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Wine: Reviews, Thoughts & Culture

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Single Malt Scotch

Gabe's 2014 Holiday Gift Guide

GiftGuideCover_AmandaJeanBlackIf you’re not sure what to get someone as a gift this year, consider a good bottle of wine or spirits —‚ always in season. Anyone who drinks alcohol will certainly appreciate a well-chosen bottle to enjoy, be it alone or with friends (my hope is that it’s with you). Throughout the year, I’ve tasted a number of the best bottles in both the wine and spirit categories and compiled a list of my 24 favorites — any of which would make excellent gifts for a variety of budgets. A few of the bottles are particularly great values, while others are luxury beverages that will really impress the lucky person who receives them; no matter the price, every selection in this guide is delicious and well made. Head over to The Daily Meal to read the rest.

Six Spirits for Fall Sipping or Mixing

For me personally, when it comes to spirits I look for something I can sip neat. The purity of each style’s expression appeals to me. While I take the time and make the effort to mix cocktails when the mood, I’m far more likely to drink them neat or simply sip the on the rocks. By filling a bar with spirits I enjoy solo, I know that the cocktails I mix with them will have a delicious result--t’s a lot like the axiom about not cooking with wine you wouldn’t want to drink. After recently tasting through a bunch of spirits that came across my desk, here are my 6 current favorites that will keep you warm with the nip of fall in the air. Head over to The Daily Meal to read the rest.

Six Impressive Expressions of Highlands Scotch


Scotch has numerous varieties with many designations that set them apart. One, of course, is whether it’s a single-malt or a blended Scotch. Another, equally important factor is where the Scotch is from. There are significant regional influences that affect the quality and flavor of Scotch. So, much like with wine, a sense of place can be quite indicative and important. I recently tasted through a half dozen examples all from the Highlands of Scotland. Several things made this grouping of Scotches noteworthy. First off each expression is distinct in its own right. Secondly, they’re all well-made and incredibly delicious and enjoyable to drink. Tasting them side by side was a real window into the diversity of quality scotch coming from the Highlands. Head over to The Daily Meal to read the entire roundup...

The Balvenie Portwood 21: A Highly Desirable Scotch

The Balvenie, a range of Single Malt Scotches from the Speyside region of Scotland, features a diverse portfolio. If you’re a Scotch lover they likely have something in their range to suit your palate. The commonality to me is the attention to detail that helps them to achieve the quality and consistency their name evokes. Among the things that set The Balvenie apart are the strict controls they retain over several aspects of the production process. Growing their own barley and employing their own staff of coopers to handle every cask are but two examples. I’ve been a fan of the Balvenie range for quite a while now, and the 12 Year Old DoubleWood is one I go to on a regular basis. Therefore it’s always interesting to taste the rare, more sought-after examples in their range. Amongst those the Balvenie Portwood 21 is a highly desirable Scotch produced in limited quantities. Head over to The Daily Meal to read the rest.

Laphroaig Càirdeas Port Wood is an Impressive and Limited Single Malt

LP_Cairdeas_WithTubeLaphroaig is one if the most recognizable names in Scotch. Not only that, they bring to mind something even more specific, Peaty Scotch. They are best known for Single Malt’s that feature a trademark smoke and peat in their flavor profiles. Quite recently they have launched a brand new expression: Laphroaig Càirdeas 2013. The name comes from the traditional Gaelic meaning for friendship. The Laphroaig Càirdeas Port Wood Edition was finished in port barrels to add even more complexity. It is available nationwide but in limited quantities. Càirdeas Port Wood has a suggested retail price of $75.00. This Scotch has a gorgeous Rosé tinted hue that just shimmers beautifully when you pour it. The nose is impressively expressive with hints of dark chocolate, fruit and just a gentle wisp of green herb. Taking the first sip it’s impossible not to be immediately knocked by the depth and complexity of the palate. A cornucopia of light and dark flavors simply envelop your senses and get your brain working on figuring out all the different pleasing characteristics it’s enjoying. Bits of brown sugar emerge on the finish and provide a nice sweetness along with loads of spices that bring fruitcake to mind. These lead into a hint of char, dark chocolate and pepper spice. The length here is tremendous with all the elements reverberating persistently for a long and impressive amount of time.

