Every wine column and gastronomic publication this month will be telling you what wines to pair with your Thanksgiving meal. Wine experts from around the country will be offering up their advice for the perfect wine to go with what must be the weirdest assemblage of foods ever.
Green bean casserole? “Sancerre!” Cranberry sauce? “Russian River pinot noir!” Cornbread stuffing? “An unoaked chardonnay!” Candied yams? “An off-dry Riesling!” Your 12-hour-brined deep-fried turkey? “A fresh and juicy Beaujolais!”
Here’s what this “wine expert” thinks … drink whatever in the hell you want. Jack and Coke? OK. Scotch on the rocks? Sure. A margarita? Why not?
Let’s face it: Thanksgiving is stressful. Maybe you have a house full of people. Maybe they’re family. Maybe you don’t even really like these people. In any event, you’ve spent the two days leading up to Thanksgiving in traffic, navigating congested parking lots, and crowded grocery stores, and long checkout lines. You woke up at 5 a.m. to put the bird in the oven and start peeling potatoes so you can have dinner ready at 2 in the afternoon, only to discover the Gordon Ramsay turkey recipe you’re using is in Celsius, not Fahrenheit, and after three hours in the oven, the turkey is still raw, which means you now have to have dinner at (gasp) dinner time. Oh, the horror.
The last thing you should be worrying about is wine. Trust me when I tell you: There is no such thing as a perfect pairing when it comes to Thanksgiving.
So, in the spirit of what this holiday is all about, instead of focusing on how to make the dinner (ahem, lunch) perfect, let’s line the table with some wines for which we can be thankful: These are my Thanksgiving wine recommendations—from producers and wineries that give a portion, or all, of their proceeds to support wonderful organizations and nonprofits. And on top of that, these wines also happen to be absolutely delicious! Giving just got so much better.
One of my favorite everyday-drinking red wines comes from a winery just south of Yountville in Napa Valley called Bell Wine Cellars. They created “Big Guy Red,” which was named after the owners’ soft coated Wheaten terrier named Ty who would lovingly greet all the customers who would come to this small boutique winery. The wine is a blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, petite sirah and zinfandel, with a big, juicy profile, and soft vanilla and mocha on the finish. The fruit for the Big Guy Red comes from the same high-profile vineyards as their namesake small-lot wines, but a portion of the proceeds for Big Guy are allocated to Paws for Purple Hearts—a nonprofit organization that provides therapy service dogs to wounded warriors and veterans.
Staying with our four-legged friends, Bar Dog wines was created by Central California ranch owner Terry Wheatley and her professional-rodeo cowboy husband as a way to give back to shelters across America that give pups a second chance at a new life. They have partnered with the Petfinder Foundation to support rescue shelters across North America, helping to provide food, veterinarian treatment and supplies, and adoption drives. I have tasted their whole lineup of wines, and they are as big, bold and dynamic as the mission they support.
I was recently introduced to One Stone, by Ancient Peaks Winery from Paso Robles. They created One Stone wines for women in the wine industry who “move mountains one stone at a time.” The fruit for their delicious cabernet sauvignon comes from grapes grown on their estate, along with fruit from surrounding vineyards. Every bottle of One Stone supports Dream Big Darling, a nonprofit that supports women in the wine industry and whose mission is to inspire, encourage and engage future women leaders in the wine world.
Lastly, I’m a huge fan of Purple Cowboy wines out of Paso Robles. Their slogan “tough enough to wear pink” was something I was very familiar with at my hometown rodeo, the Calgary Stampede, where I would see cowboys from around the globe sporting bubble-gum-pink Wrangler shirts in support of breast-cancer awareness. Their Tenacious Red blend is a luscious, rich and full-bodied mix of petite sirah, malbec and merlot, perfect for your next outdoor barbecue. To date, Purple Cowboy has raised more than $1 million for breast cancer research.
Mash the potatoes. Blanche the beans. Brine the bird, and cook the cranberries. But don’t worry about the wine pairing. Focus on family (even if they’re a pain), friends and the beautiful gift of giving.
Katie Finn is a certified sommelier and certified specialist of wine with two decades in the wine industry. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.