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Napa and Sonoma wines that are great for the cool Fall weather

Hello, yes, yes, I'm BACK!

I took a brief hiatus at the end of summer to prepare for this year's holiday season and to get some of my personal affairs in order. I've come back to both a blessed time and a tragic time in California's wine industry.

Most of you are aware of the devastating fires that raged through both Napa and Sonoma in early October. More than 8,500 homes and businesses were lost, including five total losses to wineries and vineyards. Several others suffered damage ranging from cosmetic damage to their landscaping, to losses of maintenance buildings, crush pads, and sadly in the case of Gundlach-Bundschu, their family estate home and about an acre of their vineyards.

All-in-all, both regions fared better than originally thought, and almost all the wineries in both regions are open for tastings and tours again. The best thing we can do for them is buy their wines and visit their wineries.

August was a hot month in California, and as such, most all of our vineyards were forced to pick their ripened fruit earlier than normal. This was an unforeseen blessing, as most of the Napa and Sonoma fruit was off the vines when the wildfires broke out. The fruit that remained on the vines was spared, for the most part, because the vines were already dropping their leaves, so they would not have taken in the smoke into the grapes.

Hopefully, the remaining 10%-20% of the fruit will come into the wineries unharmed. Just how affected the 2017 vintage will be remains to be seen. On that note, let's taste some Napa and Sonoma wines!

Up first is one of my favorite Fumé Blancs (Sauvignon Blancs), from Sonoma County, Dry Creek's Fumé Blanc.

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This is a 100% stainless steel fermented wine, so it retains its light, crisp acidity, which brings out the ripe fruit notes of green apples, lemons and pineapple. On the palate, the vibrant acidity wakes up your mouth and gets it watering. Delicious flavors of green apple, accented by lemon and finishing with just a bit of juicy pineapple make this a great wine to pair with light seafood or chicken dishes. You can even wash down a nice fruit salad with this wine. Try it, and you will experience just how good Sonoma County wines can be.

Price Range: $11-$16

My next selection is one of my favorite Napa Valley Chardonnays. It is one of two styles produced by Miner vineyards, and has a great nose of ripe yellow apples, peaches, some melon and a little vanilla.

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This Chardonnay has been through full malolactic fermentation, and as such has a smooth, creamy mouth feel and texture. That creaminess marries well with the big fruit taste of yellow apple, melon and vanilla, and thanks to aging in French oak, butterscotch. Pair this Chardonnay with grilled halibut or stock it up for your Thanksgiving feast, as it pairs beautifully with oven roasted turkey.

Price Range: $28-$35

My first red selection is a great example of a California Merlot. Big, but not over done, lots of fruit, but not jammy, and just enough oak aging to soften the wine and add a slight hint of vanilla. That wine is the Wente Livermore Merlot.

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On the nose, you get a fair amount of big fruit notes such as plum, blueberry and black cherry. The palate reveals a mouth-filling mixture of dark plum, and blueberry fruits, along with big round tannins that produce a soft, enjoyable, and lengthy finish. This is a great Fall wine that I've enjoyed in the past with Beef Bourguignon, and even Beef Wellington. Give it a try. I suggest trying version of Beef Bourguignon, and for the Beef Wellington, try Gordon Ramsay's version Both are easy to make, and delicious!

Price Range: $15-$22

Our last wine this week comes from Napa's most celebrated region, Rutherford.

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The Foley-Johnson Rutherford Cabernet shows big, bright fruit notes of cherry, blackberry, black currants, some sandalwood spice and vanilla. This wine takes time to open, but once it does, the palate reveals big cherry and blackberry flavors. It is full bodied, yet has a very smooth, silky finish with long drawn out notes of dark fruit and that unmistakable note of "Rutherford dust." This is definitely a wine you'll want to savor. You can pair this with a slow smoked Tri tip or the holiday classic, prime rib roast.

Price range: $25-$33

I hope you will take the time to try these wines. The best thing we can do to support California's wine country is buy their wines. Just think, you get a great bottle of wine to share with family and friends, and your business will help the folks in Napa and Sonoma get back on their feet faster. Until next time, cheers, and enjoy!