Thanksgiving is always a tough time for wine drinkers. A vast array of palates are coming over for a meal that carries some very diverse, and bold, flavors. Whether you are throwing your own Thanksgiving dinner or joining someone else in their feast, wine is always a nice match for a late afternoon slumber.
As with most things these days, price and quality are related when it comes to wine. This is not to say that you have to drop $50 a bottle to get a good one, but to say that particular bottle may taste a lot better than your $7.99 gulper from the lower shelves. For most, you want to drink something that is tasty and budget-friendly in the same breathe, so I have put together a list of what I believe to be very good wines that cost less than a 12-pack of craft beer.
For Thanksgiving, the sensible grapes are Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel (not the pink stuff). Matching the flavors of the food with the flavors in the wine is important when a variety of preferences are at the table. These four grapes will, almost always, keep things in line.
Riesling has become the darling of the easy drinking wines in the last 10 years. It is vastly misunderstood, which could be a different article altogether, but, also, very approachable. The 2004 Annie’s Lane Riesling from Australia is making its last showing for the optimal drinking range this holiday season. It is dry, well balanced and provides nice citrus, pineapple and mineral flavors. Priced, locally, at around $13.99 per bottle.
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I am always hesitant of wine with a goofy name. A silly name, usually, means a silly wine. Not the case with the 2010 Charles Smith Kung Fu Girl Riesling. Readily available and a fine match for the turkey feast as it shows some apricot, peach and lime with a nice mineral quality as well. For around $12.99 a bottle, this wine will go fast as it is easy and pleasant to drink.
Chardonnay is on a love/hate relationship with most people. A traditional bottle of California chardonnay that makes a great addition to the table for around $14.99 is the 2011 Simi Sonoma County Chardonnay. This wine is said to give a taste of all of the best regions in California chardonnay. Oak, green apple, butter and a creamy texture are all in there. If you like American chardonnay, this wine will never disappoint.
For a different taste in the same grape for around $11.99 a bottle, the 2011 Cartlidge & Browne Chardonnay is wonderfully made in a classic French style. It is almost the perfect pair with a turnkey dinner. Green apple, honeysuckle and a light mineral quality make this wine very different than a typical California chardonnay. The aging process pushes a little baked bread and honey flavors into the wine as well. Excellent for roasted poultry with herbs.
If red wine is more your speed, you have a tougher road to hoe. Pinot Noir and Zinfandel are, traditionally, more expensive to produce and, thus, more expensive to buy. You definitely get what you pay for in these categories of red wine.
A solid and budget-friendly pinot noir is the 2012 Block Nine Caiden’s Vineyard Pinot Noir at around $14.99. This is a great value pinot. Bright fruit flavors of strawberry, plum and cranberry couple nicely with some clove and tea notes. It is dry and silky which makes it a crowd-pleaser for a diverse group.
If you prefer a fun and bold wine, the 2010 d’Arenberg The Stump Jump Red from Australia for around $12.99 is the way to go. A blend of Shiraz, Mourvedre and Grenache, this wine hits some wonderful delicate fruit flavors, including plum and blackberries, while giving off spicy hints of pepper and herbs. For the money, this wine is easily a fan favorite at the dinner table where roasted meat takes center stage.
If you extend our budget by a little, the 2010 Layer Cake Primitivo (aka Zinfandel) from Italy for around $15.49 is worth the extra two quarters. Hands down, this is a small jump in budget and a big leap in quality. It boasts loads of pepper and roasted herb flavors with the sophistication of a zinfandel. This wine has been in heavy rotation at my holiday meals for years and I can not imagine that changing anytime soon.
Another big red wine that sticks to our original budget limit is the 2011 Pennywise Cabernet Sauvignon from California which retails for approximately $11.99. It is exactly what you would expect from a Cabernet: blackberry, currant and light mocha flavors. This wine, actually, blends a little syrah and merlot into the mix to offer some milder tones that make it very food-friendly for such occasions. Pairs well with onions, peppers, and charred and roasted meats.
Taking some of the stress away from the holidays, wine is a great tag-along to the party. We all have budgets this time of year and we are all aware of the people at the table that do not appreciate wine. These wines will not break your bank and will still give you the satisfaction of a Thanksgiving meal that was paired well with the beverage.