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Winemaker's Journal — Thanksgiving wines

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You've got the turkey, yams, rolls, cranberry sauce and pecan pie for dessert. But what wine will you pull out for that special holiday that revolves around great food and family?

Thanksgiving is one of those dinners where wine is not only appropriate, but an essential part of the warmth and holiday glow that defines perhaps America's most special and personal tradition.

The nice thing is you don't have to stress over picking something rare and pricey to go with traditional Thanksgiving dishes. Don't worry. Be happy. A slightly sweet or off-dry white — Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris or an unoaked Chardonnay — will go nicely with turkey or other roast fowl. If reds are more to your liking, stay with a lighter wine like Pinot Noir, Zinfandel or Cabernet Franc. A young Beaujolais or crisp Rose also works well. All will complement salmon as well, if that's your preference. I've been saving a bottle of Benson Vineyards Estate Pinot Noir that I'll open Thursday no matter what I'm eating.

Champagne or other sparklers are always a good choice for such a festive occasion. Don't forget sparkling apple juice for the kids and non-alcohol drinkers.

If your meal will be centered around a juicy steak, roast or lamb, then you will want to pull out your wallet and select a great, full-bodied, dry red wine. Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Syrah or red blend really intensifies any red meat meal.

If there's a big gathering planned, my choice is always to open bottles of white and red wine so people can choose what they want. If you can't decide, just buy a couple bottles of Chateau Ste. Michelle or Columbia Crest Grand Estates wines of both colors and call it good. It will be.

Here's a short list of some easy to find, mostly affordable, local and Washington wines that are among my favorites.

Whites

— Saint Laurent Lucky White, on sale at many stores for a bargain $5.

— Chateau St. Michelle Riesling, both the dry and off dry version of this wine are great and reasonably priced at about $7.

— Jones of Washington Riesling, NCW Wine Awards Gold Medal winner, $19.

— Rio Vista Viognier, a wonderfully fruity option, $18.

Blush

— Jones of Washington Rosé of Syrah, Best Rosé at 2012 NCW Wine Awards, $13.

Sparklers

— Domaine St. Michelle, hard to beat at about $12.

Lighter Reds

— Ginkgo Forest Pinot Noir, award winning pinot from Mattawa may be hard to find, but it's one of Washington's best, $24; other good local Pinot Noir is made by Tunnel Hill, Benson Vineyards, Tsillan Estates, Vin du Lac and Lake Chelan Winery in Chelan, and Violá Winery in Cashmere.

— Stemilt Creek Transforming Traditions Cabernet Franc, Jones of Washington Cabernet Franc.

Heavier Reds

— 37 Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Boudeaux Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Ryan Patrick Vineyards Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Silvara Vineyards Syrah, Dutch John's Wines Riverbend Syrah, Milbrandt Vineyards Mosaic Red Blend.

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