Friday, November 05, 2010

Thanksgiving Wine Under $20: 2010 Edition

Here we are: at the starting line for the annual holiday rush. That's right, it's almost Thanksgiving. Every year, thousands swing by GWU$20 in search of wallet-friendly wine recommendations for their celebrations.

Below, you will find my picks for the most appropriate and affordable wines to have on this year's holiday table. If you search the tag "Thanksgiving" in the left sidebar you will be able to locate my previous posts on the topic. Some of those wines might still be available, too.

A few reminders: these wines were selected because I believe they represent very good QPR or excellent QPR in the under $20 wine market. All of them were chosen with an eye to pairing well with the unbelievably wide range of Thanksgiving foods. And all of them are available somewhere (usually many somewheres) in the US.

Finally: Thanksgiving should be a day of happiness and sharing, not stress. Relax, enjoy yourself, and your guests will, too!

Sparkling Wine: The perfect partner for any celebration, many people choose to serve it before the main dinner but be advised it goes well with the whole thing so if you really want to keep things simple and festive, buy a bubbly and stick with it throughout the meal.

NV Vinos de Terrunos German Gilabert Penedès Brut Nature Reserva. Fantastic for the price, this has a yeasty, lemony aroma followed by bright lemon and dough flavors and a a bit of stoniness in the aftertaste. (available for around $13)

NV J. Laurens Crémant de Limoux Brut. This delicious sparkler from the Languedoc will make you embrace French sparkling wines for their affordability! Creamy and luscious with lemon, apple, pear, and brioche aromas and flavors. Lively, soft, and dry. (available for $12-$18)

NV Freixenet Cava Elyssia Brut. A very nice bottle of Cava, made from Pinot Noir grapes. It's dark rose in color, and has aromas and flavors of strawberries, cucumbers, and a touch of mint. Fresh tasting, yet round and lush, too, with nice body. (suggested retail $18; available for $13-$22)

NV Roederer Estate Brut Anderson Valley. Reliably one of the best under $20 sparklers made in the US, this has lovely aromas and flavors of apple, hazelnut, and toast. (available for $16-$20)

Rosé Wine: Most people won't have the guts to serve pink wine for Thanksgiving, but if you do you'll be the in the knowledgeable minority. The wines I'm highlighting here are lush enough to stand up to turkey with all the trimmings, while being crisp enough not to weigh down the meal. Plus, they're great with a leftover turkey sandwich at Friday lunch.

2009 Rotta Zinfandel Rosé. Now. Listen to me. This is NOT white Zin. It is a rosé made with Zinfandel grapes grown in Paso Robles. As a result, it is a true, rose pink in color, dry on the tongue, and there's even a bit of a spritz for fun. Rich cran-raspberry aromas and flavors, and a relatively low level of alcohol make this a terrific holiday pick. It's different, it's fun, and it's a steal. (available for $10 direct from the winery)

2009 Cep Vineyards Rosé. Quite possibly the perfect rosé, this one is made with Pinot Noir fruit from the prestigious Sonoma Coast appellation. Lovely aromas of warm strawberry, stone, and baked earth. Flavors are purely strawberry and there is a dry yet juicy aftertaste. (available for around $19)

2009 Bedrock Wine Co. Mourvedre Ode to Lulu Rosé. Very dry aromas and flavors--think strawberry, lime, and chalk. Rich in spite of dryness. A memorable rosé.(available for around $20)

White Wine: White wines are the obvious solution to a heavy holiday meal, with their crisp flavors and clean aromatics. They're refreshing and versatile, so your chances of them clashing with the food are minimal. One warning: beware of oaky whites. If in doubt, ask your wine store owner for a white wine suggestion that uses minimal or neutral oak.

