Let’s talk wine, because you’re either bringing some as the nice guest that you are, or using it to medicate yourself from your family.  Regardless of your need, the greatest day of the year for food cannot exist without the perfect wine pairing.

The rule of thumb at Thanksgiving is Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Bubbles. Some exchange Riesling for Chardonnay in this lineup, but why enjoy anything outside of the regions of our backyard?  With these wine suggestions, I want you to feel the cool climates of the Russian River.  Picture the orange and red leaves left on the vines of Sonoma County.  Think about the earthy flavors in the seasonal root vegetables you eat and the occasional nutmeg and smoky paprika spice.  Now swirl the glass and taste.

My pick for Chardonnay is one that I frequently enjoy on a warm fall day with my feet propped up on the window sill at California Wine Merchant.  The 2011 Russian River Fritz Chardonnay is pale golden in color with a very light touch of oak and without overwhelming butter.  This medium bodied Chardonnay is silky on the palate with bright acidity with a rich and creamy texture containing flavors of apricot, dried fruits and almonds.  These flavors carry through with a satisfying finish and will add much flavor to a simple mashed potatoes or stuffing.  Available for retail sale at California Wine Merchant 2113 Chestnut Street, $21.95.

In a Pinot Noir you want definitive flavor but one without an overpowering finish. My pick is a new favorite at Nectar’s happy hour - 2011 Sonoma County Banshee Pinot Noir.  Tasting of smoked sweet cherries, baking spices and weathered leather, offering a restorative grog of plum sambuca with a sprig of aromatic sage.  Like I said, strong flavors but the finish is smooth and ready to enjoy at least 15 different side dishes.  You’ll easily match flavors of smoke in this wine to a pancetta baked brussels sprouts, and the sage in a sweet potato puree or pumpkin soup.  Available for retail sale at Nectar 3300 Steiner Street, $22.99.

If you want to upgrade to something a little fancier, something to impress whomever won your heart over on an Indian Summer night at Tipsy Pig, Flowers is the premier Pinot Noir.  A smooth black cherry with powerful licorice and tobacco notes that craves food. It’s even available at the Marina Safeway, retailing for $60 to $80 depending on their current sale.

And speaking of impressing, every Bay Area native loves to see a bottle of Schramsberg.  It’s our little secret - a french style with all the class, soft bubbles, complex and half the price of Veuve. The Blanc de Noirs will be perfect to sip on arrival as you smell the food cooking, or following your meal with a cheese course.  Retail, appx $35.

Rule of thumb from now until January 1, please do not forget the bubbly.  Ever.


Lauren (T&T’s Wine Correspondent)