Shortly after I moved to California in 2008, I made the ill-fated decision to fly back to the East Coast for the holidays. Three missed flights later, I swore I’d never do it again. Since then, my girlfriend and I have crafted our own tradition. We invite over whatever rowdy, hooligan friends are staying put and host a drunken feast we call Orphan California Thanksgiving.

One of Orphan Thanksgiving’s rules is that all wines have to be from California. The rest of the year—as the owner of a wine bar in San Francisco—I taste mostly imports from various bastions of Euro artisan hipsterdom, but Orphan Thanksgiving allows me to express my growing infatuation with the wines being produced in my adopted home state. And while any holiday—especially one with mandatory drunkenness—is probably not the best time to pour nuanced wines with, say, sneaky notes of pencil shavings, you definitely want to be opening good shit. Hey, it’s Thanksgiving!

2010 Dashe Cellars Vin Gris Dry Rosé

Let me be blunt: I hate it when people say they don’t like rosé. Yes, I understand that white Zinfandel is not respectable, folks, but on the whole, rosés are some of the best, most food-friendly wines around. The Dashe Vin Gris, a blend of Grenache, Petite Sirah, and Zinfandel, will make you repent for all those years of hating pink. It tastes exactly like wild Norwegian strawberries. Who doesn’t like that?

2010 Broc Cellars Paso Robles Vine Starr White

Judging from how good Chris Brockway’s wines are, you kind of wish all winemakers were from Nebraska, had degrees in philosophy and film editing, and made wine in an urban warehouse. Brockway’s Vine Starr White is an OG wine: nothing fake or flashy, just good like the Apple IIc was good, except with a bit of lemon and salt caked on the keyboard.

2010 Clos Saron California Carte Blanche

Clos Saron’s Carte Blanche is weird in a good way, like sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top, or Björk. It could probably even stand in for your Thanksgiving meal if you’re feeling lazy—it’s got flavors of celery, mushrooms, and ham hock. A blend of Roussanne, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Viognier, it’s a wine worth tapping after politely polishing off the Gewürztraminer your in-laws brought over.

2010 La Clarine Farm Mourvèdre Cedarville Vineyard

La Clarine’s Mourvèdre, from the Sierra Foothills (California’s version of Appalachia), is pure country—sort of like sticking your face in freshly planted soil. But there’s more than just cow shit to this wine: It’s like eating the rye-soaked cherry at the end of a real Manhattan, and smells a bit like something else that grows well out in them there foothills.

2010 Arnot-Roberts North Coast Syrah

Sometimes it seems the sole purpose of Arnot-Roberts is to make other California Syrah producers cry. While they’re all busy making wines that taste (at best) like two-year-old jars of blackberry jam in the back of some humid pantry, Arnot-Roberts is finding grapes in the coldest parts of the Sonoma coast and making Syrah that tastes like wine. That is, if wine were Chuck Norris or the Dos Equis dude. Hello black pepper, iron, and smoked meat!

Jeff Segal is the owner and beverage director of Heart, a wine bar in San Francisco.

Header image source: Flickr member quinn.anya under Creative Commons

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