For those who enjoy wine with their meals, the wide variety of flavors found in a Thanksgiving dinner can pose a challenge in finding the “right” pairings. I put the word in quotes because I’m not a firm believer in rules when it comes to food. The easiest and ultimately best pairing for any dish is quite simple: Just drink what you like.

Having said that, keeping a few tried-and-true pairing guidelines in mind while planning your holiday feast can enhance the flavors at the dinner table.

I’ve been lucky in that I have many talented friends — chefs and wine geeks — from whom I’ve learned a lot about wines. For this overview, I leaned on my friend Pedro Rusk, wine educator at Jackson Family Wines in Santa Rosa, California, to share his varietal recommendations.

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This short guide is a place to start but hey, it’s your dinner, so drink what you love. Be grateful and stay safe this holiday season.

—Jack Sonni, writer, musician and food lover, known as the “other guitar player” in Dire Straits


The rock ’n’ roll of wines! Loud, bold flavors up front and jammy with a nice hit of spice, zin is the dark meat turkey lovers’ pairing. Seek out wineries from California’s own Sonoma County; Ridge Vineyards, Seghesio Family Vineyards and Hartford Family Winery are standouts.

Pinot Noir

Like jazz, pinot profiles range from smooth, subtle and fruit-forward to earthy funkiness. Think of the Miles Davis catalog, which includes both the laid-back beauty of “Kind of Blue” and the psychedelic funk of his late ’70s albums. Look for a pinot on the brighter, lower-alcohol side,  which will pair nicely with both white and dark turkey meat and creamy sides, such as mashed potatoes and casseroles. Those from Oregon’s Willamette Valley and California’s Santa Ynez Valley are great choices.

Sancerre and Vermentino

These folkie singer-songwriter varietals act as palate cleansers to the richness of meats and gravies. A nice chillaxin’ break in your dinner, if you will. Either of these works very well with roasted Brussels sprouts and other veggie sides. If fish, shrimp or oysters are on your menu, these are must-haves! Ask your favorite local wine store for a vermentino from Sardinia or a Sancerre from France’s Loire Valley.

Champagnes and Bubbles

Step into the classical violin section and start off your meal with a sparkling rosé. A symphony of bright, acidic flavors — strawberry, melon, peach — play nicely with cranberry flavors in your dishes and sauce. Sparklings can work throughout the entire meal as well. Champagne, of course, comes from France and only France. Taittinger and Veuve Clicquot are wonderful. On the domestic sparkling front, Roederer Estate from Anderson Valley and J Vineyards from Sonoma County are beautiful wines.