As outlandish as he is, Gary Vanerchuk's Thanksgivings are a surprisingly traditional affair. Around 20 members of the extended clan gather at Gary's parents' house in central New Jersey for football on the tube (of course) and his mother's roast turkey, stuffing, chunky cranberry sauce and sweet-potato pie crowned with marshmallowsand lots of it. "Classic Russian-immigrant mentality," says Gary, 34, the family's eldest son. "We have, minimum, seven times more food than needed."
For wines at recent Thanksgivings, he says, "I've been really nerding it up." Last year, he brought the family Loire Valley reds made from the Cabernet Franc grape, from France's beloved-by-wine-geeks appellations of Chinon and Bourgueil. "The Loire Valley is grossly underestimated," he says. "The prices are fair, and the wines are real"by which he means they're honest expressions of the varying appellations they come from.
Here are his five Thanksgiving wine picks, all under $50:
Photo courtesy of C. Donatiello Winery.
2006 C. Donatiello Russian River Valley ($24)
"As much as I love crisp, clean whites, there's always a time for rich but balanced Chardonnays with oak, especially at Thanksgiving. The Donatiello is a screaming value, with interesting tropical fruit plus hazelnut notes."
2007 Domaine de la Noblaie Chinon les Chiens-Chiens ($17)
"Cabernet Franc is one of the most undervalued grapes on the market. For under $20, this has serious structure, some funk and a beautiful finish. I love Cab Francs because they're terrific food-pairing wines, and they bring some great value to the table."
2007 Guy Breton Morgon Vieilles Vignes ($27)
"Beaujolais is so underrated. This Morgon has a ridiculous amount of complexity, explosive aromatics on the nose and a seriously dry finish. Paired with berry flavors, like homemade cranberry sauce, Beaujolais (especially Beaujolais cru) is perfect."
2006 De Ponte Cellars Dundee Hills Pinot Noir ($42)
"This Pinot is one of those double-bubble wines, with New World fruit but Old World sensibility. It has velvety fruit but also great back-end structure that would match up well with food."
NV Pierre Peters Cuvée de Réserve Brut ($50)
"If I could drink only one wine, it would be Champagne. This 100 percent Chardonnay bottling is one of my favorites, with green apple, almond and a hint of toasta killer food-pairing wine."