Wine & Beer

Best wines to serve with Thanksgiving dinner

Red wines made from pinot noir or Rhone grapes such as syrah are a good choice for Thanksgiving dinner because of their versatility.
Red wines made from pinot noir or Rhone grapes such as syrah are a good choice for Thanksgiving dinner because of their versatility. Los Angeles Times/MCT

Get 10 wine drinkers in a room, and you’ll probably find 10 different opinions about what to drink with Thanksgiving dinner.

When I’ve asked people in the wine business over the years what they’ll be drinking, the answers have ranged from German riesling to Alsatian pinot gris to French Cotes du Rhone to California pinot noir. Clearly, there’s no one “right” wine.

No matter what you serve with the meal, it’s always festive to start with a glass of sparkling wine. With such choices as California bubbly, Champagne, Italian prosecco or Spanish cava, there’s a sparkling wine in nearly every price range.

The challenge begins when it’s time to sit down to the meal. The turkey is the easy part. But the side dishes — savory, salty, sometimes sweet — are much trickier.

Through years of trial and error, I’ve settled on reds made from pinot noir or Rhone grapes such as syrah because of their versatility.

I don’t drink anything that’s too delicate or easily overwhelmed, but I also don’t want a wine that’s too heavy or alcoholic. (The meal is stupor-inducing enough.)

And for this all-American holiday, I drink American.

Pinot noir

I haven’t had much success with inexpensive pinot noir. Most of it lacks charm and doesn’t even taste like pinot. One that I can recommend is the 2013 Francis Ford Coppola “Votre Sante” Pinot Noir ($14), with its bright strawberry and spice. It’s on the simple side, but the price is right.

A lot of Oregon pinot noirs have a savory, forest-floor note that I find appealing with the earthiness of turkey. Two good values are the supple, bright 2013 Left Coast Cellars “Latitude 45” Pinot Noir ($24) and the more structured 2014 Ponzi “Tavola” Pinot Noir ($25).

From California’s Anderson Valley, the more expensive 2013 Carpe Diem Pinot Noir ($35) offers lively raspberry and spice with some structure. The 2013 Davis Bynum Jane’s Vineyard Pinot Noir ($35) from the Russian River Valley adds a slight leafy note. For more of a splurge, the 2013 Gary Farrell Russian River Selection Pinot Noir ($45) is bright and refreshing, with raspberry, spice, a whisper of sage and a supple texture.


Syrah has gotten some negative press in recent years, but I think the more savory versions are some of the most food-friendly wines around, making them a great choice for Thanksgiving. The reasonably priced 2012 Qupé Central Coast Syrah ($20) has ample plump, dark berry with some spicy notes and a hint of roasted meat, while the 2013 Bonny Doon “Le Pousseur” Syrah ($26) is lively and dark with berry fruit accented by notes of smoke, white pepper and roasted meat.

The Walla Walla Valley has gained a great reputation for syrah, and a good example is the 2013 Amavi Cellars Syrah ($33). The wine, which displays bright berry, some spice notes and fine tannins, is easy to drink but also has some weight and seriousness.

Pick of the Week

Lone Madrone 2013 Points West White ($35) White wine fans might consider this Paso Robles wine for Thanksgiving. A blend of mostly roussanne and picpoul blanc, it has enough richness for the meal, but enough acidity to refresh the palate.