Thanksgiving wine emergency? Now Butterball can help with that, too

Red and white wine
Don't know which wine to choose for Thanksgiving? The Butterball hotline can help -- but they'll likely suggest a wine from the Woodbridge label. Igor Dutina

When people call the Butterball Turkey Talk Line, as they have for the last 32 years, they typically want to know how to thaw the bird, how long to cook it or perhaps get a tip or two on making the gravy. This holiday season, they can ask for something else: advice about wine.

In what has to be one of the season’s better marketing marriages, Butterball has teamed up with Robert Mondavi’s budget Woodbridge brand to help people navigate the wine possibilities.

Molly Read, the marketing manager for Woodbridge, explained that Mondavi brought a “wine education” team to Butterball University (yes, there is such a thing) in Naperville, Ill., where Butterball’s team of about 50 turkey advisors were trained on how to talk about wine. “We actually took them through pairings of wine with food,” she told “Finally, we did a role play. We practiced with them how to answer wine questions and how to insert wine into the conversation.”

So when people call the hotline to get turkey tips, they’re also now asked if they’ve thought about wines to pair with their meals. The turkey experts can recommend specific varieties, then – and this is the money part of it – steer the conversation to the Woodbridge brand. “They can say, ‘well, Woodbridge has a nice cabernet sauvignon that goes with your roasted turkey,’” Read said.

This may not seem like that big a deal until you’re reminded that the folks at 1-800-Butterball expect to answer more than a million questions this holiday season, with each conversation now an opportunity to sell a bottle or two of Woodbridge. But staff are trained to talk about Thanksgiving wine pairings in general, and can tackle questions using a wine “cheat sheet” that covers the basics on wine serving and food pairings which, to their credit, includes a somewhat muted pitch for Woodbridge wines.

Batterball wine infographic
A portion of the Butterball-Mondavi wine pairing cheat sheet. Butterball

Of the 11 wine varieties listed for various turkey-cooking methods, from roasting to frying to grilling, all just happen to be offered under the Woodbridge label.

The wines themselves carry the generic “California” appellation and have a suggested price of $8, although Wine-searcher puts the average price of most of them at $6. With more and more Americans drinking wine, the Butterball-Mondavi collaboration is another sign of wine going mainstream in this country. With the ubiquitous Woodbridge brand something akin to the Butterball of wines, this is one turkey-wine pairing that makes perfect marketing sense.

Edward Deitch is a James Beard Award-winning wine critic. Find many more of his wine reviews and commentary on his blog,, and follow him on Twitter.