2009 Snoqualmie Vineyards Chardonnay. Not sure what Chardonnay tastes like? This is it--a pure expression of the grape from Washington's Columbia Valley. Unoaked, with aromas and flavors of crisp apple, lemon peel, and a clean minerality. (available for $8-$11)

2009 Albino Armani Corvara. With pure white white peach and tart Granny Smith aromas, this Pinot Grigio frmm Italy has that combination of freshness and lushness I look for in Thanksgiving wine. The same elements are in the flavors, accented with pink grapefruit and a clean, bright aftertaste. (available for $8-$16)

2009 Oberon Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley. Expect soft melon, Meyer lemon, and apple aromas and flavors from this wine. Though it has a round feeling in the mouth, the finish is clean and bright. (available for $11-$16).

2009 Vina Robles White4 Paso Robles. Perfectly poised between rich and crisp, this wine contains an unusual blend of Vermentino, Verdelho, Viognier, and Sauvignon Blanc. Loads of tropical fruit aromas and flavors, along with citrus and mango. There is some nice spice in the aftertaste, too. A versatile food wine--and one that will please most of the people at your table. (available for $12-$16)

2008 Field Recordings Wine Chenin Blanc Jurassic Park Vineyard. This white may be a touch cloudy because it's unfiltered, but it is unmistakably Chenin Blanc with its mix of citrus, stone, and grass aromas and flavors. Well-balanced and refreshing. (available for $14-$16)

2008 Franciscan Oakville Estate Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley. There is a nicely-balanced set of flavors in this wine: Crenshaw melon, hay, and lemon pith. The wine is fresh, but robust enough to stand up to turkey and sweet potatoes. (available for $9-$20)

2008 Robert Hall Chardonnay Paso Robles. If you want Chardonnay, this is one of the best for Thanksgiving. Delightful golden delicious apple and pineapple aromas and flavors. Remarkably crisp and light, this Chardonnay will even please Sauvignon Blanc fans. (available for $15-$19)

Red Wine: I have to admit this has never shown up on my Thanksgiving table before--but it will this year. In preparation I've done more thinking than usual about the best red wines to serve. They need to be relatively light and savory in order not to overwhelm your tastebuds, but still taste rich and satisfying.

2007 Château Tire Pé DieM. Yes, the label says Bordeaux. But it tastes like a vinous lovechild of grapes from the Bordeaux and grapes from the Beaujolais so it works just fine with the turkey. A blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon with oodles of charm on a light-weight frame, your first impression will be of crushed raspberries, then some soil, and then some rocks. The wine finishes off with peppery, spicy notes. (available for $10-$14)

2008 Red Rock Winery Malbec Reserve. After the Bordeaux above, this is my most unorthodox pick. Everybody goes for Pinot or Zin, but how about Malbec? Flavors of blueberries and huckleberries are accented with white flower aromas and then there is a nice note of baking chocolate in the aftertaste. (available for $7-$13)

2009 Thierry Puzelat Vin de Table Français Le Telquel. This totally fun, totally raspberry wine made from Gamay grapes will give your Thanksgiving a lighthearted feeling. You may get a hint of spritz on the tongue at first, but it doesn't detract at all from the pure fruit flavors of this wine. This red is good served at cool room temperature to emphasize its freshness, so don't sit it on top of the oven while the bird cooks! (available for around $15)

2007 Clos LaChance Zinfandel Buff-Bellied. Lots of people swear by Zinfandel with turkey, but it's really hard for me to jump on this bandwagon. Still, if you are wanting Zin,this is the one I would try to find. Rich aromas of coffee and blackberry lead into flavors that reminded me of chocolate-dipped cherries. A peppery aftertaste keeps it fresh and lively. (available for $14-$18)

2008 Rodney Strong Pinot Noir Estate Vineyards. A Russian River Pinot, with earthy and berry notes. Expect a spicy, rich aftertaste reminiscent of cloves and allspice that is very much in keeping with the holidays. (available for $14-$22)

Full Disclosure: I purchased the Gelabert, the J. Laurens, the Roederer, the Cep and Bedrock rosés, the Field Recordings Chenin Blanc, the Chateau Tire, and the Puzelat. I received samples of the other wines for review, or tasted them on professional tasting tours or at tasting events.

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