It’s the Wine That Counts

With proper shopping, wine can take care of everyone on your holiday gift list



2004 Castle Rock Petite Sirah,
Lodi, California.

The petite sirah grape has always been a conundrum in the New World. Is it syrah? Is it petite? Today’s petite sirah is descended from the durif grape, which is a hybrid created in the 1880s in France to combat vineyard molds. Durif is the pelourin grape fertilized by syrah. Grapes from California vineyards differ in character due to natural evolution and reaction to microclimates and soil conditions. This one is inky black, with a fruit that has an upfront blueberry flavor, followed by a rich cherry fruit. It’s not very tannic, but finishes real dry. Interesting wine. $11, The Wine Shop.

Some might consider wine a shallow and frivolous gift, like you made a quick dash to the grocery, grabbed the brightest or funniest label, twisted some decorative paper around it, and called it a gift. But if you select a bottle or two of the best wines from all you've tasted during the year, then it becomes a thoughtful, meaningful gift.

I always give out a lot of wine during the holidays. I have different levels of giving, though. Just as you wouldn't give a business associate a necklace incrusted with precious stones, it's not appropriate to give a casual acquaintance a Premier Cru. Here's a list of wines to give to the many different people on your holiday list.

I always keep a couple of cases of wine for spur-of-the-moment gifts. I never give out a wine that is cheap or mediocre, but there's nothing wrong with a good value. Here are two that would be perfect for acquaintances or people who drop by with little gifts:

2006 Domaine La Hitaire, Les Tours Vin de Pays des Cotes de Gascogne, France. Sixty percent uni blanc, 30 percent colombard, 5 percent gros manseng. A fruity wine, with a dry edge. A good, clean white. Nothing trendy about it, just darn good wine. $8, Total Wine.

2006 Chateau Grande Cassagne Costiere des Nimes, France. 60 percent grenache, 40 percent syrah. This is one of my favorite value wines. A big, purple, full-bodied, Rhone-style wine. Nice earthy tones with a soft finish. $10, Total Wine.

For good friends who deserve a little extra, I'm giving:

2006 Pine Ridge, Clarksburg, California. 86 percent chenin blanc, 14 percent viognier. Citrus and pear fruits. Chenin blanc is something different in a sea of predictable wines. The dash of viognier in this wine makes it a special gift. $15, The Wine Shop, Park Road.

2005 Prima Bodegas y Vinedos Maurodos, Toro, Spain. This is a big toasty blend of mostly tinta de toro (tempranillo), a little bit of granacha, and just a touch of the Port grape touriga nacional. A clear, dark ruby color and a zesty blackberry nose and fruits with hints of cranberries. A great wine for only $20 at Winestore.

My brother-in-law is into status and labels. He thinks California wines are the best, so I'd give him one of these:

2005 Ridge Lytton Springs Dry Creek Vineyard: 77 percent zinfandel, 17 percent petite syrah, 6 percent carignan. I love Ridge wines. There are many different blends from various California vineyards. All of them are very nice. $37, The Wine Shop, Park Road.

2005 Caymus Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. The most dependable of traditional California cabs. A sure bet. $70, The Wine Shop, Total Wine.

2005 Pride Merlot. A light Bordeaux-style wine. Excellent. Ready to drink right now. $65, Winestore, The Wine Shop.

For that client who's been really good to me and keeps the business coming, I'd give this lovely tax deduction:

2004 Clarendon Hills, Astralis, Australia. A powerful shiraz. Opaque, purple color. Vanilla aromas, flavors of toasted oak, cherry, chocolate, and coffee. It's jammy, but very controlled. $300, Winestore. (Editor's note: Van, you can send this to my home address.)

My best friends are getting wines that I love:

2004 Ambroise Beaune 1er Cru "Perrieres," Cote de Nuits, France. A true Burgundian terroir-driven wine from tiny vineyards farmed by hand. This pinot noir has a vibrant cherry fruit with a slate-y backbone. $60, The Wine Shop.


Categories: Uncorked