If wine is on a holiday shopping list—whether one is the host, the wine-bearing guest or the gift-giver for wine-loving and foodie friends—one may look no further than local wineries, tasting rooms and curated shops.
Magnum or a Mystery
Responsible for the holiday wine selections this year? One may consider picking up a magnum instead of two bottles for the feast—it’s twice the standard size, 1.5 ml instead of 750. The big bottle elevates an occasion to a celebration, and is also a perfect vessel for preserving and long-aging premium wines.
Many wineries are featuring their magnums now. During this season of richer, more elevated foods, one can’t go wrong with a single-vineyard chardonnay, a cabernet sauvignon or meritage blend from Alexander Valley, or a silky, earthy Russian River Valley or single vineyard pinot noir.
Want an efficient way to stock the wine for a holiday gathering? Montagne Rousse (at Bacchus Landing, russewines.com) offers a monthly Mystery Case. That’s right. These are both fun and of great value—selling for less than the usual bottle price, they are a surprise mix of current, library and un-released stellar wines. Each pull holds the potential for a new wine discovery. They would make a unique group gift as well.
A visit to local tasting rooms or winery websites and one will see myriad offerings of pre-boxed gift sets and holiday bundles of two or more bottles and bottle-olive oil sets. If one is in business, these are client-appreciation gifts ready to go. Want to go beyond liquid libation? Many tasting rooms carry elegant wine stems, glassware, blankets, olive oil or curated culinary items, and always unique logoed shirts and caps. Many also sell gift certificates if one is still unsure.
Smith-Story Wines (also at Bacchus Landing, off Westside Road) carries the most beguiling antique glassware ready for gifting, in addition to their array of beautiful wines—from sparkling brut to Anderson Valley pinots and the Lord Sandwich Red (named for their beloved pup).
For Sonoma County versions of Italian varietal wines (Barbera, Aglianico, Montepulciano, Sangiovese, to name just a few), one may stop at Orsi Family Vineyards (2306 Magnolia) along the way for tastes and browse their colorful Italian ceramics, ornaments, candies, pastas and refrigerated fare.
For those who crave wines and artisanal foods directly from Italy, they may walk over to the new Ciao Bruto! (130 Plaza St.), just steps off the Plaza. They’ll find beautifully wrapped panettone from Sicily, tinned fish and condiments, olive oil and even French grower champagnes, in addition to the main draw—the most tempting inventory of artisanal Italian wines to discover from across the peninsula. They must not miss the refrigerator with chilled bottles and non-alcoholic amaro sodas that I’ve fallen in love with.
A couple blocks away is Journeyman Meat Co. (404 Center St.), with their bottles of mouth-watering chardonnay and pinot noir, and yes, an array of artisanal salumi plus fun apparel and culinary gift sets. One may have a pizza while sipping and pondering. I adore the Bianco with its white cream base, bacon, melted leeks and a fried egg in the middle.
Favor French fare? One may head for Windsor, where Maison Porcella now has a storefront (8499 Old Redwood Highway). Shoppers may stop by for their gorgeous house-made pâtés and Parisian ham, jars of duck fat and mustards, and refrigerator-ready bottles from biodynamic and natural producers from regions across France and a few from California.
It’s so fortunate to live here, surrounded by an abundance of world class wineries crafting an array of wine styles, all within a brief driving distance. Most tasting rooms allow walk-ins for wine pickups, shopping and standing tastings, with a “reservations recommended” policy for seated tastings. One may give a call or check the website for their current practice.
Short on time? One may consider perusing winery websites; then call to ask if a pickup option is available for online purchases. Some have even added “Holiday” or “Gifts” to their web menu.
If one can’t make it out to the wineries tucked among the vineyards, one will find many of their wines in the wine aisle of the well-stocked Big John’s and Oliver’s markets. Or one may stay in town, popping into the many tasting rooms within walking distance of the Plaza, from LIOCO (125 Matheson) and Idlewild (132 Plaza St.) to Portalupi (107 North) and Cartograph (340 Center)—and ok, call it a short bike ride—to Leo Steen and Rootdown (both at The Drink, Old Roma Station on Front Street), plus others.
One may book a holiday tasting to discover the extraordinary wines of local producers, get to know the people and enjoy their beautiful environs as a holiday treat. Then one may check these items off the list when taking home a few bottles, gift sets or a holiday magnum to share around the fireplace.
Mary Beth Vierra is a certified wine educator and Italian wine scholar. She is founder of Crush Course (crushcoursewine.com), helping trade professionals and enthusiasts navigate the world of wine, and lives in Healdsburg.