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With Thanksgiving just a week away, most of us are finalizing our menus, finishing up the decorating and even beginning to cook. In the past I have written about food and wine pairings for the vast array of flavors — even including suggestions for the right wine to pair with dressing. But the question I am asked most frequently this time of year is about recommendations and guidance in what wine to buy. A reader said it well, “Just tell me what to buy when I walk in the door of the wine shop. This would be one less stress.” So in an effort to begin the holiday season with less stress, I have put together some recommendations.

Large Family Gatherings

As with any large party this is not the place to splurge. The key is keeping the wines versatile but staying with a great value.


  • 2013 Matchbook Chardonnay, California (about $13 retail)
  • 2013 Force of Nature Chardonnay, California (about $17 retail)


  • 2013 Kenwood Russian River Pinot Noir, California (about $14 retail)
  • 2013 Bell Big Guy Red, California (about $14 retail)
  • 2013 Block Nine Caiden’s Vineyard Pinot Noir, California (about $15 retail)

Intimate Seated Lunch

When we’re sitting around the table with family and friends, the wine has more focus and there’s a slower pace for its appreciation. Lighter bodied styles with lower alcohol content work best for lunch gatherings.


  • 2013 Trimbach Gewurztraminer, France (about $27 retail)
  • 2013 Laxas Albarino, Spain (about $19 retail)
  • 2013 Famega Vinho Verde, Portugal (about $9 retail)
  • 2013 Dr. Hermann “H” Riesling, Germany (about $16 retail)


  • 2013 Cline Cellars Cashmere, California (about $17 retail)
  • 2013 Rosa de Argentina Malbec Rose, Argentina (about $15 retail)

Intimate Seated Dinner

Just as with lunch, this setting is more personal for your guests. For these occasions I always offer the simple advice to spend as much as you can afford on your choice of a wine. A Thanksgiving dinner is one of those occasions where the wine shares the spotlight. We have very few moments each year to surround ourselves with family and friends paired with amazing foods and wine.


  • 2013 Kenwood Chardonnay, California (about $13 retail)
  • 2013 Rob Murray Vineyards Stasis Chardonnay, California (about $39 retail)


  • 2013 Schug Vineyards Pinot Noir, California (about $25 retail)
  • 2013 Reynolds Family Vineyards Pinot Noir, California (about $45 retail)

Bring a Bottle of Wine

If you’re not the host, you’ll likely hear this request when asking “what can I bring?” to a gathering. Consider this a request for a wine to be enjoyed during the celebration rather than a gift for those hosting. The key is versatility and following the hunch that there will be turkey and dressing on the menu.


  • 2013 Treana White by Austin Hope, California (about $21 retail)


  • 2014 Presqu’ile Winery Pinot Noir, California (about $50 retail)