Off the Menu Special: Best Wines for Thanksgiving

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William Lewis
William Lewis

By Christopher Trela and Catherine Del Casale | NB Indy

What’s the best wine to serve with Thanksgiving dinner?

Many wine experts will simply say it’s whatever wine you like to drink, but matching wine with food can enhance the enjoyment of the meal.

We decided to ask William Lewis, co-owner and sommelier for The Winery Restaurant in Tustin who helped create the impressive wine list for the Newport Beach location, for his advice on wine pairings for the holidays.

I love a good rosé during Thanksgiving,” said Lewis. “But I also like to get people to try different varietals not familiar to them, like a malbec, or New Zealand pinot noir, or a South African red. I also like the South African chardonnays, they have good minerality and finish clean like a sauvignon blanc.”

Basically, said Lewis, “You want something that gets you excited, that dances on the palate, and gives you different sense. When you put food with it, it should be a bigger flavor in your mouth—like putting bananas with chocolate, or port with bleu cheese.”

Lewis noted that you can’t go wrong starting a meal with champagne. From there, he suggests a fruity zinfandel.

“That goes great with turkey and cranberry sauce, yams—it becomes a bigger flavor. That’s what happens with a good zinfandel. It’s a weightier wine and goes with lots of meats like a roast or even leg of lamb. Zin adds more fruit to it and balances the gamey flavor. Zinfandel is awesome with big, rich gamey flavors. I like the ones from Paso Robles, they’re rich with a little more sugar.”

Some people prefer duck to turkey, which means going with something darker, such as a Syrah, suggested Lewis.

“Syrah has notes of leather, darker berries and fruit, but can also have brown sugar flavor, and it’s smoky. Duck and Syrah is an awesome combination.”

Most Thanksgiving tables include pies, usually pumpkin and often fruit pies. Lewis said zinfandel still works with those, but that’s also a good time to switch to sparkling wine, muscato, or even ice wine.

And the best wine to bring as a gift?

“There are three default wines–champagne, medium dry Riesling, or pinot noir. You want something in the $20 to $30 range. Bring two bottles—a champagne and a red. You can never lose if you bring pinot noir.”

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