WineAlign’s Picks for Thanksgiving

We asked our critics to select a few wines they’d enjoy with their Thanksgiving dinner.  Below are picks from David, John, Sara and Steve.

John – A Shotgun Affair

My approach to drinking over long thanksgiving meals is very simple: forget the straightjacket of specific wines with specific courses, and take the ‘shotgun’ approach instead. My analogy refers to the scattergun variety, un-rifled for less accuracy but greater coverage: lay out a bunch of different bottles on the table at the same time, and let family and guests taste whatever, and in whichever order they wish. If your shotgun is well loaded with buckshot and the spray wide enough, you’ll hit at least a bulls-eye or two. No matter if some innocent dishes or wines get hurt along the way – this is convivial family dining, not a matter of life or death. This works for me because at my place, a myriad of dishes are thrown onto to the table at the same time and my plate fills up with dozens of disparate and distinct flavours, making a single sniper shot tougher than picking off a wild turkey at 200 yards. I like to include a wide range of flavours and textures, while at the same time selecting wines that are versatile enough to play nice with most of the dishes. This means generally bright, fresh, palate-cleansing acidity, minimal oak (except in the fireplace, where it belongs), light tannins that won’t dry out that over-cooked bird any further, and occasionally a pinch of sweetness to take on that sweet potato or pumpkin pie.

Here are a four reasonably priced but respectable, versatile, virtually fail-safe Ontario wines that cover a wide range of styles. I’d be happy to have them on my table this thanksgiving:

13th Street Premier Cuvée, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Traditional Method $29.95
Cave Spring Riesling 2009, VQA Niagara Peninsula, $14.95
Le Clos Jordanne Village Reserve Pinot Noir 2009, VQA Niagara $30.00
Château Des Charmes Late Harvest Riesling 2007, VQA Niagara On The Lake $21.95


Although there are many possible variations on the traditional Thanksgiving dinner most of them involve a bird of some sort and are certainly rich and filling. Full-bodied whites and lighter reds are therefore often the best choices to accompany this festive feast.

My white recommendation is a great value local wine from the highly acclaimed Tawse Winery. The Sketches of Niagara Chardonnay 2009, VQA Niagara Peninsula, $19.95 is both rich and elegant. Unlike many bloated, oaky new world style Chardonnays, this example is clean, savory, exhibits beautiful minerality and has just the right amount of acidity to balance the wine leaving you feeling less full.

For a red, I choose a highly aromatic, silky red from the Beaujolais Cru appellation of Morgon. The Château De Bellevue Morgon 2009, Ac Beaujolais, France,  $19.95 is fleshy, juicy, slightly floral and is intensely satisfying despite its mid-weight character. A modern-inspired style which features clove spice, lavender, mixed berries and black cherries is sure to compliment stuffed turkey or roasted duck.


When I think of Thanksgiving I think of moist, juicy, roast turkey with roast potatoes and root vegetables. For this we need rich whites and soft fruity mid-weight reds. As I write this I am in Greece and so would like to recommend a delicious white made from the moschofilero grape that is great value in the LCBO at present. Boutari Moschofilero 2010, Mantinia Greece $11.95 is deservedly becoming Greece’s signature aromatic white and this is a great value ambassador with its orange blossom, apricot, peach and pear aromas. The palate is rich and creamy, yet it is soft, dry, well balanced and flavourful with the orangey acidity becoming more evident on the finish. Very good length.

It is mostly too hot for Pinot Noir in Australia but in the southern part of Western Australia in Pemberton it is cool enough due to southerly ocean breezes from the Antarctic. Thinking moist turkey again we need high acidity and mild berry flavour which Barwick White Label Pinot Noir 2010, Pemberton $15.95 delivers at a great price. It is a fruity vibrant pinot that is currently my household value pick. It is a pale red with aromas of cherry, raspberry and plum fruit plus some earthy tones and a hint of tobacco. It is midweight, well balanced with a solid yet gentle acid and tannin structure. It finishes well with the focus well maintained. Very good length.

For my third pick I am choosing a great value red from Ontario that is mostly cabernet franc blended with merlot. Pelee Island seems to be on a roll with its cabernet based reds. Their Alvar 2008 Cabernet Merlot 2008, Ontario VQA $12.45 is a delicious flavourful structured wine made from 60% cabernet franc, 30% merlot, 10% zweigelt. The nose shows delicate aromas of red berry fruit with a hint of tobacco and some beet notes. The midweight palate is velvety smooth and very fruity with crab-apple jelly and raspberry tea flavours and nice balancing acidity and grippy tannins and a notion of elegance. Very good length. This is way better than the price would indicate.

So invite many friends and family to join you for a Thanksgiving feast and impress them with these three value choices available at most LCBO stores. There is a wine here for most tastes and all three will be great with juicy turkey.

David – Go Big and Go Home

Thanksgiving dinner is one of the great family occasions of the year, a celebration of all that is close and personal. For that reason I always serve local wines.  Here in Ontario we are reminded constantly by our government agencies to “Go local”, to “Taste the Good” and that “Good things Grow….”.  I drink Ontario wines because many are now excellent and it is my way of saying thanks to those who have put so much time, effort and money to achieve that success.

But which Ontario wines?  First of all, do not limit yourself to one wine. Have at least one white and one red open so people can choose one, or both. The hubbub of a Thanksgiving dinner is not really the place to be submersed in the subtleties and dialogues of pairing.  That very funny Molson Canadian commercial about the anxiety of “whether the honeysuckle aroma of pinot noir goes with Aunt Mary’s maple candied yams” makes a good point (but I would serve something more characterful than Canadian).

Indeed I would serve Ontario wine that is very characterful. Thanksgiving dinner is after all a monumentally complex meal. So go more expensive in order to find wine of structure and complexity. Personally I have always loved pinot noir with turkey, for the same reason I like cranberry with turkey. Look for as generous a pinot as you can find – perhaps Norman Hardie from Prince Edward County, or Tawse or Flat Rock from Niagara. For white, try a bold, full on barrel fermented Ontario chardonnay, of which there are dozens that might work. Personally I would look to Tawse again, or Closson Chase, Hidden Bench, Ravine, Malivoire or Southbrook.

To find the best choices at an LCBO near you, register on and go to Find Wine.  Select pinot noir then chardonnay, select Ontario, and select a price of under $40. You will get a list with Ontario’s best at the top!  Enjoy!

Click here to find Ontario Pinot Noir under $40.

Click here to find Ontario Chardonnay under $40.