Recommending wines without knowing what foods will be served is problematic. Nonetheless, I feel compelled to do it. So to make this list have broad applicability, I crafted it to have the ability to go with a wide variety of Holiday foods: Champagne for caviar and other appetizers; Pinot Noirs and the Chardonnays for a broad array of first courses, fish and poultry; and Cabernet & Bordeaux blends for elegant roasted meats.
All of these wines are rated in the 90s on a 100-point scale and are widely available across the country (consult Wine-Searcher.com for retail locations). I also called out 3 or more price points to appeal to any budget. There’s nothing esoteric, nothing geeky, just familiar grapes from great regions by great producers.
Champagne & Sparkling Wine
Roederer Estate NV Brut Anderson Valley, CA – $24 The Wine Spectator called this a “Smart Buy”, describing it as sleek, charming, rich and crisp.
Franck Bonville NV Brut Rosé Champagne – $60 Composed of 90% Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Noir, this Champagne delivers lemon/lime and strawberry, alongside subtle notes of brioche, floral perfume, and spice.
Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 2006 Brut Blanc de Blancs – $170 100% Chardonnay, mostly Grand Cru. Wonderfully harmonious mouthfeel. A benchmark aperitif Champagne.
MacMurray Ranch Russian River Valley 2012 or 2013, Sonoma County, CA – $21 Flavors of dark cherry, pomegranate and vanilla give way to subtle vanilla from oak barrel aging (20% new).
Dutton-Goldfield Dutton Ranch, Sonoma County, CA 2013 – $32 Pomegranate, black cherry, mint and tea combine in a lighter-styled Pinot, but with sufficient body and structure to stand up to your Holiday fare.
Dumol Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, CA 2012 – $70 Wine reviewer Robert Parker described this wine as having “ . . . wild strawberry, sweet raspberry and cherry notes in addition to roasted meats and herbs . . . in this . . . perfumed, medium to full-bodied, silky textured, pure Pinot Noir.
Errazuariz Wild Ferment Chardonnay Casablanca Valley, Chile 2014 – $18 Chardonnay quality unrivaled in California at this price.
Rombauer Vineyards Carneros, CA 2014 – $38 A complete package of classic California Chardonnay: ripe tropical fruit, nectarines, lime and spice, coupled with nice acidity.
Kongsgaard Napa, CA 2013 – $130 Burgundy meets Napa Valley. I think this wine is the finest expression of Chardonnay out of California. Period.
Cabernet Sauvignon & Cab-Dominant Blends
Foxglove, Paso Robles, CA 2012 – $16 Wine reviewer Antonio Galloni wrote “ . . . without a doubt, one of the finest values in California.” It delivers vibrant, polished, dark red & blue fruit and spice.
Phillip Togni Tanbark Hill, Napa County, CA 2012 – $52 Antonio Galloni called this “an outstanding effort . . . and a great introduction to the vintage and the Togni house style.”
Joseph Phelps, Napa County, CA 2012 – $66 This is the entry-level wine to Phelps Insignia but it delivers far beyond its price point. An expressive representation of the outstanding 2012 vintage for Cabernet in California.
Pahlmeyer Proprietary Red, Napa Valley, CA 2012 – $149 Dominated by Cabernet (79%) and Merlot (11%), this blend delivers richness and purity of texture. A wine you will remember well beyond the dinner. Still very young, it demands decanting 1 hour prior to serving.
Lynch-Bages, Pauillac, FR 2005 – $197 Composed of 72% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, and 12% Cabernet Franc. Wine reviewer Ian D’Agata asserted that this delivered “ . . . lively, precise flavors of black fruits, dried nuts, ink and minerals. The best Lynch-Bages in years.”
Why so much from California? Because they are generally less expensive than the best from Burgundy and Bordeaux . . . and they are easier to find in the US. Importantly, you don’t need to age them for 5-10 years. But if you do have aged Maremma, Burgundy or Barolo, you don’t need my advice.
Let me know if I met the challenge, because there’s always next year. Have a wonderful, safe Holiday!