Thanksgiving With Fine Wine

By Doc Lawrence.

The year is winding down and we’ll help it go in high style. Gatherings and homecomings are highlighted by feasts. Laughter permeates and for a little more than a month we celebrate.

Wynton Marsalis, the jazz maestro, told me about the magic of the blues, one of America’s original art forms. The blues, said Marsalis, “defies defeat and makes a statement that you never give in. You can make fun of hard times, imagining something good for things that are bad. There is always more than a sprinkling of hope, even if it is a comforting trumpet solo.”

Thanksgiving launches the holiday season and it’s the most American of these wonderful days, incorporating much of what we hold dear. We return home even if the journey is just reliving precious memories. It is that day when we genuinely want someone – a lonely neighbor, a student far from home – to come on over and join the fun and share the harvest bounty.

Wine is enjoying growing prominence during holiday feasts and more wine is sold for Thanksgiving Day dinner than for any other meal of the year. With so many different flavors, tastes and traditions, Thanksgiving wine choices can be vexing. Given the great variety of foods and flavors, it’s smart to place different bottles on the table to reflect the many different dishes served. Offer different nontraditional wines.

This is our special day so serve only American wines. California, Oregon, Washington, New York, Texas, Colorado, Missouri, North Carolina,Virginia and Georgia produce thousands of exceptional possibilities.

Because most foods on the dinner table are all consumed together, pairing wines appears a little daunting, but like the blues singer, we are equal to the challenge never giving in. Remember the most important

Biltmore Estate Pinot Noir
Biltmore Estate Pinot Noir

consideration is taste, how each wine complements what you’re serving and what you like. There are no hard-and-fast rules for selecting the right wines. But some are almost perfect with turkey and all the amazing fixings.

Begin the feast with an American sparkler. As guests are arriving, serve a flute or two of Gruet Blanc de Noir Sparkling, a highly regarded bubbly from New Mexico that can handle any flavor with grace. Made primarily with Pinot Noir with about a quarter in Chardonnay, this is a greeting of friendship, a sample of all the wonders moments away. And, if you want a gift for your dinner host, the safe path is a good sparkling wine and Gruet has some rarity about it combined with a solid reputation.


Instead of Chardonnay consider white wines that are refreshing, tangy, floral and fruity, the dominant holiday flavors. Oregon’s secret weapon white is Pinot Gris. Unlike Pinot Grigio (the same grape), Oregon Pinot Gris has personality. King Estate Pinot Gris is a sure bet, and is nice on the palate between bites of turkey, dressing and gravy. It goes nicely with vegetables like asparagus.

Virginia’s Kluge Estate has a growing national presence and Kluge Viognier is a powerfully complete New World white wine. Before anyone asks how this happens in Virginia, think about our first important wine advocate and importer, Thomas Jefferson. You can walk to Monticello from Kluge Estate Vineyards.

Riesling and Gewurztraminer belong on the table. With a lovely, complex, and rich core of fruit flavors, and a bit of minerality, Gewurztraminer has enough acidity to work with holiday dinners. New York’s Finger Lakes is home to Dr. Konstantin Frank Riesling, a benchmark for American Riesling that will lift Thanksgiving dressing, holiday oysters and shrimp and baked pork loin to new heights. Georgia vintner Mary Ann Hardman says her Persimmon Creek Seyval Blanc pairs well with a roasted turkey, particularly the roast turkey and giblet gravy recipe in Virginia Willis’ cookbook, Bon Appetit, Y’All.


Don’t hesitate to serve red wine with turkey. Young bottles of Pinot Noir like those from Asheville’s Biltmore Estates are distinctively fruity with essence of plums, strawberries, cherries and raspberries. Older ones have a smoky edge and both belong on the table. Malbec with Thanksgiving dinner? Georgia’s highly regarded Tiger Mountain Vineyards has a graceful middle-bodied balanced Malbec that merits pouring for the feast.

Petite Sirah
Petite Sirah

No American holiday dinner would be complete without a wine from California. Take the path less traveled with Ravenswood Teldeschi Zinfandel, a vineyard with vines dating back to 1913, planted with a smattering of other grape varieties like Carignane and Petite Sirah.

With dessert, look to Muscat and Texas-based Messina Hoff bottles an excellent Muscat Canelli. Persimmon Creek Riesling ice wine goes with all desserts. American Port is equally delicious. Younger ports are fruitier. Older ports are less sweet, tawny in color, and have a nuttier flavor from longer aging in wood. Praeger Port is a wonderful holiday wine from California.

This is the time to reflect and express thanks. We toast to commence the Thanksgiving feast, happy to be together. The appreciation of life isn’t predicated on wealth or plenty, just simple gratitude for family, friends and the beauty of the world. Joy manifests in many ways: a Thanksgiving dinner or even a precious memory of a melody played on a trumpet long ago.



By Mary Ann Hardman
Family, friends, food, and wine
The bounty of the table and the vine
Come together to create
A day in which we celebrate
The blessings in our lives.
With eager knife, fork, and plate
We honor those that cultivate
The soil, the land, our Earth.
With raised glasses of ruby red wine
We toast the loving, skillful hands
That weave the flavors of our land
Into the Thanksgiving feast!


Mary Ann Hardman’s boutique Persimmon Creek Winery is in the Blue Ridge
Mountains of Northeast Georgia.


Flavors and More Magazine – November 2009

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