There are some parts of Thanksgiving that have to be taken care of last minute, but wine isn't one of them. Now's the time to stock up on bottles for the Thanksgiving feast (and enough glassware so that no one has to drink that nice Chenin Blanc from a Snoopy mug.) Earlier today, I mentioned a few key wine tips for Thanksgiving hosts (or anyone picking up a bottle to bring to the Turkey Day meal), but now we'll get down to specifics.
We tasted around a hundred bottles of wine in the past two months to select the best options for your Thanksgiving meal. Here are the winners in the white wine category: 14 delicious wines that go well with beloved Thanksgiving dishes and offer the best quality for your dollar.
Some of these wines may be familiar: Vouvray and Riesling are Thanksgiving classics because these wines work so well with the food and often offer great value, too. Others may be new—Thanksgiving is a great time to try a new grape or even wine from a country you've never explored before, especially since those less-familiar options are often priced a little lower.
If you're headed to your local wine store, bring this list with you, and even if the exact wine isn't stocked, they may be able to help you find something similar.
$15 and Under
Zum 2012 Mosel Riesling is an absolute steal around $12. It's fruity and off-dry but not heavy, with a shimmer of classic Mosel fennel flavor and nice tartness that keeps you ducking back into your glass. It's a food-friendly wine that shines with turkey and cranberry sauce and can even handle sweet potatoes, but is just at home with a cheese plate and a bowl of spiced nuts.
Schlossmuhlenhof 2012 Gelber Muskateller is an exotically floral and fruity wine from an organically farmed family estate in the Rheinhessen in Germany. It's a touch sweet and full of zippy acidity. Each sip is a bit like sucking on a lime Jolly Rancher, and the fruity core has enough body to make this wine work well with your double-stacked plate. This is a great value wine at around $13, as long as your guests are open to an aromatic white wine with a bit of sweetness.
Hugel Gentil 2010, a white blend from Alsace, France that sells for around $13, offers an elegance beyond its price point. It's not as floral as you might expect from a blend that includes Gewurztraminer and a little Muscat, and it has a piercing squeeze-of-lime acidity that cuts through the silky, rich body. Other grapes in the blend include Pinot Blanc, Sylvaner, Pinot Gris, and Riesling.
Kogl Belo 2011 is a floral, fresh blend of Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay—all from the 25 acre Kogl estate in Slovenia. There's nothing like a liter of wine to invite everyone to have another glass, and this one is a killer deal for $13. This bright stainless-steel fermented wine offers lychee and yellow apple-like fruit, bright tart acidity and a prickle of CO2. It has a touch of sweetness, which is ideal for the Thanksgiving meal, which has sweet elements (sweet potato, cranberry sauce, etc) that can make dry wines go bitter.
$21 and Under
Peter Lauer 2012 Barrel X Riesling is a favorite of ours for any occasion: it offers bright, tangy acidity, lovely fennel flavors, and a bit of the licking-rocks character that makes wine geeks go gaga over riesling. It's lip-smackingly delicious and just off-dry, which works great with the food. This wine is one of the best deals under $20 that we know.
Domaine Bourillon-Dorleans Vouvray Sec Vieilles Vignes La Coulee d'Argent 2011 This Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley has the rich body to wrap its arms around buttery mashed potatoes and gravy, but enough bright acidity to keep you feeling refreshed enough for another helping of food. It's floral without being perfumey, and beeswaxy without being honeyed. It sells for around $19.
Palmina 2011 Arneis is sourced from Honea Vineyard in sandy alluvial soils of the Santa Ynez Valley of California. The wine, which sells for around $20, is rich and luscious, fermented in a mix of stainless steel and neutral oak. It's full of apricot and fennel flavors, and it's ready for pairing with everything from white meat turkey and mashed potatoes to the after-dinner cheese plate. If you generally turn to Chardonnay but are looking for something just a little different, this is a great wine to try.
