The holiday season is here and it’s time to bring out the big guns, to splurge on worthy bottles for both gifting and to help soothe us on the chilly nights of approaching winter, with hearty fare on the table. With football on the tube, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas and more to celebrate, this is no time for restraint.
Carol Shelton 2012 Rocky Reserve Florence Vineyard Rockpile Zinfandel ($35)
The maven of Zinfandel excels with this vineyard-designated wine, which shows why the Rockpile region is such a special place for the grape. Powerfully brooding in its aromas, the wine is smooth on the palate, offering a mix of red and black berries and leather. With excellent depth and weight, it strikes a balance between ripeness and restraint.
Decoy 2013 Sonoma County Zinfandel ($25)
This is a highly likable Zin made in large enough quantities to be relatively easy to find. It has an explosive mouthful of juicy blackberry that’s dark, dense and full-bodied. Savory accents of smoke, leather and black pepper make for a hearty companion for spare ribs and spicy chicken wings.
Renteria 2012 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir ($40)
As wintry as damp forest floor and with the fresh-cut pine smell of Christmas, this brooding Pinot is decidedly crisp in taste, exhibiting chewy cranberry and pomegranate with the expected cherry. Great acidity keeps it fresh and focused, with spicy cinnamon and clove notes. Rack of lamb, anyone?
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Picayune 2013 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($29)
Dark and full-bodied, this savory wine offers a ton of value for the price. It has a mix of wild berries, herbs, woody notes and leathery texture. A fragrant aroma of rose petal dominates at the beginning, and a twist of black tea and cinnamon appear at the end.
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Meadowcroft 2014 Louvau Vineyard Dry Creek Valley Viognier ($30)
Meadowcroft does a good job of exhibiting Viognier’s potential in Dry Creek Valley, coaxing out floral aromas and flavors of Golden Delicious apple, pear, lemon and honey, which are fresh and viscous. Not a lot of this compelling wine was produced, but it’s worth the search.
Kunde 2013 Destination Series Sonoma Valley Viognier ($22)
High-toned and somewhat briny, like the smell of the sea, this wine begins with lemon, pear and orange peel, then turns more sensuous with a salted caramel note and luxurious creaminess, remaining fresh and vibrant.
Gundlach Bundschu 2012 Sonoma Valley Vintage Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($100)
A wine the family has made since 1981, Vintage Reserve represents the best Cab lots of the year, the ones deemed most elegant and expressive. The 2012 combines black olive and herbal character with tightly woven tannins and subtle oak, a nod to the Old World with New World juiciness. Labeled with an original piece of art each year, it’s a generous gift for any lover of wine and design.
Forefathers 2012 Lone Tree Vineyard Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($50)
Winemaker Nick Goldschmidt loves this dry-farmed vineyard north of Geyserville and does well by it here, reining in its tiny, concentrated berries into an earthy, chocolaty wine that’s juicy, approachable and dusted in black cherry. The finish is all about smoke and leather. Give it with a set of cigars.