Without fail, each year careens by faster than the one before. Here we are two weeks before Christmas, and I’m here to lend a hand with my annual Holiday Gift Guide.
For the first time in my recollection, this year’s guide features wine and nothing but wine. I had the distinct pleasure and privilege of meeting Sandi Belcher and her husband John Arns several years ago. I was heading to Napa, and a friend told me to be sure I visited Arns Winery. I sent an email and got a response from Sandi telling me she looked forward to my visit and providing detailed directions. When I first arrived, I saw no sign of a winery. I saw a couple of houses and a vegetable garden, but, alas no winery. I looked further and found Sandi in the back near a garage/warehouse. She had a platter of cheese ready, and she used what looked like a chemistry beaker for a decanter. We hit it off instantly! At the time she had Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. Both were exceptional. She now offers a Sonoma Chardonnay which is sublime. At arnswinery.com, you can purchase a holiday two-pack for $155. The Cab sells for $90, the Chardonnay is $60.
I’m always intrigued by boutique wineries. I just recently discovered Enriquez Estate Wines and I’m delighted I did. Located on 8.5 acres in Sonoma County’s Forestville, Enriquez is a family-owned micro-winery specializing in small-batch Pinot Noir, Tempranillo, and select white varietals. Cecelia Enriquez and her family produce fewer than 1,000 cases a year. The 2014 Tempranillo has smokey notes with layers of berries ($44). The 2017 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir offers a heavenly nose with black currant and baking spices on the palette ($52). Finally, the 2017 Brisa is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Muscat, and Chardonnay fermented totally dry. Crisp and refreshing, it’s a delightful white! Both private seated tastings and reserve vineyard tasting with lunch are available. There’s also a renovated two-bedroom cottage on the property. It’s just minutes from downtown Healdsburg with its wineries, breweries, and acclaimed restaurants.
For the Pinot Noir lover, I highly recommend Merry Edwards Winery. Founded in 1997, Merry Edwards’ wines always garner high praise. This year, I suggest you check out two wines from the 2020 vintage. Their Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($48) garnered 93 points from both James Suckling and Jeb Dunnuck. Expect notes of cherry, berries, and plum. The Meredith Estate Pinot Noir ($80) scored 95 points from both Suckling and Dunnuck. This wine exhibits red cherry and blackberry. Tastings are available by appointment only. You can choose from Appellation Tasting, Terroir Tasting, or Collection Tasting Experiences. Merry Edwards also produces Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and sparkling wines.
Wander + Ivy is unique in that they produce only single-serving bottles. Dana Spaulding founded the company after getting tired of seeing wine go to waste. Dana is a wine drinker and her husband drinks whiskey. She had no luck at all trying to find single-serve bottles, so she started Wander + Ivy. Their wines are available in eight packs, with boxes selling for less than $60. Her wines are sourced from vineyards the world over.
Would the holidays be the same without bubbles? I think not! In France they have Champagne, In Spain, you’ll find Cava, but Italy offers Prosecco! More than 25 million gallons of Prosecco were exported to the US last year alone! Perlino produces a Prosecco DOC Rosé for around $12. It’s a lovely pale salmon color with delightful bubbles and a nice balance of acidity with a mere hint of sweetness. Val D’Oca’s Prosecco DOC is one of the oldest producers of Prosecco. Made from the Ghlera grape, with dashes of Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay, it’s crisp with aromas of white stonefruit. You should find it easily for around $18. Prosecco is the perfect apertif and a great accompaniment to shellfish and many cheeses. Triple crême and Prosecco? Yes, please!
Alto Adige in Northern Italy is a lesser-known wine-producing region, but what they do make is extraordinary. The area borders Austria and Switzerland, so its climate is far cooler than the renowned Southern Italian regions. Winegrowers in Alto Adige use the controlled designations of origin “Südtiroler” and “Kalterersee” to identify their DOC wines. Not exactly Italian-sounding words. I received samples of two wines. The 2019 St. Daniel Pinot Nero and 2021 Perl Lagrein both come from the Südtiroler region. The Pinot Nero has an enchanting nose and offers flavors of black tea and wild berries. It sells for around $30. Lagrein is a unique grape that thrives in Alto Adige. The Perl 2021 has a very floral nose and is smooth and well-balanced in the mouth. You should be able to find it for about $15.
I wish you the happiest of holidays. See you in 2023!