When giving a gift for Christmas or New Years, there is always one constant: You want the gift to make an impression on the person who receives it. Something that is recognizable in its name as well as being high quality. Nothing says Happy Holidays like a bottle of Cabernet, especially from Napa Valley. The 2001 Trefethen Napa Cabernet Sauvignon ($29.99) not only makes a great gift, but it is also a delicious wine to drink. Crafted from a blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, malbec and petit verdot, this 2001 is rich in the nose with red berry-cherry fruit and enticing cedar cigar box aromas. The hillside fruit adds spice and dusty characteristics. The palate is lush and full. The use of oak is masterfully integrated so as to provide perfect spice without an overshadowing influence. This is wine can be enjoyed now but will develop over the next five years or so in a cellar. The next wine I would recommend would be the 2001 Paradigm Napa Cabernet Sauvignon ($49.99). This comes from the Oakville appellation, the heart of the Napa Valley. It shows a big, rich structure and balance, with a hint of cedar, plums and mint. It will definitively open up with decanting. Drink over the next 10 years. Of course, if you want to go all out this year pick up a bottle of 2002 Joseph Phelps Napa “Insignia” ($109.00) for that special someone. This wine is a monster in its weight and fruit component. Amazingly, the wine still comes of soft and fleshy. This is due to the tannins being so ripe and integrated, and the fruit being as intense as it is. This wine will age but it does show a lot better than the 2001 did at this stage. If you are looking for a soft, rich and ripe Cab to bring to a dinner this holiday season, look no further than the 2002 Pine Ridge Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon ($24.99). This wine shows a lush, rich texture and plenty of spicy berry and currant fruit that lingers on to the finish. So for the holidays this year, forget about a silk tie or keychain for a gift; stick to Cabernet, and you can’t go wrong!
This holiday season I have decided that my gift giving will fall under two categories. Not because this will make my life easier (admittedly, it will), but because books and wine are two things that have enriched my life exponentially. I can honestly say that I have never, ever regretted buying a book. Each time I recall some memorable literary fact or experience I am so grateful that I invested in myself by taking the time to read a book. For me, this same sentiment goes for wine, as I have never regretted pulling a bottle of wine from my modest cellar to enjoy with family or friends. Opening a bottle of wine that I purchased, let’s say 10 years ago, is like reconnecting with an old friend, or re-reading one of my favorite books. Great wines grow more deep, complex and beautiful as they age. Each time I drink a great wine, I thank myself for investing in this life lesson and only hope that I will age half as gracefully. One such wine that I will not regret keeping in my cellar is the 2003 Côte Rotie Bernard Burgaud ($49.99). This northern Rhône syrah is simply superb, exhibiting wonderful ripe cherry, kirsch and rich, meaty flavors. On the finish, notes of sous bois, black olives and smoke provide additional complexity and dimension. And despite the atypically warm 2003 vintage, this Côte Rotie displays a substantial amount of acidity (this is a good thing!). I have purchased several bottles of this vinous beauty for myself and for gifts this holiday season, and am looking forward to reconnecting with this old friend in 5 or 10 years. —Mulan Chan
I adore a glass of bubbles! Champagne or sparkling, traditional or methode ancestale, a glass of bubbles is often my go-to wine, my “energy drink” for when I am in need of a bit of sophistication and verve in my life. This month I have two sparkling wines that fit the this description. They are also, for different reasons, delicious! NV Cerdon du Bugey Methode Ancestrale Domaine Renardat-Fache ($16.99) Mon Dieu, this wine is good! A sip of this demi-sec sparkling rosé (located near Savoie in eastern France) is like caressing a soft cheek or getting licked on the nose by the cutest puppy in the world. Rose petals, crushed sweet strawberries and vibrant cranberry twang make this sparkling wine a perfect option as an aperitif, or with spicier Thai, Vietnamese or Indian fare. My good customer Jay Denao has also reported that a glass of Cerdon de Bugey with fresh strawberries and rose water-infused whipped crème is sublime. YOWZAH!! Feeling overworked, or under-appreciated? Just pour yourself a glass of Cerdon de Bugey, look in the mirror at your beautiful, smart sexy self and say, “I love me!” A second offering is once again from the man, the master, Jean-Louis Denois. I remain in awe of this vintner, who crafts wines of seamless beauty and elegance time and time again. Our most recent arrival is the 2002 Jean-Louis Denois Tradition Brut ($14.99), which is composed of 50% chardonnay and 50% pinot noir from vineyard sites located at the foothill of the Pyrenees near the town of Roquetaillade. The climate in the western Languedoc is cool and sunny, which provides ideal growing conditions for the slow maturation of the grapes and ultimately a perfect balance between fruit and acidity. Jean-Louis first ferments the Tradition in old oak barrels. A second fermentation takes place in bottle where it then spends 18 months sur lees before being disgorged. The wine is simply gorgeous with hues of golden honey and an astonishingly long bead. On the palate hazelnuts, marzipan and a touch of sandalwood lend an element of elegance and richness to the wine which belie this bubbly’s modest price. A glass of this will be much appreciated at both festive occasions as well as the end of a hard day when you want to treat yourself right! —Mulan Chan
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