Thanksgiving dinner isn't the time to break out the pricey look-at-me wines. You want a wine that plays well with all those diverse tastes on the table, one that's food friendly but with enough character to stand its ground next to everything from the turkey to the pumpkin pie.
White or red? Again, the many flavors of the Thanksgiving feast mean you can go either way (or have both), but I'd avoid the really lightweight whites, like pinot grigio, or the heavyweight reds such as cabernet sauvignon.
That leaves plenty to choose from in the middle. One white to consider is the 2014 Avalon California Chard, widely available at about $10. Made from grapes grown in a variety of traditional chardonnay-producing regions, such as Russian River Valley and Santa Barbara County, the wine is 100 percent chardonnay, aged for three months in French oak.
The wine's aroma is full of ripe pear, with touches of nutmeg and vanilla. Its flavors are fruit forward: more pear plus Golden Delicious apple, even hints of guava and lemon. Complementing the fruit are vanilla, baking spices and a light kiss of butterscotch. There's oak, but it's understated. The finish is a clean pop of pear and lemon.
If you're thinking red, think about the 2014 Cline Ancient Vines Zinfandel. Cline has a range of zins; this one falls into the midrange prize point, widely available at about $14. Its grapes come from century-old vineyards in Contra Costa Valley; the wine is 93 percent zinfandel, with the balance petite sirah, carignane and alicante bouschet. It's aged in a combination of old and new American oak for seven months.
On the nose, the first hit is cherry jam, balanced with notes of chocolate and coffee. Take a mouthful of this deep-red zin, and the cherry joins juicy strawberry and blackberry, with touches of clove, cedar and bramble. Soft tannins work with all those rich flavors. The long finish is mostly chocolate cherry, but a whiff of woodsmoke keeps it savory.
Colette Bancroft, Times staff writer