I love Thanksgiving. It’s a fantastic day to enjoy the company of family and friends, reflect on the best parts of our lives, and break out bottle after bottle of delicious wine.

With a complex meal (and a long day of gluttony), Thanksgiving offers the perfect opportunity to open lots of wines to pair with different dishes and please plenty of palates. Follow this schedule and you are sure to have a fantastic wine day.

Murphy-Goode Chardonnay Late morning
Chardonnay. Meal prep will be in full swing, and it is simply impossible to cook without wine. A dash for the dish, a swig for you. The Detroit Lions vs. Chicago Bears game kicks off at 11:30 am, and that game certainly could use liquid accompaniment to make it more interesting.

Why Chardonnay? Because it’s versatile with almost any food on the Thanksgiving table, it’s easy to find at fine wine shops and corner stores alike, and your mother-in-law and great uncle love it. Give your relatives a reason to be thankful by serving a wine they will recognize early in the day.

Try Murphy-Goode 2013 Single Deck Chardonnay. This single vineyard Russian River wine has ripe pear, tropical fruit and vanilla flavors. Keep a few extra bottles on hand to make sure you have some left to serve at dinner. It will pair well with the turkey. You can find Murphy-Goode wines at Twin Liquors. The Single Deck Chardonnay goes for $30 a bottle online.

Sparkling wine. Dinner is almost ready. The savory aroma of turkey is the kitchen’s siren song, tempting you to spoil your appetite by binging on snacks. It’s better to satiate that desire with crisp, frolicking bubbly rather than eating tons of Chex mix. The Dallas Cowboys vs. Philadelphia Eagles game kicks off at 3:30 pm and America’s Team deserves a toast with sparkling wine.

Why bubbles? Because nothing screams holiday celebration like sparkling wine. It’s hard for your significant other to be mad at you for stealing bites of the turkey skin before dinner when you hand over a gorgeous flute of bubbles. Whether you pick Champagne, Cava, U.S. sparkling wine, Sekt or Prosecco, bubbles give everyone a grin. Buy a double-bottle magnum or two so you have plenty of sparkling to last the afternoon and to serve at dinner.

Try Argyle Vintage Brut 2011. This Oregon stunner is easy to find, reasonably priced and packs zillions of tiny bubbles bursting with apple blossom, lemon zest, toasted almond and pear flavors. Argyle will have your cousin raising a glass to toast everyone in the room. Spec’s sells it for $22 a bottle. A magnum will set you back $60.

Scacciadiavoli Sagrantino di Montefalco 2007 Dinner time
Italian red. The table is loaded with an incredible array of foods from creamy green bean casserole and buttery mashed potatoes to savory stuffing and the luscious turkey. Make sure you put the Chardonnay and sparkling wine on the table, but red wine needs a spot too.

Why Italian red? Because you’ve served Pinot Noir at Thanksgiving for the past 10 years straight and it’s time to have a little fun. Italian red wine with fresh acidity loves the rich fat of dark meat and gravy. The bold wines from the town of Montefalco in the Umbria region pack a punch for a decent price. The earthy, spicy wines won’t get lost in the cacophony of flavors in the feast.

Try Scacciadiavoli Sagrantino di Montefalco 2007. Made with the Sagrantino grape, this wine has bold scents of graphite, dried lavender, cranberry and lovely raspberry and red plum flavors with aromatic herbs. It’s well balanced with bright acidity and firm tannins giving it a long spicy finish. It sells for $37 at East End Wines.

Chateau du Tariquet VS Classique Evening
Armagnac. After you’ve managed to kill an entire pecan pie and half a pumpkin pie by yourself, the only thing to do is to kick back on the couch next to the fire with a glass of Armagnac.

Why Armagnac? Because this French brandy from the small region of Gascony is less expensive yet every bit as good as its more recognizable cousin, cognac. It’s also a bit fuller figured than cognac, which is completely fitting on Thanksgiving. It is made with distilled white wine grapes and then aged in local black oak casks. It hides its brawny 80 proof alcohol in velvet, so sip it slowly.