There are more and more expressions of Scotch available to us every day. As such this is a great and prosperous time to be a Scotch drinker. Part of what keeps things really interesting are rare and limited releases such as The Laphroaig Càirdeas Port Wood edition. It’s not going to be on shelves forever, so grab a bottle if you’re lucky enough to find one.

Glenfarclas 25 Year Old Single Malt Impresses

glenfarclasGlenfarclas 25 Year Old Single Malt Highland Scotch, SRP $150. Glenfarclas has been owned by a single family since 1865. This Speyside distillery is in fact one of a small handful in Scotland that remains family owned and run. They’re a fairly small company with just more than 30 people employed in their entire operation. Several of these employees have been with them for more than 25 years. They run a 24 hour operation which among other things manages 52,000 casks at varying states of maturity; these are all moved by hand. I recently tasted the Glenfarclas 25 Year Old Single Malt Highland Scotch. Head over to The Daily Meal to read the rest.

The Glenlivet 15: for the True Scotch Whisky Lover

Glenlivet15Whisky comes in all shapes and sizes. Single malt Scotch, which is a particular discipline of whisky from Scotland, also has tons of variables. The first and most obvious is how long it was aged. Next you can start to look at what type of barrel it was aged in and ask if it was aged in more than one type. More and more Scotches are being “finished” in a second type of oak. Often these are barrels that once held sherry, Port, or some other sort of wine or spirit. Many though are aged in a single barrel type. The Glenlivet, which has a history dating to 1824, is one of the most widely available single malts across the U.S. Their portfolio offers a broad range of Scotches to whet the appetites of various palates and budgets. Here’s a look at one of their most popular, available, and value packed offerings. Head over to The Daily Meal to read the rest.

Auchentoshan 18 Year is an Inspiring Scotch

Auchentoshan is the closest distillery to the city of Glasgow. It was founded in 1823 and to this day uses the same time-honored methodology they always have. The standard range of Whisky’s includes four distinct releases. They augment that with some smaller production limited offerings as well. I have tasted each of the selections in their normal range and they maintain a connective tissue that binds them all together yet each has its own characteristics which set it apart. Here’s a look at their 18-year-old. Head over to The Daily Meal to read the rest.

Gabe’s 2013 Holiday Gift Guide

Christmas is just around the corner and if you’re like most Americans you still have plenty of shopping to do. Most of us have Wine & Spirits lovers on our list. So here are some killer Wine & Spirits selections in a variety of price points to make those on your list happy and keep them warm. And if by some chance all your shopping is done pick some of these up for your Holiday table, your taste buds will thank you!


Agricole Vallone – 2007 Vigna Flaminio Brindisi Riserva. This Italian wine was made from Negroamaro (80%) and Montepulciano (20%). The fruit for this wine was sourced on the winery’s own estate. Aging started in stainless steel tanks followed by large Slavonian oak casks for about 7 months. 12 months in concrete tanks followed and finally 6 months in bottle prior to release. 1,500 cases of this wine were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $19.99. Red plum and strawberry aromas fill the nose of this wine along with pepper spice. The palate has warming red fruit flavors such as cherry and red raspberry as well as continued plum. A hint of cinnamon, cardamom and pepper are all part of the above average finish along with a bit of espresso. Firm acidity and gentle tannins provide nice structure. This wine screams out to be paired with a nice meal. Thankfully it’ll work with a wide array of foods such as classic roast chicken, pot roast, pasta with red sauce, a cheese and charcuterie plate or more. At under $20 this wine is an outstanding value. It’s priced for everyday drinking but tastes like a special occasion wine.

