Thursday, November 06, 2008

Thanksgiving Wine Under $20: 2008 Picks

It's time to talk turkey again--and what wine goes with it. (image from Carolina Morning)

Every year, new visitors come to this site in search of a delicious, affordable, and available bottle of wine to pair with their holiday meal. Old friends visit, too, sometimes to suggest their own picks for the year and sometimes to take issue with something I've picked. It doesn't matter why you're here--I'm glad to see you, and hope that what follows will be helpful to you as you plan for the big dinner.

If you are looking for general advice on Thanksgiving wine and hospitality, I'd encourage you to check out this article I wrote a few years ago on issues facing the host/hostess and the guests. If you are wondering what to drink with your meal, and with leftovers, you're in the right place. Here are my picks for 2008--all of which offer great taste and great value in an easy-to-find package. Clicking on the wine's name will take you to the winery's site where you can find more information about the wine and its makers. Many of the wines I picked this year are made with organic grapes, are farmed with sustainability in mind, and/or are made by families with great stories of how they got in the business of grape-growing and wine-making. Clicking on the range of prices will take you to a list of retailers who stock the wine. Maybe one will be near you.

Sparkling Wines
What's a holiday dinner without some bubbles? These two picks are great for toasts, appetizers, brunch the morning after, or drinking with the main meal. Sparkling wine has great acidity, which means it pairs with most foods and there's no doubt that sparklers are festive.

NV Roederer Estate Brut ($15-$20).
For my money, this is the best value around in domestic sparkling wine. Expect tiny bubbles, aromas of brioche and Meyer lemon, and flavors of apples, toast, and nuts. Just as good with food as without.

NV Domaine Allimant-Laugner Cremant d'Alsace Rose ($16-$19). If you're looking for a pink sparkler, try this one. It' made with 100% Pinot Noir and has knockout fresh strawberry aromas with light berry, mineral, and citrus flavors. Like the Roederer Brut, this wine is as good with food as it is without.

Rosé Wines
Rosé wines are perfect for turkey and all the side-dishes that make us groan afterwards. If you feel that rosé wines are too "casual" for a fancy dinner, don't forget the leftovers. Wouldn't a cool rosé be perfect on Saturday with your turkey sandwich? These ros
é wines are dry, not sweet, and very refreshing.

2007 Fort Ross Pinot Noir Rosé
($12-$16). Fort Ross makes some of the best Pinot Noir out there, and this is the rosé version of their wine. It's a beautiful color, with raspberry and strawberry aromas and flavors and a delicious stony note that keeps it complex and interesting.

2006 Jeriko Estate Ros
é ($9-$13). This is a round and full rosé, with aromas and flavors of strawberries and minerals. If you don't like watermelon notes in your wine, you'll like this. Made with organic grapes.

White Wines
I'm a fan of white wines for Thanksgiving. I like their freshness, and the way that they pair so beautifully with stuffing, gravy, turkey, cranberries, Waldorf salad--you name it, these whites will go with it. They're versatile and flavorful, but won't overwhelm the food.

2006 Brooks Riesling
This is not a sweet wine. It's dry in style, with aromas of lime, apple, Meyer lemon, petrol, and stone. You will taste lime, slate, currants, and a touch of honey which makes it ideal if you are serving smoked turkey or a turkey made with lots of spices. Exceptionally complex for the price.

2006 Adelsheim Pinot Gris ($14-$20). Delicious aromas of peach, honey, and a kiss of caramelized sugar, but there's lots of bright acidity to keep the peach and apple flavors in balance. This aromatic wine would be perfect if you are serving sausage stuffing, and while it may give a sweet impression it finishes dry.

2006 Mauritson Sauvignon Blanc ($13-$17). One of the best domestic Sauvignon Blancs I've had in a long time, made with no oak and no assertive aromas or flavors. Warm melon, Meyer lemon, and clementine aromas and flavors accompany fresh, grassy notes.

2007 Clif Bar Family Winery The Climber White ($13-$15). This white blend has a core of Sauvignon Blanc with the addition of Pinot Blanc (12%), Chenin Blanc (4%) and Muscat (3%). The result is a wine with good acidity but an impression of softness. Aromas of pink grapefruit and nectarine, and flavors of Meyer lemon, nectarine, and peach.

2007 Cupcake Vineyards Chardonnay ($11-$13; also available in CostPlus World Markets). A new label to me, this wine had clean and fresh apple and citrus aromas and flavors. There is a lovely creaminess to this wine, and a touch of mild oakiness. Very much like a white wine from Burgundy at a fraction of the price.

Red Wines
There are a lot of people out there recommending Zinfandel for Thanksgiving. Unless you are very, very careful you may overwhelm your food with a jammy, high-alcohol wine. That's true for many other red wines, too. If you are serving turkey and lots of different sweet and savory dishes, red wines may not be your best bet. However, the ones below will not overwhelm your food--and the flavors may be just right for you if you like dark meat, or are serving something smoked or (gasp!) not serving turkey at all.

