Wine is the infinitely malleable holiday gift. Easily adjusted to the tastes of the giftee, readily found in the price range appropriate to the giver.
However your friends like their wine, you can oblige – dry or sweet, red or white, powerful or subtle, sparkling or still, mainline or so cutting-edge they can’t even find it on Google.
Even if they don’t drink, they can serve it to guests or quietly observe that pragmatic American custom of next-year regifting.
Still, there is a bit of etiquette to giving wine. For example, I’m sorry to say it, but you must first decide the appropriate price range and only then select the wine.
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It’s a sensitive area. Under-gift your boss and she might feel disrespected; over-gift him and he might decide you don’t need that raise after all.
Still, times change. For several years in my annual wine-as-holiday-gift column I have suggested not gifting wines in aluminum screw-cap bottles. The caps are perfectly fine, and they are used on some excellent wines these days. But many giftees might not know that and think you’re low-balling them, I reasoned. Those days are over. Well into the 21st century, I now say screw-cap wines are fine.
After all, the excellent Ponzi pinot noir in these tasting notes has an aluminum Stelvin cap. And other California winemakers are putting wines priced as high as $150 in screw-caps. If anyone complains, just Google the topic for them.
Enough said: Let’s charge ahead. Here are some wines I like in several price categories:
$20 to $29:
▪ 2012 Rodney Strong “Estate Hills” Chardonnay, Chalk Hill, Sonoma County: aromas of toasty oak and vanilla, tropical fruit flavors, full-bodied, lush and creamy; $22.
▪ 2013 MacPhail Family Wines Rose of Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast: pale pink hue, very dry, strawberry flavors, crisp and lively; $22.
▪ 2012 Kendall-Jackson Cabernet Sauvignon “Grand Reserve,” Sonoma County: hint of smoky oak, flavors of blueberries, black cherries and dark-roast coffee, long finish; $28.
▪ Nonvintage Gloria Ferrer Caves “Sonoma Brut” sparkling wine: lively bubbles, aromas of camellias, lemon/lime flavor, crisp and dry; $22.
$30 to $49:
▪ Nonvintage Domaine Carneros “Cuvee de la Pompadour,” Brut Rose sparkling wine, by Taittinger, Carneros. (58 percent pinot noir, 42 percent chardonnay: soft, lively bubbles, bright red fruit and spice flavors; $36.
▪ 2012 Ponzi Vineyards Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Wash.: floral aromas, flavors of black raspberries and bittersweet chocolate, subtle tannins, long finish; $40 in screw-cap bottle.
▪ 2012 Grgich Hills Estate Chardonnay, Napa Valley: hint of oak, powerful, crisp and full-bodied, with flavors of golden apples and cantaloupes; $42.
▪ 2012 Sequoia Grove Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley: hint of oak, aromas and flavors of cassis, licorice and espresso, medium body, complex, long finish; $38.
$50 and above:
▪ 2012 Shafer “Red Shoulder Ranch” Chardonnay, Napa Valley/Carneros: aromatic and fruity, with scents of ripe peaches and flowers and flavors of tropical fruit and hazelnuts, long and smooth; $50.
▪ 2012 Merry Edwards Winery Olivet Lane Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley: aromas of oak and rose petals, flavors of black raspberries, cassis and cola, powerful and complex, with big body and long, smooth finish; $62.
▪ 2011 La Jota Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley: toasty oak aroma, flavors of blackberries, herbs and licorice, bold and full-bodied, long, smooth finish; $75.
▪ 2012 Joseph Drouhin Chassagne-Montrachet Morgeot, Marquis de Laguiche Premier Cru Chardonnay: aromas and flavors of vanilla, ripe peaches and minerals, powerful, full-bodied, long, smooth finish; $132.