Dry Creek Vineyard – 2011 Old Vine Zinfandel. This wine was made using fruit sourced in Dry Creek Valley. In addition to Zinfandel (83%), there is some Petite Sirah (17%) blended in. The fruit comes from vines that are between 90 and 110 years old. Fermentation took place over 22 days in a temperature controlled environment. Barrel aging followed over the next 20 months in a combination of French, Hungarian and American oak. 28% of the barrels utilized were new. Just more than 3,200 cases were produced and this Zin has a suggested retail price of $30. The Petite Sirah in this wine makes its presence known from the first whiff where black plum and violet aromas are in evidence along with raspberry and a bit of vanilla. The palate is a horn-o-plenty of fresh berry fruit flavors. They’re abundant, succulent and incredibly varied. A core of spices is present as well and it dances merrily alongside all the fruit. Bits of blackberry and pepper emerge on the finish as well as a touch of rhubarb. This is a proportionate Zinfandel that is loaded with fruit without ever straying over the top, or even close to it. Fleshy fruits, medium tannins and a fine backbone of acidity all come together to make a fresh and desirable wine that will pair well with food. Year after year this wine is one of the best values in Zinfandel. It also happens to be continually made in the style that encourages pairing it with food. It will also drink well longer than the average Zin. It’s outstanding now but don’t hesitate to hold on to it over the next 7 or 8 years. Under proper storage conditions it’ll flourish. If you want to buy someone the most American of wines you aren’t going to do much better than this benchmark example of Zinfandel which comes from Dry Creek Valley, the effective home office of the varietal.

Swanson Vineyards – 2010 Oakville Merlot. This wine blends together Merlot (83%), Cabernet Sauvignon (15%), and Petit Verdot (2%). After Fermentation this wine was aged in an even split of French and American oak for 18 months. 33% of the barrels utilized were new. The Swanson Merlot is widely available nationwide and has a suggested retail price of $38. Black fruit aromas are joined by interspersing bits of red fruit on the nose of this Merlot. Cherry flavors dominate the palate with raspberry and plum playing a role here as well. The finish is substantial and memorable with loads of spice, chicory, and a hint of bittersweet chocolate. It shows off firm tannins and rock solid acidity. This wine is delicious now, particularly after being decanted for about an hour but will benefit from a couple of years of bottle age under proper conditions. I’ve been drinking the Swanson Merlots for over a decade now and I believe they really improve over the first 5 or 6 years in the bottle and drink well for another 6 or so after that. It’s always been a Cabernet lover’s Merlot with depth structure and the ability to age. This is as far away from stereotypical insipid Merlot as you’re going to get. Year after year the Swanson Merlot represents one of the best wines values in Napa Valley. If you want to drink killer Napa Merlot, or gift it to your friends, this is the one.

Rodney Strong - 2010 Brothers Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon. The fruit for this wine comes exclusively from the Brothers Ridge Vineyard which sits in the northern half of Alexander Valley near Cloverdale. This single vineyard wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from 4 select blocks. After fermentation this wine spent 21 months in French oak; 43% of the barrels were new. This small production wine has a suggested retail price of $75. Blueberry, black raspberry and green peppercorn aromas emerge from the nose of this Cabernet. The palate is loaded with ripe and ready fruit flavors such as blackberry and raspberry. Bits of vanilla bean are present as well. Espresso, earth, chocolate and wisps of minerals are present on the substantial finish. Firm, gripping tannins and solid acidity mark this Cabernet’s structure. It’s been about had a dozen years that Rodney Strong has been making a trio of super premium single vineyard Cabernets. These wines upped their game into a space that they didn’t previously inhibit with the rest of their portfolio. At $75 this wine is a very good value. Alexander Valley is a region with excellent Cabernet potential, which the folks at Rodney Strong fulfill with this wine. Since not as many consumers realize how awesome Alexander Valley Cab can be you can be the beneficiary. A Cabernet of the same quality from Napa would likely cost closer to $125. So if your gift giving list includes a Napa Cab lover, buy them this wine and you’ll be giving them two gifts, the wine itself and the eye opener into Alexander Valley Cabs. They will thank you profusely.


Auchentoshan – Classic Single Malt Scotch. This Scotch was triple distilled, which is their house methodology and aged entirely in Bourbon Casks. This offering is the entry level selection in the Auchentoshan portfolio and it has a suggested retail price of $30. There are hints of charred wood on the nose. Peach, apricot, Granny Smith Apple and spice are prevalent on the palate which is mid-range in terms of overall weight in the mouth. Continued spices are in evidence on the finish along with lemon zest and a gentle salinity. At less than $30 if you shop around this is an excellent value in Scotch. It’s an easy going Whisky which calls you back to the glass for sip after sip. Perfectly suited, style and price wise for everyday drinking. That said it has more than enough complexity to keep you interested.

