Charlotte Wine Experts & Sommeliers Tips on Wines to Serve for Thanksgiving and the Holidays

This article is part of our 2019 Holiday Entertaining Series sponsored by Roots Catering

‘Tis the season for a celebratory glass of vino. From Thanksgiving tables to holiday soirées, you’ll need to know which wines to serve or bring to every occasion.

We asked Charlotte’s sommeliers for some guidance. Read on for the best wine tips to know this holiday season.

Natalie Stewart, Sommelier
Fin & Fino

All of the wines she mentions are available at Fin & Fino, which specializes in wine selections from smaller producers and lesser known varietals.

White Rhone Blend (Marsanne/Rousanne/Viognier): “These grapes from the Rhône region of France are great, but even better together. These wines are rich, medium-to-full-bodied with great perfume aromatics, creamy pear and nut flavors, with a lingering finish. This is the perfect bottle for someone looking to stick to white but needing more oomph for the colder temperatures. Look for wines from the Northern Rhône specifically.”

Wine to Try:

  • La Grange de Piaugier Blanc (Cotes du Rhone, France)

Gamay: “If you love pinot noir, let me introduce you to a grape called Gamay. It’s the fun party friend of Pinot Noir from the Beaujolais region in France. This guy is light and lively with cranberry, wild red berries and a good amount of acid. It pairs perfectly with roasted chicken, turkey, or even grilled burgers. Make sure your buying Gamay, not the highly marketed Beaujolais Nouveau for the premium pairing. There are also some great Gamay Noir wines coming out of Oregon right now.”

Wines to Try:

  • Domaine de Colette Beaujolais Villages (Beaujolais, France)
  • Vincent Gamay Noir (Willamette Valley, Oregon) 

Grenache:” If there was ever a wine perfect for a fall bonfire, it’s this one. Red fruits like black cherry and raspberry, and fantastic fall spice like clove, cinnamon, and even tobacco. My personal favorites come from Priorat (Spain), Paso Robles (California), and Southern France. For a splurge, check out Chateauneuf-du-Pape specifically.”

Wines To Try:

  • Tetu Grenanche (Languedoc-Roussillon, France)
  • Domain du Pegau (Chateauneuf-du-Pape) (Splurge)

Philip Castelluzzo, CS
Corkbuzz Charlotte

The transition to cooler weather means moving on from crisp and refreshing whites to lighter and medium bodied reds. Philip Castelluzzo, CS, lends us his tips for choosing the best wines for your holiday occasions:

Choosing crowd-pleasing wines: “It is important to consider your audience when hosting parties or dinners in order to provide something for everybody,” Castelluzzo says.

He recommends looking for high-value wines that please crowds: “If your guests prefer “bigger” and oaky wines you will find great deals on Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile. They are typically similar to modern Napa Valley Cab’s but for a fraction of the price.”

“For lighter bodied wines look to one of the 10 Cru’s of Beaujolais from France that make Gamay taste like high end Pinot Noir; Fleurie and Moulin-a-Vent are my personal favorite areas.”

“All around crowd pleasing wines can be found out of the Cotes-du-Rhône in France. Typically a blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre (known as a GSM blend) that are not too heavy, not too light, not too dry, and not too fruity. I have always had success with them!”

All recommendations are available within the $15-$35 range. To take the guessing out of Thanksgiving, opt for Corkbuzz’s Thanksgiving wine pack available for purchase here.

Briana Cohen, Operations Manager & Wine Director of Sonoma Restaurant Group
Parent company of Cicchetti and sister concept Aria Tuscan Grill

In addition to serving authentic Italian small dishes in a Venetian-style wine bar setting, the new Cicchetti in Uptown is also a retail wine shop with over 400 selections available for on-site consumption, carryout, curbside pickup, and delivery.

Cicchetti offers two monthly wine clubs, The CSA, or Cicchetti Sustainable Agriculture (2-6 bottles a month for $75), and The Venetian (12 bottles a month for $120). Briana Cohen, Operations Manager & Wine Director of Sonoma Restaurant Group (parent company of Cicchetti and sister concept Aria Tuscan Grill), selected November’s wines for The Venetian Club with a holiday focus.

“The foods of the season are hearty and have that toasted, roasted richness to them, so I picked wines that hold up to diverse menus and cooking styles,” states Cohen. “All are light to medium-bodied, easy drinking with great acidity, and a mix of reds and whites from around the world. These wines will show beautifully and work alongside whatever you are preparing or enjoying, helping to showcase the meal.”

