Finding time to travel to all of California’s great wine-producing regions is something even local residents cannot always manage. This holiday season, we’ve picked six favorites from a recent statewide tasting that highlight our diversity of grape and place. From Lake to Livermore, from Sonoma to Santa Lucia—take a virtual California road trip as you taste your way across varying vintage varietals.
- CategoryEat & Drink
- Written byBonnie Graves
1. CHARDONNAY, WENTE VINEYARDS, “NTH DEGREE”
Livermore Valley, 2010
Wente is a major player in simple, everyday wines. This premium chardonnay, however, showcases what 125 years of winegrowing can achieve. Put Livermore, just east of San Francisco, on your destination map, where the Wentes combine food, family and a legendary concert series with great wine. wentevineyards.com
2. PRIMITIVO, ROSA D’ORO
Lake County, 2010
Hidden treasures! Rosa d’Oro specializes in anything but ordinary grapes. From dolcetto to aglianico to this primitivo, they are reminding many people why Italy’s great grapes can flourish in California. We loved this spicy, easy-drinking primitivo—
a kissing cousin to red zinfandel.
3. PINOT NOIR, WRATH WINES, “BOEKENOOGEN”
Santa Lucia Highlands, 2010
People passionate about pinot already know where the Santa Lucia Highlands are, because the region’s foggy Monterey mornings and sun-drenched afternoons create what many consider to be California’s best pinot noir. This bottling from Wrath wines is intense, with black raspberry and cola scents balanced with rich soil tones. wrathwines.com
Napa Valley, 2009
Most folks know Napa, of course, but while big names like Silver Oak, Screaming Eagle and Caymus dominate the scene, “generation-next” producers like Ovid are quietly remaking cult cab in the new millennium. Winemaker Austin Peterson seems young until you realize he made his first wine at age 15. His experience shows in this super-premium blend of all five of Bordeaux’s noble grapes. Stunning wine and worth every penny.
5. ROUSSANNE, VILLA CREEK CELLARS, “JAMES BERRY VINEYARD”
Paso Robles, 2010
If you think Rhône wines are exclusively red, give this incredible white a whirl. Modeled on the legendary vin blanc of Château de Beaucastel, winemaker Cris Cherry’s roussanne from Paso Robles is deep and nutty with aromas of honey, acacia and almond skin.
6. ROSÉ OF PINOT NOIR, BALLETTO VINEYARDS
Balletto is a tiny producer in the Russian River Valley, where they sustainably farm 600 acres of exceptional, cool-climate grapes. Recently named Sonoma County’s “Farm Family of the Year,” Balletto’s delicate, dry rosé of pinot noir is delicious, with haunting notes of strawberry leaf, rhubarb and guava.
Brooke Williamson and Nick Roberts clean house.