Recommending Thanksgiving wines is a very personal undertaking. With so many personalities—and so much food on the holiday table—it can be impossible to try and please everyone.
Your best bet is to cover a multitude of bases with your choice of bottles, then let everyone help themselves to their wine of preference. But you don’t have to do so without help. From wine styles to grapes, here are five to focus on, along with some recommended selections for each. Whether host or guest, each of these selections will be greeted warmly at the table, and provide a glimpse into the exciting variety of wines being produced in the U.S.
A festive flute full of bubbles is a wonderful way to start your Thanksgiving Day, and will pair well with most snacks to tide everyone over until dinner is served. Dry sparkling wines, including rosés, are some of the most versatile food wines on the planet.
Hermann J. Wiemer 2013 Cuvée Brut (Seneca Lake); $32, 92 points. Wiemer’s Cuvée Brut is fresher and more forward than the producer’s longer-aged blanc de blanc. Yet amidst the cutting green apple and lemon, there’s plenty of autolytic character, expressed as whispers of toast, rising dough and burnt sugar. It’s vibrantly balanced by tiny, penetrating bubbles and a lingering, fresh finish. —Anna Lee C. Iijima
Domaine Carneros 2012 Brut Estate Grown Sparkling (Carneros); $35, 92 points. This lovely blend of 58% Chardonnay and 42% Pinot Noir is impressive in its doughy, refined sensibilities and in its distinct aromas of apple and orange blossom. Bright strawberry rides atop layered acidity and enviable length, while the palate creamy and refined. This is a vegan wine. Editors’ Choice. —Virginie Boone
King Estate 2008 Blanc de Noirs Méthode Champenoise (Oregon); $55, 92 points. A welcome new entry in the burgeoning Oregon sparkling wine scene, this vintage-dated, all Pinot Noir cuvée can stand right alongside the best in the U.S. Details in both aroma and flavor bring elements of sweet hay, lemon rind, pineapple and green apple, with fine bead and impressive length. Editors’ Choice. —Paul Gregutt
Speaking of food-friendly wines, rosé certainly belongs in that category. Since it’s past peak rosé season, you can often get great deals on bottles, especially if you buy in bulk. And when a Thanksgiving dinner table can start to look a little beige from an abundance of turkey, stuffing and gravy, a splash of pink helps lighten things up.
Castle Rock 2016 Rosé of Pinot Noir (Mendocino County); $12, 91 points. This smells and tastes like a pale Pinot Noir and has some of the body and smooth texture of a red wine, too. Tasty cinnamon, nutmeg and red-cherry flavors get plenty of uplift from zingy acidity, so the balance is great and the finish lingers. Best Buy. —Jim Gordon
Kitá 2016 Camp 4 Vineyard Rosé of Grenache (Santa Ynez Valley); $18, 91 points. The delicate yet brilliant pink color of this rosé is stunning (Could it be protected by the darker glass, a rare packaging choice for the style?) and the wine inside matches up, starting with a brisk nose of red apple, white cherry, strawberry and lime. There’s red plum and more strawberry to the sip. With a grippy texture and steadily rising acidity, this is one of the better pinks of the vintage. Editors’ Choice. —Matt Kettmann
Savage Grace 2016 Red Willow Vineyard Cabernet Franc Rosé (Yakima Valley); $22, 89 points. The first rosé from this winery is a direct press with a several hours of skin contact, coming from new plantings at this esteemed vineyard. Pale cherry in color, it brings pleasing aromas of strawberry, citrus zest, green pepper and mineral. The palate is dry, sleek and stylish, with abundant, tart citrus-rind flavors that keep the interest high, finishing with a green herbal note. —Sean Sullivan
It’s the most popular white wine grape in the country for a reason. But it can also be polarizing. To set the minds (and palates) of the ABC (“Anything But Chardonnay”) crowd at ease, try an unoaked or lightly oaked version for a welcome surprise.
