Bottles for the Bird

Whether you prefer red or white, here are several expertly recommended wines to pair with your turkey this Thanksgiving.

Written by Barbara Ensrud

Barbara Ensrud is an author and journalist living in Durham, North Carolina. Her wine articles have appeared in numerous publications, including The Wall St. Journal, Garden and Gun, GQ, Vogue, Decanter and Parade. She lived in Mississippi during the 1990s and taught wine classes. The most delightful way to learn about wine, she says, is to taste it, and comparing different wines of the same type is even better. See her wine blog at

Perusing the shelves at several wine shops on a recent visit to Mississippi, I was thrilled to see the excellent variety of fine wines available, including some very good wines I recommend for Thanksgiving.

Roast turkey is a most congenial bird, and there are many wines that will accommodate it. It’s the variety of flavors surrounding it that offer the challenge: candied yams, creamed turnips, cranberry sauce. I generally prefer a medium-bodied red with this most American feast, but for guests who prefer white, I usually offer one of each. With deep-fried or cajun-spiced turkey, the crisp, dry Rieslings and Rosés work best. The following wines range from about $16-$27 a bottle:


Pinot Noir

My first pick with roast turkey. The spicy cherry-berry flavors of this red can nicely accommodate the variety of flavors on the table.

Decoy 2017

King Estate 2015

Krutz Magnolia 2014

La Crema 2016


Softer than Cabernet, and a little broader in flavor.

Murphy-Goode 2016

Clos du Bois 2016

Decoy Sonoma Merlot 2017


Not the big ones that will overpower the food. These are more moderate.

Upshot Red Blend 2016 (Zinfandel, Malbec, Merlot)

Seghesio 2017 Sonoma Zinfandel


Fruit-forward, best lightly chilled, versatile with food.

Joseph Drouhin 2017/2018


Oaky Chardonnays may clash with some of the spicy flavors, with Sonoma-Cutrer Russian River Ranches an exception. For me, a broader flavor profile works better, such as 3-year-old Alsace Riesling or Oregon Pinot Gris, both dry to slightly off-dry but quite crisp.


Sonoma-Cutrer Russian River Ranches

Dry Riesling

Hugel 2016

Chateau Ste. Michelle Dry Riesling 2017

Pacific Rim Dry Riesling 2016

Pinot Gris

King Estate 2017

Dry Rosé

Whispering Angel 2018 (Grenache)

Belle Glos Pinot Noir Blanc 2018

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