I always get asked what wine people should give as gifts. I’m no fool, I realize people just want these for themselves. But at holiday time I’m more prone to believing people when they ask, so here are grapes for everyone on your list. Including yourself.
Nothing says party like the pop of a cork, and I always think Veuve is a great go-to at $40. But if heathens will be at the party or you just want to spend a little less, tote along one of these:
Prosecco is a far more affordable option, and Altadonna Prosecco Superiore’s an elevated choice, $25. If you’re heading to Chickmas (all-girl holiday festivities), the pink Mumm Napa Brut Rosé ($24) makes it even more festive. And the strawberry notes from the abundant Pinot Noir (85%) makes it more delicious, too. If you’re a dinner guest and want to bring a dessert sparkler, try Cavicchioli 1928 Sparkling White NV, which is slightly sweet and not too cloying, $15.
You need to give an impressive bottle here. If you want to go white, white Burgundy is one of my favorite wines ever so spread the French Chardonnay love with a silky one like Olivier Leflaive Puligny Montrachet ($65). If you want to stay domestic, try the apple/pear lushness of Plumpjack Chardonnay ($50).
But if you want to go with the color of the season, try a Pinot Noir like Gary Farrell 2009 Pinot Noir, Hallberg Vineyard with its restrained cranberry and plum ($60). For something heavier, I love the smooth Emblem 2007 Oso Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon ($50) – it’s all blackberry and cassis with hints of milk chocolate underneath.
And if you’re up for a raise or promotion, don’t skimp! Make a big move with Cakebread Cellars’ Dancing Bear Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 – it’s wild blackberry and boysenberry with earth and smoke ($106). You also can’t really go wrong with Barolo, Italy’s king of wines. These ain’t cheap, so hopefully your boss will pour it into a glass and pour some more money into your paycheck. Try Marchesi di Barolo Cannubi 2007 – bold but still elegant and amazing ($105), just like your performance at work. Then start mentally decorating your corner office.
I’ve covered everyone in football who makes wine ad nauseum (well not really, since I’ll be doing it again at Super Bowl time) so I figured I’d give a few other sports some love here.
Basketball: Last year, retired b-baller Yao Ming started Yao Family Wines which make Bordeaux blends in Napa. They’re primarily Cabernet, and extremely pricey ($289). The wine’s made to appeal to the Chinese market, where they’re deep-pocketed and have a thing for Bordeaux (who wouldn’t if you had all that money???).
Tennis: Moet is all over the US Open and, as an official sponsor, even have a special lounge there every year. This is a Champs for champs, being a fave of both Serena Williams and Roger Federer, who was just named their ambassador. Clearly his day job isn’t exciting enough, but he now has Moet & Chandon Imperial to get some spark into his life. ($37).
Race Car Driving: Andretti Winery in Napa produces Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Merlot, Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon. There’s also a smaller-production Villa Andretti line and a premium reserve line. (prices vary from $17-57)
Golf: Greg Norman Estates makes wine sourced from grapes in California, Australia and Argentina. They go for about $10-18, very fitting for a former golfer to keep his numbers low!
It makes total sense to me that a chef would get into the wine business: you need some food to go with all that good grape juice. Tyler Florence agrees and came out with his own wines this year. He makes a Cab, Zin, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. That last one’s my favorite – super mushroomy and earthy ($40).
Who needs an iTunes gift card when you could give someone wine made by a musician? Whitesnake, Fergie, and Tool’s Maynard James Keenan all make wine, not to mention the whole Wines that Rock line which is inspired by classic rock albums. As for a few I’ve had:
Dave Matthews has two wineries: Blenheim Vineyards and Dreaming Tree. The Dreaming Tree feels more musically inclined, since it’s one of his songs and the lyrics are even on the cork. The Dreaming Tree Cabernet’s all black cherry with a tiny bit of tobacco and mild tannins. Not bad for $15.
Train’s three wines are all named after songs or albums – Drops of Jupiter Petite Sirah, Calling All Angels Chardonnay, and California 37 Cabernet – and the wine company that makes them is called Save Me, San Francisco (another album title). They even get some venues to sell the wine at concession stands – very grapefriendy. It says on the Calling All Angels back label that this is what lead singer Pat Monahan drinks after a show. Makes sense actually – not that much acid, and cold/refreshing after a sweaty show. It has lush, ripe pineapple and pear flavors. Oaky Chard lovers will definitely be lighting their iPhones while sipping. (all $10)
My favorite musical grapes are from Cliff Lede, whose vineyards are all named after rock songs. Each year they make a blend from two vineyards and morph it into a song mashup – like this year’s Cinnamon Rhapsody. “Cinnamon Girl” + Bohemian Rhapsody” = awesome wine. ($95)
Sometimes you just don’t know someone that well but need to give end-of-year cheer. Pinot Noir is always a safe go-to. As for price, just depends on how much you like them. You can always go Burgundy, but some of my domestic faves are: Migration ($32), Scott Paul La Paulée ($36), Au Bon Climat Bien Nacido ($40), La Follette Manchester Ridge ($50), Flowers ($52), Domaine Drouhin “Laurene” ($65), Soliste L’Esperance ($68).
Last but definitely not least, here’s an awesome wine for relatives. They’re who you’re probably spending your holiday with, and what the season is all about. And what better way to honor your family ties than with some Halter Ranch “Ancestor” 2010 ($50)? The blend is 39% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Malbec, and 26% Merlot. It’s named after the “Ancestor Tree” on the property, an ancient Coast Live Oak which is the largest of its type on record and estimated to be 300 – 800 years old. This is a big one – black fruits and spicy – so let some time pass before you open it with (who else) your family.
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