Spending $50 to $100 on a gift of wine may be beyond your means, but put it in perspective. You may be spending more than that on a tie, concert tickets, a watch or a phone. Why not wine?
It would be a waste to buy expensive wine for someone who can’t tell the difference between Boone’s Farm and Lafite Rothschild. But if the special person in your life collects wine or who just appreciates it, we offer some suggestions of wines with good stories. These are West Coast wines that haven’t been hit by additional tariffs yet:
- Two Generation Vintners Oregon Originals Pinot Noir 2017 ($100). This is a remarkable wine for a number of reasons. First, it’s delicious. Second, it’s unique in that the grapes come from three historic producers in the Willamette Valley operated by second-generation siblings: Elk Cove, Ponzi and Sokol Blosser. Only in the Willamette do winemakers get along so well that they are willing to work together to produce a cuvee that draws fruit from different, unique soils. Of the 350 cases made, 140 will be donated to charity fundraisers. Congratulations for an incredible collaborative effort go to Adam and Anna Campbell of Elk Cove, Luisa and Maria Ponzi of Ponzi, and Alex and Allison Sokol Blosser of Sokol Blosser. This would be good gift to give a sibling.
- Inniskillin Cabernet Franc Icewine 2017 ($85/375ml). The icewines from Canada’s Niagara region are spectacular and the story behind them is fascinating. The grapes aren’t picked until after the first frost and by then the grapes are shriveled and frozen. What juice is left is intense and sweet. The Inniskillin riesling is equally delicious.
- JMC J. McClelland Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 ($50). JMC is a partnership of Paul Scotto, Mark Smith and Mitch Cosentino, all proteges of wine icon John McClelland. The team of talented winemakers put together an impressive portfolio of luxury wines that pays tribute to McClelland, who died in 2018. This Bordeaux-like blend has ripe, forward-fruit character and generous aromas of spice and dark berries. Whomever is fortunate enough to get this bottle as a gift won’t have to wait years to enjoy it.
- Beaulieu Vineyard Tapestry Reserve Napa Valley 2015 ($65). We have been enjoying Tapestry since it was first created. Using the best grapes from its premier estates in Rutherford and Carneros, it is a blend of Bordeaux grape varietals with cabernet sauvignon comprising 75 percent. The blend provides a crusade of layered fruit with excellent balance and depth. Aged for 22 months in various oak, it is a wine that will improve with age but is enjoyable now with a good steak. BV’s legendary Georges de Latour Private Reserve ($145) is an even more extraordinary wine from this producer if you want to make a greater impression.
- Maggy Hawk Stormin’ Pinot Noir 2017 ($65). Tony Rynders, the winemaker who put Domaine Serene on the map and more recently Tendril and Child’s Play Wines, is the man behind the new launch of Kendall-Jackson’s Maggy Hawk winery in Anderson Valley. Everything he seems to touch turns to gold and this series of four spectacular pinot noirs is impressive.
- Sullivan Rutherford Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 ($110). A family-driven group led by Juan Pablo Torres Padilla acquired this historic estate in 2018 and the goal has been to elevate its wines to a “first-growth” level. This concentrated cabernet sauvignon inches closer to a top-drawer Bordeaux. There is no better place to produce quality grapes in Napa Valley than Rutherford. It has the savory character called “Rutherford dust” that marks these wines for greatness.
- Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2016 ($175). Using the best grapes from the awesome To Kalon Vineyard, this venerable producer demonstrates the pedigree of one of Napa Valley’s most iconic properties. The Reserve has a lot of body and strength, yet manages to show off elegance without additional aging. Layered black fruit flavors with hints of rosemary, vanilla and almonds. Very complex and rich.
- Peju Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 ($60). The additional bottle age in this classic cabernet from Rutherford tame the tannins a bit to make for a delicious yet powerful wine to complement a good steak. A little petit verdot and merlot join the medley that shows concentration and complexity with layered dark fruit and hints of cocoa. This producer has a number of reserve wines to consider. In fact, Peju has a pretty neat gift catalog of items on its web site at peju.com.
- Silverado GEO Cabernet Sauvignon2016 ($75). Greek for “Earth” and short for “George,” this wine from Mt. George is in the lesser known Coombsville AVA. It is made entirely of cabernet sauvignon and aged in a variety of oak for 17 months. Violet and sweet berry and cocoa aromas hand off to black cherry and plum flavors with dashes of spice and vanilla.
- Duckhorn Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 ($100). Duckhorn is a solid producer of premium cabernet sauvignon in the most storied region of Napa Valley. You will pick up the savory “Rutherford dust” of this complex wine. Gritty tannins with dark fruit flavors and a hint of cassis and mineral.
- Paraduxx Napa Valley Howell Mountain Red Wine 2016 ($82). Produced by Duckhorn, Paraduxx is focused exclusively on blends that express terroir. The Howell Mountain blend of cabernet sauvignon and syrah from the producer’s Stout Vineyard is modeled after wines of Southern Australia. Very rich and ripe blackberry flavors with a hint of bacon and big tannins that come from mountain-grown grapes.
This is the time to entertain with champagne. There are many champagnes that come in beautiful gift boxes and include stemware. Here are some of our favorites this year:
- Moet Limited Edition 150th Anniversary Imperial Brut ($40). This special cuvee was first created in 1869 in honor of Napoleon, a close friend of the Moet family. It’s a well-priced champagne with notes of apples, pears and citrus.
- G.H. Mumm Grand Cordon Brut ($40). This beautifully designed bottle offers apricot and peach notes with citrus overtones and a lively texture.
- Laurent-Perrier Blanc de Blancs Brut Nature ($85). Crisp mousse with citrus and apple notes. Made entire from chardonnay, it is well balanced and luxurious.
- Champagne Bruno Paillard Rose Premiere Cuvee ($60). Made from pinot noir grapes, this has a delicate style with red berry aromas and flavors.
- Palmer & Co. Brut Reserve Champagne ($60). Citrus and pear notes dominate this delicate champagne.
- Piper Heidsieck Rose Sauvage Brut ($59). This offering from Piper Heidsieck is a dark colored, big pinot noir champagne that flouts the contemporary trend to lighter rose wines. Big cherry and some citrus elements.
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Tom Marquardt (email for questions) and Patrick Darr have been writing a wine column since 1985. They’ve traveled extensively to vineyards in France, Spain, Italy, Greece and the U.S.
Tom lives in Florida with his wife, Sue, where he conducts wine tastings. Patrick is in the wine retail business in Annapolis, Md.