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White Wines for the Holiday Season

headshot of UC Davis wine instructor John Buechsenstein

The holiday season is upon us, and for some, wine is a big part of the festivities. Whether you’re pairing it with your annual holiday feast or putting a bow on it for your bestie, picking a good bottle of wine may be the next item on your to-do list. We can help with that!

We reached out to John Buechsenstein, a veteran winemaker and wine sensory instructor at UC Davis Continuing and Professional Education, for his expert opinion.

“For some people, drinking red wine can cause the dreaded ‘red wine headache,’” says Buechsenstein. “I like to avoid that when gathering with friends and family, so choosing whites for gifting, serving and celebrating is always a safe choice.” 

Here are John Buechsenstein’s top selections for the best white wines this holiday season.

Top White Wines for Gifting

2020 Ramey “Hyde Vineyard” Carneros Chardonnay $80

This very stylized and layered chardonnay has notes of minerality, citrus, toasty oak and vanillin. Its balancing acid backbone pairs well with almost anything you might serve.

2021 Zind-Humbrecht Gewürztraminer Alsace $30

An all-time favorite of mine, it has all the floral, citrus and lychee notes I expect from Gewürztraminer and a brightness I expect from Zind-Humbrecht – an initial off-dry impression finishes with refreshing acidity. Great for an appetizer or cheese course.  

Top White Wines for Serving

2022 Dry Creek Vineyard Dry Creek Valley Sauvignon Blanc $18

My go-to dependable SB, it has classic varietal pineapple-grapefruit notes and a refreshing, but not piercing, tartness.

2022 Navarro Winery Grüner Veltliner Anderson Valley Mendocino $26

This local rendition of a wine we normally see from Austria has all the spiciness, citrus and acid zest needed to perfectly match most foods.  

Top White Wines for Celebrating

Roederer Estate Anderson Valley “Multi-Vintage” Brut Sparkling Wine $32

This is the top sparkling wine made in North America, IMHO. Consistent, dependable, lush flavors, baked bread notes, and a lip-smacking finish.

2014 Louis Roederer Brut Champagne $90

The French counterpart of Roederer Estate, this is a classic Champagne with pinpoint bubbles creating a rich mousse. It has notes of pear and citrus, with layers of toasted biscuits. À Santé!

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