Try Chateau du Tariquet VS Classique. Produced at the estate which has been family run since 1912, Chateau du Tariquet has the elegance and finesse that is a hallmark of the Bas-Armagnac appellation in the far north of Armagnac. The “VS” on the bottle means it has been aged a minimum of two years, leaving it with a light golden color.

Serve it neat at room temperature in a brandy snifter or a tulip-shaped glass. Swirl it to let the full aroma of the heady vapors release. It fills the nose with racy spice, butterscotch and cinnamon, but don’t sniff too deeply or the 40 percent alcohol will singe your nostrils. Let the first sip wash across your tongue to take in the raisin, roasted apple and caramel flavors finishing with a sweet kiss of chocolate and liquorice. It’s love in a glass.

Don’t worry if you don’t have enough guests to finish the whole bottle. Armagnac doesn’t go bad after you’ve opened it. It will be good to drink next Thanksgiving. Pick it up for $35 at the Austin Wine Merchant.

This story was originally published on CultureMap

Disclosure: sample wines were provided by Murphy-Goode, Scacciadiavoli and  Chateau du Tariquet. 

What are you drinking? 


Long a favorite red wine grape, Merlot has recently been seen as a lesser variety. A wine for unsophisticated beginners. There are several reasons why public favor for anything swings, but many point to the 2004 movie, Sideways, as a source of misfortunes for Merlot.

In the film the snotty oenophile, Miles, played by Paul Giamatti, famously derides Merlot favoring Pinot Noir as a more elegant variety.  The result of this ridicule is known as the “Sideways Effect” that caused a decrease in both price and sales volume of Merlot wines.

The inside joke is at the end of the movie he furtively slips a bottle of a 1961 Château Cheval Blanc from a brown paper bag. This storied Bordeaux wine is a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Sneaky Miles.

Whether Hollywood has anything to do with the dip in popularity or not, several wine producers have banded together to promote the variety with a #MerlotMe tasting and social media promotion throughout the month of October. In Austin, The Red Room Lounge is hosting a tasting on Thursday, October 9.

Screw Miles. I love Merlot. It is the noble grape that is a cornerstone of Bordeaux wines, one of the world’s most prestigious wine regions. It also grows well and makes fantastic wine in prominent regions around the world. I couldn’t help jump on the bandwagon with wines from two participating wineries; Matanzas Creek Winery and Freemark Abbey.

Matanzas Creek 2011 Merlot, Sonoma County

Matanzas Creek 2011 Merlot Sonoma County

The cool growing year in Sonoma produced a deep garnet colored wine with plenty of depth. Matanzas Creek Merlot is blended with small doses of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc. It’s aged in French and American oak barrels for 15 months.

This is easy, breezy Sonoma County in a glass. Herbal scents of thyme and tomato stem intertwine with dark fruit aromas like black plum. Ripe blackberry, blueberry and cranberry cuddle with cocoa, coffee and fennel flavors. The soft tannins make it as smooth as a velvet smoking jacket.

Matanzas Creek is just as at home in the dining room as it is on the back porch. Enjoy it for $28 a bottle.

Freemark Abbey 2012 Merlot, Napa Valley

Freemark Abbey 2012 Merlot Napa Valley

This rich and seductive red is made with fruit grown in five vineyards around Napa Valley; some high elevation and some lover in the valley. It is made with a blend of Merlot (85%) and lesser amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and a smidge of Malbec. It’s aged in French and American oak for 14 months.

This is a dark and brooding wine that will keep secrets from you. Secrets that will last until your last glass. The spicy scents lush with blackberry, blueberry and plum are true to the flavors of black cherry, blueberry and chocolate. It has an earthiness to balance the fruit and enough acidity to give it a spring in its step. Despite the powerful 14.5% alcohol, it doesn’t feel hot.

The secret revealed in your final sips? You should have bought a second bottle. It will set you back $34 a pop.

California Merlots are elegant without being fussy. They are relatively versatile with food and can dress up pizza or burgers, and can also play well with a fat steak.

Disclosure: I was provided samples of both wines by Jackson Family Wines.

What are you drinking?


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