By Rick Riozza

The coming culinary holidays are—well, coming fast.  And so we don’t wish to spend any time fretting about this and that, I thought it would be wise to reach out to the valley’s favorite wine gal, Ms. Heidi Daniels. This column has always sought Heidi at this time of year because she always has the tastiest wine portfolio for the most reasonable prices.  And the wines we write on below are available throughout our wine shops and markets.

And while we’re at it, let’s give a big shout-out to Persimmon Bistro & Wine Bar. You loyal readers already know about Executive Chef and Owner Arthur Vasquez, who serves both Mediterranean and California Central Coast influenced cuisine with an inventive twist in the unique café setting on the lower level of the Palm Springs Art Museum—facing the Meyerman Sculpture Garden, which also seats guests for outdoor dining and drinks.

The Persimmon Bistro was always on Heidi’s radar, and I had the pleasure to introduce her to Chef Arthur as we sat in his artistic food venue for our fortuitous wine tasting.


Enter now, the Rutherford Wine Company.  I’m certain that most of the wine enthusiasts in our valley have seen the Rutherford Ranch label on the shelves and probably have already enjoyed the experience of their varied wine portfolio that showcases the rich diversity of California’s premier growing regions.

Family owned and family farmed, their winery and estate vineyards are certified sustainable by the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance.  Their grapes are sourced from appellations that include Napa Valley, Arroyo Seco, Lodi and the Central Coast. All wines are finished and bottled at the family’s Napa Valley winery which is located on Valley’s historic Silverado Trail in one of the most renowned sub-appellations in California.  Not to throw any names around—but, Robert Parker described Rutherford Ranch wines as one of Napa’s outstanding values.

So, let’s get on with the tasting!  Keeping in mind the theme of holiday quaffs, Heidi began with an immediate showstopper: 2019 Rutherford Ranch Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley ($17). We desert folks simply love the thirst quenching Sauv blanc and this white has a bit more body to handle the holiday treats and meals.  We still get the wine’s fresh tones and medium acidity, but this Sauv blanc, with its additional 5 days sur lees aging, enhances the aromatics and provides a rich, round mouthfeel and can pair with most holiday fare.  How about that for a tasty Sauvignon Blanc!

Our tasting table found a nice opulent palate of poached pear, peach, and melon.  Grated ginger made its way in the mid-palate, with a nice smooth finish. The light crisp acidity kept the wine balanced and fresh throughout the quaff.  Five stars for this generous and versatile wine:  Lovers of zesty kiwi Sauv blanc will wish to keep that delicious stuff for the summer; this California Napa Valley Savvy Blanc is the ticket for the holiday table.

2018 Rutherford Ranch “Reserve” Chardonnay Napa Valley ($32). Not that we’re throwing Five Stars all around, but when I sampled this Rutherford Reserve Napa Chardonnay, it was like I was being whooshed onto the holiday table.  Absolutely wonderful aromas of vanilla, toast, baked apple, and light caramel.  This is medium bodied and so well balanced to meet all holiday fare with flavors of toasty baked pastries, light butter & cream with finishing notes of lemon meringue & light grilled pineapple along with fresh apple. This is an elegant Chardonnay that is quintessential Napa Valley but at such a reasonable price!

2018 Scott Family Estate Pinot Noir, Dijon Clone, Arroyo Seco Monterey ($25).  As soon as Heidi brought out this Pinot Noir and started to un-cork the bottle, we already knew we in for a treat!  Arroyo Seco Monterey pinot is absolutely crushing it when it comes to quality and value.  A Dijon Clone to boot, this delicious pinot carries a 14.5% alcohol that is balanced, fresh and light in the glass as well; a classic French style that fits the holiday table without taking one down to a nap.

Heidi said I could quote her in the comment that this Scott pinot is “both masculine and feminine…the nose is feminine and though the color is light, it has pronounced fruit, acidity and a hint of smoke on the finish.”  Our notes on the wine include: Fresh aromas of pine needle, forest floor, sour cherry, and welcomed sanguine notes that meld into the palate along with fresh raspberry, cranberry, plum, and spice.  I can’t imagine a better pairing with holiday game birds.

Another wine in the Rutherford Wine Company—which we’ve covered in earlier columns is the recognizable and desired 2019 Rhiannon Red Blend ($15). The name, Rhiannon, a figure of power and fertility, pays homage to the family’s Welsh ancestry.  And when it comes to the California wine presence, Rhiannon is a blend of Petite Sirah, Syrah, and Barbera grapes.

The winery states: “Our winemaker crafts a distinctive blend to express the unique character and individuality of each harvest.  Rhiannon is crafted at our winery for a touch of “Napa Magic” to create a complex yet approachable wine with big, lush, fruit flavors.”  Look to this bottle to pair with grilled or pan-seared beef or other strong meats.  California dreamin’ for sure with pizza & heavy pasta sauces.

Unfortunately, we’re running out of space here, so I’ll cover the Cabernet Sauvignon in another holiday wine column.  But allow me a quick shout-out to the 2018 Rutherford Ranch Merlot Napa Valley ($23). Heidi, Chef Art, and I have deemed this tasty red wine as “the Cab lovers Merlot! There is an abundance of dark fruit with aggressive, grippy tannin structure.”  It’s my holiday Merlot for the table—Cheers!