Hosmer 2016 Chardonnay (Finger Lakes); $16, 90 points. A small proportion of oak fermentation on this intensely primary Chardonnay lends depth and a rounded mouthfeel to its buoyantly fresh peach and tangerine characteristics. Cutting grapefruit and lime acidity refreshes the palate, guiding a long, pristine finish. Enjoy young to maximize its fresh appeal. — A.I.
MacRostie 2015 Chardonnay (Sonoma Coast); $25, 90 points. This desirable appellation wine hails from several well-farmed vineyards, including the producer’s hillside Wildcat Mountain site in the Petaluma Gap. Apple blossom aromas lead to a taut body of ripe, balanced fruit—an exploration of pineapple and mango that’s food-friendly, with high-toned acidity. —V.B.
Toad Hollow 2016 Francine’s Selection Unoaked Chardonnay (Mendocino County); $15, 89 points. Fresh doughy aromas, crisp citrus and apple flavors, and a light blanket of buttery nutty nuances make this a delicious and complex wine. It’s light to medium in body, has a smooth texture and vivid fruit. Editors’ Choice. —J.G.
Lighter-style red wines are perfect for a big meal. As a bonus, they won’t weigh you down like that second (or third) helping of mashed potatoes. For those who find Pinot Noir a little thin, there are plenty of bottles out there with a little more oomph in the glass.
Lucienne 2015 Smith Vineyard Pinot Noir (Santa Lucia Highlands); $50, 94 points. There are elegant aromas of potpourri, purple flowers, rose hips, fennel, wild mint, blackberries and plums on the nose of this top-end bottling from the Hahn family. Hearty black plum and elderberry mix with black sage and bay leaf on the palate, where a chalky texture and soft mouthfeel complete the experience. —M.K.
Forge Cellars 2012 Les Alliés Pinot Noir (Finger Lakes); $32, 92 points. Patience will reward those who wait for this stunning wine to reveal itself. It’s initially smoky and closed, but time and aeration bring out penetrating black-cherry and berry flavors. It’s such a seductively perfumed wine with a lingering finish nuanced by spice and violet petals. High-toned acidity and fine upright tannins will keep this wine lively for many years to come. —A.I.
Apolloni 2015 L Cuvée Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley); $22, 91 points. This elegant wine appeals from the first sniff to the last lingering flavors. Vibrant in color, it tastes of rose petals, raspberries and cocoa powder. Supple and balanced, it shows impressive structure and length, with hints of citrus. Drink now through the mid-2020’s. Editors’ Choice. —P.G.
Can a grape as popular as Merlot still be considered overlooked? Yes. The best wines are anything but simple, so reinforce that point at one of the year’s most memorable meals. This is also a great time to introduce friends and family to the styles of Merlot from a variety of locations around the country.
Gundlach Bundschu 2014 Merlot (Sonoma Valley); $35, 93 points. This stellar, gracefully understated Merlot is bolstered by small additions of four other red Bordeaux varieties. It opens with a fresh tropical note that’s unexpectedly bright and slowly unwinds to reveal threads of plum, cinnamon, mocha and espresso bean flavor. —V.B.
Paumanok 2013 Grand Vintage Merlot (North Fork of Long Island); $40; 93 points. A marker of Long Island’s exceptional 2013 vintage, this exceptionally ripe yet complexed and balanced Merlot offers long aging potential. It’s deeply concentrated in fruit, boasting ruddy, ripe streaks of black cherry and plum off set by brisk acidity and fine, penetrating tannins. Shades of dried herb, autumn leaves and mushroom lend finesse and elegance. —A.I.
Januik 2014 Klipsun Vineyard Merlot (Red Mountain); $30, 90 points. This leads with plum, vanilla, barrel spice and herb aromas. The palate is soft and velvety, keeping the vineyard’s often burly tannins well in check and providing a lot of textural appeal. Cocoa notes linger on the finish, delivering a yum factor that is hard to ignore. —S.S.