What to drink for Thanksgiving

I recently heard that more wine is sold for Thanksgiving than any other holiday of the year. My first guess would have been New Year's Eve, or maybe even the Fourth of July. But then again, I really shouldn't be that surprised, considering I can't remember a Thanksgiving dinner with my family without a gigantic bottle of Carlo Rossi White Grenache proudly displayed next to the turkey, yams with burnt marshmallows, and the ubiquitous bowl of quivering jellied cranberry sauce. Having wine was a big deal for my family. Most evenings of the year, they drank Scotch, but my mother forced my dad to relinquish his Johnnie Walker on this special night. She thought the pink stuff added a classy touch to the evening. The year I began my career in the beverage business, I begged my mother to let me pick the wines for the holiday. I spent the week planning and purchasing, and the night of the big dinner, I stood at the table and recited my dissertation on each wine and food pairing. When I concluded, my family tentatively sipped each selection without comment. I eagerly awaited the proclamation of how brilliant I was. Never mind that I never became a doctor, having a sommelier in the family was much better! But then, much to my surprise, the complaints started pouring in: "This one is too dry for me, don't you have anything sweet?" "What about Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon? I hear it's the best." "You only poured me a little bit. Why are you being so stingy?" "I can't drink! Don't you remember I just got out of rehab?" and on and on. I learned an interesting lesson that night: Don't worry about pairing wine with the actual Turkey Day dishes, as it is more important to match the wines you serve with the various tastes of your guests. So here are my selections for Thanksgiving 2008. With any luck, you'll be able to please everyone at your table!

All of the wines are available at your local Dominick's or Safeway so you won't have to make a separate trip to a wine store.


Purchase various selections and place the wines on a credenza or side table and let your family serve themselves as this will free you up to do other things. This will also eliminate clutter on the dining room table. If you are short on space in the refrigerator and live in a cooler part of the country, you can always keep your white wines outside or in the garage to keep them nice and chilled. Also - don't forget about the folks who don't drink, we would not want them to feel left out.

For the sweet wine lover
Polka Dot Riesling, Pfalz Germany $9

Tastes of crisp green apples without being too sweet. Perfect for those who don't like anything too dry. Plus - the bottle is really cute!

For those who don't care what's being served just as long as it is wine

Redwook Creek Pinot Grigio - Italy $10 for a magnum (two bottles)

Light as a feather, slightly fruity and refreshing with flavors of lemon zest. Serve well chilled and it will go down nice and easy.

For Uncle Bob the Wine Snob - face it we all have one and he loves to brag about his wine cellar and repeats the same stories about his last trip to Napa!

Hess Allomi Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon - Napa Valley $23 (yes - Uncle Bob is expensive)

Classic Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon with dark berry fruits, nice and smooth. Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa costs more because the the land is more expensive.

For the folks who saw Sideways too many times and won't drink anything but Pinot Noir. Also good for people who want something lighter and not too heavy.

Chalone Vineyards Pinot Noir, Monterey $ 16

This is from my hometown so it has to be good! Bright flavors of ripe bing cherry fruits, on the lighter side but still satisfying with a slight spiciness. A great value! Pinot Noir has fewer tannins so it is not as chewy as Cab Sauv.

Great all purpose white if you want to simplify things
Montes Chardonnay, Chile $9

Perfect balance between for those who want something light yet rich enough to satisfy the butterball lovers. Flavors of crisp peppers and baked apples.

Great all purpose red

Gascon Malbec, Argentina $12

Rich and well strucured. This is a great wine for the money and will please most palates. Soft enough for Merlot drinkers yet rich enough for Cabernet fans. Like a cross between Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. One of my favorite varietals!

Something to bring as a host/hostess present or last minute gift

Sofia Blanc de Blancs Sparkling Wine, California $14

This was made by Francis Ford Coppola in honor of his daughter, the great Sofia Coppola (well, he didn't actually make it, some winemakers did but he told them what to do so this counts in my book). It comes wrapped in a pretty pink cellophane for an extra touch of class. You could also serve this to your guests when they first arrive.

For the traditionalist
Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais, France $10

The launch of Beaujolais Nouveau falls about a week before Thanksgiving so this could be the reason why it is often associated with the holiday. It makes a decent pairing since the wine is light and juicy with a slight bubble gum flavor. It's also really inexpensive. This is not the Nouveau so it is not as fresh but also less likely to leave you with a headache.

For the abstainers or little ones
Martinelli Sparkling Cider $5

This stuff is just plain good! It's slightly sparkling so serve it in a Champagne flute. My mother used to buy this for me and my brother when we were kids and we took turn toasting each other like they did in Dynasty and Wall Street. It's really no surprise I ended up in the wine business.

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