Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Give the gift of wine for Christmas

By Eric Guido

Great gift ideas from $15 - $80 (and everything inbetween)

The Holidays are here, and who wouldn’t like to get a bottle of great wine as a gift? For me, it’s pretty easy to pick out a bottle, as I spend my entire year tasting wines, thinking up recipes, cooking for guests and pairing wines with their meals. All of these things provide me with the feedback I need to know what my clients like. What’s more, this year has been full of new experiences for me. My work with Snooth has opened my eyes to new regions and wines I had never thought to try and I’m happy to be sharing many of them with you now.

When the time came to create this list, I wanted to make sure that I could touch on a gift for every kind of wine lover. You can find something here for the beginner, the adventurer, the enthusiast, the trophy hunter, the hedonist and the collector. I also wanted to focus on value and relative value. I love bargins on great wines, but I also love wines that drink great but cost less than what I’d expect to pay.

The fact is, wine lovers want wine as gifts, but giving wine as a gift can be a minefield full of letdowns. So I hope to take a lot of the guesswork out of it for you. Each of the wines below have a link to Wine-Searcher, which can help you find the bottle in time for the holidays.

Something Different, Something New (red wine)

Have you ever had a fine wine from Portugal besides Port? Most of us haven’t, until now. The wines of Portugal continue to improve, and some producers are well ahead of the pack. The 2007 Qunita do Mouro Tinto is a perfect example.

2007 Quinta do Mouro Tinto (average price $35) - The nose was dark and earthy with tart raspberry, savory herbs, coffee bean, leather and the slightest hint of spicy oak. It was seamless and juicy on the palate with tart fruit saturating the senses, showing intense wild berry, exotic spice, and cacao. As it came to a close, notes of red berries continued to excite the palate throughout the mouth-watering finish. (93 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

2010, the Southern Rhone and Outstanding Value

While everone is scurrying to buy as much 2010 Châteauneuf-du-Pape as they can possibly afford, I invite you to take a look at this smart and affordable alternative. At an average of $14.99, the Michel Gassier Cercius was easily the best quality to price ratio bottle I tasted this year. At that price, you could buy this by the case and play Santa Claus.

2010 Michel Gassier Cercius (average price $15) - The nose showed ripe mixed berries, sweet spicy cookie and chalky minerals. On the palate, it was soft like velvet yet juicy and balanced it’s 14.5% alcohol very well as blackberry jam and violet candies messaged the senses. The finish was long and enjoyable with ripe berries and herbs. (90 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

For the Pinot Noir Fanatic

For that friend or loved one that searches the world over for great Pinot, I can think of nothing better than the 2010 Ata Rangi Pinot Noir. Up until this year, I didn’t know that such amazing Pinot was being made in New Zealand. This wine is a perfect balance between the old world and the new, a truly exciting wine.

2010 Ata Rangi Pinot Noir (average price $45) - The nose was highly expressive with an excellent balance of fruit and earth, showing black cherry and clove with moist fall leaves, and a hint of mountain herbs. On the palate, it was medium-bodied with silky textures and a balanced dose of zesty acidity. Juicy cherry, strawberry, spice and notes of extra dark chocolate lingered with hints of tannin revealing a finely-balanced structure. (93 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

For the Chardonnay Lover

You simply can’t go wrong with Ridge. This producer of great Zinfandels and Cabernet, also turns out some of the best Chardonnay made in California. Give the gift of Ridge, and open a new door to what is being made thse days in the Santa Cruz mountains.

2009 Ridge Chardonnay Estate (average price $38) - The nose was elegant and showy with aromas of peach and mango, roasting cashews, a spritz of lime and a hint of vanilla. On the palate, it was smooth with medium weight, showing peach and ripe apricot with a hint of green apple and minerals. The finish was long with peach and a lingering hint of butterscotch. (93 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

When the occasion calls for Champagne

If the occasion calls for a bottle of great Champagne, the Ruinart Brut Rosé will certainly impress. It’s a wine that will thrill the taster with amazing depth and a beautiful presence on the palate.

