The Feast of Thanksgiving
Traditional Thanksgiving Feast

Written by: Stacie Hunt, Certified AIS Sommelier

A challenging time – Thanksgiving.  What wines to have with dinner and what conversations to avoid – that one Uncle, right?  Our country is made up of many rich cultures and traditions that have creatively adopted the Thanksgiving tradition, weaving into the meal their roots. Every culture has a tradition of feasting for “thanksgiving”, which is a time to gather and give thanks for the harvest and each other.

There’s the traditional meal with a centerpiece of a roasted fowl, sweet relishes, savory and spicy sides, green vegetables, potatoes, yams, compotes and semi-sweet desserts.

If you’re not in the traditional mood, your meal could be formed around a whole fish, a baked pasta dish or vegan feast of a roasted full cauliflower head, a baked pasta dish – or Jamie Oliver’s famous spiced Moroccan m’Hanncha.

Here’s your Thanksgiving Wine Survival Guide and Russ Parson’s take on a famed recipe for turkey that is a game changer!  Plus, a surprise Sparkling RED Wine from Italy!!

The table at Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving table design

Our family takes pleasure in thinking about the individual dishes and how the meal will unfold; how we’ll decorate the table and each year add a few more chairs as our family and friends expand creating a #FriendsGiving.

There’s an excitement that builds as planning begins for the must-have dishes, the experimental recipes, the inclusion of dishes made from ingredients both familiar and unfamiliar. A pure sensuality of anticipation, then the eating and drinking for hours and finally, the tinge of sadness as our plates are emptied.

I like to think the Thanksgiving wines for the feast is a narrative that develops throughout the meal.  The prologue should sparkle and glitter; the vegetables become lively when paired with citrusy and herbaceous flavors; the main course and trimmings challenge with caramelized and spicy blends and the concluding chapter is often a spicy, gingery dessert that calls for a nutty, decadent sweetness making for a lip-smacking finale.

Tip:  Some simple guidelines for choosing your Thanksgiving wines:

  • Keep in mind that spiciness and fruitiness in wines are great partners with the variety of sweet and savory flavors.
  • Look for value-priced wines. This is a meal in which the wine takes a “character” role in the scene, allowing the food the starring role.  Example:  A big hit is the 2018 release on November 15th of Beaujolais Noveau, just in time for the holiday!
  • An exciting and festive idea is large format bottles of wine.  A magnum (1.5 litres) is equal to 2 regular bottles of wine and looks bountiful on the table.  Wines from Southwestern France and Italy are often available in your favorite shop and well-priced. Recommendation: ’16 Masciarelli Montepulciano D’Abruzzo at about $25 for the Magnum.
  • Slightly fizzy wines — not fully sparkling are also terrific with the main meal as the fizz refreshes the palate.
  • Have some non-alcohol beverages, such as sparkling fruit drinks, available for those who like an alternative to alcohol and the children in the party. This one is amazing, period, Donelli Sparkling Peach.

When family and friends arrive, here’s what I’ll be serving:

Sparkling wine and non-alcohol wine in flutes
Greet guests with sparkling wine or a non-alcohol sparkler

The Sparkle:

 N/V Prosecco, Valdobbiadene, Veneto Italy   (various producers)                   $20.00

Be sure to purchase a Prosecco from Valdobbiadene.  Best region for this wine. Brilliant, fine bubbles, aromas of white flowers, fresh bread, white stone fruit.  Fresh, crisp and clean.

N/V – Non-Alcohol, Donelli Sparkling grape and peach juice blend, Italy     $ 6.99

This non-alcohol sparkling drink has a brilliant, pale gold color, medium-fine bubbles, aromas and taste of yellow fresh peaches plucked from the tree.  Made from fresh pressed grapes and peach puree.  No added sugar, artificial flavors or coloring.  Worth getting several bottles and can also work as a sparkling liquid dessert, served with amaretto biscotti or poured over fresh fruits.

The Wines:  Red, White and Beaujolais Noveau Choices:

White:  ’17 Paul Mas ‘Claude Val’                                                    $ 7.99

Masterful winemaker from Pays d’Oc, France.  Light gold with green tints, with citrus and white flowers in the nose.  Fruity, rich and vivid.  Well-balanced and long lasting. 

Red:  ’14 Seghesio Zinfandel                                                            $25.99

Ruby with garnet in color. On your nose, aromas of raspberry, strawberry, white pepper, cedar, and spice; tastes of blueberries, pepper, and strawberry.  Lusty wine.

Light Red:

Beaujolais Noveau (various producers)                                     $10-20.00

Bright ruby color; aromas of fresh-picked strawberries, vanilla and multi-fruits.  Serve this wine chilled.

Surprise Red (Lightly Sparkling):

 ’16, Cleto Chiarli Lambrusco Del Fondatore Secco                $22.99

   Cleto Chiarli has made delicious, small-lot Lambrusco is Emilia-Romagna for 150 years.Three months ageing then bottled for 2nd fermentation (unusal for Lambrusco). Wild red plums, cranberry/raspberry, pink rose petals, violets, blood orange. Vibrant acidity and crisp, clean, DRY finish.


’16 Claude Val Rosé, Pays d’Oc                                                         $ 8.99

The classic from Southwestern France. Pale rose-pink, raspberry, strawberry and dry as a bone.

A dessert wine that is nutty and honeyed
And, for dessert something nutty, honeyed and luscious in a wine

Dessert:  Something exotic, nutty, honeyed: 

N/V Vin Santo, Tuscany, Italy                                                                   $25.00+

Made from the dried white grape Trebbiano. Color is golden amber; aromas of fig and spice; tastes rich and syrupy of dried figs and nuts.

Apostoles Palo Cortado Sherry, Jerez, Spain                                      $30.00

This 30-year old sherry is made from the Palomino grape and is rare since only 1-2% of the grapes that make sherry become Palo Cortado.  Light amber brown; intense aromas. Tastes full of caramels and roasted nuts. Worth the splurge.

Tip:  For the Thanksgiving meal, serve the red wines just slightly chilled – about five to six minutes in the refrigerator.  The slight chilling causes them to taste sprightly with the robust meal. Trust your wine purveyor to steer  you into wines such as these.   You’ll give thanks!

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 Image Credits: 1 – Thanksgiving Feast; Courtesy, Dan’s Papers;  2 – Thanksgiving Table Design; Courtesy,, 3 – Sparkling Wine in Flutes, Courtesy,; 4 – Dessert Wine in Glasses, Courtesy, 

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