Monday, December 24, 2012

Local Wines for the Holidays

This is my December column from the Marinscope Newspapers

When you are enjoying the holidays with your friends and family try pairing these wonderful local wines with your meals.

Point Reyes Vineyard's non-vintage blanc de blanc ($29) is grown sustainably just north of Point Reyes Station along highway 1. It is a wonderful sparkling wine with citrus, pear and a slight yeastiness on the nose. Upon the palate the citrus refines itself into lemon, the yeast becomes baked bread and there is a floral note reminiscent of orange blossoms. This is tart and crisp and would pair wonderfully with shellfish.

Pey-Marin's 2009 "Trois Filles" pinot noir ($39) is grown at several vineyards in West Marin with the majority hailing from the dry farmed and organically grown, Corda Vineyard. The wine was aged for 14 months on French oak barrels with 25% new oak. The long extraction period with a moderate percentage of new barrels balances the aromas of the fruit and the bouquet from the oak. The wine is a dark garnet color. On the nose there are layers of earth and spice with notes of sour cherry, raspberry, cinnamon, clove, and forest floor. On my tongue I tasted rich earthiness, bright cherry, raspberry, and cloves as well as some dark fruits and slight fresh leather notes. This is an old world style pinot that is more bouquet driven than fruit forward with a soft front to mid palate mouthfeel and bright acidity. This pinot noir will pair nicely with turkey.

Pacheco Ranch Winery's 2005 cabernet sauvignon ($25) is grown in Novato on an East facing hillside along highway 101. The nose is earthy with notes of eucalyptus and bell pepper. The earthiness carried through to the palate where I noticed dark cherry, cranberry, cloves, and rich tobacco. The tannins yield a gravely, astringent mouthfeel. The bold tannins will enable it to pair nicely with beef as tannins bind with the meat's proteins in your mouth making the meat more tender and juicy. This wine would also be great for making mulled wine.

Mulled wine reminds me of visiting my dad in Berlin and going to the Christmas markets where it is called glühwein. It is pretty easy to make, all you need is a decent bold red wine, a pot to heat it up in, spices, 1/3 cup of brown sugar, 1/4 cup of brandy and an orange or a lemon, peeled and sliced (keep the peels for adding zest). The spices vary on individual tastes and traditions, but they all have cloves and cinnamon sticks at the center with other spices including ginger, allspice, cardamon, peppercorns, vanilla beans, and nutmeg. You put all of the ingredients into a pot and heat them up together for 30-60 minutes making sure not to let it boil. Play with the proportions to taste. Strain the mulled wine into mugs and serve warm to hot.

For dessert I recommend Charbay's pomegranate dessert wine ($45) made with 100% organic, tree-ripened pomegranates from the Central Valley. It exhibits intense pomegranate flavors with a slight minerality. The wine is sweet but not too sweet and is great when served chilled. I find fresh orange peel makes it even more festive or a splash of orange bitters will give it a bit of a kick. It goes great with roasted chestnuts or chocolate.

Point Reyes Vineyards is located at 12700 Hwy 1 in Point Reyes Station and is open for drop-ins Saturday and Sunday from 12:00pm to 5:00pm. For more information, call (415) 663-1011 or visit

Pey-Marin can be found at Insalata's, Il Fornaio, Marin Beverage, Whole Foods, Mill Valley Market, Ludwigs, and many other fine wine shops throughout Marin. For more information on Pey-Marin, call 455-9463 or visit

Pacheco Ranch Winery is located at 235 Alameda Del Prado Road in Novato, Ca 94949. For appointments call 883-5583. For more information visit

Charbay is available at The Buckeye Restaurant, Mill Valley Market, Rick's Wine Cellar, and other establishments throughout Marin. The tasting room is located at 4001 Spring Mountain Rd in St. Helena, California.. For more information, call (707) 963-9327 or visit

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