Let’s Give Thanks for American Wines

by Robin Barr Sussman on November 18, 2020 in Food+Drink, Drink,

This year, we’ll be staying home and celebrating Thanksgiving with close family instead of dining out or traveling, so the wine will be flowing! Here’s our tip sheet for delighting your entire group from that wine-neophyte nephew to your picky aunt and wine geek uncle—plus a bonus recipe to try.

Light white wines and bubbles go with appetizers, cheeses, salads

La Pitchoune ’17 La Bombe chenin blanc with flavors of passion fruit and sweet limes and a satiny texture is a red carpet beginning to a long day of feasting ($28). I’ll take two, please!

Photo courtesy La Pitchoune

The J Winery collection of sparkling wines will turn any gathering into a celebration. Its California Cuvée ($25), an ideal aperitif, dances on the palate with crisp green apple, juicy pear, fresh-cut lemon notes and hints of almonds. Also try the pinot gris, rosé and sparkling rosé.

Full bodied whites marry well with roasted turkey, buttery cornbread stuffing, salmon, roasted veggies, pastas

When it must be over the top, uncork Domaine Serene, chardonnay, Oregon, a tropical medley—but no fruit bomb—with lingering minerality and mouthwatering acidity ($59).

Thanksgiving wines for table from Domaine Serene. Photo courtesy Murray Photography

Rich and creamy with notes of zested lemon oil, pear and whisper of spice from barrel-aging, Chalk Hill Estate ’18 Ca., chardonnay is winner-winner turkey dinner ($20).

Photo courtesy Chalk Hill Estate

Light reds and some pinks go with pork, ham, fruit relishes, seafood

J. Lohr ’18 merlot, Paso Robles, is one smooth operator, bursting with ripe fruit and persisting greatness from apps to dessert ($15). Check out all the other solid reds here.

Photo courtesy J. Lohr Vineyards

Expertly crafted and affordable ($15, Target!), snag Space Age grenache rosé Central Coast, Ca., by Grounded Wine Co. and its other impressive varietals (sauvignon blanc, pinot noir and more).

Photo courtesy Grounded Wine Co.

Domaine Carneros, Ca., is widely known for stunning sparkling wines, but its sophisticated pinot noir enters the party like it’s walking onto a yacht ($40).

Medium to robust reds pair with beef tenderloin, mushroom dishes, cranberry sauce

Cabernet sauvignon for Thanksgiving? Yes, if you are silky, balanced Jordan Winery ’16 cabernet, a world-class wine modeled after First Growth Bordeaux and super food friendly (about $55). Catch these brilliant wine pairing tips from chef Todd Knoll that make any dish sing, including a juicy dessert recipe.

Photo courtesy Jordan Winery

With ripe black cherry, dark chocolate and spice, COR Cellars ‘19 Momentum, WA, a seamless blend of merlot, tempranillo and Malbec, will launch your high culinary expectations ($22).

Photo courtesy COR Cellars

Spicy, bold and richly textured the way this true American grape should be, Seghesio Family Vineyards ‘18 Sonoma zinfandel over delivers every time ($26).

Photo courtesy Seghesio Family Vineyards

Online at each winery; Spec’s; Total Wine & More; Houston Wine Merchant (note: the latter will order wines if they don’t carry it and can locate it).

#Brilliant Pairing Recipe

Butternut Squash Bisque

Yield: 12 servings

Cru Butternut Squash Bisque: Cook at home or order to-go. Photo Robert Tsai

Order this luscious bisque to-go from Cru Food & Wine (all Texas outposts sell wine retail) or whip it up at home. Magical paired with Napa based Duckhorn Decoy chardonnay, Sonoma County ($20).


2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon canola oil

I medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped

2 garlic cloves, sliced

Coarse salt to taste

½ teaspoon dried thyme

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 large butternut squash (about 4 pounds), peeled, seeded, and cut in 1-inch cubes (or purchase prepared from supermarket)

1 (14 ½ ounce) can reduced sodium chicken broth

1 cup half-and-half

2 tablespoons pomegranate seeds for garnish


In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, thyme, cinnamon, and cayenne. Season with salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, 5 to 7 minutes.

Add squash, broth, half-and-half, and 3 cups water. Bring to a low boil; reduce to a simmer, and cook until squash is tender, about 20 minutes. Cool slightly.

Working in batches, puree in a blender until smooth. Season with salt. Serve warm and garnish each serving with pomegranate seeds. Note: The leftovers freeze perfectly.

Cover: Thanksgiving to-go and wine specials from Brennan’s of Houston. Courtesy photo

Robin Barr Sussman (rbs@pdq.net) is a freelance culinary and travel writer who studied at the Culinary Institute of America Greystone, Calif. As a chef for Sonoma County wineries, her specialty was food and wine pairing. Sussman is a columnist for Houston Modern Luxury Magazine, Prime Living and Houston House & Home. Her work also appears in Texas Monthly, Fodor’s and Private Clubs Magazine.