Laphroaig - Triple Wood Scotch. This Scotch was created using a triple maturation process. It was aged in ex-bourbon barrels, quarter casks and Oloroso Sherry Casks. This is a seasonal expression available in limited quantities that won’t be on the shelf too long. It’s available in select shops around the United States and has a suggested retail price of $59.99. This Scotch has a beautiful light copper hue that stands out when poured. Aromas of toasted macadamia nut, Lychee fruit and apricot are all present in the effusive nose. The palate here is loaded with fruitcake spices, dried yellow peach and interspersed bits of char. Oatmeal characteristics lead the finish which also shows off a lovely bit of brine that interlocks with caramel and molasses. This is a gorgeous Scotch that shows off the trademark peat that Laphroaig is known for in a gentle and even handed manner. Other expressions in their portfolio lean heavier on the peat. So if you like a dollop of it but don’t want to go all in on Smoky and Peaty Scotch yet, this could be the Laphroaig for you. It’s a distinct expression in their range that is well worth exploring or gifting.

The Irishman - 12 Year Old Single Malt Whisky. The Irishman was founded in 1999 by the Walsh family. Their family has been involved in Whisky production for well over 100 years. This Whisky was aged over 12 years in entirely first time used Bourbon barrels. This Whisky is non chill filtered and limited to only 6,000 numbered bottles per year. It has suggested retail price of $65. The toasty char from the Bourbon casks is prominent on the nose along with some spices such as cardamom and cinnamon, as well as a gentle wisp of allspice. Apple, rye , and oat characteristics are in strong evidence throughout the robust and full flavored palate which has bracing depth and complexity. The toasty notes circle back in on the finish along with a bit of dusty dark chocolate and continuing reverberations of spice. This is a beautiful Irish Whisky with  lovely and notable complexity.

Gosling’s Family Reserve - Old Rum. This rum is aged for an extended period in barrels. Every bottle is hand numbered and wax sealed. Unlike several of their other releases which are made in large quantities, the Old Rum is made in limited amounts. It sells at select shops for around $80. The hue of this rum is dark and it is opaque. Bits of cinnamon and anise emerge from the deep, dark nose of this rum. From the very first sip a cornucopia of flavors emerge. Plum pudding spices, molasses and hints of mesquite honey are all in evidence. As you sip it, layer after layer of gorgeous flavors emerge and envelop your senses. Bits of burnt sugar and chocolate sauce are part of the finish which has tremendous depth, length and persistence. It’s thick, dense and meant to be contemplated. Gosling’s Old Rum is a gorgeous offering that should be savored. If you want to make a rum cocktail, pull something else off the shelf, this one is meant to be enjoyed straight. If you have a Rum lover on your gift list this one will knock them out. The Rum itself is certainly enough, but it’s also beautifully packaged and comes in a wooden box with a sliding cover, making it a lovely presentation as well.

Laphroaig Scotch Is Holding A Live Tasting and You Can Participate!

Laphroaig is one if the most recognizable names in Scotch. Not only that, they bring to mind something even more specific, Peaty Scotch. They are best known for Single Malt’s that feature a trademark smoke and peat in their flavor profiles. Quite recently they have launched a brand new expression: Laphroaig Cairdeas 2013. This particular Scotch was finished in port barrels. This week the folks from Laphroaig are holding a live tasting from Brooklyn, NY. Scotch lovers all over the world can tune in and follow along. So grab a bottle or two of Laphroaig and taste along this Thursday. Their press release with all the pertinent details follows: Laphroaig®, the world's most richly flavored Scotch whisky, will broadcast its 7th annual Laphroaig® Live on Thursday, September 26, 2013 at 8:00PM Eastern Time from Brooklyn, New York. Whisky fans everywhere can visit to see the most talked about live online whisky tasting of the year.

