If you are still in a quandary about what to give that best buddy, new in-law or special wine loving someone, here are a few ideas that will be a sure scene stealer at your holiday gathering. Some of these ideas were sent for editorial consideration, some I just love.
Big red wines are always a hit around our house. 2007 is considered by many to be one of the best coming out of Napa in years. I am still a fan of the 2006 though – a little earthier, maybe slightly more tannic, but should age nicely over the next few years leading to velvety smooth, bold reds perfect for holiday feasting. A few favorites from both years have crossed my palate recently, including:
Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2006 - Though a lot of Mondavi is large production created in large production style. The Reserve is special, hand harvested in small bins to protect the integrity of the fruit, hand sorted, fermented in oak tanks after gentle pressing, 18 months of aging in 100% new French oak, this Cab is elegant and timeless. Right now cherry, plum and licorice exude from the wine, but give it a few years in the bottle and leather and earthy aromas should shine through this elegant wine.
2007 Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon- Beringer too has many larger production wines, but this Reserve is a solid representation of why Napa Cabernet is regarded so well among wine lovers. With fruit from Spring Mountain, Mount Veeder and St. Helena, the wine displays a definite hands off approach, with terrior really being at the forefront, allowing the earth to shine through. Definitely a prominent wine with aromas of currant, eucalyptus and licorice, leading to flavors of dried cherry, blackberry and cocoa.
2007 Stag’s Leap Artemis- Well balanced, yet intense Cabernet Sauvignon aged 18 months in French oak barrels, this wine is filled with blackberry, cedar and caramel with slight herbal, spice notes. A full bodied wine perfect for pairing with your favorite meat or lamb dish, with a long finish to bring you back for more.
2006 Franciscan Magnificat- A blend of predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon, with Merlot, Malbec and a hint of Petit Verdot the 2006 Magnificat is a luxurious blend of Napa Valley fruit. Subtle aromas of vanilla, clove and cinnamon exude from the crimson wine leading to flavors of black cherry, anise and mocha. Rich and concentrated, this full bodied wine lingers on the palate with a subtle finish.
Edge Hill is one of the oldest Napa Valley wineries, started in 1867, producing highly rated wine, notably their blend of primarily Zinfandel with Grenache, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan and Mourvedre. An inky purple color lures you in, as does the robust berry aroma. The flavor is filled with blackberry, raspberry and peppery spice.
Austin Hope’s 2009 Syrah is still a bit young, but has the powerful Syrah profile that many, including me, love. From Paso Robles this Syrah is made with loving care by its namesake owner who, though he makes a handful of different wines, this Syrah is really his signature. Small production and aged 12 months in 100% new French oak barrels, the wine is filled with smoky, nutty aromas and bright fruit.
If you are more inclined to look outside California I just tried a fantastic wine from Li Veli. On a 128 acre property in the Salento region in Puglia, Italy the Flavo family creates big Italian wines from grapes prominent in the region – mainly Primitivo, Negroamaro and Aleatico. Their wine is powerful and distinct, highlighting the old world character of the region through very modern techniques. The Primonero Salento IGT is a blend of 50% Primitivo/50% Negroamaro, with floral and bright fruit aromas opening up a palate filled with sweet spice like cinnamon and nutmeg, red cherry and berry. Some people find Italian wines to be too acidic for their palate; this one is surprisingly smooth with balanced acidity and tannins.
2007 Klipsun Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon from Seven Hills winery in Walla Walla, WA. Washington State continues to grow their presence on the great wine maker scene, and this one from Seven Hills is a good reason why. Reasonably priced, yet still small production, this Cabernet is filled with herbal, spicy aromas with dried cherry and cranberry and warm cherry pie flavors with a hint of coffee.
I was at a dinner party the other evening and had an incredible Tempranillo from Spain, 2004 Bodegas Aalto Ribera del Duero. A powerful, earthy, peppery wine filled with berry, herbal and steely mineral flavors. It needed a few hours to open up, but wow, when it did it was impressive.