The holidays just sneaked up on us, and for me that means looking back at some favorite wines of the year with an eye toward serving them at special dinners, bringing them to holiday gatherings or, on a more basic level, just singling them out for some special praise among the many I’ve enjoyed — and enjoyed telling you about.
Most of these wines come from my weekly column (and I am including links to them), but a few appear here for this first time. As always, I’m looking for original, well-made wines that represent good values.
Before the list, here’s one more thing to keep in mind. Finding the perfect wine for meals like Thanksgiving gets way too much attention at this time of year. Ask 10 critics and you’ll get 10 answers. But deciding on a good Thanksgiving wine or two really isn’t that complicated.
The truth is, many wines will go well with turkey et al., both white and red, and you don’t have to spend very much to find a good match. Gone are the days when the zinfandel lobby seemed to have a monopoly on Thanksgiving. In fact, any wine I’ve listed below will work well. So here are some ideas for your special holiday dinners — and beyond.
- Patianna Organic Vineyards 2004 Mendocino County Sauvignon Blanc. About $18. A slightly fuller yet refreshing sauvignon produced by Patti Fetzer-Burke of the Fetzer wine family. A cut above most from California. Pear, melon, sage, vanilla and citrus notes.
- About $9. This might be the ultimate cheap white for Thanksgiving. Just slightly sweet with gewürztraminer’s distinctive herbal notes, this one will complement just about anything on the table, from sausage stuffing to honeyed Brussels sprouts.
- About $17. From one of the best verdicchio producers in the Castelli di Jesi zone of Italy’s Marche region. Has an unusual richness for verdicchio, with notes of apple and nuts and subtle use of oak. Imported by Empson (USA).
- About $12. First-rate, lean chardonnay from just east of Burgundy, made by a top Burgundy producer but at a non-Burgundy bargain price.
- About $24. From the under-appreciated chenin blanc grape, beautifully ripe notes of apple, apricot, honey and minerals. Imported by Louis/Dressner Selections.
- Dr. H. Thanisch 2004 Berncasteller Doctor Riesling Kabinett. About $38. This gorgeous riesling from the famed Berncasteller Doctor vineyard in Mosel will draw looks of awe when you serve it to friends. Peach, apricot, touches of orange zest, lime, honey and flint. Imported by Winesellers Ltd.
- Wonderful Côtes du Rhône from a top, small grower in Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Mainly grenache, it shows unusual concentration from the hot 2003 vintage, but retains elegance. Imported by Rosenthal Wine Merchant.
- $11 or less. Great value from Italy’s Puglia region from the grape that is the genetic cousin of American zinfandel. You get the essence of zinfandel here without the excessive alcohol of most California zins. The 2003 is also around now. Imported by Empson (USA).
- About $13. Forget the faddish Beaujolais Nouveau that is promoted shamelessly at this time of year. This Beaujolais from John-Paul Brun is among the prettiest you’ll find. Imported by Louis/Dressner Selections.
- About $15. Excellent inexpensive cab from an old California label. Explodes with red berry fruit and shows nice earth notes. One of the best California cabs in this price range.
- About $17.A classic interpretation of the tempranillo grape, with deep raspberry and blueberry fruit and a slight toastiness. Like a cross between cabernet sauvignon and pinot noir.
- Taltarni 2001 Cephas. About $40. This winning Australian blend from the Pyrenees district of central Victoria is 72 percent shiraz (syrah) and 28 percent cabernet sauvignon and shows beautiful dark berry fruit in a subtle oak frame. Refined and elegant. Reminded me of good Bordeaux but without the need for long aging. Imported by Clos du Val.
Edward Deitch's wine column appears Wednesdays. He welcomes comments from readers. Write to him at EdwardDeitch