2006 Domaine du Vissoux/Pierre-Marie Chermette Vieilles Vignes Cuvee Traditionelle ($12-$16).
Gamay is a low-alcohol, high-acid grape that produces fresh, zesty reds. You will smell cherries, berries and some chalk in this wine, and the flavors are pure, juicy Bing cherry with an earthy undertow and some mineral notes.

2006 MacMurray Ranch Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast ($12-$27) A great bargain in Pinot Noirs, this wine has high-toned cherry and raspberry fruit aromas, with a touch of allspice. There are flavors of cherry, raspberry, allspice, and fresh-baked cobbler with a terrific, silky texture.

2004 Quivira Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley ($18-$20). If you must, this is the Zinfandel to get. With aromas of black cherry, allspice, and cedar, and flavors of cherry, baker's chocolate, and pepper it has beautiful acidity and is very food friendly. This Zin feels and tastes more old fashioned and restrained--just the way I like them. The 2005 is also in the market, and while I haven't tasted it, ordinary drinkers on CellarTracker! seem to give it thumbs up, too.

2004 Bodegas Montecillo Rioja Crianza ($7-$12). If you think I'm nuts to suggest Tempranillo with turkey--trust me. I'm not. This is one of the great bargain reds, from Osborne's Bodegas Montecillo. There are aromas of roasted herbs and spicy berries, and nice, high-toned red fruit. Beautiful acidity and some dusty tannins make for a long, juicy aftertaste.

Whatever you serve on Thanksgiving, remember to relax and enjoy your friends and family. That's what the holiday is really all about!

Disclosure: The Adelsheim, MacMurray Ranch, and Clif Bar Family Winery bottlings were samples; I tasted both the Cupcake and Osborne wines at tastings. All other bottles were purchased by me over the last eleven months in a variety of brick-and-mortar and online stores.


Anonymous said...

Nice choices, though I had hoped you would have a Cava for your sparkling choices. The Codorniu Rose is usually around 13 or so and a great wine with nice body for the holidays. Otherwise, wish I could participate this year in the T-day wine choices but we'll be in India during the big day! :) Now that will be quite the change for us!

Justin Roberts said...

How about a nice, warming cream sherry?

Joe said...

I would have expected an "all-American" flight for this holiday, but great suggestions - including Ryan's Codorniu Rose. I agree with your Zin comments - a bit heavy for T-giving, in my opinion, but so many recommendations out there...

Amy Atwood said...

Thanks Dr Debs for the carefully considered wine suggestions. Was especially please to see the Fort Ross Rose ( just because they are a great family run winery) and the Jeriko Rose from the formidable Fetzer crew.

dhonig said...

Just when I start to think I'm getting this wine blogging thing down, I come over to Dr. Debs and realize I haven't a clue. Thank you, once again, for showing us all how it's done.

This comment brought to you by 2 Days per Bottle, trying to click on every link on its blogroll every day.

David said...

The MacMurray pinot is a solid choice. I've brought pinot the last several turkey days, so am looking for a change of pace. Now I wouldn't thought of tempranillo, interesting!

Dr. Debs said...

Thanks to all of you for your comments. I did have a Cava on the list last year--but this year I went in a different direction. As for sherry, I actually think a Manzanilla would be perfect with turkey. And the tempranillo--well, what can I say. It's the most versatile grape we're not drinking here in the US--especially if it's made in Spain, where the style tends to be lighter and fresher.

Anonymous said...

Bizarrely, I bought a bottle of the 2007 Domaine du Vissoux Beaujolais yesterday to drink with Thanksgiving turkey! Apparently my hunch was spot-on. I also picked up a Selbach Oster auslese riesling, for a treat. It is the holidays...

I agree with you that zin is a bad pick for Thanksgiving - lightness is all, particularly for a holiday when eating a bit too much is a given.

Dr. Debs said...

MSL, have you ever had it before? If not, you are in for a TREAT. It's one of my favorite wines. Let me know what you think when you've had it.

Anonymous said...

No holiday table would be complete without a bottle or six of the wine that the French invented specifically for our Thanksgiving enjoyment: Beaujolais! However, this year the Winos are adhering to a strict “No on Prop ‘08″ policy — in other words, say no to Nouveau.

Here’s a roundup of our recent Beaujolais tasting:

Good call on the Pierre-Marie Chermette! He's our new favorite "Bo bro."

Garrison said...

Hit Trader Joe's. Their Alexander & Fitch Cabernet from the Alexander Valley is outstanding, full-bodied and complex and is only $6.99. The grapes are grown next to Chateau Souvarin who's Cabernet sells for $85. One sip and you will understand price does not dictate quality. (Unless you are a pseudo wine snob.)