November 18, 2019 – With Thanksgiving just over the river and through the woods, we thought it would be fun to share some recommendations on wines from our local wineries. It’s a mix of wines you can find at major grocery stores and some you need to visit the winery to acquire or order online. In alphabetical order, we urge you to drink local this holiday season.
Big Basin Vineyards – 2017 Wirz Old Vine Vineyard Carignane – A gorgeous garnet hue in the glass is just the beginning of this wine’s innate charm, unfolding with vivid blueberry and pomegranate fruit. Pair with dark turkey thigh meat and cranberry-chile relish. For white wine lovers, the pristine 2017 Howard Family Chardonnay from Corralitos would be a fantastic pair with apple-quince almond meal tart.
Comanche Cellars – 2016 Chareva Vineyard Pinot Noir, Arroyo Seco – Winemaker Michael Simons says this wine recently loved a standing pork rib roast with Yorkshire pudding and he’d pretty much guarantee you’ll love it with roasted turkey, or even a succulent glazed ham with cheesy potatoes. For the vegetarians among us, think of butternut squash ravioli with lemon cream sauce or stuffed acorn squash with nutty wild rice.
Folktale – 2018 Estate Rosé of Sangiovese — This is a zesty way to kick off a meal, with its essence of pomelo, grapefruit and juicy honeydew melon. Maybe you’re making prime rib or smoking a turkey? Go for the 2017 Le Mistral Grenache, rich and full bodied, with plenty of spice. Winemaker David Baird is about to bottle a carbonic 2019 Sangiovese that he says will be killer with roast turkey.
Hahn – 2017 Lucienne Pinot Noir, Smith Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands – Winemaker Paul Clifton has a way with pinot noir that coaxes out the softness of the varietal while preserving its edgy ballerina essence. This one wraps raspberry, cherry and vanilla in a velvet cloak of warm toast. Pair with Brussels sprouts, Baker’s bacon and butternut squash. (Recipe on Hahn website here.)
J. Lohr – 2018 Gesture Grenache Blanc, Paso Robles – Never has J. Lohr produced a white wine of such lush textural structure and appeal as this GB crafted by Kristen Barnhisel, winemaker for white wines. It can stand up to cauliflower with lemon browned butter crumbs, cheesy crab toasts or roasted squab stuffed with faro and kumquats. We also love her juicy 2018 J. Lohr F & G Sauvignon Blanc, Arroyo Seco.
Kobza – 2017 Wirz Vineyard Old Vine Mourtauo, San Benito – Winemaker Ryan Kobza enjoys finding unusual varieties from historic old vine properties, crafting wines that taste like nothing else. Also known as Cabernet Pfeffer, this spicy peppery mourtauo from 100-year-old vines in Cienega Valley is attention-getting and would be awesome with chorizo chile cornbread stuffing. Mourtauo is an ancient Bordeaux variety from the Gironde region of France.
McIntyre – 2018 Estate Pinot Noir Rosé, Santa Lucia Highlands – Steve McIntyre carefully crop-thins the 47-year-old, own rooted, Lyre trellised vines on the estate vineyard to develop more concentrated fruit flavors. This site was originally planted for sparkling, but its north/south row orientation delivers ideal sun exposure for a beautiful rosé that will make friends with game hen, turkey, ham and all the fixings.
Morgan – 2018 Double L Riesling, Santa Lucia Highlands –Riesling is a tradition at our house at Thanksgiving. It’s a gracious way to start a meal, and to continue right on through it. We toast Morgan for all their years of seriously excellent wines at affordable prices and we also love the 2017 Highland Chardonnay, with its clean apple and pastry flavors, which would pair nicely with apple butternut squash soup.
Nicholson – 2018 Viognier, Sierra Foothills – Love that smooth, creamy texture of a good Viognier? Winemaker John Ritchey (Bottle Jack) delivers the goods on this one, a delight to serve with cream cheese toasts topped with apricot or quince jam. The Nicholson 2017 Estate Chardonnay perfectly pairs subtle oak with vibrant orchard fruit and the 2016 Three Sisters pinot can handle the bird, whether it be pheasant, squab or poussin.
Odonata – 2018 Carignan, Circle K Vineyard, Paso Robles – Winemaker Denis Hoey didn’t hesitate to recommend this “badass little wine,” packed with peach and stone fruit aromas, and crisp and lively minerality, along with explosive strawberries on the palate. With 30% whole cluster for chewy texture, its irrepressible verve makes it the kind of wine that chauffeurs you handily through a bountiful buffet.
Puma Road –2015 Apex Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands – With its ample floral and spice notes, and raspberry, cherry and chocolate on the palate, the acidity makes this wine perfect with roast squab or duck, perhaps with an orange zest and Star Thistle honey miso glaze, accompanied by green beans with spiced almonds.
Scheid – 2018 Sauvignon Blanc, Monterey – Kick off the party with this crisp and lively libation that well whet everyone’s appetite with this classy blend of lemongrass and pure oakless sass. The vivacious lime, lemon zest, passionfruit, melon and pineapple call for endive spears filled with angel hair coleslaw and pistachios or crab and mango butter lettuce cups. Grilled shrimp and pineapple bruschetta would also be worthy mates.
Stockwell Cellars – 2017 Pinot Grigio Ramato – Curious about “orange” wines? Basically a white wine made like a red, this is made from pinot grigio grapes, macerated and fermented on the skins, yielding a pale coral color. It’s perfectly dry, giving off hints of passion fruit and blood orange on the palate and finishes with a touch of apricot. An ideal foil for appetizers.
Storrs – 2017 Wildcat Ridge Chardonnay, Pleasant Valley – Seriously, whose chardonnay can be found on more wine lists in the Santa Cruz area than Storrs? And for good reason. Pair this Double Gold medal winning glassful of ripe pear and apple beauty from Corralitos with endive, frisee and pear salad, tossed with pear balsamic vinaigrette and sugared pecans. A simple poached pear dessert with hazelnut crème fraiche and a glass of this would make you look like a genius.
Talbott – 2016 Sleepy Hollow Chardonnay, Santa Lucia Highlands – How do we count the ways that Dave Coventry does chardonnay? From the ubiquitously drinkable Kali Hart to the rare these days Diamond T, we love them all, but Sleepy Hollow charms with its flood of orchard fruit, tempered by a framework of sleek acidity and warm oak. Divine with hazelnut and golden raisin cornbread stuffing.
Windy Oaks – 2016 Sparkling Albarino, Methode Champenoise, Cedar Lane Vineyard, Arroyo Seco – Looking for a sparkler with bright apple, lime and peach bathed in opulent brioche notes? You might find the delicate creamy beading of this sparkler’s fine mousse the ideal companion to raw oysters or ceviche with a squeeze of lime. It will also be a masterful conclusion to the meal, paired with pumpkin pecan cheesecake or a rustic apple gallette.
Laura Ness is a longtime wine journalist, columnist and judge who contributes regularly to Edible Monterey Bay, Spirited, WineOh.Tv, Los Gatos Magazine and Wine Industry Network, and a variety of consumer publications. Her passion is telling stories about the intriguing characters who inhabit the fascinating world of wine and food.