The 45-minute live stream, which reached nearly 2.5 million people across the globe last year, will feature a panel of four experts who will sample four whisky expressions and highlight the spirits’ strong ties with America. The experts will be stepping back in time to the Prohibition era and tracing its heritage to the booming whisky cocktail scene it helped create. This year, the panel will consist of Laphroaig® Master Distiller John Campbell, Bourbon Ambassador Adam Harris, renowned Mixologist and Founder of Ward III Michael J. Neff, and spirit enthusiast and GQ Web Editor Kevin Sintumuang. Also in attendance will be Simon Brooking, Master Ambassador for Laphroaig®, to celebrate this one- of-a-kind tasting experience.

Viewers worldwide will have front row seats as the panel tastes and discusses the complex flavor profiles of:

         • Laphroaig® Quarter Cask

         • Laphroaig® QA

         • Maker’s 46®

         • Laphroaig® Cairdeas 2013


The show will be broadcast from an original Hudson River Barge, which at over 99 years old has seen cargo come and go into New York for almost a century. While the Hudson River Barge was taking its cargo into port, Ian Hunter, the last family owner of Laphroaig®, was introducing the world to his whisky. Legend has it he even introduced it to the USA during Prohibition by convincing authorities of its “medicinal” purposes. Following in his footsteps, Laphroaig® will bring a fantastic selection of its expressions direct from Islay to New York and explore how the North-Atlantic ties are still thriving today.

Here's how to join the most talked about live online whisky tasting of the year:

         • LOG ON to to watch the show on 9/26

         • TWEET at @LaphroaigUSA #LaphroaigLive #Laphroaig #Whisky on Twitter

         • LIKE and share your thoughts at on Facebook

Glen Garioch - Founder’s Reserve / 12 Year old Single Malt Scotch

The Glen Garioch Distillery was founded in 1797, making it one of the oldest in Scotland. It sits the furthest east of any in the Highlands region. Their single malt whiskies are all non chill filtered. They’re aged in a combination of American Bourbon and Spanish Sherry casks. Here's a look at two of their core offerings. The Glen Garioch Founder’s Reserve is a recently launched Whisky. They’ve used their vast experience here to create a new offering that showcases the house style. This Scotch has a suggested retail price of $45.00. Orchard fruit aromas such as apple and subtle bits of pear are joined by vanilla and a touch of burnt sugar on the nose of the Founder’s Reserve. The palate here is fresh and appealing with continued orchard fruit characteristics joined by hints of Citrus and a nice dollop of spices. The fresh elements continue on the palate with a hint of grassiness, zesty citrus and some tingly white and black pepper elements. In its price range this is a welcome offering that provides quality and distinction.

The Glen Garioch 12 Year old Single Malt Scotch is at the heart of their range. This offering was first aged in American Bourbon casks followed by time spent in Spanish Sherry casks to aid in softening it. This 12 year old Single Malt has a suggested retail price of $65. The nose of this 12 Year Old Scotch is quite fresh and inviting with thoughts of a meadow coming to mind. Bits of white lilac are present as well as wisps of Asian pear. The palate has excellent depth and complexity of flavor. Caramel, honey and toasted macadamia nut flavors are all present along with pear and a gentle kiss of apricot. The finish is long and persistent with an avalanche of spices present. This is a terrific 12 Year Old Single Malt. In its price category it’s a very solid value.

I was quite pleased with both of these offerings from Glen Garioch. The Founder’s Reserve is more in line with what I think of for everyday sipping while the 12 Year old is one I want to sit and contemplate over a long evening. In either case if you’re a Single Malt Scotch drinker, these are worth your time and money.

