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Pine Wine: Wines for December holidays

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2020 Chenin Blanc-Viognier

The 2020 Chenin Blanc-Viognier from Pine Ridge Vineyards.

December is the month for selecting gifts for family and friends, and the following wines are excellent choices. They include a wide range of grapes and prices to aid in choosing wines not only for gifts but also for personal enjoyment. 

$10s, 20s and under

C K Mondavi 2020 red blend “California” ($7): This purple-hued blend is medium-strong on nose and palate with appealing fruit, attractive personality and moderate tannins. A great bargain!

Four Vines 2020 Chardonnay “Naked, Central Coast” ($11): Modestly priced, this unoaked Chardonnay is surprisingly strong and has appealing fruit and crispness.

Flat Top Hills 2020 Rosé “California” ($14): Amber color catches the eye, but this nicely priced wine also has strength, full body, pleasing balance and a long finish.

Pine Ridge 2020 Chenin Blanc-Viognier “California” ($16): This longtime personal favorite among modestly priced wines is food flexible and features medium body, appealing fruit, fine crispness and elongated length.

Reata 2019 Chardonnay “Sonoma Coast” ($20): I loved the yellow color with hints of gold, as well as strength and complexity on both nose and palate. Its strong personality carries throughout a prolonged finish.

Villa Maria 2020 Sauvignon Blanc “EarthGarden, Marlborough, New Zealand” ($20): Attractive all around, but most pleasing for its body, fruit, impressive balance and excellent length.

Tablas Creek 2020 white blend “Patelin de Tablas Blanc, Paso Robles” ($25): This blend of five Rhone grape varietals exhibits strength and full body paired with very appealing complexity, integration, refinement and personality.

San Simeon 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon “Paso Robles” ($26): This great value among Cabs impresses across the board, but particularly for its purple hue as well as body, balance and complexity on the palate.

Additional values: C K Mondavi 2018 Merlot “California” ($7), Inscription (by King Estate) 2020 Pinot Noir “Willamette Valley” ($20), Mercer 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon “Horse Heaven Hills, Columbia Valley” ($20), Left Coast 2020 White Pinot Noir “Willamette Valley” ($24), Seghesio 2019 Zinfandel “Sonoma, Sonoma County” ($26) and Justin 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon “Paso Robles” ($28).

$30s - 40s                                     

Aperture 2020 Chenin Blanc “North Coast” ($30): With attraction increasing from eye to nose to palate, I especially enjoyed its strength, full-ish body, honed balance, strong personality and superb length.


Aperture 2020 Chenin Blanc. 

Rombauer 2019 Zinfandel “California” ($35): Tops among Zins in the $30s, there’s impressive complexity on the nose, as well as rounded body, highly appealing fruit, lingering finish and personality on the palate.

Schug 2018 Pinot Noir “Carneros” ($35): This excellent buy in Pinot Noir is especially rewarding for its strength, dimensionality, full body and beautiful, well balanced fruit. Wonderful served with lamb.

Beringer 2019 Chardonnay “Private Reserve, Napa Valley” ($40): Well-priced for its fine quality, there’s notable power, thick body, engaging complexity, smooth integration and prolonged length. 

Hartford 2019 Zinfandel “Old Vines, Russian River Valley” ($40): Purple hue sets the stage for a strong nose and power on the palate with thick body, pleasing balance, excellent fruit, notable complexity and much more.

Merry Edwards 2019 Sauvignon Blanc “Russian River Valley, Sonoma County” ($45): This very impressive wine is attractive to the eye and nose and superior on the palate, combining strength and refinement over extended length.

Others of high quality: harvey & harriet 2019 red blend “San Luis Obispo County” ($30), Ridge 2019 Zinfandel “Paso Robles” ($35), Rombauer 2020 Chardonnay “Carneros” ($38), Kunde 2018 red blend “Meritage 202, Sonoma Valley” ($40), Coen 2019 Malbec “Reserve, Uco Valley, Argentina” ($45; online) and Chappellet 2019 Chardonnay “Grower Selection, Calesa Vineyard, Petaluma Gap” ($49).


Dutcher Crossing 2017 Zinfandel “Pritchett Peaks Vineyard, Rockpile, Sonoma County” ($51; direct shipping): Among the best Zins I’ve tasted in 2021! Its deep-purple hue and powerful, complex nose lead to excellence on the palate with thickly textured body, ideal balance, beautiful fruit, a finish lasting for well over a minute and much more to rave about. 


Ferrari-Carano 2017 red blend.

Ferrari-Carano 2017 red blend “Tresor, Sonoma County” ($55): This very appealing blend of classic Bordeaux grape varieties features deep-purple color, strong aromas, full body, superb fruit, medium tannins, impressive complexity and extended length.

Pine Ridge 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon “Napa Valley” ($65): Tops among Cabs in its price range, this exceptional wine has an eye-catching purple hue, powerful nose, thick body and excellent balance. It’s a notable value, even at $65.

Adobe Road 2018 Pinot Noir “Sangiacomo Vineyards, Roberts Road, Petaluma” ($68): This superb Pinot Noir shines on the palate with strength, thick body, beautiful fruit, exceedingly pleasing personality and long-lingering length.

Immortal 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon “Slope, Sonoma County” ($80): “Immortal” may be a stretch, but this Cab is truly special with impressive power on the palate, full body, wonderful fruit, honed balance, engaging complexity, fine integration, strong personality and extended finish.

Blackbird Vineyards 2017 red blend “Illustration, Napa Valley” ($135): My first taste of red blends from Blackbird Vineyards left quite an impression, and this is the best of three.  Exceptional beauty in the glass and on the nose lead to excellent fruit, superb balance, great length and much more.

More fine wines: Dutcher Crossing 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon “Dutchess Reserve, Napa Valley”($60; direct shipping), Lucia 2019 Chardonnay “Soberanes Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands” ($65), Cattleya 2019 Chardonnay “Call to Adventure, Russian River Valley” ($80; direct shipping) and Cattleya 2019 Pinot Noir “Belly of the Whale, Sonoma Coast” ($85; direct shipping).

Recommended wines can be ordered from local wine stores unless indicated otherwise. Prices may differ. John can be reached at


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