My American Thanksgiving in Burgundy

By Emily Lester

Bonjour! I am Emily Lester, the French Wine Correspondent for the Napa Valley Wine Academy.  It’s a special time of year. The season has changed and our vines are entering a new life cycle. No matter what occasion you may be celebrating, the holidays are an opportunity to slow down and be a bit more intentional about the food and wine being served. As an American living in France, I love mixing the traditions from home with those of my family and friends here. I’m hosting a Thanksgiving in Burgundy this month. The Franco-American holiday of Thanksgiving is a celebration for us of heritage, culture, family, friends and of course, that means food and wine.

Pairing French Wines with Traditional American Dishes

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In this article, I wanted to bring you to Bourgogne with me as I prepare for the meal and share some tips to help you through the season. It’s the perfect opportunity to indulge in your favorite dishes with wine from France. Here are some selections to try plus seven pairings you can enjoy, no matter where you are in the world. 


Nothing frilly or trendy in my stuffing. It’s classic, amazing, easy, homemade stuffing that everyone loves! Simple ingredients like butter, baguette, sage, rosemary, thyme, and celery—but of course, I add a French twist: herbs de Provence-crusted Saucisson! It is perfect with a slightly aged

Châteauneuf-du-pape because it plays on the “garrigue” flavor profile. The French term “garrigue” comes from the Rhône region’s scrubland of sage, rosemary, and lavender. Imagine all these together dancing across your palate.

Fun fact: Châteauneuf-du-pape producers are permitted to use up to 13 approved grape varieties in their red blends.

Producer Pick: 2015 Domaine de Beaurenard Gran Partita Châteauneuf-du-Pape

A blend from their grape variety conservatory using all 13 grape varieties of the appellation, without a single one predominating.A beautifully crafted mouthfeel resulting from 2 years of ageing in the cellar. Round and velvety red wine with multi-layered finish and rich flavours of ripe red fruit.

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Nothing is better than simple, creamy mashed potatoes. A high-quality Chardonnay will pair perfectly with this dish, so start thinking about white Burgundy, and the kind of butter, honey, and citrus fruit notes typically found in a Meursault. The palate of Meursault is rich and cheerful with a freshness that remains in silky balance. Go off the beaten path and try one of my current favorites—a lesser-known Bourgogne white from Pernand-Vergelesses located on the western side of the Hill of Corton. Pernand-Vergelesses will lean you more towards the bright side of things while remaining in line with the classic style we associate with white wines from Burgundy.

Producer Picks: 2018 François Mikulski Meursault 1er Cru ‘Gouttes d’Or‘ (Find it hereOver time in the glass, this wine will release a plethora of aromas: honey, exotic fruits, butter, hazelnut, grilled almonds, yellow fruit and toasted caramel.

2019 Rollin Père et Fils Pernand-Vergelesses Premier Cru ‘Sous Frétille‘. (Find it here)

This Premier Cru develops a nose at the same time rich, generous and complex. On the palate, aromas of white peaches and some exotic notes give it a lovely balance of power and finesse.

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It is impossible to find canned pumpkins in France so I am making my pie from scratch. Luckily there are plenty in season so I was able to source one from the seasonal Saturday market in Beaune. I plan to serve a Monbazillac with my pie. Monbazillac has a long history of sweet wine production leveraging grapes affected by “noble rot” or botrytis. 

Producer Pick: 2016 Château La Robertie Monbazillac (Find it Here)

An aromatic and delicate medium sweet white wine; with a clear floral touch and a zesty acidity.


We are going to have a little fun here because this Thanksgiving staple makes an ideal pairing with Pinot Noir, but I want to take you somewhere new to explore Pinot—Alsace! The reds of Alsace are freshy and full-bodied, offering beautiful dark fruit notes with firm tannins, making them choice pairings for darker meats and game. #nextlevel

Producer Pick: Domaine Christian BINNER (Pinot Noir) (Find it here)

Vibrant expression of the pinot noir in a ripe year, showing aromas of wild strawberries, blackberry fruit, medicinal and a refreshing palate.


Blanc de Noir Champagne (made from red grape varieties such as Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier) is a must with Turkey! Blanc de Noirs champagnes are powerful, firm, and characterized by notes of red fruits and black fruits. When it comes to food and wine pairing, Blanc de Noirs will go perfectly with white meats and has the structure to stand up to the darker meat of a turkey too. 

Pro Tip: Rubbing the bird with a flavorful mixture of butter and fresh rosemary, sage, and thyme before going into the oven will help change the intensity of the flavors with a Blanc de Noirs. 

Producer Pick: PIERRE GERBAIS Brut Nature L’Audace (Find it here)

Expressive aromas of preserved orange, yellow plum, lemon curd. The palate is creamy and medium-bodied as a Pinot noir Champagne should be.


Homemade green bean casserole with farmer’s market green beans and almonds is one of my all-time favorite Thanksgiving dishes—and look no further than Vouvray, Touraine-Amboise, and Montlouis whites from Loire Valley for the best pairing for this dish. Arguably the best Loire whites are produced from Chenin Blanc grapes. Fresh and fruity Chenin Blanc is delicious with vegetable dishes or salads while the slightly more oaked versions pair beautifully with cream-based casserole recipes. 

Producer Pick: 2018 La Grange Tiphaine Les Epinays  (Find it here)

A touch of sweeter fruit on the nose with Christmas spices and pear. It is followed by apricot, grapefruit and rose petals after a few minutes in the glass. A fine mouthfeel with refreshing acidity and great length.

IMG 5874 jpgStudying the relationship between food and wine is one of the most enjoyable ways to enhance your wine education. Experiences that feed you through all your senses are definitely the best way to learn about wine. Check out our “Wine Education Abroad” programs with Napa Valley Wine Academy. And you can join us in Burgundy in 2022! I can’t wait to meet you and share more with you. 


PS: Want to accompany me on my shopping trip for the cheese course? Watch Video



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