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Splurge a Little on Choosing the Best California Wines for the Holidays

California’s bounty of premium wines is prized by home cooks who can present and serve world-class wines without effort to their guests. “One should always splurge for the first bottle,” when serving wine at home, says Doug White of Napa’s soon-to-open Mia Carta collective tasting room. He suggests a rosé or syrah for Thanksgiving or holiday dinners — both are great food-pairing wines. “Rosé is unexpected in the wintertime.” Variety uncorks some made-in-Napa-and-beyond finds, which pair well with holiday menus and the celebratory season.

Clos du Val, Napa
2016 Clos du Val Estate merlot

Hirondelle House is Clos du Val’s year-old, residential-style tasting room overlooking its meticulously tended vineyards in Napa Valley’s Stags Leap District. Its 2016 Estate merlot satisfies with structure and a complex finish. The vintage featured a long growing season, yielding especially vivid fruit. Try it with soft creamy cheeses, roasted vegetables and lighter proteins such as chicken or pork. $42

Paul Hobbs Winery, Sebastopol
2015 Paul Hobbs cabernet franc Nathan Coombs estate

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Hand-harvested and hand-sorted, from Napa’s Coombsville AVA — the latest approved appellation — and fermented with native yeasts, Paul Hobbs cabernet franc showcases the varietal’s intense berry aromas and deep hues. An ideal accompaniment to a roasted leg of lamb, the medium-bodied wine also goes with hearty vegetarian dishes. $175

Italics Winegrowers, Napa
2015 Sixteen Appellations Napa Valley

The Sixteen Appellations is Italics Winegrowers’ signature Bordeaux-style red blend of varietals from each of Napa Valley’s 16 appellations. Cabernet sauvignon (63%) is dominant but softened by merlot (33%) and cab franc (4%). $75

Charles Krug, Napa
2018 Charles Krug chardonnay

Napa’s oldest wine estate (established in 1861) is in the experienced hands of the Peter S. Mondavi Sr. family. The 2018 Charles Krug chardonnay’s fermentation in stainless steel tanks and French oak barrels yields a somewhat austere chardonnay, per Peter Mondavi Jr., who recommends “keeping it simple” over the holidays. $21

J. Lohr Vineyards and Winery, San Jose
2018 Bay Mist white riesling

Family-owned and operated for more than five decades, with vineyards in Napa, Monterey County and Paso Robles, the J. Lohr Vineyards and Winery produces wine from California’s Central Coast. The aromatic 2018 Bay Mist White Riesling is highly versatile and makes for a complex, elegant aperitif. $10

Long Meadow Ranch, St. Helena
2018 rosé of pinot noir Anderson Valley

The Anderson Valley rosé is a blend made from direct pressing and saignée (the first juice from a pressing). It’s a go-to wine for the traditional roast turkey dinner elevated with mushroom and chestnut stuffing and greens with pecan. $25

Materra I Cunat Family Vineyards, Napa
2017 Materra viognier

Viognier, among white wines, shines for its freshness and ability to stand up to spice. Materra’s Napa viognier from the Oak Knoll district offers a floral medley of stone fruits such as pear and nectarine. Try it with seared scallops or highly spiced Thai dishes. $36

Raymond Vineyards, St. Helena
2017 Raymond Napa Valley reserve cabernet sauvignon

Vineyards from Oak Knoll to north of Calistoga were sourced for this reserve cabernet sauvignon. “If you enjoy New York steak, this is a dream,” says Raymond Vineyards’ proprietor Jean-Charles Boisset. Labels are velvet, telegraphing the plush wine inside. $45

ZD Wines, Napa 2017 ZD Wines Founder’s Reserve pinot noir, Carneros

Fewer than 30 barrels of this pinot noir were made. Fruit was sourced from the winery’s organic estate vineyard and aged in smaller French oak barrels for 15 months ($90). Collectors may pine for the Abacus XXI, a blend of each vintage of ZD Wines’ reserve cabernet sauvignon, representing the pinnacle of the winery’s output. $2,100 for a three-bottle pack.

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