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Holiday giving

A long time ago I figured out that wine makes a great gift for the holidays. It’s available at all different price points, which works out well for budgeting, and you can do all your shopping at one location. Plus, everyone enjoys receiving a good bottle of wine. My wife also enjoys shopping for it, and has a special way of doing so: one for them, one for her.

I thought I’d share some ideas for good gift wines at various price points, just in time for the holiday season. All of them are available locally, and some are wines I’ve written about in previous articles.

2010 Robert Mondavi Oakville Cabernet
California, around $50

This is a wonderful wine that will impress most wine lovers, and it drinks like a $100 bottle which makes it a real value. Huge fruit and tons of dark berries, with a finish that’s long and wonderful.

2013 Charles Smith Kung Fu Girl Riesling
Washington State, $15 or less

I have written about Kung Fu Girl before; this is one of the best Rieslings available for the price. It displays plenty of fruit and also has a nice sweetness (but isn’t overly sweet). All our friends and guests who’ve tried it also love it. I’ve found it for as little as $11 on sale, so keep your eyes open; this makes an excellent hostess gift.

2012 Caymus 40th anniversary Cabernet
California, around $75 (shop around, I’ve found it on sale for $60)

This is awesome wine from a famous wine maker; everything you want from a good Cabernet is found here. It’s perfectly balanced with a beautiful nose, mouth-filling dark fruit, hints of chocolate and a long finish. I think this wine will last at least 10 years and probably longer. (Maybe a gift for yourself?)

2010 Ladera Cabernet
California, around $35

I first tried Ladera in San Francisco 15 years ago after finding it in a small wine shop called PlumpJack on Fillmore Street. At the time it wasn’t for sale here (it is now), so I had some shipped home to Buffalo. This is an outstanding bottle of wine that won’t break the bank: silky smooth with lots of dark fruit.

2011 Charles Smith Boom Boom Syrah
Washington State, around $16

I absolutely love all of Charles Smith’s high-end Syrahs, ranking some of them in my personal top 10 list of all time. (These wines cost anywhere from $40 to $100, if you can find them.) When I read about Boom Boom from the same winemaker, I was initially skeptical about a $16 Syrah with a twist-off cap. But I bought one to try anyway, and was in for a surprise; my wife and I just loved this wine, especially for the price. It features delicious dark berry fruit and a silky smooth feel — even a very nice finish. This wine can be enjoyed now or over the next couple of years.

2011 Shea Wine Cellars Pinot Noir
Oregon, around $40

I have become a big fan of Oregon Pinot Noirs since I visited wineries in Willamette Valley a couple years ago. This is a very good example of a good Pinot, with lots of berry fruits and complexity. I think this wine might get even better with a little time in the cellar, and would be a perfect gift for someone who likes salmon (it pairs nicely).

2012 Palermo Cabernet by Orin Swift
California, around $40

Orin Swift is one of the most innovative wine makers today. I have tried many of his wines and written about several of them. But I hadn’t tried this wine until now, and all I can say is “wow.” This is an excellent Cabernet from an excellent winemaker from a great vintage, with an explosion of dark berries, a little smokiness and a little spice. We really enjoyed this wine and it’s excellent for the price. I think it will drink well for 12 to 15 years.

2011 Leonetti Cabernet Sauvignon
Washington State, around $120

This is a challenging wine to find but there are a few bottles floating around in Buffalo stores. The $120 is worth the splurge. Leonetti, the de facto “father of Washington wines,” has been making great wines for many years. This wine is an excellent example of a Washington Cabernet that rivals many Napa Cabs that can be more than double the cost. Interesting sidenote: Leonetti’s son, Chris, who is following in his father’s winemaking footsteps, has a local connection — he is making a wine called Doubleback with his friend Drew Bledsoe.

2009 San Felice Il Grigio Chianti
Italy, around $22

Made from Italian Sangiovese grapes, this is a wine that should be enjoyed with food. I accompanied mine with a steak salad and it was very enjoyable – nice dark fruit and some spice. It’s reasonably priced and will last at least 10 years.

Zardetto Prosecco Italian sparkling wine
Italy, around $15

I had never bought this type of wine before, but my wife wanted to make a cocktail that calls for Prosecco and Crème de Violet. After searching a few stores for the Crème de Violet, we found it – and I have to admit the concoction was very tasty. This would be a good gift for someone who enjoys sparkling wines.

2012 Chakana Malbec
Argentina, $25 or less

I have tried many Malbecs over the last few years; there are excellent wines coming out of Argentina at very reasonable prices. This makes for an excellent $25 gift – I would compare it to California wines selling for twice as much.  It’s very smooth, with lots of dark berry fruit and a little chocolate. It’s drinking well right now but it certainly can last 10 years.

2010 Dei Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
Italy, $25 or less

Another Sangiovese to enjoy with food. We took this wine to a restaurant and one of our guests preferred it to the Leonetti $100+ wine reviewed earlier. An excellent complement to steak, it has wonderful dark fruit, plums, cherries and more. The wine also displayed some spiciness, including anise, and had a wonderful long finish. This is a bargain.

Warren T. Colville is Publisher and President of The Buffalo News. 

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