Auchentoshan - 12 Year Old Single Malt Scotch / Auchentoshan Three Wood Single Malt Scotch

Auchentoshan has a history that dates back to 1828; they are in fact the oldest distillery in Glasgow. This is a producer that triple distills each of their Scotches from three pot stills. Their range of offerings features five Single Malts that are widely available as well as numerous limited edition Malts and a handful aimed specifically at travel retail. Today I’m going to take a look at two Single Malts from their range. The Auchentoshan 12 Year Old Single Malt Scotch was triple distilled after which it was aged for over twelve years. This Scotch has 40% Alcohol by volume and the suggested retail price is $50. The color of this Scotch brings to mind vibrant clover honey. Apricots and spice lead an appealing and incredibly fresh and vibrant nose. Peach, toasted hazelnut and light citrus characteristics star on the substantially weighty palate that also shows off loads of spice. Mesquite honey, black pepper and bits of clove emerge on the finish which is lengthy and impressive in its persistence. This is a notable and exciting 12 Year Old Single Malt. There are many distilleries with entries in the 12 year old category; the Auchentoshan stands out for both complexity and elegance.

The Auchentoshan Three Wood Single Malt Scotch was aged as the name would indicate in 3 different cask types. It started in American Bourbon casks followed by Spanish Oloroso Sherry and then ultimately finishing in Pedro Ximenez Sherry casks. This Scotch has 43% Alcohol by volume and a suggested retail price of $63. This Single Malt has a deep, coppery hue. Caramel, toffee and plum pudding spice aromas fill the dense nose. The palate is deep and layered with fruitcake spices, apricot, lychee, toast and a gentle hint of anise. Apple crisp, almond a touch of mocha and hints of biscotti are part of the long and warming finish. The Auchentoshan Three Wood is a very impressive release for the price point. This is a Single Malt to sit and contemplate over a long night with good company. The various casks this was aged in all add to the depth, complexity and richness of flavors here. This is a real knockout in its price range.

This was my first time sampling any of the Auchentoshan releases and I was quite impressed. The quality of their offerings and connective thread between releases in the range is quite apparent even tasting only two selections. There is an overall smoothness and delicate complexity to the palate that belies the reasonable price point of these Single Malts. That said both the 12 Year and the Three Wood are distinct in their own right. I heartily recommend either of these to anyone looking for a terrific value in Single Malt Scotch.

The Balvenie - 17 Year Old DoubleWood Single Malt Scotch

The Balvenie, a range of Single Malt Scotches from the Speyside region of Scotland, has recently added a new release to their portfolio. The Balvenie 17 Year Old DoubleWood was released this year to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of their Malt Master David Stewart. Among the things that set The Balvenie apart are the strict control they retain over several aspects of the production process. Growing their own barley and employing their own staff of coopers to handle every cask are but two examples. I’ve been a fan of the Balvenie range for a bit now, and the 12 Year Old DoubleWood is one I go to on a regular basis. So it was with particular interest that I sat down to taste the 17 year DoubleWood to see how it stacks up. The Balvenie 17 Year Old DoubleWood was matured in two diverse types of oak casks. First it spends a greater than normal period in traditional Whisky Casks. What follows is a shorter period of time in Oak Sherry Casks. This last period lasts between several months and a year. It’s a hands on process that requires the Whisky being checked regularly to ascertain that it’s taken out of the Sherry Casks at precisely the right time to achieve the desired influence. While this new release has been added to celebrate David Stewart’s Anniversary it is now part of The Balvenie Core range of offerings. The 17 Year Old DoubleWood is available nationally and has a suggested retail price of $129.99.

The beautiful light copper hue of The Balvenie 17 Year Old DoubleWood is striking as soon as you pour this Single Malt Scotch into your glass. The nose is a bit reticent at first but just a few minutes of air work magic and aromas of toasted hazelnut, vanilla bean and light spices emerge. The flavors here have an impressive purity, depth and layered precision. Dried orchard fruits, warming spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom are all in evidence and tinged by honey. This is a remarkably smooth Scotch from the initial taste through the persistent echoes of the lengthy finish which shows off orange zest, bits of toffee and continued reverberating spices.

This new addition to The Balvenie range is an impressive selection that is worthy of their portfolio. There are some common threads as well as numerous distinct differences between it and the younger 12 Year DoubleWood. If you are already a fan of The Balvenie Family of Scotches you’ll certainly want to give the 17 Year DoubleWood a shot. If you’re new to their range this is certainly an impressive place to start your journey.

