Wine is the perfect holiday gift. Nearly everyone loves a glass of wine with dinner or as a standalone beverage. Every year that passes, there are more and more brands on store shelves from U.S. producers and the rest of the world too. Making a choice can be a bit daunting, but fear not, because I’ve done the heavy lifting for you, tasting through a large quantity of different wine in a myriad of price points and styles. The wines below have one thing in common: they’re all really delicious. So whether you’d like to spend less than $20 or nearly $2,000 on a wine gift, there’s something for you below.
Gustave Lorentz 2016 “Bergheim” Pinot Blanc Reserve ($19)
This offering is 100% Pinot Blanc from Alsace. Aging took place over five months in tank after being racked twice. This Pinot Blanc is fresh, fruity and loaded with more complexity than the price might indicate. From the first whiff to the last sip, fruit and spice carry the day. The finish is crisp with racy acid. This will pair with a wide array of foods.
Szigeti Grüner Veltliner Brut NV ($21)
This Austrian Sparkling wine is made of 100% Grüner Veltliner, the nation’s signature white variety. It was produced using the classic Champagne method. Citrus, yellow melon and peppercorn appear on the nose. Bits of apple, pear and honeydew melon are layered through the palate along with flaky biscuit and a hint of vanilla. The finish is long and pleasing with a hint of crème fraiche.
Steele 2013 Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir ($21)
Fruit for this wine comes from two sites in Santa Barbara, one of which is the well-known Bien Nacido Vineyard. It’s entirely Pinot Noir. Ripe wild strawberry aromas and hints of vanilla leap from the nose. The palate shows off bits of bay leaf, red cherry and continued references to strawberry. Spices, finely ground earth and a hint of cranberry are all in play on the finish.
Georges Duboeuf 2015 Chateau des Captains Julienas AOC ($22)
This is entirely Gamay from 50-plus year old vines sourced at a single vineyard less than 30 acres in size. Deep red in color, this wine has a striking nose. Red fruit and spice dominate. The palate is loaded with cherry, black plum and blueberry. Crush cherries and a hint of chocolate are evident on the finish. Firm acid and great overall structure make this a great choice with hearty foods.
Quinto do Vallado 2015 Douro Red ($23)
This is a field blend of more than five native Portuguese varieties. 20% of the fruit came from vines more than 80 years old. Dried red fruit, herbs and spice all light up the nose. The palate shows off tons of red fruit, earth, spice and bits of chicory. The finish is firm and layered with dust and fruit. This Portuguese red blend delivers substantially more quality then one would expect for the price point.
Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel Brut ($25)
Made using the Classic Method, this offering is a blend of Chardonnay (48%), Pinot Noir (49%) and Pinot Meunier (3%). The fruit came from South Africa’s Western Cape region. Honeydew melon and green apple notes explode form the nose. The palate is studded with orchard fruits, spice and bits of lemon zest. Hints of brioche and crème fraiche are apparent on the memorable finish.
Ladera 2016 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($30)
It’s composed of 100% Sauvignon Blanc from Howell Mountain and Oak Knoll. Intermingling tropical and citrus fruit aromas mark the expressive nose here. Those characteristics carry through the palate, which shows off kiwi, papaya, lemon ice and oodles of spice. Wet limestone and bits of graphite are in play on the finish. This is a distinct example of Sauvignon Blanc.
Le Volte Dell’Ornellaia 2015 ($31)
This “second” wine from legendary Super Tuscan producer Ornellaia is a blend of Merlot (67%), Cabernet Sauvignon (20%) and Sangiovese (13%). 40% of Ornellaia’s 97 hectares are planted to Merlot, the lead variety in this blend. Red fruit aromas are tinged with savory herbs. Red and black cherry dominate the palate along with a nice complement of spices. The finish is persistent, deep and smooth.
Simonsig 2014 Redhill Pinotage ($38)
Pinotage is South Africa’s key red variety. This offering is 100% Pinotage from the winery’s estate in Stellenbosch. One vintage after another, Redhill is always a fine example of Pinotage, and the 2014 is no exception. Spice, toast and red fruits are prominent components of the aromatics. The palate is loaded with cherry, currant, plums and a treasure trove of spices. Bits of oak, pomegranate and lingering spices are all evident on the solid finish.
