The Best California Wines to Pour at Your Thanksgiving Meal

From our seasoned sommelier to your table.

Thanksgiving dinner is weird, and not just because of your weird uncle. It’s because the essential protein—turkey—is fairly bland and dependent on the fixings to make the feast. What you serve with your bird impacts what wine you’ll want to serve. That means Thanksgiving is a great time to experiment, to open a few bottles of unusual grape varieties that will help you explore more of what California’s wine scene is all about. It’s not just chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon out there in our great Golden State, so try some quirkier bottles this year and find a new favorite. All are small-batch, artisanal, family-made wines vinified with love—no corporate wines here. From our cellar to your table, with gratitude to the Californians who made them.

Above: Ernesto Wickenden Vineyard

•••

Bubbles


Foxen Chenin Blanc, Ernesto Wickenden Vineyard (Santa Maria, 2019)

From Jenny and Dick Doré comes a delicious new sparkling wine made with chenin blanc, one of the most under-appreciated grapes out there. Ripe green pear and honeydew melon notes with a satisfyingly crisp finish.

foxenvineyard.com / SRP $48

 

Roederer Estate, L’Ermitage Brut (Anderson Valley, 2015)

Those Champagne folks recognize great land when they see it.  This is the flagship American wine made by Roederer that costs but a fraction of its kissing cousin Cristal. The 2015 L’Ermitage is epic so serve California bubbles this year!

roedererestate.com / SRP $68

Above: Foursight Sémillon, Charles Vineyard

•••

Whites


Ram’s Gate Pinot Blanc, Estate (Sonoma, 2020)

Situated at the crossroads of Napa and Sonoma, Ram’s Gate is a cool climate vineyard site that makes high acid whites with verve and zing. Apple blossom, crisp white nectarine and dried chamomile aromas.

ramsgatewinery.com / SRP $38

 

Bouchaine Riesling, Las Brisas Vineyard (Carneros, 2018)

If you think riesling is sticky sweet, you need to try this bottle. Made in the dry Kabinett style, this wine is lip-smackingly good with notes of Asian pear, honeycomb and lemongrass.

bouchaine.com / SRP $30

 

Scotto Family Verdelho, Silvaspoons Vineyard (Lodi, 2019)

Hooray for verdelho!  Grown extensively in Spain and Portugal, this grape is pretty rare in California.  The Scotto family has been making wine since 1883. Old-world knowledge meets new-world climate…this wine is green and herbaceous, perfect for sage stuffings and herb-rubbed turkey.

scottocellars.com / SRP $20

 

Foursight Sémillon, Charles Vineyard (Anderson Valley, 2019)

The professional term for this wine is “yummy.” Sémillon is besties with sauvignon blanc and too rarely gets vinified as a standalone grape. Notes of brioche, toasted almond and lemon curd. Fantastic for the feast.

foursightwines.com / SRP $29

 

McKahn Family Viognier, Catie’s Corner Vineyard (Russian River, 2020)

Viognier is luxe. It’s thicker and more viscous than many whites, with heady aromas of jasmine and ripe tangerine. This is a great choice for a more substantial white that can carry all the way through to pie time.

mckahnfamilycellars.com / SRP $36

Above: Keller Rosé of Pinot Noir

•••

Rosés


Seagrape Rosé of Pinot Gris, Hibbits Ranch Vineyard (Sta. Rita Hills, 2019)

I shared this bottle among many other rosés at a recent tasting and Seagrape was the runaway favorite. Winemaker Karen Steinwachs makes beautiful wines with freshness, balance and acidity and this riff on pinot gris is flat-out delicious.

seagrapecellars.com / SRP $28

 

Keller Rosé of Pinot Noir (Petaluma Gap, 2020)

The breezy Petaluma Gap is one of California’s newest AVAs but they’ve been making extraordinary wines there for years. This delicate rosé of pinot noir, while not technically a “rare” grape for the region, is a great choice for Thanksgiving.  Notes of tart cranberry, freshly cut hay and juicy red raspberries.

kellerestate.com / SRP $35

Above: Lang & Reed Cabernet Franc

•••

Reds

 

Bella Grace Barbera (Amador, 2018)

I adore this wine. Named for two grandmothers and sustainably grown, Bella Grace’s barbera is an homage to one of Piemonte’s great red grapes and it shines here in the sunny climate of Amador. This is PERFECT turkey red.  Barbera is juicy but not jammy, with notes of red currants, purple violets and tilled earth.

bellagracevineyards.com / SRP $31

 

Cruse Wine Co., Monkey Jacket (North Coast, 2019)

One of the darlings of the sommelier community right now, this red blend from Cruse Wine Co. is a mix of valdiguié, old-vine carignan, petite sirah and tannat. It’s packed with ripe, dark fruits framed by dusty tannins that provide great grip.  Absolutely killer juice for the price.

crusewineco.com / SRP $25

 

Tablas Creek Cinsaut (Paso Robles, 2019)

The Haas family is one of the great names in California wine history, and Tablas Creek’s finesse with traditional southern French varieties is legendary. Here, cinsaut is the star. This wine is midweight with fantastic red cherry, anise and garrigue aromas.

tablascreek.com / SRP $35

 

Lang & Reed Cabernet Franc (Napa, 2017)

Winemaker John Skupny has long been an evangelist for cabernet franc, one of the noble five grapes from Bordeaux.  I love love love cab franc for Thanksgiving because it pleases people who like “big” reds while presenting gorgeous herb, green pepper and vegetal aromas that help to complement that bulging table of distinctive side dishes. Brussels sprouts? Green beans with onion? Cranberry relish with orange? Savory herb dressing?  This wine brings them into harmony beautifully.

langandreed.com /SRP $85

 

Meyer Family Syrah (Yorkville, 2017)

This syrah reminded me of why I like the grape so damn much … hallmark notes of dried potpourri, ground white pepper and old leather with enough spicy purple fruits to appeal to just about every palate. Dangerously drinkable with turkey dinner…buy several to be safe!

meyerfamilycellars.com / SRP $28

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