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Article posted: 11/20/2012 5:00 AM

Pinot Noir a good choice for Thanksgiving feast

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By Mary Ross

Whether you choose to make your turkey butter-basted or brined, deep-fried or smoked, rubbed with French tarragon or smothered in Caribbean spices, there's one choice for the wine: Pinot Noir.

This medium-bodied, silky red offers just enough tannin to take a bite out of rich poultry, just enough fruit to complement both fruity and spicy condiments, and just enough acid to cleanse the palate of oily richness.

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Ross' choice

Deep Rosť
Isabel Mondavi
Napa Valley, Calif.
2011

Ÿ Suggested retail and availability: About $15.99 at wine shops (distributed by Wirtz Beverage of Illinois, Elk Grove Village)
Mouthwatering and eminently satisfying flavors live up to Deep Rosť's prestigious Napa Valley address and prestigious lineage: the wine is produced by Rob Mondavi, Jr., fourth-generation winemaker and grandson of Robert, aka the "Father of California Wine." With enticing strawberry and cranberry flavors, a hint of sweetness and full, luscious texture, Deep Rosť complements a full range of dishes, from elegant smoked salmon to takeout Thai, chili to chocolate, Thanksgiving turkey to turkey sandwiches.

The harder choice is from where. Will you select Pinot Noir from its homeland in Burgundy, France, from the U.S. or from new outposts around the world?

American Pinot Noir producers toiled unnoticed until "Sideways" shot them into the spotlight, and their price tags onto the top shelf, often deservedly. While delicious under-$20 selections may be found from France or in the land of great value -- South America -- the patriotic will enjoy:

In the $20-range, Belle Glos "Meomi", Talbott "Kali Hart" and Au Bon Climat; in the $40s, Sanford and Domaine Serene "Yamhill Cuvee."

Consistently, one of my favorite Pinot Noirs is Macrostie Pinot Noir "Wildcat Mountain Vineyard" (Sonoma, California) with its lilac, beet, earth and leather aromas melding with plum and mushroom flavors. A firm palate is all the better to pair with rich turkey recipes, such as sausage stuffing and the richest gravies. (About $40.)

Yet one wine doesn't always please everyone. White wine lovers need to select wine based on specific recipes. Herbed turkey pairs with the herbal flavors of Sauvignon Blanc. Fried, smoked, glazed or spicy preparations are best suited to a sweeter white with bright acidity, especially Riesling. Buttery turkey calls for the buttery flavors of a lightly oaked Chardonnay.

I recently discovered Atonement Wines "Vanagloria" Chardonnay (Central Coast, California). A fascinating Chardonnay as ripe as a Fuji apple, with a 10 percent dose of the Rousanne grape to add the snap of herbal complexity and lush ripe pear texture. A dry wine with ample enough fruit to harmonize with sweeter Thanksgiving dishes, such as sweet potatoes. ($25) Visit vinejoy.net for a list of retail outlets.

In between dry and sweet lies Pinot Gris; I gravitate toward bottles from Oregon.

Thanksgiving ranks second only to New Year's Eve in America's bubbly consumption, but in this palate's opinion, unless you're prepared to invest real dollars, most sparklers are too light for turkey. Italian Prosecco or an under-$15 domestic bubbly is a festive way to begin any meal, but for the main event, choose Champagne or one of America's finest sparkling wines like Schramsberg "J. Schram" ($90) or Roederer Estate "Hermitage" ($90). Serve Gloria Ferrer, Brut Rose ($40) in a white wineglass and not icy cold to open up alluring strawberry aroma and dry but fruit-full flavor accented by graham cracker spice and yeastiness.

Which brings us to Rosť.

Other than asking Americans to accept it, Rosť is really the easiest and most versatile wine choice of all. Rosť may be bubbly or still, rich and dry, or delicate and cotton candy-sweet. Rosť offers more mouth feel than most whites, with less heft than red. There's bright acidity to cleanse the palate, ripe fruit to refresh food flavors and soft texture.

When purchasing a domestic Rosť, eschew labels suggesting "white" anything. Your retailer can aid in your selection and I'm happy to share with you my "Choice."

• Contact Advanced Sommelier and Certified Wine Educator Mary Ross at food@dailyherald.com.

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