Soul-Satisfying Wine Picks for California Wine Month

EnRoute Pinot Noir Les Pommiers (Photo credit : EnRoute Winery)

It’s prime harvest season in the wine world. This is one of the best times for oenophiles, gastronomes and wine-curious folks to visit wine country. Sun-ripened grapes fill the air with a heady scent and there are harvest festivities galore—from watching winemakers in action, to picking grapes, to stomping on freshly-picked grapes. 2020 is the year of cancelled plans, so things look a bit different. However, the good news is that enjoying a bottle (or a few!) of wine is not cancelled. On that note, let’s toast to September and California wine month. Not that we really need a reason to drink fine Californian wine…

The Golden State produces some of the world’s most sought-after wines. Sonoma County, Napa Valley’s laid-back, chilled-out cousin in particular, makes some of California’s most distinct, superlative wines. So while we’re missing travel sorely, we can always bring a bit of wine country to us. Here are some excellent Sonoma wines to savor from the comfort of your couch.

Sip your way away to a golden state of mind (no pun intended!), warm beaches, and swaying palm trees. There is a wine for every mood, every taste and every budget.

2017 Sebastiani Cabernet Sauvignon ($40)

Sebastiani Vineyards & Winery was one of the first to produce a varietal Cabernet Sauvignon in Sonoma County. Deep purplish-red in color, this is a stunning wine from start to finish. Aromas of cranberries and tobacco are present at first whiff, leading to deep nutty flavors. The 2017 Sebastiani Cabernet Sauvignon  with its toasty vanilla and marzipan flavors is a complete revelation. You’ll really want to take your time and savor every sip. This super savory wine with its ripe, round tannins pairs beautifully with spiced, grilled meats. But really, the best pairing is a dog-eared favorite book and a comfortable rocking chair. 

2018 Capture Pine Mountain Sauvignon Blanc ($50)

This Bordeaux-style wine is a study in contrasts, and a super delicious one at that. The 2018 Capture Pine Mountain Sauvignon Blanc  has lush tropical flavors of lychees and kiwi, super sharp acidity and flinstone-like minerality. And somehow it all ties in really well together. It begins with aromas of exotic fruit, leads to an explosion of citrus flavors, and finishes on a chalky limestone note. Sam Teakle, Winemaker recommends some great pairings, “This wine pairs beautifully with oysters. Or, if you’re building a cheese board—the laserbeam acidity cuts through the richness of goat cheese, fresh and dried fruit to make the notes of the wine pop, and fresh herbs like rosemary and sage to complement the aromatics of the wine.”

Gary Farrell ‘Russian River’ Chardonnay 2017 ($35)

Aromas bring tangerine zest, coconut, and passionfruit. The citrus gives way to a burst of complex deliciousness. Stone-fruit and lime flavors are balanced with a delicate nuttiness and excellent minerality. The wine has mellow acidity and a velvety texture. It will pair brilliantly with herbed seafood dishes like parsley-scented halibut or grilled salmon with tarragon. For a vegetarian pairing, try a pumpkin and sage risotto. 

Gary Farrell Russian River Selection Pinot Noir 2017  ($45)

This is a great pour for rainy fall evenings, with the fire roaring inside. Translucent red in colour, it begins with aromas of freshly-picked cherries and ripe raspberries. It boasts woodsy, mushroom flavors and a smooth, vanilla finish. Excellent acidity brings balance to the red lush fruit. For a great pairing, try it with mushroom-topped pizza, or barbecue portobello mushrooms, to pick up on natural earthy flavors in the wine. 

Gary Farrell 2016 Hallberg Vineyard Pinot Noir ($55)

The thin-skinned Pinot Noir grape is mystifying at best, but Sonoma County has some great terroirs that tame its temperamental nature. Hallberg vineyard being a cool and foggy site provides a great maritime climate for the grapes to really thrive. This gorgeous pomegranate-hued wine starts with violets, clove and brown sugar on the nose. The palate is well balanced with rich fruit flavors and gentle acidity. It’s dark-colored but has a lightweight texture, making it great for languorous brunches. Pair with classic brunch foods—bruschetta, a hearty frittata or even savory chicken waffles. 

