Wines for Thanksgiving


There is a chapter in my book Wine Maniacs: Life in the Wine Biz titled “ The 60 Days of Wine Mania”. Every November and December everyone suddenly emerges to have a glass of wine (for some their only glass of the year) preferably at your house, where they all land on your thanksgiving table. The real beauty of this day is the pairing of the wines as much with this divergent group as with the foods. Every flavor and every plate and every person will be in front of you. Have fun with the food and wine . Here’s how to revel in this day.

Pinot noir is not only one of my favorite grapes but I love it for its diversity. The turkey, the giblets, even the cranberry sauce goes well with pinot noir. You can get off easy on the wallet or strip the back off your credit card depending upon the zip code origin of this fabled grape. Castle Rock Pinot Noir, Mendocino, 2012, $10.00. is a crowd pleaser that is light and elegant. There is both ripe cherry and cranberry character here. If you see the Willamette Valley bottling snap it up at $13.00. It is richer in body and flavor.

Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc/ Viognier ,California, $10-12.00. An 80% chenin ,20% viognier blend. This is as versatile for Thanksgiving as wine is allowed to get. It works as well with the turkey as the sprouts. Many growers ripped up much of the lovely chenin blanc in Clarksburg, California to plant chardonnay (hate when that happens), but Pine Ridge manages every year to source fruit to make this bottle of honeysuckle bliss.

CIDER, cider, cider. Every year there is a “hot” new beverage that appears. Hello, the pilgrims knew, but it took us awhile. Fatty Bampkins Original Cider, Maine, $8.00, 22oz. You can show up with an armload of bottles or beg your Aunt Judy to borrow her growler filled with Fatty Bampkins. Everyone at the table will be impressed when you haul it into the house, snap open the top and say “cider anyone”?

Mead, that most original of ancient beverages has made a comeback with great style. Honeymaker Lavender Mead, Maine, $14.00, is a delicious little sipper during the meal. At 12% alcohol it isn’t too sweet.

Poor Uncle Nebbish is coming over. I say poor because he dropped and broke his rare (only one bottle brought into Maine) Slovenian wine made from unknown grape varieties . Rumor has it the grapes were crushed by barefoot virgins. As a substitute, without having to travel to Slovenia, I like the Bogle Essential Red, California, 2011, $14.00, a delicious blend of zinfandel, syrah, cabernet and petite syrah, bold enough to go with the dark meat, yet tasty enough for everything else.

There is a trend among wine writers today to dis zinfandel from Thanksgiving because it is usually over 14% alcohol. The wine is luscious with everything on the table. Earthquake Zinfandel, Lodi, $25.00 is a great example of this most “American” of grapes. Do remember that, and drink with moderation.

These wines are readily available in Maine. If you don’t see them, just ask where you shop.


Layne Witherell

About Layne Witherell

I have been a wine professional for 30 years, engaged in retail buying, wholesale, importing, winery management, wine education, a talk show host, wine list author, wine columnist and author of a book : Wine Maniacs: Life in the Wine Biz.