The Holidays aren’t almost here, they’re here, NOW! And if you’re like most people there are a handful of loved ones that you still need to buy a gift for. The good news is there’s still time to get them a nice bottle of wine. Just because it’s last minute, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put thought into it. With a little bit of planning you can get the wine lovers on your list a bottle or several bottles that they’ll be talking about for a long time. Don’t sweat the planning, here are 10 choices priced from just over $15 to $110. They vary greatly in just about every way possible. However they’re alike in one important way. Each of them hits the mark on intent and provides good or better value for the price in question. So whether the wine lover on your list leans towards the inherent whimsy of a Sparkling Red with low alcohol or the gravitas of a world class, single vineyard Brunello, I’ve got you covered. Happy Holidays and drink something delicious!
Cupcake Vineyards (NV) Sparkling Red ($16)
Cupcake Vineyards is well known for producing wines from appellations all over the world. This undeniably cheery red sparkler comes from northern Italy. It’s composed of Brachetto and Moscato. I enjoyed this wine and the bottle I drank was dipped in white chocolate. It was both a tasty treat and a visually delightful one. This limited release wine features ripe red fruit aromas such as plum and strawberry. The Palate is filled with juicy red fruit flavors like cherry and raspberry. Baking spices and continued red fruits mark the finish. Grab this one before it disappears.
1000 Stories 2014 Bourbon Barrel Aged Zinfandel ($19)
More than ½ of the fruit for this Zinfandel was sourced in Mendocino County and Dry Creek Valley; the balance came from 3 other counties. In a unique (for wine) three step process the lots were aged in French oak followed by Virgin Bourbon barrels and finally ex-Bourbon barrels. Rich berry aromas are joined by vanilla and a touch of toasted nuts on the nose. The fruity palate dances between red and black fruit flavors that are interspersed with copious spice notes. Mexican vanilla bean, kirsch liqueur and a tiny bite of roasted espresso are all evident on the finish.
Rodney Strong Vineyards 2014 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon ($20)
Rodney Strong Vineyards is a consistent producer of appellation and site specific wines in a multitude of quality and price tiers. When you pick up a bottle of their wine you’re almost always getting one that provides more value than the price tag. Their latest vintage of Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon is no exception. Black cherries, raspberry and spice notes are evident on the nose. The palate is strewn with a bevy of black fruits, spices and wisps of savory herbs. Chicory, toast and hints of vanilla mark the above average finish. This is a lot of Cabernet for the money.
Davis Bynum 2015 “Virginia’s Block” Sauvignon Blanc ($25)
All of the fruit (100% Sauvignon Blanc) comes from the namesake block which is part of Jane’s Vineyard in the Russian River Valley. Orange zest, mango and white pepper lead the big, welcoming nose here. The palate is loaded with a combination of tropical fruits, citrus and bits of yellow melon. Just a hint of creaminess emerges on the long finish. Racy acid keeps things fresh and mouth-watering. This is an exceptional example of Sauvignon Blanc.
Beringer 2014 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($25)
The Sonoma Coast as a region has had increasing visibility the last handful of years for both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Many of the wines grown there have been received justifiable acclaim. The coastal breezes and other influences are well suited to growing Burgundy’s two great grapes. The fruit was sourced from three vineyard sites. Leather, red cherry and white pepper aromas abound. Flavors of strawberry and red cherry dominate the palate along with black tea and spice notes. A dollop of cocoa leads the finish alongside continuing red fruit flavors and spice. Bright, racy acid keeps things mouth-watering. Intended for fairly short term consumption, this offering will drink well for 5 or 6 years.
Bedell Cellars 2014 Cabernet Franc: ($45)
There are several grapes that famously thrive on Long Island; Cabernet Franc is one of them. Tasting this offering, it’s easy to see why it stands as a benchmark bottling when people are discussing what can be achieved on Long Island in particular and New York State at large. The hallmarks of great Franc are here with red cherries and leather leading powerful aromatics. Those elements continue through the palate along with raspberry, spice and bits of violet and subtle savory herbs. Dried red fruits, chicory, tobacco and more are evident on the long, clean finish. Genuine Cabernet Franc character, freshness, lively acid, and proportion are the elements that most impress.
Valentin Bianchi 2013 Enzo Bianchi ($55)
One vintage after another Enzo Bianchi distinguishes itself as one of the best red blends out of Argentina. This Bordeaux inspired blend combines Cabernet Sauvignon (73%), Malbec (20%), and Petit Verdot (7%). The vines sourced have more than 40 years of age on them. Red raspberry, toast, vanilla and more are evident on the nose. Crushed red cherries, black pepper and dusty cocoa inform the full bodied palate. Continued juicy red fruits, earth more spice dominate the long, silky finish. The 2013 vintage of Enzo Bianchi should evolve positively for a decade and drink well for 5 or 6 years after that.
Paraduxx 2013 Howell Mountain Red Wine ($80)
This selection is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (65%) and Zinfandel (33%). Paraduxx is the winery under the Duckhorn umbrella that focuses on blends, often Zinfandel is a key component. The fruit for this one was sourced on Howell Mountain. Dark and brooding fruit fills the nose. Blackberry, boysenberry and raspberry are evident on the palate alongside spices, earth and a dollop of chocolate sauce. The long finish shows off black pepper, bay leaf and continued dark fruits. Firm tannins, racy acid and a pure burst of intense mountain fruit are the characteristics that most strenuously shine through.
La Manella 2012 Brunello di Montalcino “I Poggiarelli” ($95)
This single vineyard selection was added to their portfolio in 1998. Cherry, tobacco and cherry aromas dominate the alluring nose. Bits of savory herbs are present as well. The palate is loaded with a bevy of red fruits tinged with hints of darker fruits. A host of spices, earth and dried red fruits mark the impossibly long finish. Firm, gripping tannins and fine acid provide excellent structure. This wine is delicious today, particularly when decanted for a couple of hours. The recommendation here is to lay it down for a decade and drink it in the 6-8 years after that.
Quinta do Vallado 2014 Vintage Port “Adelaide” ($110)
Quinta do Vallado, a producer of several exceptional dry red blends produced from indigenous varieties, also has a handful of distinct Ports in their line including this vintage release. A mere 275 cases of their 2014 Adelaide Vintage Port were made from a combination of old field blends (60%), and Touriga Nacional (40%). This offering was named after Dona Antonia Adelaide Ferreira an ancestor of Quinta do Vallado’s current owners. As with most new release Vintage Ports, this is a baby. It’s loaded with big, boisterous, dark fruits, spices and hints of chocolate in the nose. The dense palate is strewn with kirsch liqueur, raspberry and more. Boysenberry, white pepper and cocoa are ell evident on the finish. If you’re drinking now, decant it for a couple of hours and pair it with strong cheeses. Otherwise lay it down for a couple of decades and drink it in the 20 years after that. A most impressive gift for the Port love on your list that will be appreciated.