Luca Bosio Vineyards 2012 Barolo DOCG ($45)
The fruit (100% Nebbiolo) came from vines with an average age of 50 years. Aging took place over 36 months in Slavonian oak casks. Six months of bottle age followed prior to release. Toasty oak, red violets and bits of spice emerge on the nose. The palate is filled with red fruit such as raspberry and cherry. Spice, earth and more are evident on the long finish. Firm acid and tannins provide excellent structure.
Champagne Bruno Paillard Extra Brut Première Cuvée ($50)
Their benchmark Champagne blends together Pinot Noir (45%), Chardonnay (33%) and Pinot Meunier (22%). Hints of lemon emerge on the nose alongside Bartlett pear and Granny Smith apple. The palate shows off cherry, raspberry and oodles of white fruit, toasted hazelnut and a dollop of brioche and flaky biscuit. The long, prodigious finish features more fruit, peppercorn and wisps of crème fraiche. The complexity of this Champagne out-delivers its modest price point.
Pascual Toso 2014 Alta Syrah ($50)
All of the fruit (100% Syrah) came from Maipú, a section of Mendoza in Argentina. An alluring mix of red fruit, spice and toast emerge on the nose here. The palate is loaded with juicy red and black fruit flavors, as well as hints of smoked meat. Boysenberry, a cornucopia of spices and bits of chocolate are all evident on the layered finish.
Bel Colle 2013 Barolo DOCG “Simposio” ($60)
Fruit for this wine came from a number of villages. The average age of the vines source is over 50 years old. Aging took place over three years in Slavonian oak followed by six months in bottle prior to release. This example of Barolo does a great job of expressing the region as a whole. Red violet, cherry and spice notes leap from the nose. The palate is a collection of red fruits, spice, toast and earth all coming together to form a seamless core. The finish is long, persistent and elegant.
Fonseca Guimaraens 2015 Vintage Port ($55)
Guimaraens Vintage Ports are produced by Fonseca in years that their more classic Vintage Port isn’t achieved. Fruit comes from three of Fonseca’s estates. Oodles of black fruit and dark chocolate notes are evident on the nose. The palate shows off plum pudding spices, black cherry, blackberry and more. The finish is long and lusty with continued dark fruit flavors and reference points to chocolate. It’s a great port to drink in its youth.
Robert Mondavi Winery 2014 Cabernet Franc ($65)
2014 marks the inaugural release of a Cabernet Franc from Robert Mondavi. All of the fruit is from the Oakville District, and 70% of it is from the To Kalon vineyard. It’s upon fruit from that site that Robert Mondavi Winery made its mark as the most important winery in Napa Valley. In addition to Cabernet Franc (80%), some Cabernet Sauvignon (15%), Malbec (3%) and Merlot (2%) were also blended in. Red and black cherry aromas are counterbalanced by bits of leather, floral notes and spice. The palate is an intermingling mélange of red and black fruit flavors competing for attention. Savory herbs, dusty cocoa and continued spices emerge on the lengthy finish. This is a great example of Cabernet Franc from a legendary producer.
Leclerc-Briant Champagne Brut Réserve NV ($65)
This house utilizes both organic and biodynamic practices. The wine is a blend of Pinot Noir (40%), Pinot Meunier (40%) and Chardonnay (20%). The nose is studded with a combination of strawberry and golden delicious apple aromas underpinned by spice. Flaky biscuit, toasted nuts and continued red and yellow fruits are evident on the palate. Bits of spice and lemon zest are apparent on the long, dry finish.
Animo 2015 Heritage Vines Sauvignon Blanc ($65)
This is entirely Sauvignon Blanc. All of the fruit came from a vineyard the Michael Mondavi family planted in 2006 using cuttings from the famed To Kalon vineyard. The fresh, vibrant nose shines with tropical and citrus notes. The palate is a mélange of flavors with peach, papaya, mango and more delighting the senses. A core of spices and minerals drives the long, somewhat lusty finish.
Figuero 2014 Tinto Figuero Viñas Viejas ($68)
The fruit came from select estate vines in Ribera del Duero with more than 60 years of age on them. It’s entirely Tempranillo. Aging took place over 15 months in new oak followed by a year of bottle age prior to release. Ripe red fruit aromas and a wallop of spice dominate the nose. The intense palate is loaded with raspberries, red plums, cherries and baker’s spices. Firm but yielding tannins, continued spices and dried red fruit dominate the impressive finish.
