glass of wine over vineyards at Harvest Moon Winery in Sonoma County
Harvest Moon Estate and Winery

Wine Guide for Thanksgiving

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The key spice in a Thanksgiving feast is variety, and the diverse viticultural regions of Sonoma Wine Country provide everything you might need. If you're the one tasked with making the holiday wine choices, you'll feel thankful for this rundown of top Sonoma County wine pairings for Thanksgiving.

Pinot Noir: Truly reliable paired with turkey, dressing, and all the fixings

Russian River Valley in Sonoma County
Russian River Valley

Pinot Noir from cool climate viticultural areas like Sonoma Coast, Russian River Valley and Carneros exhibit aromas that may range from an earthy potpourri of cranberry and herbal notes, with light strawberry fruit, to deeper flavor of black cherry and cola, laced with pie baking spices.

Light to medium-bodied, Sonoma County Pinot Noir often displays a silky texture, and a lighter tannic grip than heavier reds like Cabernet Sauvignon. The combination of charming fruit and bright, cool climate acidity makes Pinot an ideal palate cleanser for the holiday meal.

Rosé: Possibly the perfect, all-around Thanksgiving pairing

sign at Pedroncelli Winery in Sonoma County

Sonoma County's dry rosés are ideal pairings for just about any Thanksgiving dish, with subtle red-fruit flavors and bright acidity that enhance rather than compete with dressings and lighter meats like turkey. Rosé of Pinot Noir and Syrah are top choices; quality dry rosé is usually priced between $12 and $25. Try Rosé of Zin from Pedroncelli Winery

Gewürztraminer: Complements sweet & spicy dishes

chateau St Jean Winery in Sonoma County
Chateau St. Jean

Nobody likes their turkey too dry, and a very dry white wine won't help with that. Gewürztraminer is not always a sweet wine, it is often made off-dry, but the key to this Thanksgiving pairing is that even when Gewürz is dry, it's got that 'sweet and spicy' savor that complements sweet and spicy fare like sweet potatoes with nutmeg and brown sugar. Many Sonoma County Gewürztraminers are limited releases, available directly from the winery or at the winery only - try Mill Creek Vineyards, Chateau St. Jean, or Harvest Moon Estate & Winery.

Chardonnay: Butter isn't just for the biscuits 

wine glass and oysters at Landmark Vineyards in Sonoma County
Landmark Vineyards

Thanksgiving is for toasty, fleshy, oaked Chardonnays with buttery malolactic notes. To cut the fat of even a deep-fried turkey, reach for Chardonnays from the cool-climate Green Valley of the Russian River Valley or the Sonoma Coast, where natural acidity balances the richness of barrel fermentation. For an especially refined example of oaked Chardonnay, consider Overlook from Landmark Vineyards.

Sparkling Wine: Always a good choice

A toast of sparkling wines, seen from below the glasses
Sonoma County offers a bevy of bubbly

It's never too early in the holiday season for bubbly wine. Try a richer version than you'd pair with seafood, like Royal Cuvée from Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards or Russian Cuvée from Iron Horse Vineyards. And as with dry rosé wine, even better with a sparkling rosé.

Different colors and styles of hard cider from Sonoma's County's Golden State Cider
Tangy and brut offerings from Golden State Cider

Cider: Well-suited to fall flavors

Every host should keep sparkling, non-alcoholic cider on hand, but did you know that Sonoma County is host to a hard cider renaissance? These craft ciders, often made with heirloom varieties like the Gravenstein apples, are more complex than big-brand cider, and are well suited to autumnal flavors, while having a lower alcohol content than wine—generally about 6 to 9 percent alcohol by volume. 

More wine pairings to consider:

The New World's Sonoma County is blessed with the climate to ripen diverse varietals from across the Old World. Light, fruity varietals like Dolcetto, Charbono, and Gamay Noir are made by few wineries and can be challenging to find, but are fun and food-friendly - see Paul Mathew Vineyards, DaVero Farms & Winery, and Jacuzzi Family Vineyards.

Don't forget late-harvest Chardonnay, Riesling, or Sauvignon Blanc for dessert.

Where can you find Sonoma County wines? Apart from local beverage stores, you can order directly from the wineries, or even better, pick up a few bottles in person. Here are listings for Sonoma County Wineries and info about how to ship wine home. Depending on your state or country of residence, certain regulations and restrictions may apply.

Written by Sonoma Insider James Knight.