© 2007 by Randy Buckner
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year. The food and wine possibilities are both fun and challenging. Because of the wide variety of foods and spices, food and wine pairing can be trying to the most seasoned cook and enophile.
Pairing wines with food is a matter of personal preference, but there are some tried and true Thanksgiving wines - Pinot Noir, Beaujolais and Zinfandel for red wine fans and Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Gewurztraminer for those white wine lovers. Red wines should be medium bodied with low tannin levels.
We celebrate Christmas in our home. The wines are easier for me to choose because we usually serve a standing prime rib roast. A hearty red wine is always in order.
There are several wines this month that will grace your Thanksgiving or Christmas table. No matter what holiday you celebrate, may it be the best gathering of your life.
Another 100 new and current releases are presented for your inspection. The dual rating system evaluates quality (the first number) and value (the second) on a 100-point scale. All wines are tasted from Riedel Vinum glasses after breathing for one hour. No wines scoring below 80 points are listed. All prices are the manufacturer's suggested retail price. Vendor prices are often less expensive. As always, enjoy a bottle with dinner tonight.
2006 B&G, Cabernet Sauvignon, "Bistro Wine," France, $9. Highlighted by plums and currants, this is a straightforward quaffer for those grilled burgers; 82/82.
2004 Beringer, Cabernet Sauvignon, Private Reserve, Napa Valley, California, $116. The nose is a pleasant mix of blackberries, cedary oak and cocoa. The wine is smooth and lush, with firm but fine-grained tannins. Complex black fruit is laced with generous oak flavors that persist on the lengthy finish. Nice for the style; 90/88.
2005 Cellar No. 8, Cabernet Sauvignon, California, $10. Cherries, currants, oak spice and herbs carry from nose to palate. Rounded tannins allow early consumption; 84/86.
2005 Chateau Julien, Cabernet Sauvignon, Monterey County, California, $10, 8,500 cases. Cassis, chocolate and generous oak underscore this wine. Tannins are approachable now; 83/84.
2003 Irony, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, $16, 10,000 cases. Red cherries, berries and toast unfold on the nose and carry over to the palate. Well balanced, with light, chewy tannins, this is one to drink over the next couple of years; 84/85.
2003 Kenwood, Cabernet Sauvignon, Artist Series, Sonoma County, California, $70, 2,350 cases. Medium to full bodied and tannic, the wine displays black currants, berries, cedar and mint. While there is ample fruit, there is not a lot of depth; 86/84.
2004 Lake Sonoma, Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, California, $24, 4,200 cases. Aromas and flavors speak of cassis, herbs, tobacco and dill weed. The wine is medium bodied, crisp and tannic, with flavors echoing the nose; 84/84.
2004 Louis Martini, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, Alexander Valley, California, $35. Aromas of mixed black fruits, leather and oak radiate from this purple/red wine. It is elegant in the mouth, with lush fruit and firm rounded tannins; 89/89.
2004 Louis Martini, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County, California, $17. Aromas and flavors reveal black cherry, sandalwood and herbal notes, backed by bright acidity and rounded tannins; 84/85.
2004 Michel-Schlumberger, Cabernet Sauvignon, Dry Creek Valley, California, $38, 3,200 cases. Blackberries, cocoa and cedar nuances unfold on the nose and palate. Well balanced, with lively acidity and firm ripe tannins; 87/87.
2004 Michel-Schlumberger, Cabernet Sauvignon, Deux Terres, Dry Creek Valley, California, $75, 499 cases. This deeply-hued wine is loaded with blackberries, licorice and cedar highlights. Full without being overdone, the wine will benefit from bottle time; 89/88.
2004 Mirassou, Cabernet Sauvignon, California, $12. This simple, fruity quaffer has threshold sweetness, with underlying blackberries, currants, herbs and dark chocolate; 82/82.
2005 (oops), Cabernet Sauvignon, Valle Central, Chile, $12. Blackberries, herbs and mint unfold on the nose and palate in a straightforward package; 82/82.
2004 Souverain, Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, California, $22, 35,400 cases. You'll find black cherries, berries, vanilla and cedar throughout. It is very fruity, with generous oak and a long finish; 84/84.
2004 Stags' Leap Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, $48, 21,000 cases. You'll find a mélange of complex aromas and flavors - cherries, berries, leather, dark chocolate and cedar. Very well balanced, with firm, ripe tannins that will benefit from aging; 88/88.
2002 St. Supery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, $30. Supple tannins and lively acidity gives structure to the black fruit. Herbaceous notes and cedar nuances round out the package; 85/85.
