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Wines for Every Personality Type at Thanksgiving Dinner

Surefire bottles to sate every family member — even your grouchy uncle

Janice Williams By November 19, 2021
photo illustration of various people around Thanksgiving table
Illustration by Chanelle Nibbelink

Coming together with family members for the holidays is fun and all, but there’s no denying the fact that gathering around the table with relatives can sometimes lead to awkward moments. Navigating all the personalities that may show up for Thanksgiving dinner this year may be particularly cumbersome for some, as many Americans are likely to reunite with family members they haven’t seen in some time. Strong opinions, off-kilter comments, and misunderstandings are as certain as the day itself. Making sure everyone has a glass of delicious wine is one sure way to keep folks satisfied. Here are a few bottles for every character that may be seated at the table this year.

9 wines to bring to Thanksgiving:

bottle of Sonoma-Cutrer 40th Anniversary Winemaker’s Release Sonoma Chardonnay 2019

For the tired one who slaved over the stove all Thanksgiving eve

Sonoma-Cutrer 40th Anniversary Winemaker’s Release Sonoma Chardonnay 2019 ($70)

After all that work in the kitchen, the family cook deserves a glass of something warm and welcoming like Sonoma-Cutrer’s 40th anniversary Chardonnay made with grapes from the winery’s estate in Sonoma, California. With fruit aromas as alluring as the apple pie on the dessert table, the chef in the family will be captivated by the layers of pear and lemon meringue flavors this wine exudes. It’s full-bodied and creamy on the palate with notes of toasted nuts, clove, and nutmeg throughout, while the finish wraps up nicely with citrus acidity.

bottle of Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Sonoma Pinot Noir 2019

For the one who always shows up empty-handed

Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Sonoma Pinot Noir 2019 ($14)

Kendall-Jackson’s Pinot Noir has the bright cherry and strawberry flavor to quench any attitudes that may flare up when you-know-who arrives at Thanksgiving dinner once again with nothing to contribute. And the wine’s spicy, earthy nuances and toasty vanilla finish is just the thing to keep everyone from noticing how many plates of leftover food that family member has packed to go when the night is over.

bottle of Casa Ferreirinha Papa Figos Douro Vinho Tinto 2018

For the one who’s bringing yet another new date

Casa Ferreirinha Papa Figos Douro Vinho Tinto 2018 ($16)

Now here’s a wine with the very dependability and structure your relative may be lacking in their relationships. Made with grapes native to Portugal, including Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barroca, Touriga Franca, and Touriga Nacional, Casa Ferreirinha’s reddish-purple-colored wine is consistent with its taste and drinkability. The aroma is an enticing bouquet of black and red fruit and tree nuts while displaying flavors of red berries and a hint of cocoa. Though the wine feels big and bold on the first sip, it flows across the palate soft and gracefully with a long and memorable finish that will stick with that lovelorn family member long after their latest fling ends.

bottle of Pasqua 11 Minutes Italy Rosé 2020

For the one who can’t stay long because [insert any random excuse here]

Pasqua 11 Minutes Italy Rosé 2020 ($20)

Believe it or not, the name of this wine isn’t referring to the length of time it may take to finish a bottle, but rather the amount of time the grapes spend soaking with the skins on during the winemaking process. The relative who always has somewhere else to be may want to hastily guzzle down their glass of the Syrah and Carménère blend, produced by Pasqua in the Veneto region of Italy. However, this fresh and lively rosé, with its complex nuances of tropical fruit, spice, and acidity, is a wine that demands attention. That busy family member won’t have a choice but to slow down and enjoy the moment that comes with every sip.

bottle of Frescobaldi Estates Tenuta Perano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

For the one who always brings up conspiracy theories

Frescobaldi Estates Tenuta Perano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016 ($35)

