The 12 Days of Wine

The holidays can turn even the most serene among us into high-speed perfectionists, working around the clock, or so it seems, to make sure the house is impeccable, the presents are wrapped with precision and the feast is flawless.
And yet we’re grouchy, bullied by our to-do lists. Here’s an unorthodox suggestion: let your to-do list go undone and carve out a time each day to take a break from the harried holiday by uncorking a bottle of wine with others.
Kick off the 12 Days of Wine today and ride the ritual through January 2nd. We’ve done the palate prep for you, choosing a great selection of special wines.
All you have to do is be present. It won’t be easy, but just remind yourself you have a right, if not an obligation, to appreciate Wine Country’s bounty. This is especially true during the holidays, when we want to celebrate the season.
1st Day (Dec. 22nd): Kick off with an inexpensive red that’s in good supply, one that is accessible to all households, even those with little disposable cash. The $11 Stephen Vincent, 2008 Crimson California at 14.2 percent alcohol is a zesty blend with aromas and flavors of black raspberry, black cherry, anise and cracked black pepper. It’s sophisticated and balanced, a tasty find at this price point.
2nd Day (Dec. 23): The day before Christmas Eve has to be a persuasive pick so you’ll be forced to interrupt your last-minute cooking, cleaning and prepping for visiting family and guests. After some reflection and some serious sipping, our pick is the Patz & Hall, 2008 Burnside Vineyard, Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, 14.2 percent alcohol, $70. It’s a complex pinot with layered flavors of cherry, herbs and spice. It has great oak integration, with a hint of vanilla and caramel. This pinot makes a great companion. As Rick says in the film, “Casablanca:” “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” (Less expensive option: Sonoma Cutrer 2007 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, $34)
3rd Day (Dec. 24): Christmas Eve dinner in Wine Country is synonymous with Dungeness crab and our pick — the Duckhorn Vineyards, 2009 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc — works well with the tasty crustacean. The $27 sauvignon blanc, at 13 percent alcohol, is a tropical sauvignon blanc, with crisp acidity. Notes of grapefruit, Meyer lemon, vanilla and toast. Citrusy. (Less expensive option: Pomelo, 2009 California Sauvignon Blanc, $10)
4th Day (Dec. 25): The perfect brunch sparkler to uncork, to celebrate the day after wading through Santa’s deliveries, is the L’Ermitage, 2003 Anderson Valley Brut Rose. The bubbly, at $65 and 12 percent alcohol, is complex with aromas and flavors of cherry, baked apple, almond and brioche. Nice mousse. Long finish. Order it through the tasting room. (Less expensive option: Schramsberg Vineyards, 2007 North Coast Brut Rose, $41)
5th Day (Dec. 26): On the day following Christmas dinner, you’ll want a non-feast wine that tastes great solo, so our pick is the AP Vin, 2009 Keefer Ranch Vineyard Pinot Noir, 14.2 percent, $48. A jammy pinot noir with depth, it has notes of dried cherry, herbs and cracked black pepper, and a lingering finish. (Less expensive option: Sebastiani, 2007 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon, $18)
6th Day (Dec. 27): During the holiday stretch, you’ll want a cool-weather comfort wine, so our pick is the Bonterra, 2007 Mendocino County Syrah, 14.5 percent alcohol, $18. It’s an approachable syrah that’s a good quaffer, with aromas and flavors of red raspberry, herb, spice and a hint of rhubarb. It’s balanced, with crisp acidity.
7th Day (Dec. 28): In between the Christmas and New Year’s feasts, a light dinner is in order, so our pick is the Franciscan Magnificat, 2006 Napa Valley Red Wine, 14.5 percent alcohol, $50. It has a bright blend of fruit with notes of cherry, rhubarb and cranberry. Spicy undercurrent. Crisp acidity. (Less expensive option: Rodney Strong, 2008 Chalk Hill Sonoma County Chardonnay, $20)
8th Day (Dec. 29): Do you really need a reason to taste a great pinot? Our “just because” pick is the The Simi, 2009 Sonoma County Pinot Noir, 14.5 percent alcohol, $25. This tasty wine has a creamy texture and aromas and flavors of black cherry, plum, herbs and spice. It also has good length.
9th Day (Dec. 30): To help you ponder your New Year’s resolutions, our pick is the Le Reve, 2004 Domaine Carneros Taittinger, Blanc de Blancs, 12 percent alcohol, $85. This is a yeasty bubbly with notes of apple, pear, mineral and spice. The flavor is full of fruit, but it also has great acid. (Less expensive option: Korbel Natural NV Russian River Valley Champagne, $16)
10th Day (Dec. 31): To celebrate the New Year, you’ll want to uncork many sparklers, but we suggest starting with the Iron Horse, 2005 Green Valley, Russian River Valley Ultra Brut, 13.5 percent alcohol, $50. This bubbly is complex with a refreshing lift from its great acid. Yet it has a creamy texture, with notes of ripe apple, yeast and mineral. Nice mousse. (Less expensive option: Gloria Ferrer, NV Carneros, Blanc de Noirs, $20)
11th Day (Jan. 1): To keep your number-one resolution, which is to become an intrepid wine explorer, open a bottle of the Novy Family Winery, 2007 Christensen Family Vineyard Syrah, 14.4 percent alcohol, $29. This zesty syrah has a great concentration of fruit, with notes of anise and pepper. (Less expensive option: Bedrock Wine Co.’s 2009 Ode to LuLu, $22)
12th Day (Jan. 2): The J, 1999 Russian River Valley Brut, 12.5 percent alcohol, $65. This sparkler is yeasty and nutty, with notes of baked pear and crème brulee, and it has a caramel finish. (Less expensive option: J Cuvee 20, Russian River Valley, $22)

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