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Wines Under $20

Turkey Day Wines


I was on CBS's The Early Show this past Saturday, with some affordable wine recommendations for Thanksgiving (and every other upcoming holiday), and I keep receiving emails from friends wondering about wines that go with turkey, so evidently not everyone has their holiday grocery shopping done. To that end, here are a few of my favorite wines for Thanksgiving. These are just bottles I happen to like, that I think go well with a wide range of flavors—which is the key to a good Thanksgiving wine.

In terms of whites, you could do worse than start off with the latest vintage of this year's under-$20 Sauvignon Blanc of the Year from our American Wine Awards, the lightly flinty, citrusy 2007 Brander Vineyard ($15, find this wine). If you want to stay American—that seems to be some folks inclination for Thanksgiving, though as I noted for the CBS segment, the pilgrims were probably drinking cider at the first Thanksgiving, if they had anything at all—check out Qupe's graceful 2007 Santa Ynez Valley Marsanne ($18, find this wine). Bob Lindquist makes fabulous Marsanne, and has been for years.

For old-world imports, the Bastianich Tocai Friulano ($16, find this wine) has always struck me as an ideal big-dinner wine—it's a little bit spicy, nicely luscious, and substantial without being blobular. The 2007 is the current vintage. I also think you can't go wrong with a good Grüner Veltliner. For one thing, what else are you going to pour that goes with Brussels sprouts and green beans, as well as turkey and stuffing? I vote for the 2006 Stadt Krems Grüner Veltliner Sandgrube ($17, find this wine), which doesn't actually sound all that appetizing, but is mighty darn nice. If you can't find that, or the equally good 2007, then the 2007 Loimer Lois Grüner Veltliner ($12, find this wine) is slightly less complex, but still a good alternative.

New-worldishly, the Chardonnay I recommended on the Early Show is a winner for the price, I'd say. It's the 2007 Yalumba Y Series Unwooded Chardonnay ($11, find this wine), and it's crisp enough that you can even forget that you're bored with Chardonnay while you drink it. Oddly, doesn't show much of it around (odd, because I know there's a fair amount of it). If it's impossible to find, look for the absurdly-good-for-the-cash, green-appley, medium-bodied 2007 Foxglove Chardonnay ($12, find this wine).

Red-wise, the 2007 A to Z Wineworks Pinot Noir ($TK, find this wine) is a focused, appealingly legit Pinot for a fair price. Malbec isn't a bad choice either in terms of wide-ranging food-friendliness, especially some of the lighter, spicier bottles around. I tasted the 2008 Maipe Malbec ($10, find this wine) recently for my February column and loved its black-purple, plush, spicy fruit; for a bit more of a splurge, the 2006 Susanna Balbo Signature Malbec ($27, find this wine) is a seriously good red, with lots of velvety blackberry fruit and some coffee aromatics. Balbo's more affordable Crios bottling is good, too, but I think the Signature is well worth the extra twelve bucks or so.

Then there's the old world, France, Italy, all those scrappy nations that now get along so peacefully in their EU-induced brotherliness. I'm still in love with the 2005 Domaine de Montpertuis Counoise ($12, find this wine) that I wrote about earlier this year on this blog; how rare to find such an ebullient, honest, juicy, intense red for such a moderate price. Unfortunately, there's not all that much of it around. So it's also well worth looking for Fontanafredda's bright 2007 Briccotondo Barbera ($12, find this wine), which has a lot of cherry fruit and nice aromatics, and would serve as a great respite from the eternal cheap-but-drinkable-Pinot-Noir hunt, which gets tougher every year. 

There are many other possibilities, of course—and I wrote about a lot of them in my November column on Holiday Wine Buying


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