Gabe's 2011 Holiday Gift Guide

The 2011 Holiday Season is here and with it comes shopping and gift giving. There are all sorts of gifts to consider but I think wines and spirits are excellent gifts for those that appreciate such things. With that in mind I decided to compile a list of some items in that category. To make my list the items below had to meet some particular criteria: 1) it has to be something I heartily recommend. 2) It needs to be a good value. 3) It should be relatively easy to locate. 4) The list should take into account peoples various budget sizes. With that in mind here are 8 offerings that the wine and spirits lovers on your gift list will be happy to receive. The Lamberti Prosecco Veneto D.O.C. was made from fruit sourced at hillside vineyards throughout Treviso. This sparkling wine was produced utilizing the Charmat Method. This wine is widely available and has a suggested retail price of $13.99. This Prosecco has an effusive nose that shows off spice and fruits. Stone and citrus fruit flavors star through the palate along with loads of tingly spices. Brioche and hints of crumbled biscotti emerge on the finish which has good length. This wine shows off hints of sweetness and is a very appealing wine. It’ll work well on its own or paired with food. It would be a particularly nice choice for a Brunch. Sparkling wine generally makes people happy. Here’s a tasty choice that makes a perfect, modestly priced gift.

The Apaltagua 2009 Envero Carménère was produced from fruit sourced in the Apalta section of Chile’s Colchagua Valley. This is an estate vineyard 60 hectares in size. The 2009 vintage is a blend of Carménère (93%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (7%). Barrel aging took place over 12 months; an additional 6 months of bottle aging followed prior to release. This wine has a suggested retail price of $16.00. This Carménère has a fresh and lively nose. It shows off red and black fruit aromas as well as hints of eucalyptus. Juicy black currant and cherry flavors lead the palate as well a host of spices. This Carménère has a solid finish that lingers with sour black fruits and continued spices. Yielding tannins and firm acidity mark the structure and make this a terrific food wine. Carménère has been making inroads with US wine lovers over the last few years. This is a grape with lots of appeal to a wide array of folks. It’s ready to please fruits, as well as the fact that it’s still a discovery grape for some make this a particularly excellent gift for the newer wine lovers on your list.

The Sandeman Founder’s Reserve Port was produced from fruit sourced in the Douro Region of Portugal. Fermentation of this wine was stopped with the addition of chilled Brandy. This Port is aged for at least 5 years prior to release. It has a suggested retail price of $19. The Founder’s reserve has a deep red color, looking most like a young Vintage Port. The aromas it gives off lean towards red fruits laced with copious spices. Cherry flavors drive the palate and lead to a wonderful compote of dark, brooding berry flavors which are joined by plum pudding spices. Warming red fruits and loads of sweet dark chocolate mark the finish, which has tremendous length for the price point. The Founder’s Reserve is a great choice to drink while your Vintage Ports are aging. For its reasonable price tag it makes an affordable gift that offers lots of flavor and quality. This is an adaptable Port that’s delicious on its own, paired with desserts or used as the base of an inventive cocktail. It’s also currently available in decorative tins, perfect for gift giving.

The Biltmore Estate 2007 Blanc de Blancs Brut was produced using méthode champenoise. This offering is 100% Chardonnay, produced from fruit sourced in the Russian River Valley. After temperature controlled fermentation at cold conditions this wine underwent a secondary fermentation in bottle and aged for approximately 24 months prior to disgorging. This wine has a suggested retail price of $24.99. Lemon Zest and hints of brioche fill the nose of this 2007 Sparkling Wine. Apple, citrus and Bartlett pear flavors are all on display throughout the palate. Hints of ginger and flaky biscuits emerge on the finish which has nice length. This is a perfectly dry wine which is particularly well suited to pair with dinner. It’s fine on it’s own but excels when matched with the right dish. This is highly recommended for those who are open to New World Sparkling Wines.

