The traditional Thanksgiving meal of turkey and all its accompaniments makes for interesting, if not challenging, wine pairings. The lean turkey breast meat suggests something white, while the richer dark meat can handle something red. Then add side dishes including myriad variations of stuffing from oysters to sausage to apples, creamy mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes in all their incarnations, and tart cranberry sauce, and well, it’s a bit of a toss up wine-wise, unless you want to do a course-by-course pairing, which seems a bit formal and not really in the spirit of Thanksgiving. That’s why I like to have a variety of wine available to pour because Thanksgiving is more about the food and the company. Wine is more like a side dish for this meal, so enjoy whatever you like.
That said, the list below contains wines that will still pair well with traditional Thanksgiving fare. All are from the Sonoma, Napa, or Mendocino counties, with a few from wineries damaged in the devastating fires last month. Buying wines from these areas is just one of the many ways help support the long recovery and rebuilding efforts. Even better — head up for a wine-tasting visit. All areas are open and would love your business.
Gunlach Bundschu Sonoma Coast Gewürztraminer 2016 ($25). Jacob Bundschu brought this varietal over from the homeland, and it’s been growing on the estate since, cooled by coastal breezes. The wine is vinified in a dry style, with a small amount of the fruit frozen to develop the mid-palate, which produces a wine with bright acidity that is crisp and refreshing, making it a versatile food partner. The spice notes will complement the spicier elements of your meal (think stuffings) to the simplest turkey.
William Hill North Coast Sauvignon Blanc 2015 ($17). A blend of grapes from Russian River Valley, which provides tropical fruit notes, and the majority from Lake County, providing minerality and citrus notes, this wine was blended with a tad (1 percent) of Semillon to provide acidity and additional citrus notes. It will pair particularly well with the turkey and the mashed potatoes. Editor’s note: This winery was severely damaged in the Atlas Fire and is temporarily closed. The wines are widely available through your favorite retail outlet; this Sauvignon Blanc can be found at K&L Wine Merchants, 855 Harrison St., San Francisco, 415-896-1734, klwines.com).
Roederer Estate Anderson Valley Brut Rosé ($29). Sparking complements everything on your table, is festive, and makes everyone happy — which everyone needs after a year like this, right? This Pinot-Chardonnay blend with no malolactic fermentation is elegant and delicate with balanced fruitiness, and its pale salmon color will provide a lovely visual addition to the table.
Paradise Ridge Banzano Vineyard Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2013 ($40). Yep, you read that right, Chardonnay is my go-to varietal, so I’ll always find a way to include one on the table. This wine is made for you ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) wine drinkers, which means it’s light on the oak and the malolactic fermentation, and nicely balanced with “nuances of lemon, fresh herbs and delicate white flowers” to cut the richness of those dairy-laden side dishes. Editor’s note: While the Santa Rosa location of this winery was lost to fire, the charming Kenwood outpost reopened last Saturday, and does a nice food and wine pairing in their back herb-growing garden, a tour-bus destination.
Landmark “Overlook” Pinot Noir 2015 ($25). Pinot is the go-to Thanksgiving wine with its medium body and fruitiness. This Pinot, sourced from the cool climate areas of Sonoma, Santa Barbara, and Monterey, and aged 10 months in French barrels, is delightfully balanced with fruit and spice, with berry, floral, and “autumn forest” notes. Landmark makes over a dozen Pinots, and each is excellent, so you can’t go wrong with any choice.