“With this month’s selections in particular, I wanted to take away the wine pairing stress from holiday planning and give our clients a foolproof package that complements any holiday menu. The best part is that, in addition to being our November package for The Venetian Club, these wines are also available for individual retail purchase at Cicchetti for $15 a bottle, and we can deliver them, or guests can use our curbside pickup.”

November “The Ventetian Club” wine selections:

  • Proa Cava 
  • Radley & Finch Chenin Blanc 
  • Perelada 3 Finques Red Blend
  • Rilasso Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 
  • Evodia Garnacha 
  • Domaine de la Ferrandière Pinot Noir Vin de Pays d’Oc 
  • Monte das Promessas Tinto
  • Pico Maccario Rose Lavignone 
  • Alexander Valley Temptation Zinfandel
  • Dry Creek Fume Blanc
  • La Fruitière Chardonnay 
  • Barossa Valley Estate GSM

Jaffer Kovic, Owner
Dilworth Tasting Room

General wine selection tips: “When selecting wines for family events keep the selections mainstream with a few unknown, hard to find wines which add great conversation topics during and after dinner.”

“Ensure a good mix of white and red wines are selected with a stunning dessert wine. Who doesn’t like apple, pecan or pumpkin pie a la mode with a lovely sticky dessert wine?”

White wine tips: “For whites, I always recommend a well balanced California Chardonnay, nothing that is over the top. Note: not everyone likes oaky and buttery Chardonnays. Plus the amount of residual sugar in many of those oaky and buttery Chardonnays will put your guests out like a light before dinner is even served.”

“A simple Alsace or Oregon Pinot Gris that is soft and supple on the palate and complements many of the pre entrée dishes set out before everyone sits down to feast is a good way to let your guests enjoy something different from [chardonnay].”

Red Wine Tips: “For red wines, it’s best to have a few selections rather than one. Remember with big groups you have different tastes and preferences.”

Personal Favorites: Personal favorites that I serve or bring to the holiday table are:

  • A spicy, racy Zinfandel. Pairs amazing with turkey and the accoutrements 
  • A bold Bordeaux, preferably a selection from Margaux or St. Estephe. Lovely tones of minerals, spice, cassis, rose, black berries and currents will dominate in this Merlot and Cabernet based wine. 
  • A big, stunning California Cabernet from Oakville or Spring Mountain District will be a crowd pleaser guaranteed!
  • A 10 year Tawney form Neipoort is my ultimate favorite. One of the oldest family owned houses in Porto.

Dessert wines or ports: “Do not overlook the dessert wines or ports! These help to cap the evening off and help folks relax. A beautiful, fragrant, sweet Sauternes from Bordeaux, France that exudes honey, apricot, lychee, stewed peaches, almonds that will elevate any delicious home made pies. Grab the 750ml bottle if available. If not, then settle for the 375ml.”

Stephen Hendrick, Wine Director
Fahrenheit Charlotte

When it comes to Thanksgiving, Wine Director Stephen Hendrick knows the options can be overwhelming.

“There are many varietals that can help elevate the Turkey or compliment the stuffing and cranberry sauce, so selecting the right wine can be a bit daunting.”

He suggests opting for a Lapis Luna red blend. He describes it as “a red blend consisting of delicious grapes that blend perfectly to compliment any of the items you may have on the table this year. With notes of ripened blueberries and blackberries across a juicy vibrant mid pallet, bring out the supple tones in the gravy or candied yams.”

He continues, explaining “the cabernet sauvignon and merlot help to elevate the body of the wine and add the delectable fruit. The real star although is the Sangiovese and Barbera that this fun wine consists of bringing delicate acidity, a touch of brown spice & a full bodied finish making this a perfectly balanced wine.”

Brad Grubb, General Manager
5Church Charlotte

From Grubb: “As the weather begins to cool down, I love to transition to medium bodied reds that speak to the cooler temperatures. Wines from Morgon in Beaujolais are one of my first go-to’s, because they tend to pair well with most anything. They generally have ripe cherry and dark stone fruit notes, round tannins and great tertiary flavors that compliment anything from turkey to beef tenderloin.”

This series is brought to you by Roots Catering, which provides the community with locally-sourced, handcrafted catering for any event. Led by Executive Chef Craig Barbour, who with his experienced crew can specialize any menu for any occasion. From weddings, to social gathering and corporate events to everything in between, the Roots Catering team goes above and beyond to create and execute an unforgettable experience.


Allison Hancin
A Charlotte-loving adventure seeker with an appetite for discovering local finds. Always planning my next trip!