Wines to Brighten Up Your Thanksgiving

For most of us 2020’s Thanksgiving will be different.    Because of the COVID pandemic,  family and friends will not be gathering in  large numbers to celebrate.   Instead,  we’ll keep it smaller for the sake of everyone’s heath.

Although we’ll be fewer in numbers, our plans are still to celebrate with a turkey and the usual array of side dishes including stuffing, cranberries, vegetables, biscuits, and a surprise or two.   As always, we will be serving wine for the occasion as wine brightens up the meal and the holiday celebration.  There are many wines on the market to brighten up a Thanksgiving meal this season.   We always have a hard time choosing only one wine for the occasion. Because we serve a wide variety of side dishes with lots of different flavors and spices, one wine just doesn’t do the trick.   From our recent tastings we are happy to recommend a small selection of wines from around the world for your Thanksgiving table. 

Champagne and  Sparkling Wine  

Starting a meal with sparklers makes for a joyous Thanksgiving  celebration.  They do a great job accompanying cold shrimp, oysters, deviled eggs, crudités and other appetizers.   We are big fans of grower Champagnes such as Agrapart, Vilmart &Cie, Chartogne-Taillet, and  Pierre Peters,  as well as those from Champagne houses like Louis Roederer, Moet Chandon and Billecart-Salmon.  Sparkling wines are an excellent and often less expensive alternative to Champagne. From California we especially like those from Mendocino’s Roederer Estate and Santa Barbara’s Flying Goat.  From South Africa, try the outstanding sparklers from Colmant and Graham Beck.

Crisp Whites

Dry crisp white wines are alternatives to Champagne and Sparkling wine to accompany appetizers.   We reported on some magnificent white wines earlier this year:  The Azores Wine Company has released several stunning wines on the market. They may be hard to find, but are worth the search; look for Branco Vulcanico or Arinto dos Acores. The region of Galicia and especially Rias Baixas produces some of  Spain’s finest white wines.  These wines often display lovely floral notes with crisp acidity and freshness.  They are also quite affordable.  Look for Albariños from Palacio de Fefiñanes, Forjas del Salnés, Gran Vinum, Pazo de Barrantes and Morgadío.


Pairing Chardonnay with turkey can be tricky, as a good number of producers barrel ferment and oak age their wines in excess.  If you want to serve Chardonnay for Thanksgiving dinner, try those that are better balanced and less oaky.   We have tasted many fine Chardonnays during the year and recommend you look for those from the Sta. Rita Hills such as Sandhi and Dragonette or the Trapiche Chardonnays (especially the Terroir Series) from Argentina.


We drink rosés all year around, as the dry bold styles of  premium rosés go extremely well with food.   Most rosés are made to be drunk young; they’re fresh and lively with crisp acidity. The most interesting ones reveal an extra edge of complexity, balance and finesse which is derived from both terroir and winemaking.  They pair well with cranberries, different stuffings and vegetables like Brussel sprouts.  This year we tasted more than 250 still and sparkling rosès for our annual rosé report.  Some excellent ones that are widely available include Oregon’s Quady North and Soter Vineyards and Anthony Road and Lamoreaux Landing from New York’s Finger Lakes.

Some superb sparkling rosés made from the Pinot Noir grape.  We especially like those from Oregon’s Bryn Mawr and Willamette Valley Vineyards and the Russian River Valley’s Balletto and La Crema.  And, if your budget is tight this year, try the inexpensive but very good non-vintage sparkling rosé from South Africa’s Graham Beck.

Orange/Amber Wines

Wines made from white skinned grapes fermented on the skins are typically called “orange” wines, but in the country of Georgia where winemaking originated some eight thousand years ago, they’re called “amber” wines.  We’ve been tasting Georgian wines recently in preparation for a post-pandemic wine trip there.  These are complex, savory wines that pair beautifully with food. A couple of our favorites are the 2019 Orgo Rkatsiteli Katherine, which is made in traditional Georgian qvevri, and the Teliani Valley 2019 Amber Blend.

Pinot Noir

We often serve Pinot Noir on Thanksgiving.  The lighter, higher acid Pinot Noirs pair well with turkey and a wide variety of holiday dishes.   We especially like the Pinot Noirs from Sonoma County, Santa Barbara County, and Mendocino’s Anderson Valley.   From Sonoma County, try the Pinot Noirs from the West Sonoma Coast such as Littorai, Peay, and Hirsch.  From the Santa Rita Hills, try Pinot Noirs from  Dragonette, Fiddlehead Cellars, and Siduri.  From Anderson Valley, we especially like Anthill, Baxter, Copain, and Crew Family Cellars.

The wines recommended above are just a small portion of the outstanding wines we’ve reviewed and reported on over the past twelve months in the articles on our blog and subscriber reports. For more extensive wine recommendations, please consult the reports we’ve recently published:

  • Champagne: Diversity and Change
  • The Wines of Anderson Valley
  • South Africa’s Outstanding Sparkling Wines
  • American Rosé: The 2019 Vintage
  • Sta. Rita Hills: A New Look

Enjoy your Thanksgiving Holiday!

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