The best affordable Sonoma County wines for the holidays

There are plenty of wallet-friendly Sonoma County wines for the holidays. You just need to know where to look.|

There is nothing more delicious than finding a wine bargain, especially during the holidays when extra expenses abound. In Sonoma County, we’re fortunate to have easy access to an abundance of worthwhile wines made right in our own backyard.

While it has become more challenging to find affordable Sonoma County wines — because of the rising cost of grapes, land and production — there are still plenty of wallet-friendly options out there. You just need to know where to look. That’s where we come in.

We spoke to some favorite local wine retailers to get their recommendations on the best wine buys this holiday season. Whether you’re looking for a Sonoma County sparkler or a Petaluma Gap pinot noir, we have you covered — all for under $30 a bottle, and sometimes for $20 or less.

Bottle Barn, Santa Rosa

Recommendations by Barry Herbst, wine buyer

“During my tenure at Bottle Barn, I’ve always been able to find a solid number of great wine values made in Sonoma County,” said Barry Herbst, wine buyer at Bottle Barn in Santa Rosa. “They’re often made by smaller, family-owned wineries with low overhead; no sales team; and no expensive grape contracts. That said, I’m often surprised how some of our larger producers can also deliver quality wines at very affordable prices.”

Herbst’s holiday wine picks:

Barn Raiser, Sparkling Brut NV, Sonoma County ($16.99): “It’s nearly impossible to find a sparkling in Sonoma County under $25, let alone $20, and this a winner. Double Gold winner at the L.A. Invitational Wine & Spirits Challenge,” Herbst said.

Domaine Allimant-Laugner, Cremant d’Alsace Rosé NV ($15.99): “This has been our bestselling sparkling wine in the store for at least a decade. Super-consistent every year, bright, crisp and very well-balanced. 100% pinot noir.”

Francis Coppola Diamond Collection, 2021 Sauvignon Blanc ($15.99): “This wine was the Sweepstakes winner at the Sonoma County Harvest Fair. Bright, fresh and complex. A shining star among sauvignon blancs right now.”

Wild Hog Estate, 2016 Pinot Noir, Fort Ross-Seaview, Sonoma County ($18.99): “A little-known producer (Daniel Schoenfeld) who makes great small-lot wines on the Sonoma coast. He’s been making wine 40 years and we’re probably his only account.”

Miro Cellers, 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon, Coyote Ridge Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County ($19.99): “A Double Gold winner at the Sonoma County Harvest Fair. Winemaker Miro Tcholakov makes wine for Trentadue and this is his side project,” Herbst said. “Very classic cabernet sauvignon, not overly ripe or heavy in alcohol. Just delicious.”

Bottle Barn: 3331-A Industrial Drive, Santa Rosa; 707-528-1161, bottlebarn.com

Oliver’s Market, Sonoma County

Recommendations by Richard Williams, wine buyer

“As with any wine region, Sonoma County has both high-end wines and reasonably priced wines, but price is never the sole indicator of quality,” said Richard Williams, wine buyer for Oliver’s Markets in Sonoma County. “It’s extremely important for us to keep our prices competitive, and having a sizable warehouse allows us to purchase in large quantities to keep our prices down. While we do sell wines that cost hundreds of dollars, we stand behind the fact customers can purchase excellent quality wines for any occasion that won’t break the bank.”

Williams’ holiday wine picks:

Dry Creek Vineyard, 2021 Fumé Blanc, Sonoma County ($12.99): “Year in and year out, this is one of the most popular wines on our shelves! Wonderful citrus notes on the nose, with hints of mandarin orange and lemon verbena on the palate and a vibrant, crisp finish. Delectable,” Williams said.

Balletto Vineyards, 2021 Teresa’s Unoaked Chardonnay, Russian River Valley ($18.99): “The key word here is unoaked. This is a beautifully balanced wine that has had its versatility expanded by letting the fruit show through. Citrus and minerality give the wine complexity. No end to the food pairing options here.”

Rodney Strong Vineyards, 2021 Rosé of Pinot Noir, Sonoma County ($15.99): “Winner of Best of Class/Double Gold at this year’s Sonoma County Harvest Fair, this juicy and fresh rosé has mouthwatering strawberry notes with vibrant acidity. Great as an aperitif or with a wide range of dishes.”

Martin Ray, 2021 Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast ($17.99): “Looking for a wine that pairs perfectly with everything from salmon to turkey to pork or even a celebration roast? Look no further,” Williams said. “Earthy notes combined with plum and spice cry out for food. This wine makes the meal!”

