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A Crunchy, Low-Alcohol Wine for Thanksgiving from California Naturally

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Of the California winemakers who thrill me the most, three of them are bottling fruit grown in California's El Dorado AVA in the Sierra Foothills -- the heart of historic Gold Rush country.

They've been attracted to the area, they tell me, in part because they've found older vines (some in vineyards established during the Gold Rush) and in part because the growing zone's relative anonymity has helped it to maintain its pristine state. The growers there have been shifting from the usual suspects -- Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon -- to Rhône varieties that seem to perform better in Californian terroir (namely, Syrah and Grenache).

While La Clarine Farm and Edmunds St. John are not currently available in Texas (although there are legal methods of obtaining the wine here), the Donkey and Goat winery (based in Berkeley) has broken the iron curtain of "big wine distribution" in our state thanks to one of the handful of quixotic indy distributors who have set up shop over the last eighteen months.

I didn't include their 2011 Grenache Blanc in my Top 5 Thanksgiving Wines Under $25 because it retails for around $30 (at the Houston Wine Merchant). But I'm thrilled that it's here (and you can rest assured that my family will be drinking Donkey and Goat for Thanksgiving in Orange, Texas).

The wine is a "natural" wine: The growers employ chemical-free farming and winemaker Jared Brandt doesn't add anything but a little bit of sulfur dioxide to the wine; he manipulates it as little as possible in the winery.

The wine is an "orange" wine: Skin-contact during fermentation gives the wine its slightly orange color (as you can see in the photo above).

The wine is unfiltered: Don't be alarmed by cloudy color of the wine; the opacity is intended by the winemaker.

I love the Technicolor fruit flavors of this wine (think stone fruit). I love the crunchy mouthfeel of the wine and the way it coats my mouth and interacts with the textures of food. And I love the low alcohol: At just 12.6 percent, the wine is going to work well for memaw and for me.

At my in-laws' house in Orange, "natural," "orange," "crunchy," "unfiltered," and "low-alcohol" are old news. But if you happen to be joining with family still unhip to the new wine revolution, this wine is sure to be a conversation starter...

I have one more recommendation for an over-$25 but still reasonably priced Thanksgiving wine that I'll share on Friday.


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