Thanksgiving Wines

John Murray

, Food & Drink

Our expert provides guidance through the myriad choices

Thanksgiving is a festive time, and a day to bless the harvest with a bacchanalian feast. Choosing wine for this feast is easy. There are many flavors of food on the table that complement many varietals: white, red and rosé, so there is no wrong or right wine. As I say to anyone who asks, drink what you like!

I usually pour wines from Oregon and California for our Thanksgiving.  Here is a short, basic guide to wines that match the feast. 


Riesling: A grape that exhibits floral and soft perfume, with a delicate bouquet and flavor. It’s a light, clean, delicate and bright wine, which can be dry to sweet. Three examples are Kung Fu Girl from Washington State (yes, that’s really the name), Dashe dry Riesling from California, and Helioterre Starthistle cuvee from Oregon.

Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris: This varietal is related to Pinot Noir. Melon and tropical fruit flavors give this grape a medium-bodied, slightly oily, rich texture. An excellent example is Adelsheim from the Willamette Valley in Oregon.

Sauvignon Blanc: This is a usually crisp and dry grape with a medium body. Sometimes hints of minerals, herbs and grassiness are present, making a perfect match for the bird. Producers of this wine include Dry Creek Vineyards, Frog’s Leap, and Sidebar by Ramey. 

Chardonnay: This is the greatest and most well-known white grape varietal in the world. It is medium- to full-bodied dry wine with hints of apples, pears, citrus, melons, and butter cream. Examples include Iron Horse (no oak), Ramey Russian River or Sonoma Coast, and Argyle from the Willamette Valley.

Champagne/Sparkling: Every year, we start our Thanksgiving feast with a touch of bubbly. It’s a festive and delightful wine that tantalizes and tingles the taste buds. It can be enjoyed before, during and after dinner. Some people try to include Iron Horse Brut, A to Z Rose, and Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noir.

There are other whites that will work well with the meal, including Chenin Blanc, Gruner Veltliner, Gewürztraminer and Grenache Blanc.


Pinot Noir: This is successfully grown around the world in cooler climates. Here in the states, we have fruit from the Willamette Valley in Oregon and in cooler coastal areas of California.  Characteristics of this grape match well:  soft and elegant, with hints of raspberries, cherries and strawberries make a perfect Thanksgiving match. Try Baileyanna from California; St. Innocent Freedom Hill and Le Cadeau from Oregon; and Moshin Westside Crossing from Sonoma.

Red Zinfandel: With fuller bodied fruit flavors with lots of black currants and pepper spices, this is one of my favorite varietals and is only grown successfully in California. Several to enjoy are Dashe Dry Creek, Pedroncelli Mother Clone, Steele, Neyers, and Ridge Vineyards.

Other reds that will work with turkey are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Sirah and blends.  Use your imagination and drink what you like.  It all works.  Don’t forget the rosés.  There are still some amazing dry rosés left on the market, including Pedroncelli Dry Zinfandel Rosé and Tablas Creek Patelin Rosé.

In closing, Thanksgiving is a festive time, so why not try different wines and figure out what your family and friends like best?  It makes for a fun afternoon between football games.  Enjoy!

So, what do you think? Please comment below.