No matter how your family does Thanksgiving dinner, one thing’s for sure: You’ll need wine. Whether you’re eating, hosting or just trying to dodge your boring uncle, a glass of vino could come in handy. But choosing the perfect bottles to pair with your feast is tough, so we turned to Christian Navarro, “wine therapist to the stars” and president of Wally’s Wine & Spirits, for his expert recommendations. Here, the best wine for Thanksgiving from Riesling to Pinot Noir.
1. 2017 Alain Graillot Crozes-Hermitage
“The French region of Crozes-Hermitage is a destination for world-class red wines made from Syrah grapes,” says Navarro. Wines from this region are famous for spicy, smoky flavors and Alain Graillot’s have just that. Think a red with the character of freshly cracked pepper, hickory smoke and fresh violets. Might we suggest pairing it with our spicy orange honey-glazed ham?
2. 2019 Dönnhoff Riesling Trocken
If you think all Rieslings are sweet, think again. This dry number from Germany, which is home to some of the world's most distinct zesty, refreshing Rieslings, is the perfect introduction for any skeptic. Brace your taste buds for notes of lime, green apple and juicy apricot plus a dry, mineral finish. “The wine lends the right cut to sweet dishes like baked yams or bacon-wrapped dates,” says Navarro. Dry Riesling is also a great palate cleanser.
3.2018 Cleto Chiarli Lambrusco del Fondatore
Nothing will wash your famous slow-cooker turkey breast down like this fun, sparkling red from Emilia-Romagna, Italy. Lambrusco is a variety of grape that’s native to the region and can create dry, off-dry and sweet vinos. Swirl this one in your glass a few times to experience its full range of floral fragrances before taking a sip. On the tongue, it’ll be bright, dry, refreshing and pleasantly round.
4. 2016 Chateau Alcée
With an outstanding Wine Advocate score of 91, this Bordeaux vintage has a lot to be excited about. “Chateau Alcée is a blend of 92 percent Merlot and 8 percent Cabernet Franc from Cotes de Castillon,” says Navarro. This gives the wine a deep purple color and notes of blueberry compote, black tea and cherry brandy, along with hints of lavender and cigars. Navarro says it’s beautifully ripe and drinks deliciously after a few years of aging.
5. 2017 RouteStock Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast
Want a bottle that’s going to deliver without having to empty your wallet? Meet your new BFF. Not only did Wine Spectator give it a score of 91, but they also ranked it one of the top 100 wines of 2019. And just because it’s a great deal doesn’t mean you’ll be sacrificing quality. Ripe notes of raspberry, currant and wild plum hold their own against medium tannins, hints of chocolate and mint and a spicy finish.
6. 2017 Chateau du Moulin a Vent Couvent des Thorins
Navarro describes this as, “a delicious Cru Beaujolais bursting with berry fruit.” If you’re trying to buy one single wine to accommodate your entire holiday table, this just might be your ideal pick. It’s made with thick-skinned grapes, which produce rich, luxurious wine with silky tannins. It’s also partially aged in oak barrels. You really can’t go wrong with a wine this easy-drinking and food-friendly.
7. 2015 Viticcio Chianti Classico Riserva
Wine experts have given their fair share of rave reviews for this Tuscany libation (Wine Spectator gave it a 95). Navarro is no exception: “This is an outstanding value and might be the greatest Sangiovese under $30.” Made with 90 percent Sangiovese grapes, this pick has an earthy profile with medium tannins, high acidity and lots of fruit like sour cherries and blackberries, like most Sangiovese. Its spicy undertones of cinnamon, nutmeg and pepper make it a great match for roast meat or a killer cheese board.
8. 2017 Ramey Russian River Valley Chardonnay
According to Navarro, Ramey produces some of the best Chardonnays in all of Sonoma. He calls this vintage (and the rest from the winery) inspired, elegant and refined. It’s fruit-forward with savory-sweet notes of caramelized pineapple and honeycomb, plus some salty minerality. The palate is medium- to full-bodied and just the thing to wash down pumpkin soup or roasted nuts.
9. 2016 Schramsberg Blanc de Noirs
From what Navarro considers California’s greatest sparkling wine house, this rich, elegant bubbly is crafted from prime North Coast Pinot Noir grapes. Wine Enthusiast calls this selection fruity but crisp, bracing and effervescent with elegant notes of fresh apple and ginger. Pair it with soft cheese, nut-crusted fish or herby pork tenderloin (in case your family doesn’t do turkey).
