Vino and Bubbly for the Holidays


John Murray

, Food & Drink

Wine and champagne recommendations for gifts or for yourself

Before offering a few holiday suggestions, a brief word about the Sonoma Kincaid fires that occurred in October. Some of you know I was evacuated from Coffey Park in Santa Rosa in the fires that burned in October of 2017. Known as the Tubbs Lane fire, it caused significant loss of life. It was fortunate no lives were lost in this year’s fire.

The other good news is the wine industry is alive and well in Sonoma, despite the fires. Homes, outbuildings and two wineries were destroyed. But all is well and prospects are good. The early word from my winemaker friends is that this year’s vintage will be outstanding.

Now, with the Christmas season here, it’s time to talk about gifts and bubbles to enhance the celebration. Here are some recommendations for gift-giving wines.

FROG’S LEAP WINERY, Rutherford, Calif.

Longtime friend and owner of Frog’s Leap, John Williams, has been farming and making wine for 40 years. The vineyards are organically grown and dry-farmed, using biodynamic practices that are maintained through the planting of cover crops, which lure insects that help produce good fruit.

2016 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon $59.99: Flavors of black fruit with hints of mocha create a wine of classic Cab flavors.

2018 Sauvignon Blanc $24.99: Stone fruit, crisp and bright, this wine is an outstanding example of old-world style using new-world fruit.

SHAFER VINEYARDS, Stags Leap District, Napa, Calif.

The late John Shafer planted Cabernet Sauvignon in small hillside vineyard blocks in 1973. Doug Shafer and winemaker Elias Fernandez have created one of the true esoteric wineries in Napa. Collectors from around the world seek out these wines.

2015 Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon $299.99: This is rich, opulent and full of spicy dark currants and hints of bright cherries. Baking spices, black licorice and a touch of cedar help integrate both tannins and flavor.


Here are the European Union terms for sparkling wines. These terms are followed by almost all producers in the world. Dosage is the addition of sugar into the finished product.

Rating Sugar content in grams per liter (g/l):

• Brut Nature (no added sugar) 0-3 g/l
• Extra Brut 0-6 g/l
• Brut 0-12 g/l
• Extra Dry, Extra Sec, Extra Seco 12-17 g/l
• Dry, Sec, Seco 17-32 g/l
• Demi-Sec, Semi Seco 32-50 g/l
• Doux, Sweet, Dulce 50+ g/l

IRON HORSE VINEYARDS, Sonoma County, Calif.

This winery might have the best views in Sonoma County. Iron Horse produces only from estate-grown fruit in Green Valley AVA of the Russian River Valley.

The wines are bright, elegant and delicate. They are known for their Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and sparkling wines. The bubbles are amazing.

Iron Horse Brut X 2014 $49.99

Rich, creamy and extremely dry, this wine is delicate and very elegant. The finish is very satisfying and balanced with small bubbles, resembling French Champagne. A classic sparkler made in Sonoma.

Iron Horse Ocean Reserve Blanc de Blancs 2013 $49.99

This is a limited-edition sparkling wine. Iron Horse donates $4 per bottle to the National Geographic Ocean Initiative. Proceeds go toward establishing marine protected areas around the globe. It is a very well-made sparkling wine with rich textures.

Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noirs

Non-Vintage, Sonoma, Calif. $18.99

Hand-harvested grapes of Pinot Noir give this wine rich, creamy flavors of citrus and cola. Its salmon color is achieved through 24 hours of contact with the grape skins. It is always a favorite for us because it was poured at our daughter’s wedding.

A to Z Wineworks Bubbles Rosé, Willamette Valley, Ore. $15.99

A blush pink hue invites you to taste the flavor of strawberry, raspberry, peach and apricot combined with subtle hints of white flowers. Good acidity gives this sparkler a delightful, clean and crisp finish.

Treveri Cellars Gewürztraminer Sparkling Demi-Sec, Yakima Valley, Wash. $16.99

This bubbly offers a combination of exotic fruit aromas and spice, which directs this wine to rich flavors. Hints of spice enlighten your taste buds with a slight fruity off-dry finish.

Soter Vineyards Mineral Springs Brut Rosé, Willamette Valley, Ore. $ 69.99

Mineral Springs Ranch is a 40-acre area planted on a 240-acre biodynamic farm. Ancient soils and temperate climate with respectful farming practices result in expressive and layered, flavorful wines. This great sparkler is enjoyed by my family every New Year’s Eve.

Imported wine buyer and manager Joe Buchter (CWS, CSP, WSET II) recommends these two wines:

Domaine Karanika 2017 Brut Cuvée Spéciale, Greece $32.99

This is a non-champagne for your favorite Olympian, and I mean that in the most classic way possible. Karanika is located in northwestern Greece at more than 2,000 feet above sea level, where they make sparkling wine to rival entry-level Champagne and Cremant. They use the same production methods but with the indigenous grapes of Xinomavro and Assyrtiko. This is a perfect wine for any Champagne enthusiast with a taste for the exotic.

Lini Oreste 910 Lambrusco Secco, Italy $15.99

Don’t be intimidated by the idea of a dry, fizzy red wine. It’s good, I swear. Italy has a fine tradition of fizzy Rosso served with hard cheeses and cured fatty meats. Contrary to the Riunite of old, Lini’s Lambrusco is dry and should be served chilled. Fresh strawberries and pomegranate refresh your palate alongside even the heaviest of holiday meals.

Wishing all the happiest and safest holidays.

John Murray is proprietor of State Line Liquors.

So, what do you think? Please comment below.