By Rachel Thralls

Thanksgiving is nearly here and is the one day of the year when wine is most likely to appear on American dinner tables. Think it’s impossible to pair wine with all of those turkey day flavors? Believe it or not, it’s more than possible. Turkey is one of the most versatile of meats when it comes to wine. The white meat is light enough to handle white wines, yet flavorful enough to handle lighter more delicate reds, while the dark meat can stand up to bolder reds. While pairing wine with the variety of flavors and textures can be tricky, there are certain wines that pair well with your holiday turkey, sides and pies. After all, your family’s traditional dishes deserve some fabulous wine served alongside.  

Start with Sparkling Bubbles and Toast the Holiday! 

Thanksgiving is all about being thankful for what we have in our lives. Why not celebrate what we are thankful for with bubbles? Choosing sparkling wine for the holidays doesn’t have to break the bank either. There are many sparkling wines from Sonoma County with an elegant, feminine flair, perfect for toasting the holidays. It’s always fun to celebrate with the most prestigious of all bubbles, a sparkling wine made in the traditional Champagne method, also called Méthode Champenoise. Sparkling wines from Iron Horse Vineyards & Winery, Amista Vineyards or Inman Family Wines in Sonoma all make sparkling wines in this traditional way and are fruity, refreshing with a vibrant and petulant finish! 

Enjoy Classic, All American Pairings at Your Thanksgiving Table 

Rosé wine is a classic match to pair with traditional Thanksgiving dishes. Not only is rosé a good match for the flavors of turkey day dishes because of the acidity, they are light and refreshing, and typically low in alcohol, making it a smart wine to drink if you tend to eat your Thanksgiving meal earlier in the day. After all, you want to stay awake for your turkey sandwich at the end of the day while watching football! 

There are many wonderful rosé wines to pair with a variety of Thanksgiving dishes from Sonoma County. A few you might not have tried yet are the Lasseter Family Winery Enjoué, and Land of Promise Wines Rosé. The grapes for these rosés are harvested at a lower brix (sugar level) to ensure it is a light wine that pairs well with food, especially all of the different flavors found at the Thanksgiving table. They are crisp, delicate, and elegant with a lengthy bright finish.  

For the white wine lovers at your gathering, Chardonnay is always a great choice for those who prefer a traditional white wine as it’s a versatile wine that can complement a variety of dishes typically served on this holiday. Consider your food pairing when choosing an oaked or unoaked Chardonnay. Oaked Chardonnays can work well with richer dishes like turkey with gravy or creamy mashed potatoes, while unoaked versions can pair nicely with lighter fare like roasted vegetables or turkey breast. Look for a Chardonnay that strikes a balance between the fruitiness of the wine and its acidity. This balance easily lends itself to pair with both lighter and richer Thanksgiving dishes. A few of my favorite Sonoma County Chardonnay’s that pair nicely with this traditional holiday dinner are from Sangiacomo Family Wines, Ramey Wine Cellars, and Lynmar Estates. 

Pinot Noir is an extremely versatile wine and known for its ability to complement a variety of flavors, making it an ideal choice for a meal that features diverse dishes like roasted turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, and various sides. Sonoma County Pinot Noirs tend to exhibit subtle earthy or herbal notes, which can complement the flavors of roasted vegetables, herbs, and savory sides. Also, Pinot Noir generally has softer tannins compared to other red wines, ensuring a smoother and more approachable wine. It won’t overpower the food but will enhance the overall dining experience. Look for a Peay Vineyards West Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, the Cartograph Estate Pinot Noir from Russian River Valley or Dutton-Goldfield’s Emerald Ridge Pinot Noir. Also look for older vintages of Pinot Noir, as the age on the wine compliments holiday dishes as well.  

For a bolder red wine, check out Medlock Ames Cabernet Franc. This wine will especially pair well with your dark turkey meat and cranberry sauce. This Cabernet Franc shows a vibrant red fruit character with underlying dark fruit tones, cocoa and spice.  

End on a Sweet Note 

What pairs with traditional thanksgiving desserts like pumpkin or pecan pie? The basic idea is to choose a wine that is as sweet or sweeter than the dessert itself. Otherwise, even a very good wine will come off as bitter or ‘sour’ by comparison. The exception to the rule seems to be sparkling wine, which pair beautifully with chocolate and most other sweet desserts. For that pumpkin or pecan pie pairing, try a late harvest wine made from white grapes such as Kokomo’s Late Harvest Muscat.