2003 St. Supery, Élu, Red Wine, Napa Valley, California, $65. This Meritage wine has lovely aromas and flavors of blackberries, licorice and toasty oak, which lingers on the long finish, however the tannins are hard and drying; 84/83.
2004 Three Rivers, Meritage Red Wine, Columbia Valley, Washington, $39, 388 cases. Aromas are a lovely mix of blackberries, black cherries, cedar and tobacco. Medium bodied and fruity, with easy-going tannins; 88/88.
2005 337, Cabernet Sauvignon, Lodi, California, $15. Straightforward, balanced, with a moderate length, the wine is defined by blackberries, raspberries and just a touch of oak; 84/86.
2006 Babcock, Chardonnay, Grand Cuvee, Santa Barbara County, California, $30, 676 cases. Impeccably balanced, the wine is full and lush, with a nice mix of pineapples, vanilla, toast and butter. Pleasant for the style; 88/88.
2006 B&G, Chardonnay, "Bistro Wine," Vin de Pays d'Oc, France, $9. Light gold, with white peach and hazelnut notes. This is a crisp, straightforward quaffer to enjoy without critical thought; 82/83.
2005 Buena Vista, Chardonnay, Ramal Vineyard, Carneros, California, $32, 2,935 cases. Smooth, creamy and nicely integrated, the wine is highlighted by lemon creams, vanilla and toast; 87/87.
2006 Chateau Julien, Chardonnay, Barrel Fermented, Monterey County, California, $10, 12,000 cases. Lemons, pears and vanilla underscore this well-balanced wine. Oak is used judiciously; 85/87.
2005 Frei Brothers, Chardonnay, Reserve, Russian River Valley, California, $20. Smoky buttery notes and lemon fruit runs the length of the wine. It's soft and creamy, with a long butterscotch aftertaste; 85/85.
2004 Gallo of Sonoma, Chardonnay, Laguna Ranch Vineyard, Russian River Valley, California, $28. Lemons, apples and generous oak combine on the nose and palate, with a balanced, creamy mouth feel; 85/85.
2005 Irony, Chardonnay, Napa Valley, California, $14, 12,000 cases. This crisp, simple quaff is highlighted by aromas and flavors of citrus peel, butter creams and yellow apples; 82/82.
2006 Lake Sonoma, Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, California, $18, 5,500 cases. This wine is well balanced in the mouth, with good integration of the apple, pear and butterscotch components; 86/87.
2005 Michel-Schlumberger, Chardonnay, La Brume, Dry Creek Valley, California, $32, 2,572 cases. Light gold in color, with aromas of citrus fruit, pears and French oak. Pears and butter linger on the lengthy finish; 87/87.
2006 Simi, Chardonnay, Sonoma County, California, $18, 188,000 cases. Butterscotch, pears and green apples highlight the nose and repeat on the palate. This wine is crisp, creamy and nicely balanced; 86/87.
2006 Stags' Leap Winery, Chardonnay, Napa Valley, California, $28. Aromas and flavors reveal lemon zest and green apples. Due to the very crisp acidity, I'd serve this with a lemon chicken dish; 87/87.
2006 Taz, Chardonnay, Santa Barbara County, California, $20, 3,500 cases. This is a very harmonious wine, with a long creamy finish displaying lemon, pear and pineapple highlights; 87/88.
2006 Three Rivers, Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, Washington, $19, 1,071 cases. This soft, creamy wine is underscored by full flavors of pineapples, peaches, toast and leesy nuances; 87/87.
2006 Madroña, Gewürztraminer, El Dorado, California, $12, 442 cases. The wine is underscored by nuances of ginger, limes and honeysuckle. Crisp and smooth, but showing some heat from the 14.7 percent alcohol; 83/84.
2006 Three Rivers, Late Harvest Gewürztraminer, Biscuit Ridge Vineyard, Walla Walla Valley, Washington, $15, 862 cases. Lychee fruit and honeyed notes underscore the aromas and flavors. With more acidity, this wine would be stunning; 85/85.
2005 St. Supery, Virtú, Meritage White Wine, Napa Valley, California, $28. A Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon blend. Figs, citrus and grassy notes carry throughout this crisp, well balanced wine. It has the fruit and structure to pair with a range of foods; 88/88.
2006 Three Rivers, Meritage White Wine, Columbia Valley, Washington, $19, 672 cases. Pears, citrus and melons abound on the nose and palate of this smooth, well balanced Meritage wine. Nice value; 90/91.
2005 Bogle, Merlot, California, $9. Smooth and crisp, with straightforward aromas and flavors of cherries, tobacco and oak spice - ready now; 84/86.
2005 Cellar No. 8, Merlot, California, $10. Black cherries, plums, mocha and oak define the wine. Straightforward, crisp and fruity; 84/86.
2005 Chateau Julien, Merlot, Barrel Aged, Monterey County, California, $10, 20,000 cases. Aromas and flavors speak of plums, black cherries and toasty oak. Chewy tannins and generous oak round out the package; 82/83.
2004 Charles Krug, Merlot, Napa Valley, California, $22, 8,287 cases. Impeccably balanced, with firm but ripe tannins, the wine delivers a nice mix of cherries, blueberries, vanilla and French oak; 87/88.
2005 Frei Brothers, Merlot, Dry Creek Valley, California, $20. Black cherry, cedar and vanilla spice accents carry from the nose to the mouth. Tannins are obvious but well rounded. Lively acidity adds to the mix; 86/87.
2004 Irony, Merlot, Napa Valley, California, $16, 10,000 cases. Tart, simple and quaffable, with nuances of berries, cherries and cedary oak; 81/81.
2004 Michel-Schlumberger, Merlot, Dry Creek Valley, California, $28, 1,600 cases. Tart, with firm but rounded tannins, the wine is underscored by mixed berry and floral notes; 85/85.
2005 Shafer, Merlot, Napa Valley, California, $46. Elegance and balance are at play here. You'll find a mélange of aromas and flavors - blackberries, leather, dark chocolate and cedar. Full but not overdone; 88/87.
2004 Simi, Merlot, Sonoma County, California, $20, 33,480 cases. Smooth on the entry, the wine is graceful and fruity, with a moderate finish of cherries, blackberries and cocoa; 85/85.
2005 Souverain, Merlot, Alexander Valley, California, $19, 14,700 cases. The nose reveals black cherries, plums and oak spice. While fruity in the mouth, the oak load is pretty heavy; 84/84.
2004 Stags' Leap Winery, Merlot, Napa Valley, California, $31, 19,700 cases. Aromas and flavors are highlighted by cherries, strawberry jam and thyme. Crisp and fruity, this medium-bodied wine is structured for food - a beef roast comes to mind; 87/87.
2005 Three Rivers, Merlot, Champoux Vineyard, Horse Heaven Hills, Washington, $39, 174 cases. Underscored by black cherries and earthy notes, this full, flavorful wine has the structure to go the distance. Give it several years in the cellar to tame the tannins; 88+/88+.
2005 Twisted Lot, Merlot, California, $8. The nose is highlighted by cherries, berries and bay leaves. Noticeably sweet, this might make a nice wine to introduce novice white wine drinkers to red wine; 80/80.
2005 Bogle, Petite Sirah, California, $11. Full, with firm but manageable tannins, the wine delivers ripe black fruit, smoky oak and a dash of spice; 84/86.
2006 Don Miguel Gascon, Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina, $12. Aromas and flavors of berries and smoked game are backed by silky tannins. Drink early on; 84/86.
2005 Joe Blow, Red Wine, California, $12. This combination of five grape varieties delivers fruity aromas and flavors of plums, berries and smoke. Drink now; 83/84.
2005 Joe Blow, White Wine, California, $12. A blend of four grapes, the wine is soft and simple, with peach and butter nuances; 80/80.
2006 Le Rosé de Mouton Cadet, Bordeaux Rosé, France, $9. Well structured and fruity, with red cherry and raspberry highlights - drink now; 83/84.
2006 Michel-Schlumberger, Pinot Blanc, Dry Creek Valley, California, $21, 1,660 cases. Highlighted by orange blossom and citrus notes, the wine is balanced, refreshing and fruity; 87/87.
2006 (oops), Carmenère Rosé, Valle Central, Chile, $12. Copper colored, soft and simple, drink chilled early on for the apple and berry flavors; 80/80.
NV Three Alarm Cellars, White Wine, California, $8. You'll find aromas and flavors of citrus fruit and casaba melons. Simple, refreshing, with a hint of sweetness; 82/83.
2005 Three Rivers, Malbec-Merlot, Columbia Valley, Washington, $25, 834 cases. Cherries and berries abound in this 50/50 blend. The wine is nicely structured, with firm but ripe tannins. Give it time to come together; 87/87.
2006 Three Rivers, Riesling, Yakima Valley, Washington, $17, 280 cases. Soft, sweet and fruity, the wine is pretty well balanced, but I'd like to see more acidity. Peaches and tangerines highlight the wine's profile; 86/86.
2005 Three Rivers, River's Red, Columbia Valley, Washington, $13, 1,960 cases. Well balanced, fruity and a real value at 13 bucks, this blend of four red grape varieties is all about plums and cherries; 85/88.
2007 Two Hands, Brilliant Disguise, White Frontignac, Barossa Valley, Australia, $19. The fruit is sourced from 80-100-year-old vines. Delicately sweet, with a light spritz, this wine is fun and refreshing, with lots of tropical fruit flavors; 88/88.
2006 Gallo Family Vineyards, Pinot Gris, Sonoma Reserve, Sonoma County, California, $15. Fruity, with a persistent finish, this straw-gold wine has melon, citrus, orange blossom and cotton candy highlights; 86/86.
2006 King Estate, Pinot Gris, Oregon, $16, 76,000 cases. Full and creamy in the mouth, the wine is very soft, with a long aftertaste of pears, limes and honeydew melons; 84/84.
2006 Meridian, Pinot Grigio, California, $10. Straightforward and balanced, with modest citrus, peach and floral notes; 83/83.
2006 Oak Knoll, Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $12, 7,082 cases. Underscored by green apple, pear and citrus highlights, the wine is crisp, with a nice sense of balance. The threshold sweetness will work well on the holiday table; 85/86.
2006 Stellina di Notte, Pinot Grigio, Delle Venezie, Italy, $10. This is a lean, crisp, refreshing wine with apple and melon aromas and subtle, complex flavors. Good value; 88/90.
2006 Taz, Pinot Gris, Santa Barbara County, California, $15, 1,845 cases. Aromas and flavors reveal lemon-lime and grapefruit accents. It is balanced, fruity and ever so easy to drink; 86/87.
2006 Babcock, Pinot Noir, Grand Cuvee, Santa Rita Hills, California, $40, 950 cases. This ruby-red wine gives off aromas of black cherries, dark tea and just a touch of tomato leaf. While full and lush in the mouth, it is not overblown. The tannins are silky smooth; 90/90.
2005 Buena Vista, Pinot Noir, Ramal Vineyard, Carneros, California, $37, 4,677 cases. You'll find a mélange of aromas and flavors - black raspberries, cherries, earth, warm spices and a hint of smoke. Full without being overdone, the finish is long and lush; 87/87.
2006 Cooper Mountain, Pinot Noir, Reserve, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $25, 1,600 cases. The wine is underscored by berries, cedar and juniper berries. While well structured, it has atypical flavors; 84/84.
2005 Irony, Pinot Noir, Monterey County, California, $16, 30,000 cases. Cherries, raspberries and light oak accents highlight the nose. Medium bodied, balanced and all about fruit, this is a good value wine; 85/87.
2005 Irony, Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, California, $18, 5,000 cases. Light to medium bodied and well balanced, this fruity wine is characterized by black cherries, dark tea and mushrooms. Good value; 86/88.
2006 Kendall-Jackson, Pinot Noir, Vintner's Reserve, California, $14. Here's an excellent-value Pinot for your Thanksgiving table. Medium bodied, with soft tannins, this fruity wine is accentuated by tart red cherries and mushrooms; 87/90.
2005 Taz, Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara County, California, $25, 6,000 cases. Aromas speak of black cherries, oak spice and a hint of smoke. Smooth and fruity, the wine has an elegant sense about it that continues on the long finish; 88/89.
2006 Babcock, Sauvignon Blanc, Santa Rita Hills, Santa Ynez Valley, California, $22.50, 816 cases. Atypical but pleasant, with a mix of peach, jalapeno, tarragon and juniper aromas and flavors; 85/85.
2006 Bogle, Sauvignon Blanc, California, $9. This SB is crisp and fruity, with citrus, cut grass and green apple nuances that echo on the finish; 85/87.
2006 Concannon, Sauvignon Blanc, Selected Vineyards, Central Coast, California, $10, 1,625 cases. Light, clean and straightforward - drink early on for the green apple, citrus and melon nuances; 82/82.
2006 Dancing Bull, Sauvignon Blanc, California, $12. Medium bodied and crisp, with straightforward aromas and flavors of tropical fruit and cut grass; 84/84.
2006 (oops), Sauvignon Blanc, Valle Central, Chile, $12. This is a balanced, straightforward, fruity little quaffer, with lemon, melon rind and wet stone accents; 84/84.
2006 Simi, Sauvignon Blanc, Sonoma County, California, $15, 61,394 cases. Lemon cream and melon aromas are followed by lemon-lime flavors, all backed by lively acidity; 86/86.
2006 St. Supery, Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, California, $21.The nose has a grassy herbaceousness backed by lemon and melon fruit. In the mouth the wine is soft, creamy and fruity; 84/84.
NV Adriano Adami, Prosecco 13, Garbèl Brut, Colbertaldo, Italy, $13. Straw colored and very perfumed, this crisp, dry wine has delicate fruit flavors and a medium-fine bead; 85/86.
NV J, Cuvée 20 Brut, Russian River Valley, California, $32, 17,400 cases. This light gold sparkler sports a medium bead and aromas of lemons, honeysuckle and brioche. The wine is crisp, dry and complex, with a long pear and biscuit aftertaste; 89/89.
NV Mumm Napa, Blanc de Noirs Brut, Napa Valley, California, $19. A vigorous bead courses its way through this coral-colored sparkler. Aromas and flavors of cherries, red plums and strawberries are presented on a crisp, dry framework; 87/88.
NV Mumm Napa, Brut Prestige, Napa Valley, California, $19. Straw gold, with a medium bead, this wine is crisp and dry, with citrus and white peach nuances; 86/87.
NV Mumm Napa, Cuvée M, Napa Valley, California, $19. Stone fruit, toast and honey evolves on the nose, turning to intense peach flavors in the mouth. Crisp and lively, with a delicate sweetness; 87/88.
NV Taltarni, Brut Taché, Victoria-Tasmania, Australia, $22, 2,000 cases imported. Fine bubbles rise from this salmon-colored sparkler. White peach and floral notes give way to berry fruit on the palate. The prolonged finish is crisp and dry; 86/87.
2005 Concannon, Syrah, Selected Vineyards, Central Coast, California, $10, 31,000 cases. Here's another 'burger wine'. Soft and simple, with modest mixed berry fruit flavors; 83/84.
2005 Frei Brothers, Syrah, Reserve, Russian River Valley, California, $24. Highlighted by blueberries, white pepper and smoke, this medium-bodied wine is smooth and flavorful, with forgiving tannins; 86/86.
2005 JC Cellars, Syrah, California Cuvée, California, $25. Impeccably balanced, the wine is medium to full in the mouth, with ample blackberry and blueberry fruit. Tannins are silky smooth; 87/87.
2006 Two Hands, Shiraz, Angels Share, McLaren Vale, Australia, $30. Black cherries and mocha delineate this medium-bodied wine. Expressive fruit lingers effortlessly on the palate. It is easy to drink right now; 90/90.
2004 Valley of the Moon, Syrah, Sonoma County, California, $16, 2,700 cases. Silky smooth on the entry, with very ripe berry fruit and nuances of
2006 Bridlewood, Viognier, Reserve, Central Coast, California, $24, 12,000 cases. Defined by honeysuckle, melon and peach nuances, the wine is quite polished in the mouth, with a long, lovely finish; 88/88.
2006 Clay Station, Viognier, Lodi, California, $13, 12,000 cases. Highlighted by white peaches, citrus peel and tropical fruits, the wine is off-dry and crisp. Good value; 84/86.
2005 Cellar No. 8, Zinfandel, California, $10. Berry, oak spice and caramel aromas lead to brambly fruit flavors in a straightforward presentation; 83/84.
2005 Clay Station, Zinfandel, Old Vine, Lodi, California, $16. This garnet-colored Zin has mixed berries and toasty oak on the nose, while the palate reveals berry and cola notes; 85/86.
2005 JC Cellars, The Imposter, California, $32. A blend of five varieties, Zinfandel predominant. A mélange of aromas and flavors combine to make a wine Rhone-like in nature - black cherries, tomato leaf, herbs, smoked game and black pepper; 88/88.
2005 Ravenswood, Zinfandel, Lodi, California, $15, 62,000 cases. Medium bodied, crisp and lively on the palate, the wine has a delightful mix of red fruits and soft tannins. Drink now; 86/88.
2005 Talus, Zinfandel, California, $8, 16,200 cases. Light to medium bodied, this is a straightforward, very perfumed quaffer with brambly fruit and strawberry accents; 84/86.
2004 Woodbridge, Old Vine Zinfandel, Fish Net Creek, Lodi, California, $12. Underscored by blackberries, strawberries and herbs, the wine is straightforward, with a short finish; 82/82.