The Donum Estate 2014 Carneros Pinot Noir ($72)
This offering is composed of 100% Pinot Noir from estate fruit in Carneros. Ripe wild strawberry and hints of mushroom aromas leap from the nose. Strawberry, cherry and hints of leather are evident on the palate along with baker’s spices. Black tea, finely ground earth and a light dusting of cocoa are evident on the long finish.
Mi Sueño 2013 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($75)
This is entirely Cabernet Sauvignon. The fruit came from four vineyards in Napa Valley, three in Coombsville and one in Oak Knoll. It was aged for 24 months in 55% new French oak. This is truly a textbook example of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Oodles of rich berry fruit and spice leap from the nose. The palate is stuffed with blackberry, raspberry, dusty cocoa and a plethora of spices. Crushed black cherries and bits of espresso dominate the solid finish.
Paolo Manzone 2013 Barolo “Meriame” DOCG ($80)
Meriame is composed of 100% Nebbiolo from 60 year old vines near the village of Serralunga. The age of the vines comes through here loud and clear in the concentration of aromas and flavors. Intense red fruit, leather, spice and hints of cigar are all part of the pronounced aromatics. The palate here is dense and layered with a raft of fruit flavors, earth and spices to spare. The prodigiously long finish is deeply focused. This is a wine to contemplate over a long evening.
Flora Springs 2014 Trilogy Red Wine ($80)
2014 is the 30th vintage of Trilogy, Flora Springs’ flagship wine. Trilogy is Cabernet Sauvignon-based with small amounts of Malbec and Petit Verdot blended in. All of the fruit is from their estate vineyards. Dark, rich, brooding fruit aromas fill the nose. The palate is loaded with blackberry, black cherry and raspberry in droves, all intermingling with a complement of spices. Hints of cigar box, earth, dusty chocolate and more are evident on the long and robust finish.
Ackerman Family Vineyards 2014 Coombsville Cabernet Sauvignon ($85)
The fruit source for this wine is Coombsville in the southern part of Napa Valley. Dark plum, spices and a hint of thyme are all evident on the nose. The palate is juicy and dense with lots of dark fruit such as boysenberry, raspberry and more in play. Roasted espresso, chocolate nibs and hints of blueberry dominate the persistent finish.
Kay Brothers “Amery” 2013 Block 6 Shiraz ($120)
The vines this wine comes from have 123 years of age on them. It’s 100% Shiraz and has been bottled separately since 1984. This deep and inky hued Shiraz is big, boisterous and balanced. From the first whiff to the last sip, brooding fruit aromas and flavors abound. Blackberry, raspberry and spices dominate the nose. The palate is filled with dark, juicy fruit flavors and hints of savory herbs. The prodigious finish shows off peppercorn, red raspberry and bits of chicory. This is an impressive Shiraz that will age effortlessly for the next few decades.
Don Melchor 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon ($125)
In this vintage, the king of Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon is made up of mostly Cabernet Sauvignon with a small amount of Cabernet Franc blended in. Cherry, raspberry and strawberry aromas lead the nose along with a wisp of limestone. The palate is studded with tons of deeply layered fruit and spice that come at the senses in wave after wave. Red earth, mocha and dried blackberries are all evident on the long, impressive finish.
Pahlmeyer 2014 Proprietary Red Napa Valley ($175)
The fruit for this wine comes from three sites in Napa Valley: Pahlmeyer Estate, Stagecoach and Rancho Chimiles. It’s predominately Cabernet Sauvignon (87%), with small amounts of Merlot (5%), Malbec (4%), Cabernet Franc (3%) and Petit Verdot (1%) blended in. The wines from Pahlmeyer are regularly impressive, and this 2014 blend continues that trend. Leather, spice and black fruit aromas dominate the nose. The palate is stuffed to the brim with ripe, juicy fruit flavors such as raspberry, cherry, blackberry and more. Bits of chicory, earth and dark baker’s chocolate are all evident on the long, deep and impressive finish.
Stags Leap Collection ($1,999)
If there is someone on your gift list who really, really loves Cabernet Sauvignon, and you’re inclined to spend large on them, you’d be hard pressed to do better than this set. Stags Leap in Napa Valley is one of the preeminent homes for Cabernet Sauvignon. The collection consists of a bottle each from 17 of the producers. I’ve tasted the entire collection the past couple of vintages and it’s an extremely impressive collection of Cabernet Sauvignon. Only 150 sets will be sold.