The 12 Essential Wines to Drink on Thanksgiving

Will Motley at his Woodland Wine Merchant in Nashville © Brett Warren
By Megan Krigbaum Posted November 21, 2014

Will Motley, owner of East Nashville’s extraordinary Woodland Wine Merchant gave us his picks for 12 wines for the Thanksgiving weekend.

Having a good stash of wine on hand for Thanksgiving is absolutely crucial for the Thanksgiving weekend. We went to Will Motley, owner of East Nashville’s extraordinary Woodland Wine Merchant for his wine (he might have slipped a bourbon in here, too) picks that will keep the cooks in the kitchen company, the couch potatoes watching the football games happy no matter who wins, and will even go with the turkey gumbo the day after.

Sparkling Wine to Get Things Rolling

2013 Bisson Glera Vino Frizzante
“I love Bisson wines. Its based in Liguria, which is a corner of Italy we don’t see to much in Nashville. But this wine is an outlier for the winemaker because it’s not from Liguria. He buys grapes from the Veneto for it. This is bone dry and has almost this salinity to it. This is the perfect wine to get things rolling. It’s frizzante, so it’s sparkling, but it’s not overly sparkling and I just think it’s lovely. 

A White and a Red for the Cooks in the Kitchen and Those Watching the Ball Game

2013 Niepoort Dócil Loureiro Vinho Verde
“I love this because it’s maybe not what most people have experienced with Vinho Verde. It’s not this artificially carbonated wine; it’s light and crisp with low alcohol. It’s naturally fermented, organically grown and it’s not fizzy. Niepoort just relies on this tremendous natural acidity that it has. Dirk Niepoort is just making wonderful table wines now. And I think this is one of those great wines for when you’re cooking in the kitchen and want to have a glass of wine because it is sort of light and gets your palate excited about what’s coming.” 

2013 Marcel Lapierre Raisins Gaulois
“There’s this whole idea of Beaujolais Nouveau coming out right around Thanksgiving and say what you will about Beaujolais Nouveau, but I’ve always thought this Raisins Gaulois is maybe what that wine is maybe supposed to be about. It’s so fresh and vibrant. The Lapierre is so important in making traditionally and naturally made wines in Beaujolais. I’ve always loved their wines, their Morgons are some of my favorites, but I’ll always have a special place in my heart for this wine. It’s just so full of life and it’s affordable and it goes with everything.” 

2 Whites, 2 Reds, and a Rosé for the Big Meal 

2012 Champalou Vouvray Sec
“Champalou Vouvray is such a versatile wine, but I also find that it’s universally likable for people with all different palates like it. It’s a wine that’s easy to love. The other reason I wanted to put this wine on the list is, it being Thanksgiving, it’s always good to remember the people behind the wines and the struggles they go through to get the grapes in the bottle. That’s especially true in Vouvray that’s suffered three absolutely horrendous vintages in a row – hailstorm after hailstorm. Catastrophic. I love Chenin Blanc from the Loire and I have a real fondness for this Champalou.” 

2012 Arndorfer Riesling Strasser Weinberge
“Martin Arndorfer makes this with his wife, Anna. Martin came through Nashville earlier this year and he’s the nicest guy – so young and excited about what he’s doing. They’re in the Kamptal and he’s letting the wines ferment naturally and they’re really reflective of where they come from. This one is from a unique microclimate that gets a little warmer and because of that the wines have an added dimension of intensity and richness that almost reminds me of Rieslings from the Wachau. This has the tiniest bit of residual sugar, but it doesn’t come across sweet, I think it just kind of gives added richness and texture.” 

2011 Giovanni Rosso Donna Margherita Barbera d’Alba
“I think Barbera as a grape is one that has such versatility and for Thanksgiving, you need a wine that can wear a lot of hats. This has such good, vibrant acidity, which I think is important in keeping you excited about what’s coming next. Giovanni Rosso is the third generation to farm his family’s land and I think he makes such lovely wines that have this nice silkiness to them.”

2012 Catherine & Pierre Breton Bourgueil Trinch!
“Catherine and Pierre’s wines are so reflective of where they come from and so expressive of that place and of themselves. I always think the Trinch! is just super convivial. I love the combination of the dark fruit and the savory and floral elements that it has. Cabernet Franc is a grape that was always the insider, wine geek kind of thing, but now it’s nice to see people in the store get excited about Cabernet Franc from Chinon or Bourgueil.”

2013 Forlorn Hope Ukiyo Rosé
“The winemaker, Matthew Rorick, came through Nashville this year and I really enjoyed meeting him. I mean, who is out there looking for St. Laurent in California? Probably not a lot of people, but this guy was really excited about it. I’ve always enjoyed that he’s seeking out not only the unusual but to explore what’s there and possible in California. It cracked me up the other day because we carried his rosé that came out in the spring and it was beautiful and from a single vineyard Portuguese variety. We sold it all summer. And Nashville’s starting to be more of a year-round rosé place, but it still sort of happens that after Labor Day, you want to be done with rosé. But a couple weeks ago, my wholesaler called me up and said, ‘I just got some new wines from Forlorn Hope, including their fall rosé.’ I mean, who releases a rosé in the fall? It turns out it’s the same rosé we had earlier, but when he bottled in the spring, he took a portion of the wine and put it in some old barrels and bottled it in the fall. And it was an amazing transformation. What really grabs my attention is the texture of the wine. The fruit notes are very delicate and there’s a savory, mineral quality to the wine. It’s really what you’d want a rosé to transform into for fall drinking.”

For Dessert

Rare Wine Company New York Malmsey Madeira
“The Rare Wine Madeira collection of all the styles is a wonderful thing. This is called New York Malmsey because I guess the Malmsey style was what was popular in New York, back when Madeira was stylish. My aunt Peggy makes this mincemeat pie at Thanksgiving and despite the unfortunate name, it’s a wonderful pie with molasses and apples and dried fruit and nuts and to me, it almost has this colonial feel to it. A Malmsey Madeira is the perfect thing to go with all those flavors.”

Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon
“After Madeira, where do you go? Bourbon’s a good next step. For the last few years, we’ve been hand-selecting barrels of Four Roses and they’ve been bottling them for us. And they’re terrific. Four Roses make such good bourbon. The Small Batch is a blend of their different recipes and the master distiller over there, Jim Rutledge is so good at the art of blending. I really admire his ability to take these lots and blend them to where the sum is greater than the parts. He’s made this wonderful bourbon that has a combination of fruit and spice and caramel and sweet and spicy flavors. It’s one of my favorites. I usually take it neat, maybe an ice cube sometimes.”

For Leftovers

2012 Gilbert Picq Chablis
“I always love these wines, but when I tried the 2012 vintage, it had this electric energy about it. I think the day after Thanksgiving when you’re eating leftovers, a shot of energy is just what you need to get you going. This wine just brings it.”

2012 Joan d’Anguera Altaroses Montsant
“The d’Anguera brothers have been converting their vineyards to biodynamic farming. Their goal is to make a very traditional version of what Montsant used to be like. Their wines aren’t so ripe and have more acidity and vibrancy to them, which I think can be tough for Grenache to pull off sometimes. They totally nailed it. We always like to make a soup with leftover turkey, like a turkey gumbo or something like that and this would be the perfect wine to go along with that.” 

Related: Thanksgiving Drinks
Thanksgiving Drinks for a Crowd
Thanksgiving Cocktail Party

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