This is a wonderful season for enjoying wines and giving wines and wine-related items to family and friends. The following suggestions range from appealing bargains to very impressive, expensive wines.


Ponzi 2018 Pinot Gris “Willamette Valley” ($19): A fine buy with strong fruit on the attack paired with excellent acidity for beautiful balance. Well crafted, its forward flavors continue through a long-lingering finish.

Arizona Wine: A History of Perseverance & Passion. 158 pp. ($22): A well-illustrated, softbound book by Phoenix-based, award-winning writer Christina Barrueta covers the history, present state and future of Arizona wine, with emphasis on the state’s four major wine regions. Available online.

The Pairing 2016 Syrah “Santa Ynez Valley” ($25): An incredible bargain with beauty all-around. I loved it luminescent purple hue, powerful nose, thick texture, excellent complexity, fine integration and great length. Huge from first sip through lingering finish.

Raeburn 2017 Pinot Noir “Russian River Valley” ($25): Light in color, but with pleasing fruit and complexity on nose and especially on the palate, which also expresses refinement, balance and a lingering finish. Outperforms its price.

Dutton 2018 Sauvignon Blanc “Kylie’s Cuvée, Russian River Valley” ($27): Beautiful, rich fruit on the attack is rapidly joined by attractive acidity accompanied by strong fruit, impressive integration and notable complexity extending through a prolonged finish.


Duckhorn 2018 Sauvignon Blanc “Napa Valley” ($30): Very refined with gentle softness on attack, soon followed by beautiful acidity producing excellent balance mingling with fine complexity, integration and refinement, all persisting through a lengthy finish.

Riedel Performance Pinot Noir glass ($30/glass): This eye-catching glass greatly impressed me with how the same wine tasted better than in my regular Pinot Noir glasses. Nicely priced, for years of pleasure. Available from riedel.com.

Soda Rock 2017 Zinfandel “Wentworth, Sonoma County” ($32): The winey was destroyed in the Kincade Fire, but its wines are still available. Support the winery and enjoy powerful complexity on the nose and strength on the palate with forward, excellently balanced fruit, pleasing complexity and exceptional development. Available from sodarockwinery.com.

Crossbarn (by Paul Hobbs) 2017 Pinot Noir “Sonoma Coast” ($37): This exceedingly well-crafted Pinot features strength and complexity on nose and palate, highly appealing integration and a very attractive personality that extends for lingering length.


Vineyards: Photographs by Fred Lyon. 223 pp. ($40): Fred Lyon’s seven decades photographing the world’s wine regions are expressed in 150 engaging photographs illustrating the multiple dimensions of wine. Captivates again and again.

Landmark 2017 Pinot Noir “Hop Kiln Estate, Russian River Valley” ($40): This exceptional Pinot Noir features absolutely gorgeous fruit on the attack, quickly paired with acidity and beautifully melded tannins. Excellently crafted!

Duckhorn 2017 Merlot “Napa Valley” ($50): This fine wine has superbly balanced fruit on the attack quickly joined by tannins and complexity. Its personality persists for lingering finish. Can be paired with the Duckhorn Sauvignon Blanc recommended above in a holiday gift pack available from duckhorn.com.

Ponzi 2015 Chardonnay “Aurora Vineyard, Chehalem Mountains” ($63): Beautiful Chardonnay in a forward, Oregon style. Textured in the mouth with strong attack and full body. Wonderful balance pairs with excellent complexity, personality and length. Available online.

Cakebread 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon “Napa Valley” ($68): My favorite Cab in its price range has strength, fruit and complexity on nose and palate. Gorgeous, smooth fruit initially dominates, but fine balance and complexity soon join and persist for prolonged length.

$70 and higher

Charles Krug 2015 red blend “Generations, Family Reserve, Napa Valley” ($70): This well-crafted Cabernet-dominated blend is very strong on the attack with rich fruit, appealing complexity and nicely honed balance. Finishes with pleasing quality and length.

Mollydooker 2017 Shiraz “Carnival of Love, McLaren Vale, Australia” ($80): Superbly expresses impressive crafting throughout, initially featuring knockout gorgeous fruit and wonderful balance and then developing engaging, long-extending complexity.

Pine Ridge 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon “Stags Leap District, Napa Valley” ($140): Highly attractive all-around, but especially on palate with strong, very appealing fruit quickly joined by core tannins that add pronounced complexity in mid-palate and lead to a long, beautiful finish.

Robert Mondavi 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon “The Reserve, To Kalon Vineyard, Oakville, Napa Valley” ($175): Classic California Cabernet Sauvignon! This engaging wine is exceptional now and promises even more over the years. Among many impressive attributes is an exceedingly lengthy, continuously pleasing finish.

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John Vankat’s wine columns appear most months and his Wine Pick of the Week is published every Wednesday.  Wines can be ordered from local wine stores unless indicated otherwise.  Prices may differ.  John can be reached at azpinewine@yahoo.com.


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