Whether you're hosting Thanksgiving dinner or bringing a bottle to a party somewhere else, the holidays are a time for difficult wine choices. Should you serve white or red with turkey? Is it wise to bring a special bottle to a party, or will it get lost amid all the other choices? Our wine experts offer tips for holiday wine anxiety.
Conde de Subirats, Cava (Spain) Brut or Brut Rose Non-Vintage ($12, imported by Grapes of Spain): Both the Brut and the Brut RosÃ�ï¿½Ã�Â© from Conde de Subirats are terrific over-achievers for the Cava appellation, which includes many affordable wines but not many exciting ones. The Brut is fresh, focused and unusually classy, and the RosÃ�ï¿½Ã�Â© is a bit more fruity and flavorful, but still relatively restrained and well suited to an important holiday. Tough to find this much frothy fun for anything close to this price.
Calcu (by Los Maquis), Colchagua Valley (Chile) RosÃ�ï¿½Ã�Â© 2009 ($12, imported by Global Vineyard Importers): This is the best RosÃ�ï¿½Ã�Â© that IÃ�Â¢??ve ever tasted from Chile, and one of the two or three best IÃ�Â¢??ve tasted from anywhere in the past few years. Since the southern hemisphere has its harvest in the first half of the year, this is a 2009 vintage, and the wine could hardly be more fresh, with vivid aromas and flavors of wild strawberries and red cherries as well as an interesting but subtle floral aroma of lavender. Fruity but definitely not sweet, this finishes with a very refreshing edge of citrus acidity.
Lucien Albrecht, Alsace (France) Riesling Reserve 2008 ($14 - $17, Imported by Pasternak): Alsace Riesling is a great accompaniment to Thanksgiving dinner for those geared toward white meat, and this particular wine is very consistent, widely available, and fairly approachable in price despite the weakness of the dollar against the euro. Appealing aromas of apples and white peaches are lifted and focused by fresh acidity.
Main Divide, Marlborough (New Zealand) Pinot Noir 2007 ($27, imported by Meadowbank Estates/Empson USA): Everyone around the world seems to want to make Pinot Noir these days, but truly convincing wines are only being sourced from a few places. Marlborough in New Zealand is better known for Sauvignon Blanc than Pinot at this point, but some excellent Pinots are now available in the USA, and this is a delightful case in point. The fruit is delicate but still quite aromatic and very flavorful, with notes of red and black cherries that will work very nicely with a typical Thanksgiving dinner.
Roederer Estate, Anderson Valley (California) Brut NV ($22)
I recommend pouring American wines on Thanksgiving, not because of jingoistic posturing, but because this is as close to a national meal as we have. Many imports surely work well with a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, but itÃ¢ï¿½ï¿½s not hard to find domestic ones that do so as well. For bubbly to start, you canÃ¢ï¿½ï¿½t go wrong with this dry, full-bodied sparkler. Produced by the California outpost of a venerable Champagne producer, it tastes both fruity and yeasty, and so will whet appetites for the feast to come. Since it rates as one of the finest American sparklers year in and year out, you can buy it with confidence. And shop around. Many retailers offer deep discounts on bubbles this time of year.
Ponzi, Willamette Valley (Oregon) Pinot Gris 2007 ($18)
For table wines (one white, one red), IÃ¢ï¿½ï¿½m recommending two from the same familyÃ¢ï¿½ï¿½a Pinot Gris and a Pinot Noir. Everyone seems to be clamoring for the latter these days, and to be honest quality proves spotty and value rare. Few people know much about the former, however, and quality has never been higher. West Coast Pinot Gris has become a very dependable, and exciting category, with many excellent wines coming from California, Oregon, and Washington State. They tend to display autumn fruit flavors (apples and especially pears), and to offer a fairly full but not heavy body. Most show little if any oak influence, so seem fresh and lively, and they usually are priced under $20. Ponzi, one of the most respected because long-standing Oregon wineries, makes a consistently fine rendition.
Saintsbury, Carneros (California) Pinot Noir Ã¢ï¿½ï¿½GarnetÃ¢ï¿½ï¿½ 2008 ($21)
As its popularity has soared, prices for American Pinot Noir have gone up too. Sadly, in my view, quality hasnÃ¢ï¿½ï¿½t, with far too many wines tasting overly sweet, candied, and heavy or hot. Pinot Noir is a thin-skinned grape, so wines made from it should be fairly light in body, with a soft texture, and flavors that lean towards red rather than black fruits. This particular wine, though quite young, offers just that sort of profile. It tastes of cherries and strawberries, with a hint of vanilla and spice in the finish. Its lithe exuberance should enable it to pair well with the wide array of dishes that will adorn your Thanksgiving table.