Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Thanksgiving Wines-A Southern Tradition

~Doc Lawrence

Everything is planned and ready to cook. The table is set and the room is elegant. Family and friends will gather for this genuinely All-American feast and one item is nagging at you.


The newspaper and magazine columns are overwhelming, recommending so many that you don’t know where to begin. A well-meaning friend advises you to pick up a few large jugs from the supermarket bottom shelf, a white, red and pink, but you aren’t interested in cheap anything on this special day.

There are strategies that work well. One is remembering that cheap isn’t a synonym for bargain. A cheap wine (and your guests will know it when they see or smell it) diminishes the ritual and hints bad things about your judgment. To be fair, some high profile wines fit into the unacceptable category, particularly that overpriced Beaujolais Nouveau. The late wine educator/importer Jim Sanders said that if you paid $10 dollars of a bottle of Nouveau, it was overpriced by nine.

The Beginning

Nothing says welcome like Champagne. There are real bargains but some substitutes are worthy. Ask your wine merchant about Cremant. Domestic sparkling wines like Gruet from New Mexico, Asheville’s Biltmore Estate and Georgia’s Wolf Mountain won’t break the bank and are delicious. Serve your bubbly in lovely crystal flutes. No plastic, ever! 

Amuse Bouche, fancy laugange for finger food, will be even more delicious as flutes are refilled, and the laughter and good cheer will increase, setting the stage for the big feast.

Dinner Wines

The multiplicity of dishes from salads, to soups, assorted vegetables, casseroles, and the obligatory turkey, dressing, giblet gravy shouldn’t be challenging regarding appropriate wines. Wise authorities emphasize variety: have different wines-whites and reds available, encourage guest to try different ones and gently assist them with suggestions.

A chilled dry Riesling is so compatible with almost everything. Choices are myriad: Napa, Washington State, Finger Lakes, Texas, Australia and Germany. 

Pinot Gris, a luxurious white wine and a top choice would be from Oregon-based King Estate. Be forewarned: this might steal the show so have several bottles handy.
Red wines are so delicious and the Thanksgiving table would be a little empty without them. Cru Beaujolais, a delicious group of wines from France are fail-safe candidates. Not to be confused with Nouveau, these are dry, brightly colored, totally food friendly with 10 different ones to choose from. Look for Morgon, Fleurie, or Saint-Amour. Good wine stores carry them. Serve slightly chilled. 

For our friends in the Deep South, a red wine staple Syrah from North Carolina’s RagApple Lassie will earn applause. Very drinkable, there’s a little bit of James Taylor’s “Carolina in My Mind” in each sip. North Georgia’s Tiger Mountain Vineyards produces an incomporable Cynthiana, a fabulous dry red wine from the grape of the Cherokee. Most will never suspect that it is a local product.

Pinot Noir, perhaps more popular than ever, deserves inclusion and you can bet that many expect it. Aim a little high and find a bottle or two of J.Christopher 2015 Basalte from Oregon’s Chehalem Mountains.


After dinner wines include standby’s like Port, but should chocolate find its way into the menu, offer guests a glass of Madeira, one of Thomas Jefferson’s favorites. Magic will happen.

These are mere suggestions. With wines, flexibility is the key. No rules I’m aware of as long as everything is served with joy, good cheer and boundless love.



  1. Love this, Doc! Thanks for your expertise and tips.

  2. We love being in the company of such good wines -- may the company at your Thanksgiving table be welcoming and warm. Blessings to all.