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The Magnificent Seven

Robert Whitley on

This week's "Wine Talk" recommendations were culled with Thanksgiving in mind. Specifically, I was on the lookout for fun wines. Not every wine you open over the holidays needs to be profound, though the Stony Hill white riesling qualifies on that count.

Usually, a wine that is delicious, goes down easy and doesn't put a crimp in your wallet is perfectly fine. I also wanted a couple of exotic wines that typically fly under the radar, as they might make for lively discussion around the Thanksgiving table. Hence the Donnafugata Lighea and Cave de Pomerols Picpoul.

Wide distribution entered the equation as well, so the J Vineyards pinot gris and Jackson Estate pinot noir stood out (don't worry -- they're delicious, too).

Then there is the Gascon reserve Malbec. Packed with juicy, sweet fruit and a savory spice note, I thought it ideally suited for the combination of sweet and savory found at the Thanksgiving table. Ditto the Martini & Rossi prosecco.

For all of those reasons, these are my Magnificent Seven for the coming Thanksgiving feast.

Best Value

Wines are rated on a 100-point scale. Wines are chosen for review because they represent outstanding quality or value, and the scores are simply a measure of this reviewer's enthusiasm for the recommended wine.

J Vineyards 2016 Pinot Gris, California ($20) -- Few wines in this price range can boast the level of consistency demonstrated by J pinot gris vintage after vintage. The 2016 offers up juicy notes of melon, citrus and tropical fruit balanced with mouthwatering acidity. It's another excellent effort from the team led by winemaker Nicole Hitchcock. Rating: 92.

Donnafugata 2016 Lighea, Sicilia DOC, Italy ($20) -- If you're looking for something delicious to shake up the holiday party, Donnafugata's Lighea should be at or near the top of your shopping list. The grape variety is the little known zibibbo, a zesty fruit bomb with an impressive streak of minerality. On the nose, it's intensely floral in the moscato vein. But on the palate, it changes direction, showing notes of orange blossom, citrus and melon. And it's bone-dry. Rating: 91.


Cave de Pomerols 2016 Picpoul de Pinet, Languedoc, France ($11) -- The beauty of picpoul, besides the fact that it is fresh and crisp and generally tasty, is that it's easy on the wallet. When you don't necessarily need profound and something simply yummy and refreshing will do, picpoul is the ticket. This vintage from Caves de Pomerol shows lovely melon, citrus and lime notes, mouthwatering acidity and a zesty finish. Rating: 88.

Martini & Rossi Prosecco DOC, Italy ($13) -- Although made in an extra-dry style (which is actually sweeter than brut), this lovely prosecco from Martini & Rossi is well-balanced and inviting. It shows more robust depth than is typical for prosecco (which is due, methinks, to the combination of pinot noir and chardonnay in the blend, along with the traditional glera), as well as bright notes of pear and green apple. The wine finishes fresh and clean, and the price makes it a bit of a steal. Rating: 88.

Tasting Notes

Stony Hill 2016 White Riesling, Napa Valley ($30) -- There are a handful of California wineries that do justice to riesling. The best of those from any given vintage is likely to come from vines planted in 1948 at Stony Hill, a historic winery high above the Napa Valley floor on Spring Mountain. This youthful Stony Hill riesling will only get better with age as its inherent minerality and other complexities emerge, but it's lovely now, as fine an example of a dry New World riesling as you will ever find. Rating: 94.

Gascon 2014 Malbec Reserva, Mendoza, Argentina ($25) -- Gascon's 2014 reserve malbec offers up an intriguing black pepper spice note on the nose and then follows up with it on the palate. Ripe aromas of blackberry and red currant are juicy and layered. It has an impressive length and a long finish that shows a hint of wood spice. This wine is an outstanding value. Rating: 90.

Jackson Estate 2015 Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley ($32) -- Jackson Estate's Anderson Valley pinot noir represents excellent value. First of all, it's from a premium pinot district, and its modest price means you could almost make it your house pinot. The clincher, though, is the quality in the bottle. Showing notes of ripe crushed berries and cola, it's bright and juicy on the palate, and it exhibits excellent length and a lingering finish. Rating: 90.


Follow Robert on Twitter at @wineguru. To find out more about Robert Whitley and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at



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