With just a few days left until Thanksgiving, it's time to get your wine shopping done. Here is a list of my Thanksgiving picks in the $10 range. I've chosen wines that are widely distributed in area stores, except for one or two.
The choice between red and white is win-win. Turkey breast slightly favors aromatic whites, but the cranberry sauce and most of the fixings match beautifully with light to medium-body reds. One happy solution is to buy some of each.
Since Thanksgiving is a long meal, you will need more wine per person than usual. Go with one half bottle per adult guest, plus a few extras just in case. Since the oven will have heated up the house and hearth, don't forget to serve whites cold and reds slightly chilled. (Thirty minutes in the fridge should do it for the reds.)
Needless to say, look for sale prices. Distributors and retailers run lots of specials in November to get your business. Why not accommodate them? Consider also 2004 Beaujolais Nouveau from Georges Duboeuf or other producers. It's usually under $10 and is released on November 15. The 2004 crop is abundant and is expected to be of above average quality.
Prices shown below are estimated.
Allegrini 2003 Valpolicella Classico ($10-$12; Italy): Fresh, bright and softly fruity, Valpolicella has long been a favorite of mine for Thanksgiving. Its fragrant cranberry notes complement the fixings, and it has just the right amount of body to balance the turkey flavors.
Lindemans Shiraz South Eastern Australia Bin 50 2002/2003 ($6-$8; Australia): Although the competition from other Aussie wineries has grown dramatically since Lindemans hit the market several years back, the Bin 50 Shiraz has maintained its status as a value leader. Less overtly grapy and more sophisticated than typical entry-level Shiraz, Bin 50 offers nicely layered, spicy fruit polished by new oak on the finish.
Monte Antico Rosso 2001 ($9; Italy): Made in Tuscany just outside the pricey Brunello zone, Monte Antico has wisely refrained from following the low-priced Chianti crowd toward simpler, almost Beaujolais-like fruity wines. Made in a restrained style more akin to a junior Brunello, Monte Antico serves up a lovely bouquet of violets, damp earth and berries, and a supple palate of taut, cherry fruit. Lovely and thoroughly affordable, the 2001 is the best from this producer since the delectable 1997.
Rodney Strong Vineyards 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County ($12-$15; Sonoma): Rodney Strong has rebounded from a disappointing 2000 with this thoroughly delectable 2001 Cabernet. Showing the generosity and lushness for which Sonoma is famous, this refined Cabernet also shows a notable purity of ripe fruit. A sheen of vanilla oak adds a touch of luxury to the bouquet and to the finish. A terrific effort, at a fair price.
Ravenswood Zinfandel Vintners Blend ($10-$12; California): Zinfandel is the all-American grape variety, and Ravenswood's savory blend is an all-American bargain. A ripe, plum and vanilla bouquet is followed by solid, medium-bodied fruit and a fresh finish that will stand up to turkey and complement the fixings perfectly.
Chateau d'Oupia Minervois 2001/2002 ($10; France): Gobs of peppery red and black fruit with a hint of chocolate on the finish mark this hearty red from the Minervois region of southern France. Definitely able to stand up to all the trimmings.
Marchesi de' Frescobaldi Chianti Rufina "Nipozzano Riserva" 2000/1999/2001 ($17-$20; Italy): A decidedly premium selection for Thanksgiving, the aristocratic Nipozzano Riserva from Marchesi de' Frescobaldi comes from Frescobaldi's own vineyards in the exclusive Chianti zone of Rufina. This exquisitely refined wine shows an exceptional bouquet of ripe berries, cherries and violets and supple, deep fruit on the palate. As all three vintages are virtual clones, buy whichever your retailer carries, or is on sale, and buy enough to match with the best holiday dinners to come.
Hugel Gentil 2002/2003 ($11; Alsace): A blend of Alsace all-stars, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Sylvaner, Muscat and Gewürztraminer, Hugel Gentil serves up a smorgasbord of aromatic peach and melon fruit to please everyone. Although Gentil is actually a revival of a traditional Alsace blend from the 19th century, its refreshing flavors are tailor-made for our Thanksgiving bird. If you see it, consider the slightly bigger-style Gentil from the excellent Willm winery in Alsace, which I have enjoyed in the past.
Trumpeter Chardonnay 2003/2002 ($9; Argentina): This value-priced Chardonnay adeptly threads the loop between the more tropical, lush style of California, and the crisp, food friendly style of Burgundy. Hardly typical of the bland, mass-produced Chardonnay common in this price range, Trumpeter comes from hand-tended vineyards in Argentina's high-altitude Tupungato district, where bright sunny days, cool nights and moderate harvest temperatures allow for gradual ripening at optimal maturity. After a Burgundian-style malolactic fermentation, the wine is mellowed in French oak barrels before bottling. The result of all this care is a wine that tastes considerably more expensive than its modest price suggests.
Tiefenbrunner Pinot Grigio 2002/2003 ($15; Italy): Located in the German-speaking South Tyrol region of Italy's Alto Adige, the Tiefenbrunner winery produces over 20 types white and red wines, all of them brimming with personality. With turkey, the spicy, delicious, Pinot Grigio is an especially fine choice.