Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country offers its Top 5 holiday wines

Bert Wethers pours a sample of the wineries 2012 Phel Phel for a waiting customer at Fazeli Cellars. The 2012 Phel Phel from Fazeli Cellars was selected as the light red offering for the upcoming holiday season. Kim Harris photo

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Special to Valley News

As the holiday season approaches, wine lovers will be searching for wines that complement holiday dinners and can please a wide array of palates. Whether it’s a small gathering or a large soiree, Temecula Valley, Southern California Wine Country offers something for every wine personality. From sparkling, white, red or dessert wines, wine lovers are sure to find a wine that will work well for their holiday entertaining and gift giving.

For a bubbly wine, Thornton Brut Reserve NV is suggested.

Made using the “Methode Champenoise,” this Temecula Valley sparkling wine is blended from individual vineyard lots of chardonnay, pinot blanc and pinot noir. This special cuvee, assembled and finished in 2010, shows delicate apple and toasted yeast aromas in the nose, brought out by fine bubbles in the glass.

This wine pairs well with roasted butternut squash & apple soup with toasted pumpkin seeds. It is $43 a bottle.

Cougar Vineyard & Winery’s Falanghina was selected as the white wine to have this holiday season. Cougar Vineyard is one of two known wineries in the U.S. producing the Italian wine. Characterized for its well balanced and crisp acidity, with notes of floral, melon and lemongrass. Shane Gibson photo

For a white wine, the 2015 Cougar Falanghina pairs well with garlic shrimp skewers.

Cougar Vineyard & Winery’s 2015 Falanghina boasts a 90 point score and was a Wine Enthusiast Editor’s Choice. Juicy apple and pears show on the nose, along with white flowers and a pleasant minerality. The palate offers mouth-watering acidity, with notes of key lime, apricot and slate. It is $28 a bottle.

The 2012 Fazeli Phel Phel was selected for a light red offering.

The unique blend of 95 percent cinsaut and 5 percent shiraz is the perfect white wine drinker’s red. Light and lively, it offers up cherry fruit and subtle hints black pepper, cigar and spice. A bright and food-friendly wine is has soft but ample tannins.

It pairs well with roasted duck with balsamic-glazed cherries. It is $35 a bottle.

For a hearty red, try the Lorenzi Estate 2013 Syrah.

The single vineyard Temecula Valley syrah, fermented and aged in 100 percent French oak, is bursting with dried blackberry, leather, tar and purple flowers on the nose. The palate offers savory herbs, followed by layers of boysenberry, caramel and black pepper. It scored 93 points and was named Editor’s Choice by Wine Enthusiast.

For a food pairing, consider herb-crusted prime rib with a syrah and garlic compound butter. This wine is $85 a bottle.

For dessert, consider the 2013 Leoness Cinsaut Port-style Dessert Wine.

From the Tucalota Vineyard and aged in 100 percent French oak barrels, the vintage port-style wine is fortified to just over 18 percent alcohol, with fermentation stopping at about 11 percent residual sugar. It has a beautifully dark ruby color, with raspberry fruit and hints of caramel and chocolate, soft tannins and a rich lingering finish.

It pairs well with flourless chocolate cake with fresh raspberries. It is $59 a bottle.

Though Temecula Valley wines can be ordered through the wineries’ online stores and shipped to most states, what better excuse to visit the destination and try the wines onsite. Temecula Valley is conveniently located in the center of Southern California, just an hour drive from San Diego, Palm Springs and Orange County and 90 minutes from Los Angeles. Many winery restaurants offer special holiday dining menus that pair wonderfully with their holiday wines. Resort, hotel, bed and breakfast inns and vacation rentals offer special packages and pricing for Sunday through Thursday stays.

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