The Barossa Valley Estate winery was originally established as a growers' cooperative in 1985. With a glut of grapes in the market in the early '80s, grape prices were plummeting and Barossa growers' livelihoods were threatened. The growers decided to assure that they would always have a market for their grapes: They created one. An ideal synergistic relationship between the growers and the winemaker came naturally, given these circumstances.

Today the winery produces all-Barossa wines made from fruit sourced from 80 loyal growers. The E&E "Black Pepper" is consistently one of Australia's best Shiraz offerings. The1999 vintage was voted Best Red Wine in Show at this year's San Francisco Competition. The wine has dense texture in the mouth, with lovely, ripe blackberry fruit and sweet new oak. The spicy overtones make a perfect complement to the Thanksgiving culinary palette, but don't hesitate to try this one with nontraditional holiday foods as well.

LA CREMA 2000 PINOT NOIR RUSSIAN RIVER VALLEY ($35)


La Crema, a Russian River Valley specialist in Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, took the prestigious Winemaker of the Year award at this year's San Francisco International Wine Competition, and this wine received a Double Gold. Started as a warehouse operation in 1979, La Crema was purchased by California wine mogul Jess Jackson in 1993. The whole $20 million facility at La Crema is geared specifically to Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, giving winemaker Jeff Stewart the ability to handle these grapes properly. Pinot Noir is especially finicky and needs kid-glove treatment both in the vineyard and in the winery.