Let’s get the main piece of advice out of the way right here: there is no one wine that goes best with Thanksgiving dinner. It is a meal with too many contrasting elements (sweet, savory, etc.) for any one grape or style of wine. The smartest, most satisfying, and ultimately most festive approach is to put a few (or many) different bottles on the table and let everyone mix and match. Between all the cooking and the cacophonous atmosphere that prevails in my households, Thanksgiving tends to produce a lot more stress than it should. The wines should definitely not contribute to the stress. So rather than sweating the wine choice, our tip is to go with multiple choices. These are some terrific $20 and under wines that we think would work well on Thursday:
2013 Ravines Dry Riesling: The Finger Lakes region of New York is producing fantastic Rieslings these days, and Ravines is at the vanguard of that trend. This is a crisp, mineral-driven wine that will make an excellent Thanksgiving aperitif and that happily carry you through the entire meal.
2012 Calera Central Coast Chardonnay: Chances are, there is going to be a chardonnay guzzler at the table, and this is an excellent choice for him or her (and you, too). Josh Jensen is one of California’s most accomplished winemakers, and his Central Coast chardonnay is a consistently delicious wine made in a lithe, elegant style.
Roederer Estate NV Brut: Sparkling wines are arguably the most versatile, food-friendly wines on the planet, and this reliably stellar bubbly from Roederer Estate, the California arm of the great Champagne house Louis Roederer, is a great choice for Thanksgiving. And because it is a bubbly, it will make the atmosphere all the more celebratory.
2013 Tablas Creek Patelin de Tablas (red): If you are looking for a robust red, the Tablas Creek Patelin, from Paso Robles, is a terrific choice, a Rhone-style blend of syrah, Grenache, mourvedre, and counoise that delivers plenty of sun-drenched flavor but with ample acidity and tannins to parry the fruit. This is a particularly good pick if Thanksgiving day is a chilly one, which it will be for most of us.
2013 Jean-Paul Brun/Domaine des Terres Dorees Beaujolais L’Ancien Vieilles Vignes: Yes, Thanksgiving is the quintessential American holiday, and there is a case to be made that one should only drink American wines on Thanksgiving. But a supple, lip-smacking Beaujolais is the closest thing we can think of to the ideal Thanksgiving wine, and there are few examples better than Jean-Paul Brun’s basic cuvee.