The Best Wines to Bring to Thanksgiving Dinner When You're a Guest
Selecting the right wine to bring to a dinner party is a delicate art. And on a labor-intensive holiday like Thanksgiving, the stakes are raised. Your host (or hosts) have no doubt been working hard to ensure you have a great time and a great meal. And so the best wine for Thanksgiving dinner should both demonstrate your gratitude and be ready to perform if called into duty. You need a wine that pairs well with traditional Thanksgiving foods and that doesn’t need to breathe for an hour to show its best stuff. It also never hurts if that wine comes from an acclaimed winery or winemaker.
These bottles check all those boxes. Whether you’re looking for a modestly priced wine for a friend’s shindig, or an eyebrow-raiser to impress your in-laws, you’ll find what you’re looking for on this list.
Champagne is a classic (and classy) gift wine. A well-made brut Champagne also pairs superbly with anything your hosts may serve on Thanksgiving—from cheese and appetizers to roast turkey, baked ham, and all the traditional sides. You could pay double its price and still be hard pressed to find a Champagne as layered and harmonious as Moët’s Impérial. White flowers, green apple, citrus, and smoke mingle beautifully in this bottle. Bring it cold and ready to drink.
Baked fruit and honeyed spice are up front in this delicious Russian River Valley Pinot Noir from Ramey. The generous acidity in this wine will pump up the flavors of all your Thanksgiving dishes, and it features a nice undertow of palate-cleansing crispness. This wine is a crowd-pleaser that will satisfy both Old World and New World Pinot drinkers alike—no small feat.
Many of the best Sauvignon Blancs balance their citrus and tropical fruit flavors with grounding notes of herbs or minerals, and you’ll find that balance in this steal from Napa’s Pahlmeyer. Jayson is fresh but nuanced, and it provides a mouth-clearing wash of acidity—just what you’re looking for when digging into your second helping of Thanksgiving goodness.
If you haven’t discovered Chilean Pinot Noir, this bottle from the Leyda Valley is a great introduction. Amayna’s flavors of forest mushrooms, juicy dark berries, and smoke are wrapped in delicate tannins and balanced acidity. You’d pay a whole lot more for this kind of quality from California or France.
A good Zinfandel’s juicy fruit, moderate acidity, and round tannins are a natural mate with Thanksgiving turkey and fixins. This excellent Zin from Napa’s Frank Family Vineyards is redolent of berries and plums, and its layers of smoky spice are perfectly suited to the occasion and the season.
A red wine made specifically to pair with Thanksgiving turkey? Sounds gimmicky. And if it came from almost any other producer, we’d issue it a hard pass. But Calistoga’s Tank Garage is making some of the most fun and adventurous wines in California today, and this unlikely marriage of Sangiovese and Gewürztraminer (you read that right) is more than just a novelty act. Wet and bright and bursting with red fruit flavors, it’s a delight. (The bottle is also pretty cool looking—never a bad attribute in a gift wine.)
Shafer Relentless, $100
If you’re looking for a bolder red, the spice and smoke of the Syrah grape is a great accompaniment to many traditional Thanksgiving dishes. This Syrah-based wine from one of the most acclaimed producers in Napa is a stunner. Layers of red and black fruit mingle with notes of campfire and peppery spice. It also features silky tannins and a clean burst of acid.