The Best Of California Wine Country, 2010
Don't call it a "gift guide" (although you can certainly use it as such). Instead, this is our wholly unscientific, criminally biased, fervently defended and lovingly curated paean to California's wine country. Despite all the doom-peddling and sky-falling tales that seemed to dominate this year's coverage of the industry, the Napa and Sonoma regions continue to startle and surprise, competing on equal footing with any of the world's traditional or au courant wine terroirs. Check out our celebration of the highlights, and then let us know what we missed in the comments.
Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi Brut Sparkling
We've already told you what sparkling wines you should be toasting with this holiday, so I won't repeat that fine advice here. Instead, a story: the first time I tasted Woodbridge's newest bubbly, I thought there was a mistake. The price tag on the bottle read "$9.99," so I chuckled to a companion, "Would you look at this? They forgot to list the full price." Turns out, that is the full price. A lively blanc de blanc with yeasty cream, chalk and a bright, citrus aromatics. And did I mention it's under $10? Have it for breakfast.
Sequoia Grove 2007 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Sequoia Grove's Director of Winemaking, Michael Trujillo, may have gone from road-tripping college student to cult wine maker, but that's not the most interesting part of the winery's story. Instead, it's Trujillo's transformation of Sequoia Grove since taking stewardship in 2001. The 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon is the first vintage to fully express that sea change-which includes grape sourcing and production-and while notable in its own right, the real discovery here is the portent of great things to come.
Quivira 2008 Wine Creek Grenache
A certified Biodynamic winery that draws all of its power from a solar electric system, tends a Biodynamic and organic garden for local farmers' markets, and has been actively restoring a trout stream, Quivira might just be everything you'd want in your sustainable/ecological/local/greenminded/California hippie vineyard. They also make fantastic wines at very affordable price points, like this 2008 Wine Creek Grenache.
Shafer Vineyards 2008 Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay
It was a great year for John and Doug Shafer, who close out 2010 with a James Beard award and new vintages of their marquee One Point Five and Hillside Select labels. And while the world mainly does know and revere Shafer for its Cab, it's worth pointing out that they've got one of the best Chardonnay's coming out of the state as well. In other words, Shafer remains the one to beat (good luck).
Problem: you want to drink one of acclaimed winemaker Philippe Melka's creations, like say, Dana Estates' 100-point Cab, but you and the rest of the planet can't get your hands on one. Solution: go straight to the source with Melka Wines' CJ Cabernet Sauvignon. You'll get all the full-bodied fruit, structured tannis and Napa terroir of a Melka masterpiece for $48, off the shelf.