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

Wine Guide for Thanksgiving

Share this story

The key spice in a Thanksgiving feast is variety, and the diverse viticultural regions of Sonoma Wine Country provide all the variety of wines you need. If you're charged with making the wine choice, be thankful for the bounty of Sonoma County wines this Thanksgiving.

Here's an overview of the 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

Dry rosé wine could well be the ideal choice and yes, this includes dry rosé of Zinfandel - a savvy substitute for those relations who simply must have their White Zinfandel. The majority of pink wines now made in Sonoma County are a very dry style - having as little residual sugar as the typical dry Pinot or Merlot, for instance - but still delight the palate with flavors of strawberry, watermelon and cherry, and the bright acidity keeps it friendly with salad, dressing, 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

Leave the crisp, 'unoaked' Chardonnay for a warm spring day - Thanksgiving is for a toasty, fleshy Chard with buttery malolactic notes. Consider pleasing Chardonnay fans with a Chardonnay from the Sonoma Coast. It's hard to know what's in the bottle, even with cool-climate Green Valley of the Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, but with many such wines, the natural acidity balances the richness of barrel fermentation. A Chardonnay of a wider girth may cut the fat of a deep-fried turkey just right. For a refined example of oaked Chardonnay, consider Overlook from Landmark Vineyards.

Sparkling Wine: Always a good choice

Tasting room at Gloria Ferrer in Sonoma County
Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards

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.

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. Sonoma County's Tilted Shed Ciderworks is making exciting ciders like lightly sparkling Graviva! and barrel-aged and smoked ciders.

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.