Home Wine Business Editorial What the Winemakers Are Drinking at Thanksgiving

What the Winemakers Are Drinking at Thanksgiving


We asked a few winemakers to share two wine recommendations for Thanksgiving, one of their own wines, and one from another winery, because one wine is obviously not enough. The result is a variation of the Thanksgiving theme that’s bound to feature something for everyone at the family table.

sbragia-gamble-ranch-chardonnayEd Sbragia, Sbragia Family Vineyards

I would recommend the Sbragia Family Vineyards Gamble Ranch Chardonnay. It is made in the style of a big French Burgundy. I have always loved those wines and when I first crushed this vineyard in 1976 I was amazed at the depth and structure of this wine. Grown on well drain clay soils the wine can tolerate new french never barrels and a year and 1/2 barrel aging. By stirring the lees weekly it produces a very textured wine with flavors of Butter Citrus and Creme Brulee. My favorite wine to drink with anything.

I would also recommend the Panther Creek Winemaker’s Cuvee Pinot Noir. It’s a seamless and pretty Pinot that’s red-fruited and bright. Expansive with a hint of cinnamon on the mid-palate and a great mouthfeel; this Pinot is delicious!

Jeff Cichocki, Winemaker Bonterra Organic Vineyards

bonterra-zinWine: Bonterra Organic Vineyards 2015 Zinfandel, Mendocino (SRP $16)

Bonterra’s home is in Mendocino County, which also happens to be one of the greatest places on earth to grow Zinfandel. Ours is elegant, balanced, and undeniably Mendocino – with lots of red fruit and spice that’s perfect for the Thanksgiving table. In the winery, we try not to manipulate the wine too much, mainly because the pure fruit from our well-tended organic vineyards doesn’t require it. Watch for soft, ripe tannins and a spicy richness accented by black pepper and blueberry notes. It’s a terrific wine to sip on a chilly autumn night, especially when tucking into hearty turkey, and toasting with friends and family.

Wine: Sokol Blosser 2013 Sparkling Rosé of Pinot Noir, Eola-Amity Hills (SRP $60)

From fellow certified B Corp winery Sokol Blosser in Oregon, this sparkling rosé of Pinot Noir will make a great companion to turkey and other TDay fare. Smooth tannins, a subtle spiciness and red fruit driven aromas and flavors are the right recipe for these savory autumn flavors, and refreshing bubbles will help offset the weightiness of the Thanksgiving table. In addition to our Zinfandel, handcrafted sparkling wine from a terrific AVA for Pinot sounds like a great way to round out your wine list! We also like that Sokol Blosser is driven by the same B Corp goal we pursue: to use business as a force for good in the world.

Chris Pearmund, Winemaker Pearmund Cellars and Effingham Manor

effingham-manor-indy-awardThe 2015 Effingham Rosé would be a great Thanksgiving wine choice, it’s a Chambourcin Rosé – an American hybrid – from the 250-year-old Effingham plantation. How much more flag waving can you get?

The estate winery will open soon, but it’s already receiving praise like Rose of the Year at the Indy International Wine Competition and Best of Class – Rose at AWS National Wine Competition.

Another great wine and thematic fit is Dr. Konstantin Frank Reserve Riesling. It’s what Thanksgiving is all about. An immigrant brings his passion for wine and does what no other has done; grow Riesling in the east coast. Now a 3rd generation family affair, it continues to grow in respect, quality, and all other aspects.

Heidi Bridenhagen, Winemaker MacRostie Winery and Vineyards.

2014-macrostie-wildcat-mountain-vineyard-chardonnayOur 2014 MacRostie Wildcat Mountain Vineyard Chardonnay ($46) is showing beautifully right now. This fog-shrouded mountain top vineyard is a classic Sonoma Coast site, cool and challenging, and produces wines of great distinction. While it displays the signature ginger-spice aromas and lovely minerality that make the wines from Wildcat so exciting, it also offers a rich palate texture. It would be a perfect wine to serve when guests arrive at Thanksgiving before the meal has begun, as it is layered, interesting, and delicious. When finally sitting down to the meal, this wine’s complexity and structure will be able to match all of the different flavors and aromas of a Thanksgiving feast.

For the red wine, I prefer to keep it a lighter, more delicate style as everyone will want the food to be the main show. Surprisingly, I am suggesting a Zinfandel. The 2013 Watkins Family Vineyard Taylor Mountain Vineyard Zinfandel, Bennett Valley is 80% Zinfandel, 15% Petite Sirah, and 5% Grenache. Because of the cool nature of Bennett Valley, this Zinfandel is not jammy and overripe. It has crisp acidity, a full but not heavy mid-palate, and a soft, lush finish. A great wine to be on the Thanksgiving Table.

Justin Ennis, Joseph Phelps Winemaker, Sonoma Coast

This Thanksgiving, I will be opening a magnum of our 2014 Joseph Phelps Pinot Noir, Freestone Vineyards, Sonoma Coast. 2014 was an exceptional growing season for us and celebrates our 10th vintage of Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir from the estate in Freestone. This wine will pair very well with the savory stuffing and roast turkey during our meal.

I also plan to open a bottle of 2015 Massican Annia. Dan Petroski is an old friend of mine and I think the acidity of this white blend will really complement our seafood appetizers as well as side dishes like creamy mashed potatoes and gravy.

Bonus: A great recipe for stuffing from Allie Phelps, granddaughter of Joe Phelps!


Tony Rynders, Winemaker Panther Creek

panther-creek-winemakers-cuvee-pinotFor the traditionalist who’s doing the turkey with all the fixings, I think the 2013 Panther Creek Winemaker’s Cuvee Pinot Noir would be a really great accompaniment. It has a lot of red fruit character that pairs fabulously with the old school Thanksgiving meal of turkey, cranberry and savory stuffing.

I’m excited about the this vintage, it was my first wine for Panther Creek, and 2013 was a vintage where the wines were a little bit more compact, and a little bit more tightly wound, so that the additional year or two in the bottle has benefitted those wines enormously. The 2013 Panther Creek Winemaker’s Cuvee Pinot Noir is actually just signing right now, it’s delicious.

Pinot Noir is obviously a pretty logical fit for traditional Thanksgiving fare, but not everyone is a traditionalist. Personally I’m not one to always follow the traditional route. I recently tasted the 2012 DeLille Cellars D2 at a Bacchus Group tasting. It’s a bigger wine, a bit more structured, but the D2 is just a fabulous wine. So for folks who are departing a little bit and working with maybe some ham or something along those lines, that would be a good fit.

By Kim Badenfort



  1. Some really fun suggestions! I have always found that wines with a little bit of sweetness tend to go best with the Thanksgiving meal as they have the best chance of pairing with the wide range of foods. The most challenging elements of a Thanksgiving meal to pair wine with are the sweet food (candied yams, sweet potato casserole, cranberry sauce, or any other foods that exhibit sweetness). The sweetness in foods will most impact big red wines. The sweetness in the food will make the wines seem drier, more bitter, and overly acidic.


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