What to Drink on Thanksgiving? Let’s Ask the Sommeliers


More than any other holiday, Thanksgiving receives the brunt of wine pairing coverage: Articles flood the internet filled with musings, deliberations, ruminations, and annoying pontifications over what the heck to drink at the hallowed turkey table.

Frankly, if you opt to have a breadth of varieties available — classics include Riesling (I prefer Gewürztraminer), Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, and bubbles — you’re unlikely to suffer a dining disaster of proportions as epic as the static on the internet frightens you into believing. And, your wines need not be American — is drinking Champagne to exult in the family’s reunion the equivalent of burning the flag? So, then, in what sounds very un-American, I am outsourcing this year’s T-day wine picks to New York City’s finest sommeliers. Note, I said New York City’s best, not London’s.

Daniel Beedle, Sommelier at Betony, 41 West 57th Street
I’ve found that when bringing wine to a family function, it’s always about finding something that doesn’t get in the way of the food. There are so many different dishes that unless you knew the menu well in advance, it would be very hard to find a perfect pairing.

Salinia “25 Reasons” Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc, Mendocino, California
Fourteen-day skin contact gives this wine wonderful texture, and the natural style in which it’s made gives it this beautiful cider character that works great throughout the entirety of the meal. It’s nerdy and a crowd pleaser. Winning!

Bloomer Creek Winery Dry Riesling “Auten Vineyards” 1st Harvest 2011, Finger Lakes, New York
This wine has beautiful peach and apricot notes, racy acidity, it is terrior-driven, and locally made by rockstar Kim Engle. What more could you ask for?

Anthill Farms Pinot Noir 2011, Anderson Valley, California
Deeply aromatic with scents of dark cherries, pipe smoke, spice, and seasoned oak.

Alexander LaPratt, Beverage Director at Atrium Dumbo, 15 Main Street, Brooklyn

Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey Meursault “Les Narvaux” 2011, Burgundy, France
This is one of the top young producers in Meursault producing wines with incredible clarity and minerality. The texture is full in the mouth, but the acidity is high, leaving your palate refreshed. This wine would be dynamite with stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, sweet potatoes and turkey, because it’ll play on any baking spices used, any butter used, anything roasted, and will refresh the palate in between each bite! If only the pilgrims knew about Meursault!

Frederic Lornet Trousseau Arbois 2011, Jura, France
Frederic Lornet has been making wine in the Jura for over 30 years and is only getting better! Jura is a small region located just between Burgundy and Switzerland. This light red wine shows a lot of tart red fruit like cherries and cranberries along with blackberries, underbrush, cedar, black tea, and slight hints of spice. It has supple tannins and a bright, earthy finish. This will pair well with most meats served, especially fowl, and with sides like cranberries and green vegetables.

Dom Ruinart Rose Champagne 1988, Champagne, France
I had the pleasure of tasting this incredible rose recently. It’s a pale salmon color and has flavors of red berries, toast, smoked meat, brown butter, mushroom, and truffle. The effervescence, weaker with age, allows the wine to drink more like a great old Burgundy than Champagne, but it’s still lighter and more food friendly. Plus, let’s be honest, who wouldn’t want to drink Champagne?!

Rick Pitcher, Sommelier at Manzanilla, 345 Park Avenue South

Pierre Peters Les Chetillons 2004, Champagne, France
For me, Thanksgiving is the most important meal of the year, and, therefore, I take the wine very seriously — but not too seriously. I don’t want the wine or the food to be the dominant focus; rather, I prefer a great harmony between the two. With hors d’oeuvres, I always drink Champagne. It’s festive, and everyone loves it. Pierre Peters is a favorite producer of mine.

Günter Steinmetz Wintricher Geierslay Riesling, Mosel, Germany
With the first course, I always choose Riesling. It is so versatile with everything, and I love it with all of the dishes that get served with the main course, so it’s nice to have the glass lingering when the turkey and its accoutrements hit the table. I prefer a drier style such as the one above or Keller Kabinett.

Palo Cortado Sherry, Jerez, Spain or Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Rhone, France (or both!)
With the main course, I have made it a habit to now serve both a Palo Cortado sherry and a Rhone red, usually Châteauneuf-du-Pape. I think it’s great to go back and forth between the two wines. It also helps me introduce sherry to friends and family, which is selfish as I just want them to drink more sherry with me!

Jill Roberts, Sommelier at The Marrow, 99 Bank Street

Birichino Malvasia Bianca 2010, Monterey, California
Acid, structure, perrfume, spice, & aromatics! What more do you need with turkey, stuffing, and yam puree? This high-energy Malvasia Bianca is a real crowd pleaser. A little Birichino (the Italian word for ‘naughty’), and you are certain to enhance your holiday dinner table.

Ar Pe Pe Rosso di Valtelina 2010, Lombardy, Italy
A fantastic way to drink Nebbiolo! This pretty, earthy, and fruity wine has notes of spice, leather, and musk. The acid is bright but the body is silky and smooth. Another well-rounded Turkey day offering with versatility and bang for buck!

Dinavolo ‘Dinavolo Sei’ Vino da Tavola 2006, Emilia Romagna, Italy
This is one of the best ‘orange’ wines out there. This Malvasia/Marsanne/Ortuga blend has been macerated in stainless steel on its skins, thus the orange color, and is bottled unfiltered. This wine is the full package in terms of a bottle of wine for the holiday table: texture, earth, fruit, spice, & tannin.

Where to Buy:
Le Du’s, 600 Washington Street
Flatiron Wines and Spirits, 929 Broadway
Appellation, 156 Tenth Avenue no. 1
Heights Chateau, 123 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn