There's a little game I like to play on Thanksgiving. Everyone expects me to bring the wine, so I pull out a few special bottles from the cellar: a couple of Cabernets, along with a few bottles of Pinot Noir. Every year the guests ooh and ahh over the Cabs, starting the meal with a glass of their favorite. And yet every year it's the Pinots that are gone by the end of the meal, a row of barely touched Cabernet bottles standing stranded at the table. The point being, Pinot makes the better match when it comes to the Thanksgiving Day meal. And, you don't have to break into the kid's college fund to buy a good bottle. Here are the panel's top three Pinots priced around $15.
2003 Cambria Pinot Noir, Julia's Vineyard, $14.99
This California entry is definitely on the well-oaked side, both on the nose and in the mouth, but it's well matched by bright berry fruit and touches of caramel and cocoa. Nice, broad layers of flavor with sweet fruit, spice, earth, toast and cedar. The finish is tight and clean with smooth, dry tannins.
2003 Twin Islands Pinot Noir, $11.99
New Zealand is gaining a reputation for fine Pinot Noir, and this bargain priced entry helps demonstrate why. It offers rich cherry and berry aromas with hints of cola, herb and violet. Very fruit forward in style, with creamy cherry fruit and a soft finish. A charming, elegantly structured wine that's easy on the palate and priced right.
2001 Wente Pinot Noir, Reliz Creek Reserve, $17.99
Very Burgundian in style with its earthy mushroom aromas playing against dark berry fruit and a light touch of bacon fat. A well-balanced wine with pretty cherry fruit and a long, lingering finish. The oldest vintage of the three, the extra time in the bottle adds character and complexity. :
This week's panel: Jeff Crockett, Idaho Wine Merchant; Dave Faulk, Porterhouse Meats; David Kirkpatrick, Boise Co-op; Cindy Limber, Bardenay; Leslie Marshall, Spirit Distributing; Christian Robertson, International Winemaker; Kevin Settles, Bardenay.