- The Washington Times - Monday, November 17, 2003

Argyle, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, 2001, $18

A traditional Thanksgiving dinner offers a melange of competing flavors, everything from tart cranberries to

sweet potatoes to the turkey, with both its delicate white and hearty dark meat. When choosing a wine, versatility thus becomes especially important.

Pinot noir is a good choice because, being neither too delicate nor too powerful, it can complement the variety of dishes that make up the meal. The only problem is that, at all price levels, good pinot proves elusive. The grape is notoriously temperamental in both vineyard and winery, and even many expensive renditions taste disappointing.

This wine, from the Willamette Valley in western Oregon, delights instead. Its ripe cherry fruit is enhanced by an undertone of spice, with just a hint of sweetness from oak aging. Well-balanced, with soft but evident tannins to provide structure, it can hold its own with everything on your holiday table.

Unlike many overly sweet and jammy California pinots, and unlike many thin French Burgundies, the best Oregon pinots manage to taste simultaneously rich and restrained. Some are quite costly, but this one carries an affordable price tag — an added advantage for Thanksgiving when lots of people are coming for dinner.

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