (they are the easiest to love), and some beer drinkers, too.

We’ll have a Reisling, a sparkling rose, a Gamay, a Zinfandel and I’ll probably open a couple of others as the night goes on.

I’ve got some beer, Scotch and Tequila, too!

The most important thing to have at the Thanksgiving table is gratitude. Reflecting on a year that has been better for some than for others, and being grateful that we’re still here, and realizing we all have something to be thankful for, that’s what’s important.

One last thing; Jack Thompson, founder of has put together this handy infographic that should help you pair with everything from bass to burgers for years to come. Check it out:


Steve Heard is a Realtor in Folsom Ca, owner of, and drinks wine. 

Contact Steve at 916 718 9577 or