2017 Hamel Family Wines Isthmus ($85)

This juicy Bordeaux-style wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot. The 2017 Hamel Family Wines Isthmus is a stunning garnet in colour. The wine opens with mouth-watering aromas of blackberries and maraschino cherries, with just a hint of licorice. It burst with ripeness and a rich, jammy flavor. This is a voluptuous wine with silky tannins, and wonderfully integrated spicy and savory notes. Try it with simple foods packed with natural umami flavor like grilled portobello mushrooms, seared scallops, or butter-poached asparagus. 

2018 EnRoute “Les Pommiers” Pinot Noir ($60)

Pinot Noir is a wine for all seasons. That said, the 2018 EnRoute “Les Pommiers” Pinot Noir with its peppery, herbaceous notes is fantastic to drink as we step into fall. It also smells like freshly cut roses, which is perfect to bid goodbye to summer with. The fragrance reveals roses and red fruit. The wine is lush with dark sublime earthy flavors, and a long satisfying finish. It’s a seductive wine that leaves you wanting more. It pairs brilliantly with hearty fall fare – roasted root veggies, lentil and squash soups and pot roasts. 

Fort Ross 2017 Sea Slopes Chardonnay ($30)

Chardonnay is a California’s leading grape varietal, and boy, Californians sure know how to work with this very versatile grape. The Sea Slopes 2017 Chardonnay is a superb expression of the majestic Sonoma coast. On the nose, there is ripe apple, peach and baking spice that leads to a rich, deep caramel flavor. The honeyed, caramelly tones lead to a long lingering finish. It is light, very drinkable, and perfect for fall picnics. Soft cheeses really bring out the flavors in this supple wine. Baked camembert with figs, or pasta in gorgonzola sauce would be fantastic pairings. 

Fort Ross 2017 Sea Slopes Pinot Noir ($35)

The Sea slopes pinot noir 2017 is one of the finest Pinot Noir bottlings from the Sonoma Coast. A heady scent of blackberries, rose and cola are supported by a deep, concentrated tea flavor.  With its bracing acidity and gentle tannins, this garnet-colored wine is remarkable for the price. Enjoy it young or crack it open five years down the line to wonderfully developed complexities. Pair with rich, dense paté or poultry meat like chicken or rabbit with sweet root vegetables. 

Fort Ross 2017 FRV Pinot Noir ($52)

This diaphanous ruby colored wine reveals currant aromas and white pepper notes. Red fruits go on and on, with hints of orange peel and sea salt.  It has a plush texture, with cool-climate acidity, and a satisfying earthy finish. This luscious wine is ripe to open now, and is perfectly cellar-worthy too. Pair it with a fatty fish like lobster mac and cheese for the ultimate flavor bomb. 

Raeburn 2019 Pinot Noir ($20)

The first thing you’d notice about the Raeburn Pinot Noir 2019 is its stunning garnet colour. Oak-aging brings a nutty hazelnut flavor and a lovely smoky quality. Drink this bottle at leisure, maybe on a romantic date night with delicious food and immersive conversation. Expressive and earthy, this wine will pair well with meat-heavy dishes like coq au vin. Fatty fish like salmon will also be a great match to the wine’s intensity. 

Raeburn 2018 Chardonnay ($20)

Not a chard fan? This is the Chardonnay that could change your mind! Chardonnay really is a winemaker’s wine. In this deep gold wine, the grape’s inherent flavors really shine through—fresh green apple, ripe pear, and lemon curd. It’s driven with vibrant acidity and has a super smooth mouthfeel with vanilla on the finish. This oak-aged wine is best paired with toasty flavors like smoked meats, roasted nuts, and savory pies.

Raeburn 2019 Pinot Noir Rosé ($20)

Rosé all day. Raeburn Russian River Valley Rosé is the prettiest shade of peach-pink and can literally be had anytime of the day, all year long. There are aromas of cherry blossoms and raspberries followed by fruity strawberry flavors and a clean, juicy finish. It’s a great balance of fruit and structure. A very food-friendly wine, it’ll pair brilliantly with just about anything you’d want to eat—Indian rolls, bagels and lox, mezze platters, you name it. So be experimental and try it with your favorite food, and watch the magic unfold.