Congratulations: you have been invited to Olivia Pope's house for Thanksgiving!
Ms. Pope, the self-appointed surrogate mother to far from home-rs, rag-taggers, newly separated couples and recently-freed-from-underground-prison-dwellers, will bring in a mixed crowd that might seem hard to please. You are a terrible cook, but no matter, you have heard ("from anonymous sources") that Ms. Pope is a closeted wino. Thusly you will show up with a delicious red and be met with praise.
One predicament stands in your way of Ms. Pope's gloved embrace: you know nothing about wine, let alone red wine. So consider this your field guide to good but cheapie red wine that Thanksgiving guests will lap up. Also, a disclaimer, I have tried all of these wines and can vouch for all of their deliciousness.
When you get to Olivia Pope's townhouse you can boast that this first wine hails from Sonoma County, California. (You can keep to yourself that it runs around $13.) Ravenswood Winery's Zen of Zin is delicious, fragrant and tangy. Zinfandels are great for a Thanksgiving gathering because they work twofold. You get a light fruity wine that will cut through heavy Thanksgiving sides like a white wine would, but also a wine that makes meat dishes taste even better. You can even hold off and uncork for dessert; Zen would go great with something chocolaty or a rich pie. It’s my go-to red, and also: puns.
If you're feeling like grabbing something seasonally complementary, you'll be able to find it in a nice Pinot Noir. For cranberry and cherry notes, Castle Rock Pinot Noir is your pick. It pops up all over "Best Of" lists for its classy vibe and elegant taste, but also for its price point: 12 bucks. It's a fruity one, so this will be your wine to entice red non-believers.
The Mondavi Family is to wine as Huck is to dismembering people, or Harrison is to ugly ties. Try their Charles Krug Winery Napa Valley 2009 Merlot. This wine is likely what Olivia herself will suspend delicately in a giant crystal goblet while perched on her practical white couch. At $21, the price is still sweet, and the bottle will give off a sophisticated air: this wine is bold yet light, and super-luxe. Bring it to your boss’s house, your boyfriend's parents' place. Seem "together."
If you like Chardonnay, you've probably already heard of Kendall-Jackson: every year, their variety wins more awards and is funneled directly into more and more crazy-aunt mouths. Use Kendall-Jackson's clout as another ploy to draw in white wine drinkers to their 2005 California Syrah. Picking a Syrah at all makes you seem impressive, almost as impressive as $12 for a fancypants wine. Syrah, like Chardonnay, can be kind of intense: there's your warning. But you can handle it; you're going to Olivia Pope's for Turkey Day.
Finally, Clos du Bois 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon will please everyone's tastes. Clos du Bois is a great label, with name recognition and a reputation for putting out good wine with a variety of price points. If you can splurge a bit, I'd try one of their pricier reserves (which will only set you back around $40). But this wine, for its quality, is a steal at $18. I have given this wine as a gift, and it was a hit, which after all is Pope and Associates' specialty.
And there you have it: now you can feel confident Thanksgiving Day as you march into Ms. Pope’s building, knock on her door and open it to find her standing arms outstretched between the gun-wielding President and Jake Ballard, screaming, "Fitz! Stop! It’s... your baby."
Eva Morreale is a food nerd and college student stuck in New Jersey. She can frequently be found blaming misfortunes on Mercury and the full moon. When she isn't in class she is either eating pizza or tweeting too much @literallE.