Wine Guy: Make your holidays sparkle

Two Champagne Flutes on Christmas Background

If you are looking to make a holiday wine splurge, consider these California cabernet sauvignon, merlot and bordeaux-style blends. Whether you gift yourself or someone else, these wines showcase a pursuit of excellence regardless of price.

Cabernet sauvignon

• 2019 Brandlin Estate ($90): Fruit grown on Mt. Veeder in the Mayacamas mountains; dark berries, bay leaf and anise with rich, full-bodied, firm texture and graceful tannins

• 2019 Spottswoode Lyndenhurst ($90): Spottswoode’s Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is widely regarded among Napa Valley’s elite; Lyndenhurst, the estate’s second wine, is nearly as good; succulent red and black fruits, earthy and tobacco, and refined texture

• 2019 Sullivan Rutherford Estate Coeur de Vigne ($120): Established in the 1970s in Napa Valley, new owners have elevated the winery’s already high reputation since 2018; concentrated cherry and cassis, with cedar, tobacco and a pleasantly dense texture

• 2018 J. Lohr Signature ($100: Tribute to founder Jerry Lohr’s pioneering efforts in Paso Robles; represents the winery’s ultimate red wine; dense dark fruits, toasty chocolate notes, elegant tannins

Merlot

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• 2019 Duckhorn Three Palms Vineyard ($115): This “grand cru” vineyard on the Napa Valley floor again has produced a top-notch wine; succulent black cherry, currant, toast, herbs and spice, olive, tobacco and oak; structured with depth and polish

• 2019 Sullivan J.O. Sullivan Founder’s Reserve ($290): A tribute to James O’Neil Sullivan, who founded the modern winery; tightly focused structure yields to concentrated dark currant and plum, dried herb, savory spice and cedar, silky palate

Blends

• Hamel Family Wines. From a leading organic and biodynamic producer comes two Sonoma Valley special vineyard reserve wines ($160). Each blends cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc: 2018 Nuns Canyon Vineyard — high-elevation site, concentrated wild berry, black plum and licorice, savory accents, rich yet graceful, balanced with firm structure; 2018 Hamel Family Ranch — juicy dark berries, mineral and chocolate notes, hints of anise and a cedary element; full-bodied, yet supple

• 2019 Brandlin Henry’s Keep ($110): With malbec, petit verdot and cabernet franc; similar in many ways to the cabernet above but more complex with slightly more oak and concentration, yet a silky finish

• 2016 Sequoia Grove Cambium ($150): Another winery established in the 1970s in the heart of Rutherford; with cabernet franc and petit verdot; shows bold red berries and cassis, with touches of fragrant, mocha, licorice, earth and oak, with a powerful structure

• 2018 Chalk Hill Estate Red ($85): Find a selection of the best lots of grapes grown on the estate’s steep, hillside vineyards located in the appellation of the same name in Sonoma; with malbec, petit verdot and carménère; rich with flamboyant black fruits, tobacco, baking spices, bay leaf, in a full-bodied frame and lush new oak, finishing with soft tannins

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