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Five Great American Wines for Thanksgiving

Food & Wine's Ray Isle reports on what to drink with a holiday feast.

For anyone who loves food, Thanksgiving is the most important holiday of the year: It's our only non-denominational, meal-centric celebration. And wine definitely belongs on the table, especially a great American wine like the five here. They all offer appealingly direct fruit flavors, medium levels of acidity and (for the reds) palate-cleansing tannins, which means each one pairs nicely with myriad flavors, from roast turkey and mashed potatoes to Brussels sprouts and sausage stuffing.

2007 Unti Vineyards Dry Creek Valley Rosé ($18)

Sonoma's Unti Vineyards makes a range of impressive Zinfandels and red Rhône-variety wines, but for Thanksgiving, its robust, spicy rosé is the direction to head in. Blended from Grenache and Mourvèdre, it's full-bodied enough to go with turkey and stuffing, but fresh enough to not overwhelm lighter vegetable side dishes.

2007 Etude Carneros Pinot Gris ($24)

Jon Priest, the winemaker at Napa Valley's Etude winery, blends grapes from Etude's estate vineyard with fruit from the acclaimed Hudson Vineyards for this nectarine-scented Pinot Gris. Its crisp flavors end on notes of ginger and spice, making it a natural partner to many Thanksgiving dishes.

2006 Cambria Bench Break Vineyard Chardonnay ($25)

California's Santa Maria Valley is unusual in that it runs east-west rather than north-south, which allows cool ocean breezes off the Pacific into the vineyards—creating ideal growing conditions for cool-climate varieties like Chardonnay. The pear- and citrus-inflected Bench Break bottling, from the highest point in Cambria's vineyards, has a lively acidity that makes it particularly food-friendly.

2006 Frog's Leap Zinfandel ($27)

Zinfandel has long been considered the classic American red grape variety. That's not so much be-cause of its original home (it originally comes from Croatia, by way of Italy), but more because so many Italian immigrants to California in the 1800s planted Zinfandel vineyards, many of which are still producing grapes today. Frog's Leap's bottling, berry-rich and structured, is less alcoholic and jammy than many Zins, making it ideal for dinner parties or holiday meals.

2005 Ehlers Estate St. Helena Cabernet Sauvignon ($45)

Napa Valley is without question the premier Cabernet Sauvignon region in America, and while many top Cabernets are fiercely tannic and tough in their youth, this estate-grown Cab from Ehlers Estate is drinking beautifully right now. The ripe black cherries and hint of dark chocolate in its flavors get a spicy edge from a healthy percentage of new French oak barrels.

Published November 2008
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