The holiday season is amping up, which means you're probably pouring over your gift list trying to figure out how to accomplish all of your seasonal shopping with the least amount of stress. Well, we're here to help, because we hate stress! We've asked our staff to suggest their favorite wines and wine-related gifts (you might recognize a few from the newsletter) that you can buy now with just a couple clicks. Have a particularly difficult person to shop for? Let us know! And Happy Holidays!
Ginza Shizuku “Divine Dropletts” Junmai Daiginjo Sake ($64.99) Whether it’s a gift for a sake enthusiast or a gluten-free friend, this is as elegant and rare as it gets for imported sake. Made inside an igloo in Hokkaido, in Japan’s extreme north, where below-freezing temperatures prevent unwanted bacteria from surviving, ensuring a very pure sake. The fermented sake is separated from the fermenting rice lees by putting it into canvas bags. Overnight the clearest, purest sake drips out, making this one of the most labor intensive sakes in existence.
2004 Dunn Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon ($84.99) Hands down my favorite Napa Valley Cab producer, I have given this as a gift on numerous occasions. The fruit is crushed blackberries and cassis. There are soft tannins and gentle acidity in the glass, plus baking spices with a touch of rosemary on the nose. The ’04 is drinking well now after being decanted and allowed to unwind, but it also has enough structure to age for several more years.
Lemorton Reserve Calvados ($49.99) LeMorton Calvados is from a very small producer who is in the Domfrontais region of France, where pears are mixed with apples to produce this tasty spirit. The Lemorton has delicate aromas of mostly pear with hints of apple. In the mouth, the fruits work together to produce a blend of perfect fall flavors that is a pure pleasure to drink.
De Meric “Grande Reserve Sous Bois” Brut Champagne* ($34.99) The De Meric “Sous Bois” is a dry and full-bodied Champagne that is very easy to drink. Pleasant toasty aromas precede a Champagne that is full but balanced and graceful. It enjoyable on its own, but will also go great with fish or chicken.
2009 Domaine les Grands Bois “Cuvée les Trois Soeurs” Côtes du Rhône ($12.99) Wow, the 2009s are already here! This is the perfect way to warm those cold holiday nights. Dense, with chocolate, dark red fruits, licorice, tobacco and earth. Quite big, with savory notes and texture like silk. Yum!
2009 Domaine Saint Nicolas “Gammes en May” Fiefs Vendens* ($14.99) This is a great contrast in style to the Grands Bois Côtes du Rhône. Where that wine is big, this wine is light, with bright, bright raspberry and Bing cherry fruit. Like the Grands Bois, it is silky and floral. This wine is bound to change the mind of those of you who tut-tut Gamay. Serve with a slight chill.
1998 Señorío de P. Peciña Gran Reserva Rioja ($42.99) The ’98 Peciña Gran Reserva is one of the most captivating wines under $50 that we carry. I recently threw it in as ringer in a blind tasting featuring Grand Cru Burgundies, Second Growth Bordeaux and a few wines from some of California’s top producers. It confounded the discerning palates involved by being so uniquely magnificent and so unexpected. The nose reveals a complex bouquet of red fruit, earth, vanilla and exotic spice, but those descriptors seem flat compared to the real thing. The palate is medium-bodied and impeccably balanced, with smooth tannins and a core of developing red fruit that delivers flavor clear through the long finish. Classic Rioja earthiness and savory notes persist throughout. This wine begs for a feast of seasoned pork, game or fowl, but will also be just as content along with a simple nosh of good cheese and jamon iberico. I can’t think of a better gift to give a wine aficionado than this bottle, and I would suggest you also set one aside for yourself. Quantities of the '98 are limited. But we also have the 2000, 1999, and 2003, as well as the brand new 2009.
2008 Clos Henri Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough New Zealand ($18.99) This Sancerre-like Sauvignon Blanc from the cool climate of Marlborough, New Zealand, was a stunner when it debuted earlier this year at our staff tasting. Since then it has emerged as one of the more popular white wines among Personal Sommelier Service members. The nose is grassy, but it is a grassiness that is more subtle and mineral-laced—very appealing. The palate is clean, fresh and lifted. Notes of pineapple add some pizazz to the long finish. This would be fabulous with a dish featuring herbed goat cheese, such as a goat cheese soufflé, and is a natural accompaniment to fresh shellfish. Made in an unoaked style, this wine is an under $20 gift that is sure to please any lover of distinctive and refreshing white wine.
2004 La Fortuna Brunello di Montalcino Riserva* ($59.99) The ’04 Brunello was the finest wine I had ever tasted from this estate. That was until I tried this! I am not normally a Brunello Riserva fan—too much time in oak can be hard on the wine—but not this one. This is powerful, with plenty of dark and bright fruit to buffer its big, ripe tannins. It is not a bruiser. It is balanced and shows a touch of restraint. Decant for at least an hour and pair with the richest, meatiest dishes.
