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Thanksgiving celebrations are going to look a little different this year as we shift focus to more intimate gatherings with our nearest and dearest in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. So, to add a little fun to what has been an unarguably stressful year, we thought we'd rethink the Thanksgiving dinner approach. Instead of turning the night into an all-you-can-eat marathon, why not try an evening of wine pairings instead?
To give us an expert opinion on how to match your favorite dishes with the best possible wines, we've tapped level-two sommelier and all-around wine guru Amanda McCrossin to give us her picks for the best possible pairings. From what to match with your roasted turkey to what best complements your stuffing and pecan pie, it's all about finding a wine that accompanies the flavors of the dish without being overbearing.
So without further ado, these are McCrossin's picks for the best wines to pair with each of your favorite Thanksgiving side dishes.
Wine Choice: Dragonette Cellars Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir (To buy: $40; wine-searcher.com)
Turkey tends to want a lighter bodied red blend. It's a light protein but obviously has a lot going on since it's Thanksgiving dinner. And this wine is a perfect complement because you get all of the intensity of the region and it matches the flavors well. It’s a great wine that ebbs and flows with all of the different types of turkey and different side dishes.
Wine Choice: 2017 Larkmead Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley (To buy: $116, Vivino.com)
I love Larkmead, it’s a personal favorite of mine. It’s organically farmed wine and it toes the line between a New World wine and an Old World wine. There’s a great amount of acidity, which is what you want because the dish is savory and decadent. You also want to bring it back so you don’t have so many things going on in your mouth at once. The acidity adds a perfect balance so you make sure that you’re not overwhelmed with every bite.
Wine Choice: Edge Hill Mixed Whites Field Blend St. Helena Napa Valley (To buy: $60, wineaccess.com)
This is one of those wines that pushes outside the comfort zone but for good reason. Mashed potatoes are a bit savory with all that butter and gravy so this wine is a great option. This wine tends to be a bit more savory so it pairs well with mashed potatoes. It’s got a nice weight and structure that’s interesting for people looking to push their pallet, so pairing something familiar like mashed potatoes with something a bit unfamiliar like this wine is a great idea.
Green Bean Casserole
Wine Choice: Emmolo Plumerai Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley (To buy: $80, wine.com)
When you’re talking greens you have to go sauvignon blanc. Green beans are a bit bitter and tart so you want to match that instead of hitting it with super ripe fruit. This wine has all of the herbatiousness of sauvignon blanc but with a bit more weight and body.
Mac and Cheese
Wine Choice: 2018 Far Niente Estate Bottled Chardonnay, Napa Valley (To buy: $70, farniente.com)
You don't eat mac and cheese because you want to eat light and Far Niente Estate's Chardonnay is a bit creamier and a bit more rich. Cheese is one of those things with some natural acidity, so you don’t want to add more to the dish but rather highlight it instead. This is a big, rich chardonnay with a lot of weight and texture and it holds up well to mac and cheese. There’s a bit of lift and brightness so it’s not too weighty and you’re not feeling overwhelmed after every bite.
Wine Choice: Terminim Cepages d’Or (To buy: $120/3-pack, donaldpatzwinegroup.com)
This is actually one of my favorite pairings. Every time you’re talking about sweet potatoes or squash, it’s a great chance to match the savory with the sweet with a wine that thinks it’s sweet but is actually dry. The roussanne, marsanne, and viognier are three grapes that play well together. This wine has lychee, dried apricot, wonderful candied fruit notes, but is also dry. I pair this a lot with butternut squash and sweet potato because it works really well.
Wine Choice: 2016 Rorick Heritage Vineyard Calaveras County Barbera (To buy: $35, houndstoothwine.com)
This is a small producer and I love that they're from Calaveras County. It pairs incredibly well with cranberry but also the accoutrements that go with it. It has all of the tart flavors you normally find with barberas but it’s slightly more sun-kissed, making it a little more ripe. It’s very simple and easy for anyone to drink. This is a perfect example of wine that you could share with any crowd because as you dive deeper it gets incredibly complex and nuanced, so it's good for the wine pro and also the novice.
Wine Choice: Ramos Pinto 20-Year Tawny Port (To buy: $75, wine.com)
This wine has molasses, brown sugar, all the flavors that are rich and decadent, and that's exactly why you choose this wine. But it's also a bit spicy, and so are pecans so it highlights those flavors perfectly. And what makes this a perfect wine is that by the end of any holiday dinner you’re kind of wined out, but this is great to have a tiny sip of and put back in the fridge. Once it’s opened you can kind of leave it in the fridge for an extended period of time and it’s not going anywhere fast.
Wine Choice: J Vineyards Demi-Sec, Sonoma County (To buy: $45, jwine.com)
When you’re talking about dessert you're talking about something with sugar, and sweet loves sweet. So you never want to pair a sweet dish with a savory wine. That said, pumpkin is a little more savory so this demi-sec champagne is the perfect wine to match that. You have the sweetness because it’s a demi-sec, but the dryness accentuates the savory elements.