9 Thanksgiving Wine Pairings from America’s Most Rock-N-Roll Winemaker

Charles Smith picks the perfect wines to drink with everything from turkey to creamed corn to pumpkin pie.

By Ethan L. Johns
November 20, 2018

Image: Charles Smith

If you still haven’t picked out your Thanksgiving wines, it’s not too late to hunt down some great, affordable bottles. For last-minute pairing suggestions, we talked to Charles Smith of Wines of Substance.

If you’ve ever considered dipping your toes into the world of Washington State wines, it’s only a matter of time before you pull the cork on something created by Charles Smith. He has grapes growing in every one of the states AVAs (American Viticultural Areas), and owns and operates the largest urban winery on the West Coast.

Among his brands, he was responsible for a mind-boggling 53 different labels in 2017, 51 of which were single-vineyard wines. Yet even with so many labels, Smith says he looks after them all like they’re his own children.

“Just because I have five pans on the stove doesn’t mean I’m not watching every one of them as if my life depended on it,” he said.

In 1999, Smith discovered Walla Walla, Washington, after nine years of touring and managing rock n’ roll bands in Europe. But while he might have started out in the music world, Smith is no celebrity-musician-turned-winemaker. He started his winery with $5,000 borrowed and an ‘87 Chevy Astro Van that he paid cash for.

Eighteen years later, in 2017, two of Smith’s wines (the 2014 K Vintners Powerline Estate Syrah from Walla Walla Valley and the 2014 Sixto Uncovered Chardonnay) were listed in the top 20 of Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines list—a feat which is more or less unheard of. Both wines retailed for less than $50 per bottle.

So what did Charles have to say about Thanksgiving wines?

“First and foremost you should drink something that you like, because it’s a day of sharing with your friends and family,” he said. “And then the idea is knowing how much are you going to drink. So for me, I like to go drink a more fresh wine.”

When pressed, however, he admitted that he might not be drinking his own stuff.

“I might find myself drinking really nice cru Beaujolais for Thanksgiving, because I like this kind of wine, he said. “It’s juicy, grapey, delicious wine. And Thanksgiving is all about finding something delicious and drinking it.”

Here are his picks for matching wines with classic Thanksgiving dishes—some of which were produced by him, while others were not.

Roasted Turkey & Viognier
K Powerline Vineyard Viognier ($45) – “The Thanksgiving meal is a combination of sweet and savory. A medium-bodied white wine like this is perfect for everything.”

Mashed Potatoes & Chardonnay
Sixto Uncovered Chardonnay ($35) – “Salt and butter love Chardonnay.”

Stuffing & Syrah
K Vinters Milbrandt Syrah ($30) – “Stuffing is all things savory and Syrah is the perfect compliment.”

Cornbread & Pinot Grigio
CasaSmith Vino Pinot Grigio ($12) – “The fruity notes in Pinot Grigio pair surprisingly well with cornbread.”

Creamed Corn & Sauvignon Blanc
Substance Sauvignon Blanc ($17) – “Not traditional, but it’s awesome.”

Green Bean Casserole & Semillon
L’Ecole No 41 Semillon ($21) – “Semillon is the unsung hero of white Bordeaux.”

Cranberry Sauce & Gamay
Côte de Brouilly Ch. Thivin ($17) – “Fruity, fresh wine from Burgundy’s other cousin.”

Pumpkin Pie & Cabernet Sauvignon
Substance Cabernet Sauvignon ($17) – “The rich, dark cabernet pairs perfect with pumpkin and whipped cream.”

Pecan Pie & Ruby Port
Graham’s Six Grapes Port ($20) – “Aged in oak, Port will enhance the sweetness of the pecan pie.”

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About Ethan L. Johns

Ethan is the Food News Writer at Genius Kitchen. An expert on the Parisian bistrot, he likes bitters and salted butters, and is no fan of dessert unless it's made with fruit. His hobbies include reading up on the history of borscht and attempting to roll perfect couscous by hand. Twits & Instagram @EthanLJohns