Local wines ripe for holiday gifting – and drinking

by Laura Ness on December 17, 2020

Welcome to the altered state of 2020. While the holidays might be somewhat sideways, no need to skimp on wine. Sure, Pinot Noir is always a good go-to, but we’d like to offer some alternates from our local winemakers to spice up your tastebuds.

Fogarty Winery on Skyline in Woodside has been making gorgeous Rieslings from the Wirz Vineyard in San Benito, since 2011, when the erascible Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon Vineyards sold off his wildly popular Pacific Rim Riesling brand. He had been taking the whole vineyard for his production, but suddenly, the fruit needed a new home, and Fogarty winemakers, Michael Martella and Nathan Kandler, were happy to oblige. Fogarty currently has two Rieslings available: the super fresh and zingy 2018 Wirz Riesling and the amazingly golden girl sassy 2012 Skyline, laden with orange peel, marzipan, coriander and plentiful acid. The 2018 can be had for the amazing price of 6 for $100, a sensible way to buy and hold this incredible wine that ages so beautifully.

For those who prefer the spiciness of Gewürztraminer, Fogarty is offering their 2016 Monterey
retail $24,
at $99 for a six-pack. Floral, with coriander spice and hints of tropical fruit, this is a favorite with cranberry sauce and creamy butternut squash with nutmeg. Both of these aromatic whites are perfect for roast turkey, goose or duck a l’orange feast: they cut through everything, all the way to apple pie.

While Fogarty has multiple Pinot Noir selections, the 2017 Will’s Cabin is my current fave. An exemplary ethereal type, it literally evanesces off your tongue, hitting the roof of your mouth with a shower of tingling red fruit. It’s like drinking Tinkerbell’s wand. Also highly recommend is the amber-hued 2016 Walker’s Nebbiolo, a translucent rose-amber beauty that speaks of Autumn with its aromas of lavender, fallen leaves, baked apples and roasted chestnuts. The acidity is soaring, the flavors, amazing. On sale, three for $149. Curbside pickup and local delivery available.

Kings Mountain Vineyards in Woodside has the most intensely flavored Pinot Noirs you’ve ever tasted from our local mountains. There is a massive earthiness combined with forest floor and that umami of sweet, salty and savory that few Pinots can muster. They are offering their 2014 Pinots, the fruitier “Bacchus” and the more earthy style Clone 13, on sale for the holidays at two for $99. These wines normally retail for $65/each. Club members get an additional 15%. These wines are like nothing you’ve tasted.

Their two best Meritage blends, 2005 and 2007, are also on sale, two for $99. These are “endangered species,” because all the Bordeaux vines were grafted to Pinot Noir in 2008. Get these high horsepower steeds for your next steak au poivre or truffle parmesan encrusted beef loin. These are the perfect wines for sitting by the fireplace, in quiet contemplation. Perhaps with chocolate truffles or rum balls.

Saratoga winegrower, Marty Mathis, may be known for his Small Lot Red made from many tiny vineyards throughout the hills, but he’s also making Grüner Veltliner from the Alfaro Vineyard in Corralitos. Grüner is the most widely planted grape in Austria, accounting for 80% of the planted grape acreage there. His 2019 debut vintage of this wine is marked by aromas of apple, lime and white currant, and citrus flavors. It’s decidedly fresh and whisks your palate clean, leaving a long grapefruit finish. Would be great with a turkey salad sandwich, or white figs with cambozola or boursin.

Holidays require bubbles, and for years, Mathis has made sparkling in honor of his late Mom, Kathryn Kennedy, and he’s offering a white wine pack for the holidays includes sparkling, 2017 Sauvignon Blanc and his new 2019 Grüner Veltliner. Text him at 408-230-0392 or email cabernet@kathrynkennedy.com to order wine.

Mindego Ridge on Alpine Road is the quintessential boutique winery, owned by a delightful couple, Dave and Stacey Gollnick, who farm nearly nine acres of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir vineyards (six clones) set on various levels of steep. The bucolic tree-lined property receives significant marine influence, but it also has some toasty exposures. Their winemaker Ehren Jordan (Failla) is a master of restrained expression, so you’ll appreciate the pristine flavors of the 2016 Chardonnay, that marries crisp orchard fruit with a lacquer of citrus, and just enough oak to frame it perfectly.

I love the 2016 Mindego Ridge Pinot Noir for its velvety black raspberry core, fleshed out with red plum and a trace of dried cherry. And the 2019 rosé charms with its juxtaposition of flinty minerality and rose petal perfume, flooding the palate with vivid strawberry and watermelon, and a substantial weightiness straight through the finish.

Neely Wines wants to ensure you have a merry holiday season, and they’re offering swanky gift sets that include wine bottles hand-dipped in red or gold wax, plus wrapping in tissue paper and a hand written gift card. Go for the Pinot Trio, which includes the 2016 Upper Picnic (WE 95), 2016 Hidden Block (PF 94), and 2016 Picnic Block (PF 93). Perfect for a Pinot-lover and perfect for drinking right now or for years to come.

My choice would be the Mixed Trio, which includes 2016 Upper Picnic Pinot Noir (WE 95), 2016 Hidden Block Pinot Noir (PF 94), and 2017 Bee Block Chardonnay (93). There is something about the depth and texture of that Upper Picnic Block Pinot that stays with you, like a pleasingly melodic mind meme. Winemaker Shalini Sekhar is certainly doing this Portola Valley label proud. Don’t forget their popular cooking classes with Chef Laura Stec  – this makes a great Covid Christmas gift.

Portola Valley Vineyards has something unique for the holidays, for those who enjoy dessert style wines. Their Almendral is late harvest Chardonnay fortified with brandy and crushed almonds. For Pinot lovers, the 2014 SCM Pinot is figgy and fleshy with lots of coffee and licorice notes, and was rated 92 points by Tasting Panel in 2018. They also offer a 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon from the Santa Cruz Mountains, native yeast fermented, and pressed the traditional way, with an old-fashioned basket press, as are all their wines.

Waxwing Wines winemaker, Scott Sisemore, nails Lester Vineyard like nobody. Check out his 2018 Lester Pinot Noir, and while you’re at it, the 2018 Lester Syrah, awarded 94 and 95 points respectively by Wine Enthusiast. Score some 2018 Deerheart Pinot Noir (93 pts WE), some of the most intense, soulful, expressive Pinot ever from a tiny vineyard on Alpine Road. Sadly, this year’s crop was torched, but Scott turned to his buddy and alchemist, Davorin Kuchin of Old World Spirits, who distilled it into astonishingly promising brandy. We can’t wait!

Whatever you choose to pour into your glass, remember how lucky we are to live in one of the greatest places on the planet. Fire, plague, smoke, earthquakes and Larry Ellison leaving for Texas cannot deter our spirit, because we are #SiliconValleyStrong!

Author Laura Ness is a freelance wine writer and columnist who can be reached at highperf@got.net

Top photo courtesy of Fogarty Winery; second photo courtesy of Kings Mountain Vineyards; third photo courtesy of Neely Wines

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