The Frescobaldi 2006 Montesodi Riserva Chianti Rufina DOCG was produced from fruit sourced at the Castello di Nipozzano Pelago home estate. This vineyard sits roughly 1,300 feet above sea level. The vines have an average age of 16 years on them. This wine is 100% Sangiovese. Fermentation took place in temperature controlled stainless steel vats over 10 days. Aging took place in Barriques over 24 months; 6 months of bottle aging followed.  The Montesodi Riserva Chianti is only made in select vintages. This wine has a suggested retail price of $52. Violet, rose petal, and dried red fruit aromas fill the nose of this Chianti Riserva. Dried fruit flavors, cherry and blueberry in particular, star throughout the palate which has impressive depth and complexity. Layers of spice emerge and lead to the finish which shows off black tea, and hints of dusty chocolate. This wine has tremendous length, awesome acidity and terrific overall structure. This is everything you would want in top shelf Chianti. It’ll drink well for at least a decade, if it’s being consumed in the short term it should be decanted for a couple of hours for best results. This is a tremendous gift for the Gourmand in your life who likes to slave over a great meal and pair it with a fabulous wine.

The Rodney Strong 2008 Alexander’s Crown Cabernet Sauvignon was produced from fruit sourced in a single vineyard. It was from this vineyard in 1971 that Sonoma County’s first single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon was produced. This offering is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Aging took place over 22 months in all French oak; 47% of the barrels were new. This wine has a suggested retail price of $75. Deep, dark berry aromas, toast and vanilla fill the bold nose of this Cabernet Sauvignon. The palate here is simply overrun with blackberry, black plum, raspberry and cherry flavors. Black pepper and clove spices also make their presence known. Roast espresso, sweet dark chocolate and additional spices emerge on the finish which has excellent length and remarkable depth. This is a big, bold, brash, spicy mouthful of Cabernet Sauvignon that does a tremendous job of showing off its Alexander Valley roots. While Alexander’s Crown is delicious now it’ll benefit from time in the bottle. Those with the patience to lay this down for a decade will be justly rewarded. If someone on your holiday gift list loves California Cabernet Sauvignon, you’ll have a hard time finding a more appropriate gift than this wine which is a jewel in the Rodney Strong Portfolio.

The Sandeman 30 Year old Tawny Port was aged in wooden casks. Over a period of time the fortified wine receives slow exposure to air which ages it and changes the color to the beautiful caramel typical of Tawny Ports Throughout their life the wines utilized are racked from time to time. As the name indicates the average age of the wines used to assemble this Tawny Port is 30. This Port has a suggested retail price of $99.99. Stone fruit in the form of Apricot underpinned by yellow peach lead the nose of this Port along with fruitcake spice and. Apricot flavors continue through the palate where they are dominant. Honey, hazelnut and almond characteristic are present along with white pepper spice. The impressively long finish shows off chamomile tea as well as a bit of caramel and continued spices and stone fruit flavors. This Port can certainly act as dessert all by itself. That said it works extremely well paired with food. A cheese course would be my top pick to match it with. In any case if there’s a Port lover in your life this would be a wonderful gift they will be sure to treasure.

It’s not often that I stray from the wine world here. However sometimes the mood or occasion calls for a beverage not made from grapes. Single Malt Scotch is one of the spirits that often has crossover appeal to those who like to sit and philosophize over their wines. So With that in mind here’s a look at a Single Malt that has really hit the spot for me on a number of occasions.

The Balvenie 12 Year DoubleWood is a Single Malt Scotch. During the aging process it’s moved from a traditional oak cask to a European Sherry cask. This Scotch sells for about $49.99. This Scotch has a great big nose that really develops over 15 or so minutes in the glass. Vanilla and hints of apricot are present. From the very first sip this Scotch distinguished itself by presenting lots of depth and a range of flavors. It is simultaneously fruity and spicy with a nice overall bite. The finish is above average in length and has rich, honeyed flavors and a bit of warmth in the final note. It’s apparent that the use of two types of wood for varying lengths of time really added to the complexity and finesse of this Scotch. If someone on your list is into Single Malt’s this offering from Balvenie is an excellent choice. It’s a distinct expression that stands apart from many of the 12 years Single Malts in its price range.

The selections above provide some excellent choices for gift giving this Holiday Season. I happily stand squarely behind them as good values in their respective categories as well as really tasty products that I enjoy a great deal. Happy Shopping.