It might be tempting not to invite the relative that lives for QAnon and the deep dark holes of Reddit, but family is family. But if the dinner table conversation is likely to take an uncomfortable turn, serve wine with enough complexity and structure to keep everybody occupied. Produced by Frescobaldi Estates in the heart of Tuscany’s Chianti region in Italy, this bright ruby-red Sangiovese has distinct sour cherry aromas with the intensity needed to stop any conversation-gone-wrong in its tracks. Notes of violets and subtle spices round out supple tannins on the palate, which leads to a velvety soft finish that will take everyone at the table aback and lighten the mood.

bottle of Valdo Valdobbiadene Cuvée 1926 Prosecco Superiore NV

For the one with all the unruly kids

Valdo Valdobbiadene Cuvée 1926 Prosecco Superiore NV ($25)

Any time the grownups can get the active and fussy kids to pipe down and behave is a moment worth celebrating, and this extra dry, straw-gold sparkling wine is the one to cheer on those two seconds of solace. Since the Italian winery’s inception in 1926, Valdo Valdobbiadene has produced bottles of Prosecco that go hand-in-hand with elegance and delicacy — an experience that a tired parent is likely lacking these days. So let them bask in the fragrant fruity aromas permeating from this bottle. Allow them the chance to be immersed in the soft and clean texture of this Prosecco, with its sturdy and persistent little bubbles continuously fizzing in the glass. Surely they’ll appreciate the moment of refinement before getting back to sticky hands and dirty diapers.

bottle of Forjas del Salnés Leirana Rías Baixas Albariño 2020

For the one who just wants to watch football

Forjas del Salnés Leirana Rías Baixas Albariño 2020 ($36)

Thanksgiving is a time to enjoy being in the presence of family, but there’s always that one relative who cannot be bothered with anything that isn’t tackles and touchdowns. This is the wine to get their attention, and perhaps, even get them talking about something beyond the shady call the referee made during the second quarter of the football game. Produced by Forjas del Salnés in Spain’s Rías Baixas winemaking region, this Albariño is bursting with juicy citrus flavor. A dousing of salinity helps the mineral undertones shine, which seems to highlight the stone fruit nuances better. A sip of this and that football-loving family member will feel like they’re the one who really scored. In the least, this mouthwatering wine will get them off the couch for another glass.

bottle of Patrimony Estates Cabernet Sauvignon 2017

For the wealthy one who can only bear to be bothered with luxury things

Patrimony Estates Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 ($325)

What will anyone truly gain by trying to impress that snooty relative who acts as though they were born and raised with a diamond-encrusted spoon in their mouth? Absolutely nothing, yet everyone still pulls out their Sunday best in attempts to woo the one who often forgets that they are actually from the middle of nowhere. For that sweet, rich taste of validation, serve them a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon made by Patrimony Estates, the latest endeavor of Daniel and Georges Daou, proprietors of DAOU Vineyards and Winery. The pure opulence of this wine will captivate any fine wine drinker. Its full-bodied and silky texture, elegant minerality, dark fruit, and freshness will leave your wealthy relative completely transfixed from the first sip to the long finish. And they will be floored after learning this incredibly delicious wine doesn’t come from Bordeaux but Paso Robles, California. Pricy brownie points secured.

bottle of Alta Colina Downslope Paso Robles Red Blend 2019

For the one who’s not actually related to anyone there

Alta Colina Downslope Paso Robles Red Blend 2019 ($34)

They always show up to the family function happy and excited to reconnect with everyone. They’re well-mannered and charming, and they even help with the clean-up once dinner is over. The only issue is that no one is exactly sure how this person is related to the family. Is that so-and-so’s nephew’s cousin twice removed? What does it matter? They always show up on time with a pie. They deserve a glass of something that shows how much their attendance is appreciated regardless of whose grandkid they might be. A bottle of Alta Colina’s blend of Syrah and Grenache, with its approachable structure, inviting elegance, dried cranberry, and blueberry nuances, will certainly make them feel like part of the family.