We can thank a partnership between Stephen Dooley of Stephen Ross Winery (Santa Maria) and Sandy Garber, owner and founder of Garber & Co Wine (Topanga Canyon), for the greatest holiday gift ever: affordable, delicious pinot noir! That was exactly the radical idea on their minds when the pair came up with the concept for Jackhammer Wines at an “undisclosed location” in Topanga Canyon about three years ago. Of course, they were sipping wine while brainstorming. Not only was this wine chosen as an LA Times wine of the week, it’s also a hometown hero. Pinot noir grapes were sourced from San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties, and the ruby red goodness reflects flavors of cherry, cola, and plum. My hubby, a new pinot noir convert, found this bottle at SLO Beverages & More on Los Osos Valley Road, but the truth is you can find Jackhammer all over the place, including New York, Virginia, and Georgia (who knew?). I knew absolutely nothing about this wine until it landed in my glass. Now I’m not sure I can live without it. It just goes to show that spontaneity is truly the spice of life.
• Jackhammer’s 2013 Pinot Noir—$15; jackhammerwine.com.
This wine is begging for a holiday menu like my dog begs for cheese. With hints of mint and cedar, I can see it co-staring beautifully with herby lamb or medium rare prime rib. Sourced from Niner’s epic Heart Hill vineyard in the Willow District of Paso Robles, the grapes were chosen from the most expressive three blocks of syrah for a powerful finish. Taste this wine at Niner’s cavernous tasting room for the intense, full effect!
• Niner Wine Estate’s 2013 Reserve Syrah—$45; 2400 Highway 46 West, Paso Robles.
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