I’m not hosting this year, but that doesn’t mean I can’t dream for weeks about which wines to pull from my collection for Thanksgiving dinner. Wandering around California’s magnificent wine country is one of my favorite things to do. Whenever I get the chance to taste something new, I make a mental note of where and when I might enjoy it again with friends and family. Here’s what I’ll be bringing to Thanksgiving dinner with my family, including some new recent finds as well as a few old favorites.


Alexander Valley Vineyards
2018 Gewurz

This is an aromatic wine with an enticing floral, almost sweet nose and initial aromas of grapefruit, citrus, tropical lychee, pineapple, melon, rose and pear.  The 2018 Gewürz is a silky, rich wine with spicy flavors of apple, pear, grapefruit and nice acid balance on the finish.

This wine brings me back to my very first wine tasting experiences with friends. I was very fortunate to make friends early on at USC who grew up in Sonoma County, CA. I had already developed a taste for the “juice of the gods,” but I credit my Nor Cal crew for introducing me to visiting wineries and experiencing the regional variations firsthand. What a gift! This complex and unique white wine is the perfect kick-off to a Thanksgiving afternoon.


2017 Estate Viogner

Rounded honeysuckle, honey butter and seared white-peach aromas make for a fairly rich entry to this estate bottling. Yellow-peach and creamy mango flavors show on the sip, but the ripe fruit evolves into a savory sea salt and saffron side, finishing with a hint of pound cake.

Another fabulous bottle to have chilled and on-the-ready while you’re enjoying all-day appetizers like my family likes to do. Roblar is one of the first wineries we see when we drive up the “back way” to Santa Ynez. Josh and I will often make a stop here on wine trips before we check into our hotel to kick off a fun weekend!

2017 Santa Barbara County Chardonnay

Aromatically complex with tropical layers of pineapple, guava and lime zest complemented by rich tones of creme brulee and apple, this medium-bodied beauty is structured in the mouth yet perfectly in balance with a touch of clean citrus acidity.

Demetria is my happy place! Tucked in the hills of Foxen Canyon in Los Olivos, one must call the tasting room from a call box on a discreetly marked gate to gain entry, then drive about 2.5 miles up a dirt road before arriving at this picturesque family-owned estate. Once you’re there, all pretense is gone and it feels like you’re hanging out at the home of an old friend amongst the vineyards. We’ve been known to sit on the patio outside for hours, enjoying live music under the canopy of a giant oak tree on a perfectly sunny day. I love all of their wines, but I picked the Chardonnay for Thanksgiving because I want to start washing down my turkey dinner with a glass of this delightful liquid gold.


2008 La Encantada Vineyard Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir

Very big and rich and extracted, offering massive flavors of cherries and raspberries, enriched with caramelized oak. Very delicious, if a little obvious. Pinot Noirs from this stretch of the southern Santa Rita Hills tend to age well, gaining earthy complexities over the years. This one could hang in there for a long time.

Probably one of the most special bottles in my collection. I’ve been holding on to it for ten years, since the winemaker and my good pal, Ryan Deovlet, inscribed a special message on the label (the first vintage under his own label). It reads, “Thanks, LEO (my initials)!! Keep cooking and living bon vivant!” Nothing goes better with Thanksgiving dinner than a California Pinot Noir. To enjoy this special bottle this year, on the tenth anniversary of the vintage, is to celebrate friends, family, food and wine, California and – most of all – love! The heart and soul that Ryan puts into his winemaking is apparent in each sip, and an incredible inspiration.


Duckhorn Vineyards
2014 Napa Valley Merlot

Intense aromas of ripe cherry, plum and black fig rise from the glass, underscored by hints of leather and cedar. On the palate, it is lush and supple, with bright acidity and velvety tannins supporting layers of raspberry and black cherry, as well as hints of coffee and chocolate that carry through on the long finish.

Josh and I received this large format bottle as a ‘thank you’ gift from a close friend after hosting an impromptu surprise birthday celebration earlier this year for his wife (also a close friend). He enjoyed the same bottle to celebrate passing the BAR exam, which makes it even more special. I’ve never tasted it before, so I checked in on some notes from the winemaker and it got me pretty darned excited: “Combining lovely structure and alluring appeal, this is a classic expression of Duckhorn Vineyards Merlot. Intense aromas of ripe cherry, plum and black fig rise from the glass, underscored by hints of leather and cedar. On the palate, it is lush and supple, with bright acidity and velvety tannins supporting layers of raspberry and black cherry, as well as hints of coffee and chocolate that carry through on the long finish.”


… If we can stand to wait until Friday to open this one, we will be enjoying it with good friends as we celebrate an annual “Friendsgiving” tradition, hanging out at a hotel pool on the coast in Huntington Beach with several families the day after Thanksgiving. The kids have a blast on the waterslides and the grown-ups relax poolside and drink wine.



2011 Alexander Valley Sonoma County Petit Verdot

This is another bottle I’ve been holding for a while. It was an absolute standout stunner on a wine tasting trip with friends. And not just any wine tasting trip, it was the last of a long stretch (almost 20 years!) of an annual trip we were doing up in the Alexander Valley region of Sonoma County. I’ve been on the fence about drinking it this year or holding onto it for a while longer….. but sometimes you just have to go for it!



2013 Petite Sirah Port

The nose is of sweet blueberries, plums, and blackberry syrup. The mouth feel is sweet but with perceptible tannins. The relatively high acid keeps the sugar in balance and will ensure the longevity of this wine. Enjoy it on its own or with your favorite desserts and cheeses.

Port is one of those things you bust out at the end of a good night (I mean, obviously, it is a dessert wine). This is another one of those wines that brings me back to my early days of visiting wineries with my very best friends. I can’t think of a better way, or a more appropriate time, to reflect on all the wonderful people in my life and how tremendously thankful I am to be able to enjoy my absolute favorite holiday with my amazing family and cherished friends. Cheers!


P.S. Don’t worry guys. I know this is a lot of wine, but I am going to be sharing with a lot of wonderful people and drinking small amounts of each of these. A taste doesn’t have to be a whole glass. I am also quite responsible and DO NOT DRINK AND DRIVE. Be safe out there! xoxo

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