Giving wine at the holidays? Make sure that it's just right

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 3D

Wine's almost always a welcome holiday gift. Even if the giftee isn't a partaker, he or she can serve it to guests or – one suspects – regift it to those who will appreciate it.

There are a couple of things to consider in gift wine. First is price. In a perfect world, giving an excellent wine would be the only factor. But the world isn't perfect. So con- sider the appropriate price range, then look for the best wine in it.

Give your boss a $5 wine and your career may stall. Give a too-expensive wine and there may seem no reason to give you a raise.

Second, we're getting closer to when one can give a screw-cap wine as a gift. Some of the finest sauvignon blancs from New Zealand come that way. Even Napa's 2009 Cade Estate Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon comes in a screw cap, in a $300 boxed set with a corked bottle.

Still, screw-cap gift wines probably must be limited to recipients who understand their value.

Here are some holiday suggestions in various price ranges.

Under $30:

• 2010 William Hill Estate Chardonnay, Napa Valley: hint of oak, pear flavors; full and dry; $25.

• 2012 Quivira Dry Creek Valley Sauvignon Blanc: light and lean, with gunflint and grassy notes in the Loire Valley style; $15.

• 2010 Kendall-Jackson Vintner's Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County: soft and mellow, with aromas and flavors of black plums and licorice; $19.

$30 to $49:

• 2010 Laguna Chardonnay, Russian River Valley: golden apple and cinnamon aromas and flavors, rich and crisp; $35.

• 2009 Napa Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Stagecoach Vineyard, Napa Valley: rich, full and dry, with aromas and flavors of black raspberries and espresso; $45.

• 2009 Grgich Hills Estate Zinfandel, Napa Valley: hint of oak, full-bodied, rich, with black raspberry and mocha flavors; $35.

• 2010 Gallo Signature Series Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands: hint of oak, floral aromas, powerful flavors of black raspberries and licorice; $35.

$50 and over:

• 2006 Murphy-Goode "Homefront Cuvee" Merlot, Howell Mountain, North Coast: rich, mellow and smoky, with black cherry flavors; $55.

• 2010 Chateau Montelena Napa Valley Chardonnay, Napa Valley: big, powerful and complex, with ripe flavors of oranges and lemons, and a tart finish; $50.

• 2009 Charles Krug Vintage Selection Cabernet Sauvignon, Estate Bottled, Napa Valley: big, rich and hearty, with aromas and flavors of plums and mocha; $75.

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