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Matching wine with turkey and trimmings

Domaine Carneros Brut by Taittinger

Domaine Carneros Brut by Taittinger Photo Credit: None/

Each year, the Thanksgiving challenge comes from the drinks more than the food.

Lots of wines go with turkey, from versatile pinot noir and All-American zinfandel to dry riesling and oak-free chardonnay. But add cranberry sauce and stuffing, sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts, and each bite is very different.

That's why fruitier reds, refreshing whites and dry rosés are familiar companions. You don't have to play the match game too precisely, or you might end up reaching for a bottle of Wild Turkey - which actually works well in a glaze as well as in a glass.

But here are some solid selections for Thanksgiving wines, ranging from $8 to $88. They're all ready for extra helpings.

One solution to the wine puzzle: Drink sparkling, start to finish. Reliable American sparklers such as the nonvintage Roederer Estate Brut ($23), Mumm Napa Brut Prestige ($20), and the J Cuvée 20 Brut ($20); and the generous, slightly floral 2006 Domaine Carneros Brut ($26) are excellent choices - lively, crisp, balanced, and just bubbly enough. Uncomplicated Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi Brut ($10) has citrus, apple, value.

For still wines, I'm seeing red this year. Consider a pinot noir; or a Beaujolais, which goes with almost everything.

The uncomplicated, grapy Beaujolais Nouveau makes it annual debut today. The fruity, floral 2010 Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau ($10) typifies it. For less than $20, try cru Beaujolais from villages such as Fleurie, Julienas and Brouilly. Besides Duboeuf, dependable Beaujolais producers include Louis Jadot and Michel Tête.

Good red Burgundies rarely are inexpensive. But, sticking with pinot, and staying French, the inviting 2008 Domaine Faiveley Mercurey ($27) is berry-filled, with a hint of spice to match the feast. Meatier and heady with red fruit is the robust 2008 Joseph Drouhin Pommard ($44). And the 2006 Labouré-Roi Pommard Le Taillefer ($48) adds a bit of pepperiness to go with the black cherry and plum qualities.

Enrich the festivities with the 2008 Joseph Drouhin Beaune Clos des Mouches ($88), a delightful red with great finesse, full of berries, spice, some earthiness. Any of these French pinots will make you want to add a cheese course.

A bargain-priced alternative in the pinot search is from Argentina. The medium-bodied 2009 Trapiche Pinot Noir ($8) is smooth, easygoing and partners well with the entire meal.

Modest, economical and tasty California pinots include the 2009 Mandolin Pinot Noir ($12) and the 2009 Pietra Santa Pinot Noir ($18). Traces of cinnamon mark the fruity, garnet-hued 2008 Talbott Pinot Noir Kali Hart ($21).

The more complex, elegant 2008 Sea Smoke Southing ($52) from Santa Rita Hills offers a suggestion of clove, plus tropical fruit. Supple, ripe and refined, the 2008 Sanford Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir ($40) has a whiff of cranberry and ample berry flavors. And the 2008 Sonoma Coast Firestone Hills Pinot Noir ($50) is outstanding, with black fruit, earthiness and spice. A fairly new winery celebrates the holiday with flair: the bright 2008 Perception Russian River Valley Pinot Noir ($53) presents a harvest of berries, cherry and plum.


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