Champalou Vouvray 2011 is pretty much the perfect Thanksgiving wine: it's silky and polished with a texture that will go seamlessly with your creamy mashed potatoes and gravy. This Chenin Blanc, picked from vines that average 35 years old, is stainless-steel fermented and aged on the fine lees for 11 months (but sees no oak.) It has a balanced fruity tartness (like a bite of a fresh fall apple) that's served up in elegant style. This is a $20 wine that's right at home with the fancy china on your Thanksgiving table.
$32 and under
The first sip of Trisaetum 2012 Ribbon Ridge Estate Riesling ($24) says Thanksgiving all over it: this wine, made in a fruity style, swirls with vivid flavors: juicy pear and candied lemon peel, bright, tart kumquat puckering your mouth, and a dash of clove and ginger to spice things up. If you haven't tried Oregon riesling yet, this estate bottling from Trisaetum's dry-farmed vineyard, planted on high-quartz sandstone soils, is an excellent place to start, and it's super food-friendly.
The nude label on the bottle of Jolie Laide 2012 Trousseau Gris ($25) may be a bit of a shocker to Great Aunt Cindy, but the wine inside is too gorgeous—unconventionally beautiful, per the winery's name—to pass up. The wine is softly aromatic, lightly tropical, and freshly herbal—without being too much of any of those things. If you made a tea from lime and honeydew, and added a touch of unripe pineapple, spearmint, and pine needles, you might start the gather the flavors of this wine, but the key is a texture that manages to be both rich and delicate. (The grapes were cold-soaked with the skins for 5 days to pick up a little weight.) If you're curious about what's going on in California wine these days, seek out this exciting small-production project from Scott Schultz.
J. Brix 'The Augur' Riesling 2012 ($25) is grown on a decomposed seabed in Santa Barbara and it's gorgeous stuff, a dry, low-alcohol wine full of the flavor of mineral, salty seawater, with a savory backbone that'll complement the turkey—both white and dark meat, or work well with any seafood appetizers that start your Thanksgiving feast.
Kerner may not be a household name yet, but we think more people should know about this grape, which is grown in Germany, Austria, and Italy. Manni Nössing Kerner 2012 Sudtirol Eisacktaler ($28) is the kind of wine you just don't want to stop drinking; it's bright and fresh and heady with aroma, like a crisp bite of fennel and tangy kumquats dressed in lemon and peppery olive oil. Open the bottle a bit before dinner to let it get some air.
Ryan and Megan Glaab of Ryme Cellars were both inspired by the Vermentino grown on sandy soil and gravel in Las Brisas Vineyard on the Sonoma side of Carneros, but had different ideas about the style of wine they each wanted to produce. So they made two wines: Hers, a zippy version inspired by Sardinia, and Ryme Cellars "His" 2012 Vermentino ($32), fermented on the skins in the style of the orange wines of Italy. Ryan's wine has a core of fresh nutmeg and roast pears wrapped in a brothy salt-and-umami character that will bring out the richness of your turkey and do marvelously with stuffing (use mushrooms, oysters, chestnuts, and definitely get it crisp on top.) Don't serve this one ice-cold: in fact, I'd decant so everyone can see the lovely golden color. (If you're curious about orange wines, here's a piece on another American winemaker experimenting with this style.)
And a Wild Card For the Adventurous
Is it a white wine? Is it rosé? What the heck? Wind Gap 2011 Pinot Gris Windsor Oaks ($32) was destemmed and fermented on the skins in a concrete egg, and left on the skins for about a month post fermentation. The skins of pinot gris grapes are rosy pink, so the result is an orangey-salmon colored wine that might be different from anything that's ever graced your Thanksgiving table. Served at cellar temperature, the scent is exotic and sweet (a bit like the amazing aroma of roasting quince), but the wine is tart and clean, with a hint of watermelon, apricot, and sour cherry, plus some seriously grippy tannins. Give it some air, and it opens into more exotic fruit: guava and dried mango, though it stays tart and textural. This wine is our number one pick for pairing with your midnight turkey-and-cranberry sandwich. (Or your next-day sandwich, if Thanksgiving midnight snacks aren't your thing.)