Food & Drink

How to pick the perfect wine this holiday season

Q: Is the average person to whom you’d like to give a holiday gift of wine knowledgeable enough to accept a bottle with a screw-cap closure without being insulted?

I don’t know the answer. Screw-cap bottle closures are well accepted in the industry, especially for wines not intended for long aging. But your intended gift-receiver may not know that.

So, faithful reader, let me use you in a little experiment. I will name a couple of excellent screw-cap wines. You go buy them and give them to, say, your boss or your best friend. And after the holidays you can email me to say if you still have a job or a friend.

I’m kidding, in a way (although if you have the courage, I’d love to hear your answer).

The real point I’m making is that choosing a gift of wine involves a lot more than whether the stuff is any good. Price is crucial. Spend too little on your boss and she might feel slighted. Spend too much and she might decide you don’t need that year-end bonus after all.

Give a bombastic Barolo to a prospective mother-in-law who’s allergic to tannin and you might be in the dog house with your squeeze. Give your 99-year-old great grandfather a powerful red that needs 20 years of aging and you might be out of his will.

I can’t help you out of all those situations. You have to use your own judgment. But I can list some very nice gift wines in price ranges from $15 (anything under $15 is at your own risk too, unless it’s payback for the ugly holiday sweater they gave you last year) to over $50 to help you choose.

Oh, and I will note a couple of wines that come in screw caps. Just so you’ll know.


2015 Gamble Family Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, “Gamble Vineyard,” Napa Valley, Calif. (60 percent sauvignon musique de Loire, 40 percent Preston sauvignon blanc): aromas and flavors of tropical fruit and minerals, complex and lush and full-bodied, crisp finish; $25.

2015 Gustav Lorentz “Le Rose,” AOC Alsace, France (100 percent pinot noir): aromas and flavors of red raspberries and tart cherries, light and crisp, lightly sweet; $19.

(Screw cap) 2014 Raptor Ridge Oregon Pinot Noir “Barrel Select,” Willamette Valley, Ore. (100 percent pinot noir): medium ruby hue, aromas and flavors of black cherries, raspberries, earth and dark spices; $30.

(Screw cap) 2014 Kim Crawford Small Parcel “Wild Grace” Chardonnay, Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand (100 percent chardonnay): hint of oak, aromas of camellias, vanilla and toast, lush, rich flavors of lemon meringue pie, smooth and full-bodied; $30.

2013 Benziger Family Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County, Calif. (80 percent cabernet sauvignon, 5 percent petite sirah, 5 percent petit verdot, 4 percent cabernet franc, 6 percent misc.): aromas and flavors of black plums, bittersweet chocolate and spice, soft tannins, crisp acids; $20.


2013 Yamhill-Carlton Chardonnay, “Gran Moraine,” Oregon: aromas of roses and camellias, flavors of peaches, pears and melon, rich and complex, mineral-scented finish; $45.

Graham’s 10-Year Tawny Port, Portugal (20 percent alcohol): deep tan color, lush and full-bodied and sweet, with aromas and flavors of oranges, herbs and dried figs, long finish; $36.

2013 Edmeades Petite Sirah, Mendocino County, Calif. (91 percent petite sirah, 9 percent zinfandel): inky hue, aromas and flavors of black plum compote, bitter chocolate and espresso, big, ripe tannins; $35.

2013 Ca’ Momi Reserve Merlot, Carneros, Napa Valley (100 percent merlot): dark hue, aromas of black cherries, herbs and smoke, intense flavors of black raspberries and bittersweet chocolate, long, smooth finish; $44.

2014 Amici Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Calif. (100 percent pinot noir): hint of oak, aromas and flavors of sweet cherries and cinnamon, medium body, long finish; $35.


2013 Martin Ray Vineyards & Winery “Synthesis” Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, Napa Valley (98 percent cabernet sauvignon 2 percent petit verdot): deep dark hue, aromas and flavors of black cherries, black plums and espresso, big, ripe tannins, smooth finish; $50.

2012 Henry’s Drive “Magnus” Shiraz, Padthaway, Australia (100 percent shiraz): aromas of flowers and spice, flavors of black plums, anise and bittersweet chocolate, full and hearty, long, smooth finish; $80.

2013 Dry Creek Vineyard “Endeavour” Cabernet Sauvignon, Dry Creek Valley, Calif. (90 percent cabernet sauvignon, 10 percent petit verdot): dark hue, hint of cedar, aromas and flavors of black cherries black plums and cardamom, powerful tannins, smooth finish; $70.

2011 Trione “Henry’s Blend” Red Wine, Alexander Valley, Calif. (35 percent cabernet sauvignon, 34 percent merlot, 13 percent petit verdot, 13 percent cabernet franc, 5 percent malbec): dark hue, aromas and flavors of black raspberries and cloves, rich, hearty and full-bodied, long finish, age-worthy; $54.

2008 Palmina Nebbiolo, “Honea Vineyard,” Santa Ynez Valley, Central Coast, Calif.: aromas of flowers and herbs, flavors of black plums and licorice, firm tannins, long finish; $80.