Gruet Brut, $20, New Mexico
Sparkling wine isn't just celebratory; it's actually one of the most diverse and food-friendly wines to be had. Laurent Gruet hails from Champagne, France, and uses the region's wine-making methods with grapes grown in the United States. This sparkler is a great way to start the feast; pair it with any number of Thanksgiving appetizers for a perfect first course. If it goes over well, don't be afraid to bring the bottle straight to the dinner table. Notes of tart green apple and citrusy minerals will be a good partner to turkey, ham, and all sorts of sides.
Eyrie Pinot Gris, $24, Oregon
This richer white complements the myriad herbs, spices, and fruits on the table. Eyrie was the first winery outside Europe to make Pinot Gris commercially, and they're done so successfully since 1970. This is a sophisticated white that can stand up to the bolder dishes like gravy, but fruity flavors of pear and citrus manage to complement, not clash with, sweeter sides like sweet potato casserole and cranberry sauce. It's an elegant wine, so your guests won't know you didn't break the bank for these bottles.
Steele Cuvée Chardonnay, $22, California
This stalwart holiday white is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. Steele is a classic, balanced Chardonnay both for those who love the varietal and for everyone else. Diners who are leery of an oaky Chardonnay will be delightfully surprised by this crisp wine. It's fermented for only a brief period in new oak, so the flavor of oak aging is minimal. California grapes from several grape-growing regions lend tropical notes of mango, pineapple, and papaya, balanced with hints of cinnamon and apple. The oak helps even out the wine's brightness, which makes this wine seriously sippable.
Schug Pinot Noir, $30, California
Look for reds that are lower in alcohol and tannins—the softer, juicier wines. Schug is soft enough to sip before the meal and can stand up to all the flavors of a Thanksgiving feast. California's Sonoma Valley grows plush, juicy grapes, and the cooler climate means clusters can mature on the vine to naturally develop rich acidity. This wine's flavors of dried cranberries and tart cherries are balanced by smoky undertones from the grape's skin. It has a subtle bite of acid while still being silky and supple.
Cline Ancient Vines Zinfandel, $18, California
A good body with a bit of spice and fruit, it plays well with all the other dishes on the table. Most zins are blended, but Cline keeps theirs as is. This wine manages to play with big, bright fruit flavors of strawberry and raspberry while balancing with notes of dark chocolate and roasted coffee beans. Zinfandel is about as robust as many diners will want at a Thanksgiving meal, but this one will be a big hit with diners who typically prefer richer reds like Cabernet and Merlot.
Brooks Gewürztraminer, $17, Oregon
Don't discount this and other Alsatian-style wines, like Riesling, as after-dinner bottles only. Brooks amplifies fruit in cranberry sauce and stuffing and cuts through creamy or starchy sides. If it isn't available, ask your wine seller for a comparable sub.
Additional Drink Pairings for Thanksgiving Dinner
A local beer you love (and that's hard to find elsewhere) is a great host gift. For spirits, keep mixers simple with ice, citrus wedges, and club soda.
You can't have too much water. Have pitchers handy at the dining table and on the beverage station. A few bottles of sparkling water will help break up the booze. For an even greater selection, try infusing water with fruit in large pitchers a few hours before the meal starts. The refreshing water will be a welcomed break between bites for hungry eaters.
Need Help? Just Ask.
Tell the wine seller what you like and what you'd like to spend. He or she will guide you to the right bottle. There are no wrong questions or answers: Serve whatever makes you and your guests happy.