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St. Clair provides Pinot pleasure

Northside Staff
Tasters: Dave Pohl, ed., Dana Malley, Jason Wentworth, Jay Reed

With Thanksgiving almost upon us, wine buyers are confronting the annual dilemma of just what to serve with the big holiday feast. Truth be told, there is no perfect wine to serve with Thanksgiving dinner. A simple Google search turns up recommendations of Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Viognier, Roussanne, Grüner Veltliner, Vinho Verde, Cava, Madeira, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Beaujolais, rosé, Barbera, Teroldego, and even sparkling Shiraz!

No single wine can possibly pair with the varied set of flavors placed upon most Thanksgiving tables. With turkey, cranberries, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, a host of vegetables, and, in the case of some Italian-American families, even lasagne weighing down the table, no one wine can complement everything.

Some wines meet the Thanksgiving challenge better than others. One candidate is Pinot Noir, with its unobtrusive tannins, palate-cleansing acidity, fresh red fruit character, and an autumnal earthiness. A versatile food wine, good Pinot Noir will go nicely with most parts of a Thanksgiving meal, and not clash with the rest. It’s difficult, however, to find good, moderately priced Pinot.

With that in mind, the Northside staff recently blind tasted a selection of 26 Pinot Noirs from California and New Zealand, all priced $20 and under.

The wines were a mixed bag. Many were marred by an excessively oaky character on both the nose and palate. Some were spoiled by a stemmy “green” character. Others were plagued by fruit that seemed almost cloying in the absence of supporting acid or tannin.

Happily, the best wines were balanced and delicious, excellent choices for Thanksgiving. The group’s top pick was the Saint Clair 2009 Pinot Noir ($19). Hailing from the Marlborough region of New Zealand, it’s full of juicy flavors reminiscent of cherry and strawberry supported by just the right amount of acidity and soft tannin. This lovely wine will undoubtedly find its way into many a holiday spread come Thanksgiving!

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