NV Ruinart Brut Rosé Champagne ($59.99) This is no ordinary rosé. Yes, it is beautifully colored, has a great mousse and is just too easy to drink, but there is something else going on here as well. In a word, it’s complexity. This is like drinking beautiful sparkling Burgundy. Wonderful aromatics, multidimensional fruit, a round, generous mid-palate and great length. This is more than special occasion Champagne, this is indulgent, you-deserve-it, treat-yourself (family and friends optional) Champagne!
Ariston Aspasie Brut Rosé Champagne* ($32.99) A richly impressive, full-bodied rosé made up of 50% Pinot Noir and 50% Pinot Meunier. Some of the Meunier is vinified still (12%) and added to give this rosé its beautiful salmon color. But what really makes this Champagne stand out in a crowd of trendy charlatans is the five years it is aged on its lees. The complexity, richness, layers of berry fruit balanced by vibrant acidity and lazy bubbles are matched by only a few lone standouts in a rosé world full of imposters.
2005 Franck Bonville “Millesime” Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne* ($44.99) I am one of Champagne Franck Bonville’s biggest cheerleaders. I love the elegance and sophistication the house’s blanc de blancs from Avize have. They are focused without being tight, angular without being jarring and acidic without being tart. The 2005 Millesime is the perfect example of this tremendous balancing act. More likely to be at its prime earlier than most vintage Champagnes, this 100% Chardonnay cuvée is full bodied and creamy, while still possessing a strong linear backbone and ample amounts of acidity. I had this Champagne with oysters. Talk about perfect!
2009 Gerard Boulay Sancerre Chavignol* ($21.99) My favorite Sancerre for seven vintages running. Pure and clean aromatics, nicely textured, presence of place, minerality and a balanced finish with juicy acidity…You can’t ask for much more!
2008 Schloss Saarstein Pinot Blanc* ($18.99) Translucently powerful and herbaceously rich—this is one of the purest expressions of Pinot Blanc you will find. Brilliant at a feast of the seven fishes, and even with roasted meats. World class Pinot Blanc here!
2007 Cadence “Camerata-Cara Mia Vineyard” Red Mountain Washington Red Blend ($54.99) Here’s a great gift for any Cabernet lover on your list. This is only the second vintage of Cadence using the fruit from winemaker Ben Smith’s estate vineyard, Cara Mia. Predominately Cabernet Sauvignon, this wine shows classic aromas of red currant layered with dark spices and a whiff of toasty oak. On the palate, there’s great texture and weight, with the perfect acid balance that these wines always have. The long finish shows lots of grippy tannins that promise a great future for this wine. You can drink it now with some time in a decanter, but it will really show its stuff if you can forget it for a few Christmases.
2007 Robert Karl Horse Heaven Hills Claret ($21.99) Just the thing to open with a holiday roast, this delicious red from the Horse Heaven Hills AVA of Washington State is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec. Lots of rich aromas of winter spice, black fruit and mocha show great Washington character. The palate is nicely balanced, with lots of plum and black cherry fruit offset by refreshing acidity and a nice chewy texture. The mocha and spice flavors linger on the finish of silky tannins. Delicious to drink now, it will definitely improve over the next few years.
De Struise Brouwers “Black Albert” Imperial Stout, Belgium (11.2 oz $8.99) If you’re not into the bitterness of hops then maybe stouts are your bag. There are few better than this, with its creamy, melted chocolate texture and flavors of café au lait, cardamom and carob. This is like ingesting dessert in liquid form. Yum!
2008 Yalumba “The Scribbler” Cabernet-Shiraz Barossa Valley South Australia ($13.99); 2006 Yalumba “The Cigar” Cabernet Sauvignon Coonawarra South Australia ($19.99) Here are two of my favorite picks of the year. Hands down, these are wines that show one of the things Australia can do so well, and that’s offer wine full of character at a great price. The Scribbler is a blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon and 35% Shiraz and is the counterpart to the iconic “Signature.” The nose is lifted with cassis, blueberry, violets and a hint of pencil lead. On the palate, the wine is well balanced with plush tannins and fine length. 90 points from the Wine Spectator. The Cigar is a steal for Cabernet from this notable region that, along with Margaret River, represents the benchmark for this varietal. It is the little brother to the flagship “Menzies” Coonawarra Cabernet that Yalumba produces. The bouquet offers black currant, cedar, tobacco, bittersweet chocolate and a hint of eucalyptus. The palate reveals mouthcoating, fine-grained, dusty tannins that lead to a long, persistent finish. If you like Bordeaux, and Graves in particular, this would be a New World wine for you to try. It shows a breed that would be double the cost from a domestic producer in a heartbeat. 91 points from Wine Enthusiast and 90 points from Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar.