Red Wine with Breakfast: California pairings for Thanksgiving Day

  • Grapes for the famed Pinot Noir from Santa Lucia Highlands in Monterey County bask in the sun. (Hayley Hamilton Cogill / Special to West Hawaii Today)

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, bringing family and friends together, enjoying favorite traditional dishes paired with delicious wine.

This holiday I am thankful to the men and women who tirelessly farm the vineyards of the world. Notably, I give thanks to the vintners and winemakers of California who recently fought a series of devastating fires throughout the state.


Luckily, the fires occurred at the end of harvest for most, ensuring smoke in the air did not taint the fruit. But, thousands of acres burned, destroying structures, homes, and a few wineries. As you raise a glass this holiday, consider toasting with California wine. For the hearty Thanksgiving meal, you will want lower alcohol wines with vibrancy and texture, like my go-to holiday choices, Chardonnay or Pinot Noir.

The rolling hillsides of Carneros benefit from winds off the San Francisco Bay, producing alluring Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Organically farmed ZD Estate Chardonnay ($42) displays sophistication and restraint, with pear, lemon blossom, and vanilla. Concentrated, structured, and exceptional, Duckhorn Vineyards Huichica Hills Vineyard Carneros Chardonnay ($58) reveals crushed stone, white peach, and honeysuckle.

Consistently a go-to wine, Grgich Hills Napa Valley Chardonnay ($43) is fresh, bright, and lovely, with lemon zest, blanched almond, and melon. Clos Pegase Mitsuko’s Vineyard Pinot Noir ($40) is fruity, and fresh, revealing strawberry and rhubarb pie with well-integrated tannins, for an easy-drinking wine. Slightly more brooding, Cuvaison Spire Pinot Noir ($55) is structured, and chic, with black cherry and toasted nutmeg.

I believe every glass is an adventure, as each will transport you to another place in time. San Francisco’s Sosie Winery made this thought their moto. Each bottle of their small production wine transports you to the place and time of harvest, as shown in Sosie Spring Hill Pinot Noir ($43) from Sonoma Coast. Slightly warming, the wine reveals black tea, ripe berry, and plum. Sitting on the edge of the Ocean, Ramey Fort Ross -Seaview Chardonnay ($42) highlights the gifts the ocean brings, layering orchard fruit with briny, mineral-rich earthiness. Dutcher Crossing Terra De Promissio Vineyard Pinot Noir ($52) from the Sonoma Coast is complex and structured with crushed leaves, toasted nutmeg, and black tea.

Cooling breezes blow through Sonoma’s Russian River Valley throughout the evening, ensuring the region’s Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, even Zinfandel have a bright elegance. Emeritus Hallberg Ranch Estate Pinot Noir ( $44) is pure and pretty, melding purple flowers, toasted hazelnut and cranberry. Gary Farrell Russian River Pinot Noir ($45) highlights pomegranate, raspberry, and crushed clove. Approachable and balanced, Rodney Strong Russian River Pinot Noir ($25) brings earthy mushroom and truffle to a boysenberry-filled silky wine.

Up the coast, in Anderson County, FEL Savoy Estate Chardonnay ($48) shines with pedigree and style, with creme brulee, bosc pear, and green apple. Goldeneye Gowan Creek Vineyard Pinot Noir ($86) shines with freshness, highlighting cherry, raspberry, and strawberry in a luscious, textured wine. Like the racehorses that are the inspiration for the winery, Maggy Hawk “Stormin” Pinot Noir ($80) wraps power with polish, revealing a complex wine with energy.

Down the coast, Monterey County Chardonnay shows more tropical notes, thanks to warmer temperatures and a long growing season, with pineapple, mango, and Meyer lemon, as displayed in La Crema Monterey Chardonnay ($20), Testarossa Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay ($42), and Hahn SLH Chardonnay ($20).


Siduri Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir ($30) melds stewed cranberry, raspberry, and balsamic. From fruit grown throughout the area. Calera Central Coast Pinot Noir opens with red berry, followed by dried floral and white pepper. Delivering what the name promises, Cherry Pie Tri-County Pinot Noir ($23) red cherry, brioche, and spice.

Hayley Hamilton Cogill is a sommelier, wine writer, and educator. Together with her husband Gary Cogill, an Emmy award-winning film critic, they host “Cogill Wine And Film, A Perfect Pairing” podcast on while living on Hawaii Island in Kamuela while both writing for West Hawaii Today.

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