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The Wine Cellar: Choose fruity wines for Thanksgiving meal

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Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012, 8:59 p.m.

This Thanksgiving, don't be a turkey. Buy wines for the big feast early — that is, now — and keep it simple. You will avoid the last-minute rush and have more time to prepare those traditional family recipes that everybody loves.

Whatever your preference in dressing the noble, roasted bird, aromatic, fruity whites with good balance make the best choice with Thanksgiving's varied aromas and flavors. Good acidity provides the key by refreshing the palate with each sip. Heavy, ponderous wines have no place at the Thanksgiving table.

Serve two or three whites to mix it up and keep the conversation lively. And, because tastes invariably vary — especially when cranky Uncle Charlie simply refuses to drink white wines — have a fruity, well-balanced red on hand, too. He'll complain anyway, but what are you gonna do?

For the whites, try the following:

The2011 Domaine Les Grands Bois Côtes du Rhône — Viognier, France (Luxury 46893; $14.99) comes from the southern Rhône, rather than the northern Rhône where viognier finds its natural home. Even so, by virtue of hand-picking older viognier and marsanne vines with low yields, winegrower Farion Besnardeau starts with terrific fruit.

Fermenting the grapes in stainless steel at cool temperatures helps preserve aromatic purity and freshness. The wine opens with lovely peach and honeysuckle aromas. Vibrant citrus and ripe, rounded peach flavors balance with zesty, stony acidity through the dry, beautifully balanced finish.Highly recommended.

The 2010 Miner Family Vineyards Viognier, Simpson Vineyard, California (Luxury 39609; $21.99) offers an American interpretation of viognier. For the source of fruit, the Napa Valley-based Miner family works with winegrower John Simpson, who farms in Central California's warm and sunny Madera region.

Rather than first removing the stems and crushing Simpson's viognier grapes prior to fermentation, the Miners press whole grape clusters into stainless-steel tanks in an effort to capture as much aromatic purity and complexity as possible. They succeed admirably.

Ripe pineapple and engaging honey aromas jump from the glass. Then, intense, concentrated peach and pineapple flavors unfold on the palate. Crisp acidity provides lovely balance through the dry, but fruity finish. Recommended.

Six generations of the Fonné family have made wine in Alsace, and the accumulated savoir faire shows in the lovely 2009 Domaine Michel Fonné Gewurztraminer Tradition, France (36314; $18.99). As a classic Alsatian gewurztraminer, the wine provides an unmistakable reflection of its terroir. Gewurztraminer emerges in its essence as a grape that demands attention.

The wine's lovely, forward aromas of grapefruit, roses and brown spices immediately engage the senses. Ripe grapefruit and pineapple flavors explode on the palate. Fine acidity balances the slightly off-dry flavors for a refreshing, satisfying finish. You'll likely either love or loath the wine, but you can't ignore it. Highly recommended.

The 2010 Novy Family Winery Gewurztraminer, Russian River Valley, California (Luxury 36195; $19.99) offers a more restrained, yet elegant and delicious, interpretation. Winemakers Adam and Dianna Lee set out to make a completely dry wine, but found that the vintage offered another route.

The relatively cool Russian River appellation rendered gewurztraminer grapes naturally high in acidity in 2010. This partially blocked fermentation, but also offered the winemakers the opportunity to produce a beautifully balanced, slightly off-dry wine. Thankfully, they embraced Mother Nature's invitation rather than trying to remove acidity.

Complex pineapple and citrus aromas unfold with subtle smoky, earthy nuances. Ripe pineapple and peach flavors layer with bracing acidity through the slightly off-dry finish.Recommended.

For the Thanksgiving red, try a wine made from America's truly authentic red variety — Zinfandel. The 2010 Ravenswood Zen of Zin, California (7664; $14.99) comes from “old” Zinfandel vines primarily in Sonoma County and other California coastal vineyards. Unlike many a ponderous California zinfandel, it avoids excessive alcohol in favor of beautifully balanced fruitiness.

The secret lies in adding a smattering of petite sirah, syrah and carignan in the time-tested manner of traditional California “field blends.” This tempers zinfandel's naturally heavier traits and provides some backbone with acidity and moderate tannins.

Dark fruit and spice aromas unfold from the glass. Ripe blackberry, raspberry and plum flavors emerge on the palate, balanced with a touch of spiciness and bright acidity. Highly recommended.

Dave DeSimone is the wine writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at

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