This year has been tough for everyone, but small, family-owned wineries the world over have been hit pretty hard by fires, lack of tourism, and in some cases, rough harvest conditions. Thanksgiving is the quintessential American holiday, so let’s support these great American, family-owned wineries and their wines that pair perfectly with this varied and tasty meal!


Whether you serve it as a welcome drink to those walking in, or with soups and appetizers like butternut squash soup, or a cheese platter, sparkling wine is a Thanksgiving must-have. I recommend Afton Mountain Bollicine from the Monticello AVA of Virginia, a super dry sparkler made in the traditional Champagne method with refreshing apple, citrus, and toasted bread notes. Tony and Elizabeth Smith are the nicest people you want to meet, and their winemaker, Damien Blanchon from Beaujolais in France, makes terrific wine to boot.

For the main course, one wine doesn’t fit all! You need a red and a white to cover

Wine for Normal People book cover Wine for Normal People by Elizabeth Schneider

everything on the table. For the side dishes a dry white like Smith-Madrone Riesling from Spring Mountain in Napa Valley with its lime and jasmine flower aromas and mouth-watering acidity, is equally at home with sweet and mashed potatoes as it is with corn and green beans. If your meal has a spicy kick to it, this wine will rise to the challenge too. Stu and Charlie Smith of Smith-Madrone have made wine for 40 years in Napa but this year has been tough – the winery nearly burned down in the fires, so they could use our support!

Cabernet Franc is my MVP for reds. Bill and Betsy Nachbur run this small estate in the Russian River Valley of Sonoma making mostly Italian varietals but their Cab Franc is a real standout with a medium body, dark fruit flavors, black tea notes, and fantastic tannins and acidity which pair perfectly with turkey, gravy, and stuffing. As a bonus: it can tackle the cranberry sauce too, no easy feat.

Don’t forget the dessert wine. Dry wine left over with sweet food is terrible so don’t just keep drinking the wines from the main course! Instead switch to something truly American like the Late Harvest Vignoles from Anthony Road Wine Company in the Finger Lakes of New York. The Martini Family and winemaker Peter Becraft make fantastic Rieslings and a variety of cool climate whites and reds but this wine is a real specialty. Vignoles is mainly grown in the US and Anthony Road makes fruity, balanced, late harvest Vignoles that has peachy and pineapple notes with excellent acidity to make them a perfect complement to pumpkin, apple or pecan pie.


Elizabeth Schneider is a certified wine expert and author of “Wine for Normal People”, an acclaimed book on the fundamentals of wine. She is also host of the“Wine for Normal People” podcast, available where you get your podcasts.