Wine Line: What to sip (and what to skip) on Thanksgiving

rgwinton@yahoo.comNovember 13, 2012 

The editor laughed at me the other day when I suggested we break with tradition and have prime rib for Thanksgiving dinner.

I quickly dropped the idea. The editor was right. I'm not surprised. She has been editing me for years, and during that time we've always had the traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

In sports, you're never supposed to jinx a streak. I think 43 years qualifies as a streak. So, turkey it is.

What not to serve

Choosing wines for Thanksgiving is not difficult, and knowing what wines not to serve helps narrow down the choices.

You should avoid wines high in alcohol. They will overpower the food, burn your throat and after the second glass you'll be asleep in your mashed potatoes.

Any wine over 16 percent is iffy. Check the label. Shiraz, zinfandel and malbec come to mind.

Avoid wines high in tannins. This will eliminate young tannic cabernet sauvignons. Avoid white wines that are heavily oaked. You want to taste the food, not an oak 2-by-4 slathered in butter.

And finally, avoid highly acidic sauvignon blancs. They are just too tart to pair well with food, and your cheeks will be puckered up the entire meal.

Red wines

Pinot noir, syrah, zinfandel and merlot are good choices for Thanksgiving dinner. Make sure you check the alcohol level, especially on the syrah and zinfandel.

Of the four, pinot noir is my favorite. Soft tannins, earthy, smoky notes and smooth fruit flavors make pinot noir a perfect match for the Thanksgiving table.

Two inexpensive pinots are the J. Lohr Falcon's Perch and the Kenwood Russian River. Both are about $12.

If you prefer a bigger red, go for a syrah or zinfandel. And if you like merlot, try the 2010 Bonterra Mendocino -- the soft tannins and long finish make it an excellent turkey wine.

White wines

Chardonnay, riesling, pinot gris and gewurtztraminer work well with Thanksgiving fare.

Select a cool climate chardonnay with crisp acidity and apple or pear flavors and minimal oak influence. Not surprisingly, riesling, pinot gris or gewurtztraminer work well with savory food flavors and definitely belong on the turkey-day table.

Two other wines to consider are champagne -- sparkling and rosé. A sparkling wine like Mumm Brut Rosé or Domaine Chandon Blanc De Noir would be great through the entire meal.

Dry rosés are versatile and work well with almost all foods, and the Valley of the Moon Rose of Sangiovese would be spot-on.

Having said that, there are no rules. Drink what you like. If you like a big, chewy cabernet sauvignon with the green bean casserole or with pumpkin pie, great!

The above are just a few thoughts and suggestions.

Have a great Thanksgiving and drink what you like, period.


Oops, I mean, gobble-gobble!

Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Find me on Facebook or at

Merced Sun-Star is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service