10. 2019 RUMOR Côtes de Provence Rosé
And you thought rosé season ended after Labor Day weekend. This dry, fresh selection works for all occasions as a crisp aperitif before a long, hearty meal. The pretty-in-pink pick hails from the Mediterranean coast of France and is flavorful with subtle notes of white peach, golden raspberry and crushed stones.
11. 2018 Felton Road Bannockburn Pinot Noir
This New Zealand gem has one-of-a-kind brightness and flavor intensity. “Felton Road is one of the most respected names in Central Otago, where some of the country's best reds are made,” explains Navarro. Luscious notes of strawberry, rhubarb and black tea, along with herbaceous qualities and an expressive nutmeg finish are just the match for tender turkey and tangy cranberry sauce.
12. 2018 Margerum Libertine Sauvignon Blanc
Happy Canyon is a wine region in Santa Barbara, California that’s home to hundreds of acres of vineyards. Happy Canyon fruit offers mineral qualities and zesty citrus notes to the finished product. The wine is well-suited to pair with pungent cheese, salads, rich holiday cuisine and even fruit desserts like apple pie, but Navarro says it also makes it a great aperitif.
13. 2018 Sans Liege Cotes du Coast White
This beautifully designed bottle stars a White Rhone blend of 33 percent Viognier, 26 percent Roussanne, 22 percent Grenache Blanc, 11 percent Marsanne, and 8 percent Clairette. “[It’s] consistently one of the best values on the central coast, layered with rich fruits while possessing a fresh, clean finish,” says Navarro. It pairs wonderfully with shellfish, so maybe you’d like to start the evening with a timeless favorite: shrimp cocktail.
14. 2018 Hilt Cuvée Fleur Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir
“This elegant cuvée is made from some of the best lots in the Santa Rita Hills," says Navarro. This California region’s grapes are exposed to coastal breezes and fog, which turns the grapes complex, fruity and acidic. Its bright fruit notes lead to savory ones, finishing with zippy acidity that’s crisp enough to cut through a turkey dinner.
15. 2017 Empire Estate Finger Lakes Dry Riesling
This fresh, food-friendly Riesling can hold its own against everything on the Thanksgiving table from poultry to cheese. Get a whiff of jasmine, orange zest and fresh apricot before diving into a glass rich with notes of lime zest, young nectarine, tangerine and stone. Its juicy, fruity profile stands out against its astringent, bright qualities.
16. 2012 Stolpman Vineyards Angeli Syrah
Before you start sipping, take a moment to breathe in this top-end Syrah’s intoxicating, unique aromatic profile. Navarro describes it as, “violet perfume blending into blueberry syrup, anise and spearmint.” The flavors are bold without being overpowering, but still pack a memorable punch of espresso, dried berries and leather. Serve it alongside robust meats, like wintry pomegranate-maple glazed lamb chops.
17. 2016 Breton Bourgueil Clos Sénéchal
“Bourgueil wines are made from Cabernet Franc, and these aromatic, elegant reds are versatile treats to have at the dinner table,” says Navarro. “The Clos Sénéchal is a prized single vineyard whose wines radiate with rose petal, pomegranate, sage and tobacco notes.” Pair it with green bean casserole, beets or Brussels sprouts side dishes.
18. 2014 Jonata Todos Red Blend
This savory, chewy red blend is made up of seven grape varieties, mostly Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. Navarro calls it, “expansive and focused,” and says it’s the perfect representation of the combined magic of Santa Barbara sun and Jonata sandy soils. Intense aromas of blackberries, blueberry pie and cassis with a peppery undercurrent preface a soft-bodied, elegant mouthfeel with a spicy finish.
19. 2017 Ridge Lytton Springs
With a 95 from The Tasting Panel and a 94 from Vinous Media, this iconic Zinfandel blend from Sonoma’s Dry Creek Valley has a lot to live up to. The California beauty is bold with the scent and flavor of brambly fruit and earthy spices. It has notes of pepper and sage, plus a velvety mouthfeel bursting with raspberry. Pair it with sage-barley risotto with butternut squash.
20. Perrier Jouet Champagne Grand Brut
Who said you need to wait for New Year’s Eve to pop a bottle of bubbly with your relatives? Any festive holiday meal or celebration calls for Champagne, and Navarro says this one is super versatile and pairs with just about anything on your Thanksgiving table. It’s round, dry and fruit-forward with flavors of grapefruit and honey, as well as hints of graphite and mineral. Sip this with dessert like panna cotta, an apple tart or shortbread cookies.