The warm fuzzy feeling I get right about this time of the year can only mean one thing... I’ve been drinking some great Zinfandels recently! Yes, the most joyous, generous, luscious elixir of our Golden State, with its heady perfumes and decadent flavors is just perfect for December. You better believe I have some great choices up my sleeve: If there can be such a thing as grace and elegance within power, the 2002 Storybook Mountain “Mayacamas Range” Napa Zinfandel ($25.99) achieves it. Deep in the heart of Cabernet country, legendary owner/winemaker Jerry Seps has been quietly making world-class Zinfandel for over 20 years. This refined effort shows the beautiful and classy side of the powerful grape. True, premium, dinner-friendly Zinfandel is so hard to come by nowadays, but you’ll find exactly that here! Not too hot or too ripe, it’s just right for a fairytale romantic evening for two. 2002 Storrs “Rusty Ridge” Santa Clara Zinfandel ($24.99) Santa Clara Zinfandel, yes indeed! This wine’s made up of a couple old vineyards perched on two ridges of rust-colored, iron-rich volcanic soils that add a touch of personality, as you’d expect. Dry farming and meticulous attention produced a wine of amazing concentration and varietal identity. One of the rare, but incredible Zinfandels made entirely from Bay Area fruit. 2003 Scott Harvey “Old Vine” Amador Zinfandel ($19.99) Old-vine Zins achieve some of their greatest expressions and concentration in Amador County, and this wine’s a fine example. The tarry, spicy deep black fruit comes out strong and persuasive. The nose reminds me of those Christmasy sweet baking aromas of nutmeg and clove that warm the heart and soften the worries of the day. In fact, this one just begs for a fireplace, the clink of glassware and the hum of joyous holiday parties! Enjoy! —Martin Reyes
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
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