Check your list much more than twice: when celebrating the holidays this year, toast the season with 10 of our favorite California wines.
Holiday meals are like great symphonies, as all of the elements—from lush tablescapes to artisanal breads—have their place. Memories spring from these grand assemblies, and it’s the perfect time to share crowd-pleasing wines.
When choosing a wine for an occasion or meal, begin with the big picture and work toward smaller details. Consider factors like the environment, audience, size and purpose for the gathering. A festive Christmas party, for example, calls for a different wine than meeting the parents for the first time. After all, an exceptional bottle of wine can evoke feelings of joy, nostalgia and even admiration. Which is why we’ve carefully constructed our go-to list of 10 holiday wines for any occasion.
LONG MEADOW RANCH, RUTHERFORD NAPA VALLEY, SAUVIGNON BLANC 2019
Many know the Rutherford appellation for its cabernet, but it also holds a reputation for producing some of California’s top sauvignon blanc. Long Meadow Ranch is a family operation that prides itself on full-circle sustainable farming and viticulture. Expect ripe pear and ruby-red grapefruit with balanced mouthfeel and minerality. This is an impressive food wine to be paired with just about anything, but consider apple dishes, spiced nuts, mixed greens and seafood.
TATOMER VANDENBERG, RIESLING 2018
This bottle from winemaker Graham Tatomer expresses the tautness, precision and boldness of what riesling from the coolest sites in California can be. Having studied riesling production in Austria, Tatomer brings a breadth of knowledge and enthusiasm to a state not known for this wine. Stone fruits and floral aromas greet oenophiles on the nose and lead to peach and almond on the palate with hints of golden raisin and bread on the lengthy finish. Riesling is an ideal holiday wine to pair with spicy dishes or blue cheese.
PETER PAUL WINES, SONOMA COAST, CHARDONNAY 2019
This boutique producer is based in Sonoma and is led by the first master of wine of Mexican descent, Martin Reyes, and winemaker Trevor Smith of Screaming Eagle and Antica Terra. Combining respected vineyard sources and experienced winemaking, the vineyard offers a chardonnay that’s lively on the palate, offering apple, persimmon and floral notes with a taut cohesion between the brighter citrus-stone character and the creamier oak-aged elements. Pair this with herb- and cheese-stuffed roasted chicken with potatoes.
Napa’s Scout’s Honor
TROIS NOIX, OAK KNOLL MUIR-HANNA VINEYARD, CHARDONNAY 2019
This is a new wine portfolio from the daughter of an iconic Napa Valley wine-producing family. Jaime Araujo leads this brand, which is rooted in sustainability and social responsibility. The name Trois Noix is a nod to family in French, translating to the “three nuts” or three siblings that carry on the tradition of winemaking. The 2019 chardonnay offers harmonious notes of white peach, green apple and jasmine and is crisp, minerally and refreshing. A great pairing for a holiday risotto or grilled trout with mushrooms and fall vegetables.
CARTE BLANCHE, SUN CHASE VINEYARD SONOMA COAST, PINOT NOIR 2018
Carte Blanche is led by winemaker Helen Kiplinger and founder Nicholas Allen. Simply put: These wines are on the rise. This bottle stands out in a sea of great Sonoma pinot with its ripe Bing cherry and white pepper notes. At midpalate, expect a silky texture that leads into tastes of forest floor and raspberry. Bring this wine to parties with people who like unusual things and appreciate fine wines. With its medium body and versatility, pair it with an array of fall and winter dishes, especially duck confit.
SCOUT’S HONOR NAPA VALLEY RED WINE, VENGE VINEYARDS 2019
Napa Valley winemaker Kirk Venge creates a bold red blend with this zinfandel-based wine, which also features charbono, petite sirah and syrah. A crowd-pleaser with notes of boysenberry, plum, spice and vanilla, this bottle always delivers. The blend does as well on its own as it does with barbecue or steak and potatoes; it suits a range of palates. Bring this wine anywhere and to anyone who adores red wines or who loves Prisoner Red Blend.
HARUMPH NAPA VALLEY CABERNET SAUVIGNON, 2017
This tongue-in-cheek name is a nod to the classic Mel Brooks movie, Blazing Saddles. But don’t be fooled by the jovial labeling; the wine inside is quite serious. From locally beloved sommelier Scotti Stark, this cabernet is from vineyards in St. Helena, Spring Mountain and the Stags Leap District. The soft and inviting start moves into red fruits and plum with a strong core and fine silky tannins. Balanced, round and bold on the finish, this cabernet was meant for bone-in ribeye, portobello mushrooms or rack of lamb.
SEQUOIA GROVE, NAPA VALLEY, CABERNET 2018
This high-scoring and sustainably produced cabernet from winemaker to watch Molly Hill is a solid expression of the fantastic 2018 vintage in Napa Valley. Expect classic currant and black fruits on the attack that move into subtle, spiced vanilla and bitter chocolate notes on the finish. This wine is both accessible, interesting and ready to drink now—despite its youth. Pair with braised short ribs, creamy polenta and gatherings of people who are developing a taste for finer wines.
ROEDERER ESTATE, BRUT MV SPARKLING WINE
The Anderson Valley estate of the Louis Roederer family is rooted in dedication to the land and classic méthode champenoise practices. This wine delivers rich flavor and texture. It’s a nice choice for toasting the holidays and a classic pairing with baked brie and pears.
MUMM NAPA, 2012 DVX SPARKLING WINE
From one of Napa Valley’s most recognized sparkling wine producers, DVX is a nod to Mumm Napa founder Guy Devaux. It’s the winery’s highest-level offering. Showing well-developed characters of Meyer lemon, spiced apple, toasted almond and brioche, this bottle will pair well with charcuterie boards, hors d’oeuvres and an array of dishes.
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