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A Grape Big Meal

When choosing Thanksgiving wines, go with what tastes good



Thanksgiving is one of those decadent holidays when lazy animalistic activities are socially acceptable -- eating troughs of food, wallowing on the couch watching hours of TV drivel and slurping gallons of alcohol. But I've noticed that even beer drinkers consume wine on turkey day. Yes, it does have the reputation of tasting better with food -- although beer people fiercely defend their food-pairing territory -- but why do people feel the urge to go grape on Thanksgiving? Maybe it's the sophisticated "image" thing ... or maybe it's the lack of carbonation in wine that doesn't bloat you out ... or maybe, on a cool day, when you're hanging with friends and family, you just want something special.

And what goes better with special people on a special day than special wine? Hell, forget the pairing crap -- just drink whatever you like. I used to spend paragraphs outlining what wine goes with what main course, but I find that Thanksgiving offerings differ so much from family to family, it's pointless. And if you don't know what you like, choose a couple from the list below and try them. Cheap enough to accommodate a crowd, common enough to be spotted in the grocery store, fruity enough to please many opinions and light enough not to overwhelm the delicate flavor of turkey or ham (which, if we must talk about pairings, go best with Rieslings). Happy Turkey Day!

Recommended Wines

Beaujolais Nouveau (France): The wines weren't available to taste at press time -- they are released the third Thursday of November each year -- but these light, cherry, raspberry bombs fit the menu. Serve them slightly chilled for best results. Normally around $10.

Cellar #8 2004 Merlot California. SW = 3. $10. Sweet, jammy black cherry, tinged with a raisiny, currant flavor. A slight hint of green pepper as well. Crowd pleaser. 4 stars

Hahn 2004 Meritage Central Coast (California). SW = 1. $16. Perky with black pepper and soft, mellow cherry. Good value. 4 stars

BV Coastal Estates 2004 Chardonnay California. SW = 3. $11. Crisper and more elegant than many California chards, with a soft oakiness, tart citrus and ripe peaches all rolled up into one. 4 stars

Trapiche 2004 Pinot Noir Mendoza (Argentina). SW = 3. $7. Light, smooth candied cherries coated with burnt caramel sweetness, followed by a refreshingly tart raspberry thing. 3.5 stars

Camelot 2002 Zinfandel California. SW = 3. $8. If you like yours fun and dripping with candied raspberry, chocolate and cinnamon, reach for this bargain. It was a crowd pleaser at a recent blind tasting. The revealed price made people gasp. ***

Sterling 2004 Shiraz Vintner's Collection (California). SW = 1. $13. Smooth, elegant and friendly. Fragrant plums, spicy black pepper and jammy raspberry define its personality. 3.5 stars

Hardy's 2005 Riesling Southeast Australia. SW = 4. $10. Like biting into a sugarcoated Spree candy, with enticing, ripe peaches, honeydew melon and earthy lychee fruit. Easy, crowd-pleasing wine. 3.5 stars

Covey Run 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley (Washington). SW = 1. $13. Smoky flavor like charred meat, laced with roasted cherries and ripe blackberries. A bit of oak tannin gives it some heft. 3.5 stars

Bonny Doon 2005 Big House Pink (California). SW = 1. $10. Smells like pork tenderloin with a bing cherry sauce. This rosé has some woodsy earthiness to it, but also bright strawberry and tart cherry. 3.5 stars

Turning Leaf 2004 Pinot Noir California. SW = 2. $10. Like an earthy, blueberry fruit bomb went off in my glass. Light and easy to drink. Chill it a bit before consuming. 3 stars

Blackstone 2005 Riesling Monterey (California). SW = 3. $10. Refreshing and not too sweet, with peaches, apricots and a minerally limey aftertaste. 3 stars

Sweetness (SW) rating is out of 10, 10 being pure sugar. Star rating is out of 5, 5 being wine nirvana.

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