Thursday, November 17, 2011

Give the gift of wine for Christmas

From $20 - $40 dollars, Ten bottles that make great gifts.

It's that time of year again. Christmas is bearing down on us quickly, and wouldn't it be great to give or receive a nice bottle of wine? However, the fact is that the wine you usually receive as a Christmas gift is typically horrible.  All the good intentions in the world won't protect you from making a poor purchasing decision based on a retailer’s marketing.  That stack of cases in the front of the store is not always the best place to pick a bottle to give away.  And what impression does that leave on you when the bottle is opened and it performs horribly?

It doesn't need to be this way.  An informed decision can make a world of difference; and so, I have gone through all of my notes of the last year to find some great bottles for gift giving.  Each wine listed below will deliver the goods in spades.  I've also included Wine-Searcher links to help you find a retailer that carries the bottle.  The first thing to realize is that the average "Wine and Liquor" store is not the place to buy your gifts.  Unless you have a trusted retailer that stores their back stock properly and is more concerned with your satisfaction (than their bottom line), then I urge you to expand your horizons and check out Wine-Searcher.  I've also provided a list of some of the trustworthiest retailers from my experiences.  In the end, you can't go wrong by picking a bottle from the list or giving a call to one of the retailers listed.

And so, on to the wines:

United States - This list below runs the gamut and is great for exploration. 

From the North Fork of Long Island, the Paumanok Merlot is a great gift to show a wine lover just what the North Fork is capable of producing.  It's a great bottle of wine with a price tag that's easy to swallow.  

2007 Paumanok Merlot (avg. $22)
Find it on Wine-Searcher!
Paumanok Website!

The Merryvale Cabernet is a crowd-pleaser, especially for those who think that good wine can only come from Napa, but think that it needs to cost an arm and a leg.  This rich yet balanced Napa Cabernet drinks better than most bottles that cost twice as much.  It's a wine that provided me with a pleasant surprise when I first tasted it, and I think you'll agree.

2006 Merryvale Cabernet Sauvignon Starmont (avg. $26)
Find it on Wine-Searcher!
Merryvale Website!

Lastly, if it's going to be Zinfandel (red, not white) then it's got to be Ridge.  The 2009 Ridge Lytton Springs Zinfandel is a great way to turn the head of any wine lover who hasn't yet explored the wonders of red Zinfandel.  Ridge continues to improve upon what was already an amazing array of wines, and in 2009 they really shined.

2009 Ridge Lytton Springs Zinfandel (avg. $30)
Find it on Wine-Searcher!
Ridge Vineyards Website!

Italy - My first love was Italy, and I've yet to find another region that can provide the enjoyment, value and diversity that can be found there.  The first bottle is for the true Italian wine lover.  We'd all love to give or receive a bottle of Barolo for Christmas, but it's not the easiest thing to afford. 

No worries; the Vietti Perbacco Nebbiolo is a serious overachiever that will please any Nebbiolo lover (Nebbiolo being the grape that makes Barolo and Barbaresco).  It's a wine that I buy in every vintage, sourced from fruit that could easily be made to make Barolo and made by a true master in the region.

2007 Vietti Langhe Nebbiolo Perbacco (avg. $25)
Find it on Wine-Searcher!
Vietti Website!

The Sartarelli Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Balciana is a white that drinks like nectar from the gods.  Verdicchio is often used to make easy-drinking white to pair with seafood, but this bottle takes it to all extremes.  It may not be typical of Verdicchio, but it's a wine that you will not soon forget. 

2008 Sartarelli Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Balciana (avg. $22)
Find it on Wine-Searcher!
Sartarelli Website!

The Avignonesi Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is for the Sangiovese (Chianti and Brunello) lover.  It's a racy wine with all the stuffing to stand up to big, hearty cuisine.  It's also a great alternative for the Chianti drinker who's looking for something a little different. 

2007 Avignonesi Vino Nobile di Montepulciano (avg. $28)
Find it on Wine-Searcher!
Avignonesi Website!

Lastly, the 2000 Castello di Monsanto Chianti Classico Riserva Il Poggio is a gorgeous wine that any Italian wine lover would enjoy.  Il Poggio is a barrel selection riserva from Monsanto.  It’s a bottling that's hard to come by and usually costs upward of $60 on release and much more with age.  Imagine how happy I was to find that Grapes the Wine Company had this killer bottle for $40.  It's a beautiful bottle of wine that's drinking well with 11 years of maturity under its belt.  If you know an Italian wine lover, and you're looking to impress, this is the way to go.

2000 Castello di Monsanto Chianti Classico Riserva Il Poggio
(Grapes The Wine Company $39.99)

FranceI don't drink much French wine because I find that it's hard to find value from this region.  I know that many people would disagree, but I can only tell you what I taste.  However, when I do find value, it's usually in spades.  In 2009, the Southern Rhone turned out another excellent vintage.  What's more, the wines can be enjoyed now or put away for a few years to mature.  The 2009 Vignobles Mayard Châteauneuf-du-Pape Clos du Calvaire goes right to the point.  It's a big wine with a lot of sex appeal that pleases on many levels, yet refrains from becoming overly rich or flabby.  If you're going to gift French, you might as well do it with Châteauneuf-du-Pape, especially at this price point.

2009 Vignobles Mayard Châteauneuf-du-Pape Clos du Calvaire (avg. $30)
Find it on Wine-Searcher!
Vignobles Mayard Website!

Germany - One of my new-found loves in life is German Riesling.  For years I would taste these wines and ask myself why I didn't drink them more often.  This year I changed all of that and set out on a tasting spree of every German Riesling I could find.  In the end, I have a lot of favorites, but the 2009 A.J. Adam Dhroner Hofberger Riesling Kabinett took the cake for quality versus price.  It's an amazing elixir of a wine that pushes masses of citrus and mineral with a hint of sweetness and then turns the tables on you as its zesty acidity massages your taste buds and makes your mouth water.  It's amazing stuff.

2009 A.J. Adam Dhroner Hofberger Riesling Kabinett (avg. $22)
Find it on Wine-Searcher!
A.J. Adam Website!

ChileFor those of you looking for an alternative to the big three, Chile offers tremendous value for a large selection of styles and grape varieties.  One of my favorites this year was the 2009 TerraNoble Carménère Gran Reserva.  Carménère, which was nothing more than a blending grape in Borduexe has shown its true potential in Chile.  Some are light and easy-drinking, while others take it to the level of fine wine.  TerraNoble excels at the latter and does it very well.  It’s rich with a blend of intense fruit with savory, earthy notes, yet it’s balanced by excellent, focused acidity and a long finish.  I bought half a case for myself, and it’s now all gone; enough said.

2009 TerraNoble Carménère Gran Reserva (avg. $17)
Find it on Wine-Searcher!
TerraNoble Website!

The V.I.P. Table's list of my most Trusted Wine Retailers!


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