Beringer, 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon, Knight’s Valley, Sonoma County ($26.99): “With all five Bordeaux varietals in the blend, this is the quintessential holiday wine — especially if prime rib is on the menu. Dark fruits and cassis aromas give way to dried herb and cocoa with spice notes on the finish. A classic.”

Oliver’s Markets: Multiple Sonoma County locations; oliversmarket.com

Sonoma’s Best Wine Shop, Sonoma

Recommendations by Todd Jolly, sommelier and wine director

“At Sonoma’s Best, we carry wines at a variety of price points, and my goal is to help customers drink quality wines within their personal budget,” said Todd Jolly, sommelier and wine director at Sonoma’s Best Wine Shop in Sonoma. “We have a large selection of wines priced between $20 to $30, and most of the producers are local and family-owned.”

Jolly’s holiday wine picks:

Stolpman Vineyard, 2021 La Cuadrilla Red Blend, Ballard Canyon, Santa Barbara ($25): “This wine is an absolute must-try for the holiday season,” Jolly said. “Primarily syrah, it’s perfect for both light and bold red wine lovers, with dark fruit and lifted aromatics. The profit from this wine goes back to the vineyard team.”

Vaughn Duffy, 2019 Pinot Noir, Sonoma County ($30): “This pinot noir from Vaughn Duffy is produced with fruit sourced from three Sonoma County AVAs: Russian River Valley, Sonoma Coast and Sonoma Mountain. That said, it drinks like a high-end Russian River pinot.”

Bedrock Wine Co., 2021 Old Vine Zinfandel, California ($28): “Whether you can find the 2020 or 2021 in the market, Bedrock’s Old Vine zinfandel is a must-have and over-delivers every year. Winemaker Morgan Twain-Peterson is at the top of his game and his wines are proof.”

Sonoma’s Best Wine Shop: 1190 E. Napa St., Sonoma; 707-996-7600; sonomas-best.com

Wilibees Wine & Spirits, Santa Rosa and Petaluma

Recommendations by Kris Anderson, wine buyer

“In today’s economy, we understand discretionary income is tight,” said Kris Anderson, wine buyer for Wilibees Wine & Spirits in Sonoma County. “So we try to make sure our customers can find wines that both fit their budget and bring them joy.”

When choosing a wine for a holiday meal, Anderson said he “favors wines that give the palate a bit of zip,” to counteract the heaviness of certain dishes.

“Higher-acidity wines like riesling, pinot gris and sauvignon blanc are great white wine options, while gamay, pinot noir and zinfandel are perfect reds for providing that palate-cleansing ability.”

Anderson’s holiday wine picks:

Thirty-Seven Wines, 2018 Riesling, Petaluma Gap, Sonoma County ($25.99): “This wine is bright and aromatic with notes of honeycomb and lemon cream pie. Its higher acidity is perfect for first courses, charcuterie boards and seafood, like shellfish,” Anderson said.

Brick & Mortar, 2021 VP — Vin Pétillant Rosé, Sonoma Coast ($24.99): “This vivacious bubbly is a great alternative to more traditional sparkling wines. A great food wine with notes of ripe yellow apple, pear and cherry blossom.”

Onward Wines, 2021 Nouveau-Style Zinfandel ($21.99): “Similar to a Beaujolais, this out-of-the-box zinfandel is unlike any you’ve ever tried,” Anderson said. “The perfect accompaniment to holiday dinners of roast turkey or pork. It’s the cranberry sauce on the edge of a plate of beige.”

Leghorn Wine Co., 2018 Pinot Noir, Petaluma Gap, Sonoma County ($29.99): “This well-crafted Petaluma Gap pinot noir has the depth and finesse needed to carry the meal. It’s also well-suited for sipping by the fire with great conversation.”

Willibees: 700 Third St., Santa Rosa, 707-978-3779; 309 Lakeville St., Petaluma, 707-762-2042; wilibees.com

You can reach Staff Writer Sarah Doyle at 707-521-5478 or sarah.doyle@pressdemocrat.com.

Sarah Doyle

Wine & Lifestyle Reporter

Wine is the indelible heartbeat of Sonoma County. As the wine industry continues to evolve, my job is to share the triumphs, challenges and trends that affect our local wine region, while highlighting the people — past and present — who have contributed to its success. In addition, I cover spirits, beer and on occasion, other lifestyle topics.

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