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All the right wines.

Here's how to complete the Thanksgiving table with confidence

CONSIDER THE FRENCH when you plan what wine to pour this Thanksgiving. Faced with a wide array of flavors, they may opt to serve an understated wine that goes with many foods; or, if the group is a large one, they may offer several strikingly different wines all at once, leaving each diner to choose a favorite or two. Glassware can be as extensive as your space and budget permit. Even one glass will do. A pitcher of water and a small dump bucket allow reds and whites to alternate in the same glass. Sparkling wines do best in narrow, deeper flutes.

The selections for our Thanksgiving dinner follow the French preference for the understated and the agreeable. All are widely available in the West, many at less than $10 a bottle. Prices vary from store to store. As a buying guide, allow at least one bottle (total) to serve two.

WHITE WINES

Chenin Blanc has undemanding flavors, and most producers work to keep the wine that way. The first wine listed is dry and shows flavors of aging in oak; the rest put fruit foremost, and are progressively less dry ($6 to $7.50).

* 1991 Chappellet Napa Valley Chenin Blanc

* 1992 Dry Creek Vineyard California Dry Chenin Blanc

* 1992 The Hogue Cellars Columbia Valley Chenin Blanc

* 1992 Mirassou Monterey Dry Chenin Blanc

Riesling (or Johannisberg Riesling) has perfumes that are a little more specific than Chenin Blanc's, but it is still a wine of many uses. Both of these are round in texture, pointedly fruity in flavor ($6 to $7.50).

* 1991 The Firestone Vineyard Santa Ynez Valley Riesling

* 1992 Chateau Ste. Michelle Johannisberg Riesling Columbia Valley

Chardonnay has acquired a deserved reputation as being difficult to match with food because oak and other flavors from winemaking can be strong. However, these true-to-the-grape examples are versatile indeed ($8 to $11).

* 1991 Buena Vista Carneros Chardonnay

* 1991 Callaway Calla-Lees Chardonnay

* 1991 Louis M. Martini Napa Valley Chardonnay

SPARKLING WINES

What is a festive dinner without something bubbly? The Thanksgiving table is not a place for halfway measures. Either go dry on behalf of the food, or pick the last wine in the list and go dessert-sweet ($5 to $16).

* Domaine Chandon Carneros Blanc de Noirs (nonvintage)

* 1990 Mirassou Monterey Blanc de Noir

* Mumm Cuvee Napa Valley Brut Prestige (nonvintage)

* Gran Spumante Ballatore

REDS AND ROSES

Roses struggle for identity in the United States. More's the pity, for well-made ones capture some of the best qualities of both red and white when foods of contrasting flavors must be met by one wine. The first wine is frankly sweet, the second just as dry ($5 to $9).

* 1992 Glen Ellen Proprietor's Reserve California White Zinfandel

* 1992 Joseph Phelps Vineyards Vin du Mistral Napa Valley Grenache Rose

Beaujolais-style, in which grape variety is much less important than technique, means light-hearted reds made to be drunk almost as soon as they come from the fermenting tanks. These progress from off-dry to faintly sweet ($5.50 to $7.50).

* 1992 Beringer Vineyards North Coast Gamay Beaujolais

* 1992 Geyser Peak North Coast Gamay Beaujolais

* 1992 Mirassou Vineyards Monterey Cru Gamay

* 1991 Louis M. Martini Fresco Rosso California Red Table Wine

Pinot Noir is always versatile, but those with forthrightly light-hearted grape flavors seem especially suited to a Thanksgiving table ($7 to $10).

* 1991 Buena Vista Carneros Pinot Noir

* 1991 Carneros Creek Pinot Noir Fleur de Carneros

* 1992 Saintsbury Carneros Pinot Noir Garnet

Zinfandel, the eternal chameleon of California wine, can be titanic or modest. The modest ones offer a winier alternative to such grapes as Gamay for those who insist on real red wine. This sequence goes from easiest to most complex ($5.75 to $10).

* 1991 Robert Mondavi Woodbridge California Zinfandel

* 1991 Franciscan Oakville Estate Zinfandel

* 1991 Gundlach-Bundschu Sonoma Valley Zinfandel

Merlot in the United States was initially styled to echo Cabernet Sauvignon's flavors but not its tannic firmness. Not all have kept the original thought; those that have produce a roundly agreeable red. The first example is briskly refreshing, the second easy-chair soft ($7 to $12).

* 1991 Columbia Crest Columbia Valley Merlot

* 1991 Sebastiani Sonoma County Merlot
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Title Annotation:wine list for Thanksgiving
Author:Thompson, Bob
Publication:Sunset
Date:Nov 1, 1993
Words:702
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