Picking out Sonoma County wines that will impress

Playing host over the holiday? If so, be forewarned. In Wine Country, guests have high expectations; they feel entitled to have their palates pampered.

With top winemakers in this region rivaling the best on the planet, it won't be hard to impress.

They are world-class experimenters who push the envelope. They don't settle. These people don't punch a timecard. On the contrary, they work crazy hours and it's most evident during harvest when they are sleep-deprived for days on end.

The wines listed have been palate-tested and they're prime examples of the best crafted in the region. They will no doubt prompt your guests to ask for another pour. When you fill their glasses, you can smile with peace of mind; these wines make you look good.


-Balletto, 2016 Twin Ridges, Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, 13.9 percent, $42.This is an elegant chardonnay with intensity. It has notes of green apple, melon and brioche, all riding on crisp acid. Delicious.-Siduri, 2016 Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir, 14.1 percent, $35. This is a gorgeous pinot noir with tangy fruit and vibrant acidity. It's concentrated with both red and black fruit, layered with earthy and spice notes. Lingering finish. Impressive.-Black Kite, 2016 River Turn, Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, 14.6 percent, $60. A lush pinot with complexity. It has a range of aromas and flavors - plum, berry and toffee. The Black Kite has a big personality and makes no apologies. Impressive.-Benovia, 2016 Three Sisters Vineyard, Russian River Valley Chardonnay, 14.1 percent, $50. An elegant chardonnay with generous fruit. Complex, with layered notes of apple, toast, mineral and a hint of tangerine. Well crafted.-Ramey, 2015 Rochioli Vineyard, Russian River Valley, 14.5 percent, $65. This is a tasty chardonnay with great complexity. It has aromas and flavors of bright apple, melon, crème brulee, brioche and a toffee finish. Impressive.-Rodney Strong, 2014 Estate Vineyards Knights Valley Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon, 14.5 percent, $35.This is an impressive cab with complex aromas and flavors. It's weighted to black fruit with notes of blackberry and plum. Chocolate and a hint of raspberry are also in the mix. Ripe tannins. Lingering finish.-Amapola Creek, 2016 Sonoma Valley Vineyard Grenache, 15.5 percent, $48. This is a grenache with a great tangy red fruit - strawberry, raspberry and cherry. Crisp, upfront acid makes for great balance. The Amapola Creek has bright fruit that's elegant as opposed to jammy. This grenache has a refreshing quench, which makes it a tasty food wine. A standout.-La Crema, 2016 Monterey Pinot Noir, 15.5 percent, $23. A tasty pinot with bright notes of red fruit - cherry, raspberry and rhubarb. Hint of red plum. A touch earthy. Balanced. A steal for the quality.-Smith-Madrone, 2015 Spring Mountain District Napa Valley Riesling, 12.9 percent, $30. This complex riesling has layered notes of papaya, petrol and honeysuckle. It's nice and dry, with bright acidity. Pitch perfect balance. Impressive.-Anaba, 2017 Sonoma Valley, Rosé of Grenache, 13.5 percent, $28. This is a gorgeous rosé with a lovely texture riding on crisp acid. It's aromatic with notes of kiwi, peach skin, stone fruit and citrus following through on the palate. The grenache gives this refreshingly dry rosé a tangy twist.

You can reach Wine writer Peg Melnik at or 707-521-5310.

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