Step away from the Cabernet. That’s right, just walk away. The last thing you want for Thanksgiving or any traditional holiday dinner is a lot of tannins, and Cabernet Sauvignon is the undisputed king of tannins.

What are tannins? Beats me. I just know they’re in wine – some more than others – have something to do with aging, and you don’t want them around on Thursday.

You know I’m almost never serious but wine’s a whole different story. I am a serious wine geek. I love wine. And you should too. Why? It tastes great, makes you feel really good, lowers your inhibitions, and turns a nice dinner into party-time … my favorite time.

If that makes me sound like a party animal, guilty as charged. “Work hard, play hard” has always been my motto, and I will take that to my grave. And if that happens a few years sooner than it might have, I’m good with that.

So without all that annoyingly pretentious wine-speak that nobody understands, these are the wines that will help make your turkey-day or any other holiday feast tasty and memorable.

Beaujolais. Fall is harvest time for vineyards all over the northern hemisphere, and this French varietal, which is actually made from the Gamay grape, is fruity with high acidity that will cut right through heavy holiday fair. There’s also a “nouveau” or first press version made just for the holidays. Serve slightly chilled. Good times.

Pinot Noir, aka red Burgundy. Always fine with birds and rich accompaniments. But try to find a relatively light-bodied one that’s meant to be drunk young, if you can. You don’t want an over-the-top, super fruit-forward Pinot for Thanksgiving. Wineries from California’s central coast – Monterey, Santa Barbara, and Santa Cruz (where I live) counties – are good bets.

Rosé. This is pretty much the last chance to enjoy a good Rosé before the weather turns crazy cold on us. Serve chilled like you would a white wine. Americans are just starting to wake up to this gem, but the French and Italians have been drinking it for centuries. Also a Brut Rose champagne or sparkling wine will work. Roederer Estate makes a good one.

Dry Riesling. Even the dry version of this white varietal has a touch of sweetness to it that balances heavy Thanksgiving accompaniments like stuffing and sweet potatoes quite well. Pinot Grigio or Pinot Gris (same grape) are also good choices for holiday fair.

Chardonnay, aka white Burgundy. America’s favorite white will also pair well, not to mention that it’s a great aperitif (meaning you drink it on its own, without food) to serve before and after the meal while everyone’s watching football (including me). I’m sort of partial to chards from Sonoma and the central coast, as opposed to Napa.

Lastly, if you’re spending beaucoup bucks for Thanksgiving wine, then you’re just not getting it. None of these wines should be overly pricy. If they are, you’re doing something wrong. If you’ve got any specific questions, just comment below and I’ll respond as quickly as I can. Anytime.

Whatever you eat or drink, don’t forget what Thanksgiving’s all about: being thankful for what you have and having a blast with family and friends.

  • Pierre Monteil

    Hi Steve,
    Indeed an important subject;
    Two comments – if I may – and in relation with your book:
    (1) Wine is like… Marketing ; everybone think they are good at it…
    (2) I believe you’re quite right with your Burgundy references, praising French wine; thanks for sharing that. So I’ll forget your insistence in your book on the fact that the French dysfunctional manager you got in your first start-up experience was… French 😉
    Cheers,
    Pierre

    • Steve Tobak

      Thanks Pierre, I needed a good laugh this morning. Now we have three things that everyone thinks they’re good at: Sex, marketing and wine.
      Yes, I did have a little fun with the French thing. If it helps, I’ve known way more dysfunctional American CEOs. BTW, his name was Henri Jarrat, formerly of VLSI Technology.
      Cheers!
      Steve