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A Case for Thanksgiving
By Robert Whitley
Nov 11, 2014
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The Thanksgiving feast is the one meal every year certain to challenge preconceived notions about wine and food pairings. The combination of sweet and savory aromas that are presented at the Thanksgiving feast need not be daunting, however.

My simple solution is to throw everything I have at the task, or so it seems. It need not strain your budget, for there are many fabulous Thanksgiving-table-friendly wines at modest prices, but it may well put a strain on your supply of stemware.

No worries. When it becomes a necessity, I often use the same wine glass for white wines as well as reds, and even bubblies.

For this Thanksgiving I've put together a 12-bottle case of suggested wines, many of them my favorites from the past year. I begin with the bubblies.

Pere Ventura Tresor Reserva Cava, Spain ($15) — An inexpensive Spanish sparkler that is made using the Champagne method (meaning the second fermentation, which creates the bubbles, happens in the bottle). Using only native grapes (xarel-lo, macabeo and parellada), this is a firmly structured, brut-style bubbly that is suave and delicious. Think aperitif here.

Gloria Ferrer Brut, Sonoma County ($22) — A non-vintage stunner from Gloria Ferrer, this cuvee exhibits richness and complexity without losing its appealing freshness and alluring notes of citrus and toast. One of the best bets of the season for the price. Can go as aperitif or with the main event.

Domaine Carneros Cuvee de la Pompadour Brut Rose, Carneros ($36) — This elegant bubbly may well be the finest sparkling rose produced domestically. With notes of red fruits and citrus, mouth-watering acidity and a long, long finish, Cuvee de la Pompadour has the richness and backbone to stand up to the strong flavors of the Thanksgiving table, so perfect with the main course or courses.

Halter Ranch 2013 Rose, Paso Robles ($21)
— Without a doubt one of the finest domestic rose wines I've tasted this year, this blend of grenache, mourvedre, syrah and the white grape picpoul is bone dry, crisp and refreshing. While it would be a knockout aperitif, don't discount the possibilities with the main course.

Matanzas Creek 2013 Sauvignon Blanc, Sonoma County ($22) — This winery's deft hand with sauvignon blanc has helped make the grape variety popular in the U.S., and the 2013 vintage is one of the finest from this property in a few years. It is complex for a sauvignon, which can be simple to the point of boredom, with aromas of pungent citrus, sweet red citrus and juicy white peach. With fresh acidity and excellent balance, perfect as a Thanksgiving aperitif.

Rodney Strong 2012 Chardonnay, Estate, Chalk Hill ($22) — You can search high and low and most likely not find a California chardonnay this good at this price. It has it all, or at least everything I like in a domestic chardonnay, beginning with a lemon oil characteristic against the backdrop of firm acidity. Throw in a hint of baking spice and intriguing element of minerality.

Ruffino 2011 Modus, Toscana IGT, Italy ($25) — Super Tuscans can be pricey, but this beauty from the iconic Ruffino winery in the Chianti Classico zone (roughly situated between Florence and Siena) goes against that trend. Beautifully balanced, with supple tannins and inviting red-fruited aromas, this is a suave Italian red that would more than do justice to the feast.

Bonny Doon 2012 Grenache, Clos de Gilroy, Monterey County ($20) — With its red-fruit profile, subtle spiciness and smooth tannins, this is almost the perfect wine to serve at Thanksgiving whether you're plating up turkey or ham or both. There is a sweet aspect to Clos de Gilroy that is derived from the beauty and freshness of the fruit rather than residual sugar, enabling this wine to tackle the combination of sweet and savory aspects of the Thanksgiving feast.

Cote Mas 2013 Pezenas, Coteaux du Languedoc, France ($19) — Inspired by the mouth-watering red blends of the nearby Southern Rhone, the Cote Mas Pezenas offers intense spiciness combined with savory aromas and bright red fruits, with supple tannins and mouth-watering acidity. Equally versatile with turkey or ham, or even a juicy prime rib.

Merry Edwards 2012 Pinot Noir, Coopersmith, Russian River Valley ($60) — For those of you who must have something extraordinary on the Thanksgiving table regardless of price, this vintage of Coopersmith (one of Merry's top vineyard sources) pinot noir is a stunner. Intense and complex without being weighty, this is among the finest pinots ever to come off the Coopersmith property. It exhibits complex layers of red and black fruits, subtle earth notes and spice. The tannins are beautifully integrated. An awesome effort from California's grand dame of pinot noir.

Louis M. Martini 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley ($34)
— While I don't often suggest cabernet for Thanksgiving because the heft and sometimes aggressive tannins can overwhelm the delicate aromas of roasted turkey, I do know some won't be satisfied without a big red at the table. Here's a big red from the Napa Valley at a decidedly below-market price for a Napa Valley cabernet. This cab is beautifully balanced, exhibits richness without being overbearing, and shows luscious black fruits and supple tannins. And it's the best bang-for the-buck Cab in the Napa Valley today.

Barboursville 2010 Paxxito, Virginia ($32) — One of the most interesting and delicious dessert wines to pass my lips this year was this gorgeous wine from Barboursville in Virginia. Produced by drying the grapes (muscat and vidal) on racks, the way it's done in Italy, to concentrate the flavors and sugars, the result is a complex, stunning sweet wine that will dazzle in any company.

Follow Robert on Twitter at @wineguru. Email Robert at whitleyonwine@yahoo.com.

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