No feast is complete without a bottle (or ten) of the good stuff. We asked some of the top wine experts in the Bay Area and Napa for their pairing picks for your autumnal potluck. Our advice: better to overstock than not—you’ll need some wine to go with those leftovers, after all.
The Expert: Jon Whitehead, Radius
“Thanksgiving Dinner is all about variety and excess,” Whitehead says, echoing our sentiments exactly. “Pinot Noir is, for good reason, the safest wine choice because of its versatility and ability to pair with almost everything on the plate.”
The Wines: Robert Sinskey Pinot Noir from Los Carneros and a David Bruce Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley. “These two estates consistently make the finest Pinot Noir wine in any given vintage and will usually be found on my table during the holidays,” he says.
But that’s no reason not to mix it up. “I like to start with a glass of sparkling or a dry aromatic white wine and progress into light or spicy reds,” Whitehead explains, recommending Roederer Estate Brut from Anderson Valley, and Elizabeth Spencer Pinot Blanc from Mendocino to kick things off.
The Expert: Stevie Stacionis, Bay Grape
“I definitely advocate versatile picks, because trying to pair with each dish seems, well, crazy!” Stacionis cautions. Considering the number of dishes you’re likely dealing with, we’re inclined to agree.
The Wines: J & H Selbach Riesling Spatelese 2013, and Jean-Paul Brun Beaujolais Villages L'Ancien 2013. “I always recommend low-alcohol whites with great acid like an off-dry German Riesling (low alcohol means you can drink more and get less sleepy/drunk) and Beaujolais—tart red fruit, like liquid cranberry sauce,” she recommends.
The Expert: Gretchen Buck, Absinthe
“Some of the most popular holiday foods can be the most difficult to pair,” Buck explains, referring particularly to the earthy flavors of roasted root vegetables.
The Wines: 2013 Tatomer ‘Meeresboden,’ Santa Barbara County Gruner Veltliner. “A wine with bright, vibrant, citrus-driven fruit and heady exotic aromatics, is the perfect pairing.” As for richer dishes like roast turkey and sage stuffing?
“These Thanksgiving staples cry out for the dynamic fruits of 2013 Arnot- Roberts North Coast Syrah,” she recommends. “This wine stands up to a myriad of sumptuous dishes and brings harmony to the holiday meal.”
The Expert: Cynthia O’Toole, TORC
“In my opinion, bubbles are always a necessity at a meal,” O’Toole says (we agree!).
The Wines: 2011 Schramsberg Brut Rose, from the North Coast. “This beautiful wine can hold up through the appetizers, cranberry sauce, yams, turkey and stuffing!” O’Toole has a Pinot pick, too, for guests looking to move on from the bubbly stuff.
“The 2011 El Molino, Pinot Noir from Rutherford has clean red fruit with a vein of acidity,” she explains. “That keeps it fresh, and works well with the turkey and cranberry sauce.”
The Expert: Trac Le, Bi-Rite Market
Le not only has pairing picks for Thanksgiving wines, he’s got the stories behind specific vineyards and varietals (all the more to impress your guests with!).
The Wines: Jolie-Laide Trousseau Gris from Fanucchi-Wood Road Vineyard, Sonoma. “Trousseau Gris was originally traced back to the Alsace-Lorraine region in Northern France, and was planted in the early 20th century throughout California, but began to disappear in the 1980’s as vineyards owners replanted with more profitable varieties,” he says of this first pick. “The Fanucchi’s are one of the few growers left. The wine is very versatile with different fall flavors like brown butter, sage, squash, etc., and is perfect with a Thanksgiving meal.”
Le has a killer pick for a digestif, too: Occidental Road Apple Brandy from St. George Spirits.
“The brandy is made using apple tree from proprietor Ann Hatch's heirloom Gravenstein apple orchards in Sebastapol,” he says of the spirit. “It’s aged five years in new French Oak barrels, and is amazing as a digestif or paired with pumpkin pie.”