12 Standout Wines for the Holidays That Suite All The Palates

Hemera 2006

Originally published on:

Written by: Virginia Miller


Wine for the holidays: needless to say, it's a must. The question is what? Here, 12 bottles to suit a range of palates, meals, and occasions from low-key, cozy meal to celebratory splurge, champagne to red wines, natural to elegant.

I’ve noted some local restaurants pouring select wines if you want to taste first.


Champagne Henriot is one worthwhile splurge, especially the Cuvée Hemera 2006 ($185), their newest vintage release from the 1808 Champagne legend. A 50%/50% Pinot Noir-Chardonnay blend of six original Grand Crus with a minimum age of 12 years on the lees results in a stunning combination of fruit, minerality, and toasty brioche notes.

2015 Juvé & Camps Gran Reserva is next-level Cava ($60), alongside their affordable ($17) Cava, with the producer dating back to 1972. Gran Reserva Juvé is only produced in exceptional vintages, aged in the bottle roughly 42 months, exuding floral, stone fruit, toasty goodness.

White Wines

2011 Luis Pato Rebel Bical is a shining example of the underrated aging capabilities of Portuguese white wines, which I made a case for after my first taste of a 1970s Arinto in Portugal. I had a bottle of this unique, nutty, pear-forward white during a recent Uma Casa Portuguese feast.

2020 Les Cigales ($40), which I tried at Turntable at Lord Stanley, is a skin-contact natural white muscat and grenache blanc wine, both dry and floral, intriguingly reminiscent of a sour beer, one of those fascinating whites that run earthy to stone fruit-fresh.

2018 Haarmeyer Wine Cellars “St. Rey”: Currently, the organic 2019 Chenin Blanc from Clarksburg, in California’s Sacramento River delta, is a solid wine at $27. But it’s the 2018 release tasted (side-by-side with 2019) at Flour+Water’s new Penny Roma that wowed me with layers of subtle, cidery funk, apples, and pears.

Georgian Wines

As a longtime (15-ish years) lover of Georgian wines, I crave the oxidized elegance and ancient roots of the country’s often incredible wines. Here are two recent standouts:

2017 Chubini Saperavi Quevri Dry Red is from a family-run, small-production winery in Georgia’s Kakheti region, robust with berries and earth, tobacco, and food-friendly acidity.

2017 Zangaura Saperavi Roze is an estate-grown rosé, aromatic with cherry, plum and balanced sweetness. Details here.

Softer Reds

2019 Shelter Lovely Lily Pinot Noir proves that German reds/Pinot Noir continue to step it up. While I’ve long adored Austrian reds and whites, I’ve predominately gone white when it comes to Germany (or proper schnaps forever!) Sipping this lean, cherry-heavy, earthy wine with balanced tannins at the new Family Name restaurant confirmed it’s a food-friendly wine.

Upscale Whites

2017 Koutsoyannopoulos Santorini Assyrtikos: Tasting older than its years, with petrol notes one gets on some aged Riesling, Portuguese Arinto, or White Burgundy, this gorgeous Greek wine runs herbaceous, wowing me at Estiatorio Ornos a Michael Mina Restaurant.

Cabernets and Variations

2018 Adaptation Cabernet Sauvignon is for the Cab lovers in your life. From Plumpjack’s Jeff Owens, who crafted the Odette Estate blend of 80% Cab, 18% Merlot and 2% Petite Sirah, it’s full-bodied with silky blackberry, plum, Luxardo cherries and floral whispers.

2020 Broc Cellars “Kou Kou” Cabernet Franc ($28) heads a different direction. The Santa Barbara red is chillable, light-to-medium bodied, with some strawberry and plum notes, but also savory hints of green pepper. It pairs with a wide range of foods.


Dobbs Family Estate 2019 Riesling ($35) is a super crisp, citrusy sipper from Oregon’s Willamette Valley (where I’ve dug in for wine & drink travels), nicely pair-able with a range of foods.