Upscale Pinot Noir 

Thanksgiving is on the horizon, which for most people means turkey on the table. At my house, and if you're reading this column, I expect at yours, that also means a few bottles of wine. The good news is that turkey is pretty much wine neutral. Any number of red or white wines pair nicely with the big bird. The bad news is that the accompanying side dishes, from cranberry sauce to oyster dressing to green bean casserole to candied sweet potatoes, make things a bit more difficult. What I look for are fruit-centered wines that have good acidity but are soft on the tannins, and food-friendly Pinot Noir is always one of my first choices. We tried Pinots from all corners of the globe, with each of the panel's favorites representing a different wine region. Here are the top picks:

2006 Calera Pinot Noir, Central Coast, $24

This Pinot is a blend of grapes from six different vineyards in California's Santa Clara, Santa Barbara, San Benito and Monterey counties. It opens with floral cherry blossom and sweet berry aromas and light touches of mocha and licorice. Soft and elegant on the palate, offering up sweet cranberry and subtle strawberry flavors, it has very light tannin on the finish with nice hints of herb and spice.

2003 Maysara Delara Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $47

Dark plum and soft sandalwood aromas come through along with espresso, leather and a pleasant bit of that earthy, forest-floor quality. On the bigger side of the Pinot Noir spectrum, this wine has a muscular backbone of ripe berry fruit that plays against spicy cherry, soft tannins, smooth oak and leather, all with remarkable persistence, making it a bold but undeniably attractive wine.

2006 Nautilus Pinot Noir, Marlborough, $24

New Zealand is poised to be the next big spot for Pinot Noir, and this wine helps to illustrate why. It features dried cherry and earthy strawberry aromas backed by fennel, hazelnut and spice. The cherry fruit flavors start out on the tart side but finish sweet and ripe. The tanginess should soften with a few more months in the bottle, but that acidity is just the thing to help make this wine work with Thanksgiving dinner.

This week's panel: Dave Faulk, Porterhouse Meats; David Kirkpatrick, Boise Co-op Wine Shop; Cindy Limber, Bardenay; Karen McMillin, Young's Market; Michael Molinengo, Idaho Wine Merchant; Kevin Settles, Bardenay.

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