NV Ruinart Champagne Brut Rosé (average price $65) - The nose was finessed, drawing you in with aromas of cherry, light strawberry, floral tones and mineral laden citrus. On the palate, it was richer than I expected from the nose, yet remarkably refined and almost whimsical, showing strawberry, lemony tones and minerals that carried well into the moderatly long finish and blossomed across the senses. (92 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

If it has to be Châteauneuf-du-Pape

By now, everyone has heard that 2010 is a stellar year for Châteauneuf-du-Pape, and the hype is true. However, you don’t need to seek out that $150 prestige bottle to impress this year. The 2010 Roger Sabon Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Réservée is all that and at a thrid of the price.

2010 Roger Sabon Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Réservée (average price $45) - The nose showed rich red and black berries with savory mushroom and meaty notes, a hint of pepper and herbal tea leaves. On the palate, it was medium-bodied with firm structure buried beneath intense red cherry fruit, cinnamon spice, and led to a long, long palate-staining finish. It’s enjoyable now with a short decant, yet should age and improve effortlessly for 7 - 10 years. (94 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

Something Different, Something New (white wine)


If I had to name one thing that really stuck out to me, from this year's tastings, it would be Gewürztraminer from Alsace. These are very unique wines with outrageous aromatics and a beautiful balance of acidity with a hint of sweetness.

2008 Domaines Schlumberger Gewurztraminer Les Princes Abbés (average price $27) - The nose was rich yet fresh and leapt from the glass with ripe peach, sweet florals, spice, minerals and a hint of fungi. On the palate it was medium-bodied with a hint of residual sweetness giving way to flavors of lychee, honey and minerals with balanced acidity that made the mouth water. The finish was clean and long with a slight bitterness followed by notes of dried apricot and almond.(92 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

For the Italiophile

While everyone is raving about the ripe 2007 vintage in Brunello, I suggest looking back one year to 2006. The 2006 Capanna Brunello di Montalcino Riserva hasn’t peaked yet, but when it does—beauty. Gift this to an Italian wine lover, and watch their eyes light up. Brunello also makes a great gift for the boss, it simply has name recognition, and in this case, the bottle lives up to the hype.

2006 Capanna Brunello di Montalcino Riserva (average price $80) - The nose showed dark, sweet red berries, herbs, cedar and an airy pine nettle note. On the palate, it was full, velvety and balanced with ripe red berries and spice against a firm lurking structure. The finish was long with mouth-coating tannin showing at the close. It was a total joy to drink and a bottle that will find its way into my cellar. (96 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

From Piedmont with Love

Barolo, Barolo, Barolo… Can you tell I love Barolo? Imagine how happy I was when I decided that one of the best Baroli I tasted from the 2007 vintage also happened to be a bottle that cost around $65. Barolo does not come cheap, and great Barolo? Forget about it—until now.

2007 G.D. Vajra Barolo Bricco delle Viole (average price $60) - I enjoyed another wonderful tasting of the '07 Vajra Barolo Bricco dell Viole today. What's amazing about this wine is how it takes the ripe nature of the 2007 vintage and marries it to lifting aromatics of finessed red fruits and floral notes. The palate is refined and silky smooth, as the fruit washes across your senses yet remains juicy and vibrant throughout. On the finish, fine tannins take control and remind you that this is Barolo you're drinking. I can't wait to taste this in another 5 – 10 years. (95 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

Back to the Southern Rhone

What a nose on the 2009 Domaine La Garrigue Vacqueyras Cuvée de l'Hostellerie. I found myself savoring the aromas again and again. Not to mention, its beautiful structure, juciy and spicy fruits—oh, and the price is unbeatable.

2009 Domaine La Garrigue Vacqueyras Cuvée de l'Hostellerie (average price $24) - The nose showed blackberry fruit, blue and purple floral notes, and a zesty dose of ginger and sweet spices. On the palate, it was soft, medium-bodied and juicy, as a mix of dark fruits, inner floral notes and spice intermingled going into the finish, which showed hints of tannin and dark berry fruits. When this wine was first opened, it was simple on the nose and tight on the palate. However, after three hours open in bottle, it came to life and was truly enjoyable. (93 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

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