10 Great Wines for Thanksgiving

Posted by: samy September 26, 2012 No Comments

A few days ago my sister asked me (this is Erin here) if I had figured out what I was bringing to Thanksgiving.

For the last few years, Major Feasts have taken place at Courtney’s, as she has a kitchen that will hold the approximately 6 – 8 adults and 2 kids that make up our festive motley crew.

We’ve fallen into a pattern where Courtney makes the turkey, stuffing and gravy, and I bring the sides – usually a salad, potato/gratin type of dish and another root vegetable, such as Brussels sprouts. Our mom brings dessert, and our dad does nothing – except make a round of Manhattan’s, arguably the most important part of any Henderson holiday.

Our holiday gatherings are not nearly this stiff, but we think the kid on the left may have gotten into the punch

We love our holiday time, and Thanksgiving has probably topped my list of favourites; our family get togethers have gradually morphed to include dear friends – just the way a day of gratitude and thanks should be, in my mind.

So perhaps the only real stress of the day, thankfully, is what wines should we serve? We’ve discussed this a number of times in the past, but judging from the emails we receive around the holidays, it still always seems to invoke confusion at the best of times, and blind panic in the worst.

It’s a holiday – don’t stress about which wines to serve

Let us start by saying, relax.  This is a holiday after all, and if your loved ones are anything like ours, they’ll each be a bottle in before the turkey’s even carved.

And that’s the name of the merrymaking game, right? To get blind drunk so you can ignore your family’s interfering and inappropriate questions as to why you’re still single/how you’re raising your kids/when did you become a vegan?

In all seriousness, there may be someone in the crowd to ask what it is they’re drinking, but it’s more out of passing interest than serious investigation.  And further to that, you’re better off finding a few food friendly crowd pleasers rather than make yourself crazy by searching for that one perfect bottle that will go  with everything on your T-Day smorgasbord.

It’ll save you time – and sanity – to go with food friendly crowd pleasing wine rather than look for one perfect match

A few times in our younger years, when we had more time and certainly more patience, we strove for the perfect pairings; but then along came some kids and a business to run and houses to clean … and we ultimately cracked open the nearest bottle of whatever was chilled and said, “Forget it.” Not in those words exactly, but close.

So, if you’re in the same boat, you are welcome to take a page out of The Wine Sisters book.  Here’s how we toast a holiday, but we’d like to know what do you do – make sure you leave your comments below:

  1. We like to start the festivities with a cocktail.  You’ve heard us wax poetic about G&T’s, but in cooler months, a Manhattan is the go-to party kick starter.
  2. We also like to provide four wines: two white and two red.  One of each in a simpler, lighter-style for hors d’oeurvres and appetizers, and one of each that are bit more serious to go with dinner.
  3. Even though we may have a loose intention of pairing them with a certain parts of the meal, our guests are free to select for themselves what they would care to drink. This is not a Thanksgiving dictatorship.


Sancerre – The original home of Sauvignon Blanc is Loire, and Sancerre is a leading appellation within Loire, producing Sauv Blancs that are fresh and racy –  and more minerally than its New Zealand counterparts.
Try: Bernard Reverdy & Fils Sancerre, Loire, France, 2010 $22.95 Vintages 200055

Soave – I’ve recently fallen in love all over again with Soave.  Offering something slightly different than the de rigueur Pinot Grigio, it is a lovely sipping wine with delicate flavours of sweet citrus fruit, herbs and lemon drops.  Light and easy going, Soave can be enjoyed solo or with light appetizers.
Try: La Cappuccina Soave, Veneto Italy, 2011 $13.95 Vintages 81489

Chablis – From northern Burgundy, this is Chardonnay, but a steely, minerally version that’s usually unoaked.  With briney, seaside flavours, and firm acidity it’s nice to pair with oysters and seafood.
Try: Domaine des Malandes Chablis, Burgundy, France 2010 $18.95 Vintages 111658

Sémillon – This may be a bit of a curve ball for some, as it’s not overly popular here – but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be.  Rich & round on the palate, with flavours of paraffin, green herbs, field flowers and stone fruit, Sémillon has traditionally been paired with Sauvignon Blanc, but on its own it’s a lovely wine with great potential for aging.
Try: Mt Boucherie “Estate Collection” Sémillon, VQA Okanagan Valley, BC, 2008, $19.95 Vintages 279364

Gewürtztraminer – Not for everyone, Gewürtz is hedonistically aromatic with over-the-top aromas and flavours of rose petal, perfume, lychee, mandarine orange, lemon grass … we could go on, but we won’t.  Despite the onslaught of unending tastes and aromas, this is quite food friendly and does well with a range of dishes from spicy Indian to traditional Alsatian.
Try: Helfrich Gewürtztraminer Alsace, France 2010 $18.95 Vintages 169748


Barbera d’Asti – One of my favourite go-to wines.  One of the leading varietals of Piedmont (just behind Nebbiolo), this offers juicy red berry fruit, leather, meat and spice with elevated acidity to go with most foods.
Try: Michele Chiarlo “Cipressi della Court” Barbera d’Asti, Piedmont, Italy 2009 $16.95 Vintages 278176

Beaujolais – Again, Beauj is a go-to for me.  Not only can these quaffable fruity reds offer enough complexity to be taken seriously, they’re succulent enough to enjoy on their own, and have enough nuance to go with a smorgasbord of foods. Oh, kindof like Thanksgiving.
Try: Jean Paul Brun “Terres Dorees” Morgon, Beaujolais, France 2010 $19.95 Vintages 264465

Pinot Noir – Pinot’s low tannin and subtle flavours make it an easy crowd pleaser, and one of the friendliest pairings for food. Win-win.
Try: Inniskillin”Winemaker’s Series” Montague Vineyards Pinot Noir, VQA Four Mile Creek, Niagara Peninsula 2009 $24.95 Vintages 997353

Merlot – Soft and fruity with low tannin, merlot can be a nice match to typical holiday fare like turkey, ham or game birds. Oh, but we’re not worrying about getting all matchy-matchy with this meal are we? OK, in that case, merlot’s typically low tannins will also allow it to play nice with a number of food partners.
Try: Frog’s Leap Merlot, Napa Valley, California 2008 $46.95 Vintages 707489

Zinfandel – With flavours of mixed field berries, spice and floral notes, Zinfandel’s that are soft and fruity (some can get quite big and grippy) are an easy, crowd pleasing wine that are sophisticated enough for the holiday table.
Try: Bonterra Zinfandel Mendocino, Amador & Lake Counties, California 2009 $17 Vintages 530139

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