That’s it. You give up. Another year rolls by and yet again you are finding yourself searching for gifts for your [insert dad, friend, sister, boss here] who seriously has everything. You shamefully type in the google search for ‘gift ideas’. You inevitably resort to booze.
Lift your head a little higher. What follows is a guide that allows you to get your shopping done in minutes, while still giving a gift that says more than ‘have a drink, grandma.’ These are thoughtfully selected, unique wines that won’t have your friends and family thinking you just popped your head in the local liquor shop 1 block from the party. All these wines are available at my shop, Little’s Wine & Spirits, and we gladly ship to most states!
For the Holiday Party: 2010 Allamand Malbec ($12) or 2010 Le Grand Ballon Sauvignon Blanc ($13)— These inexpensive picks will have people thinking you spent at least $15-20 a bottle on your selections. They may be on opposite ends of the earth (Mendoza, Argentina and Loire, France), but they share a few things in common: small, hand-crafted family production, pure expression of the land they come from, both over-deliver for the price, and both are universally loved by all who taste them! Favorites in my shop!
For the Camper: Yellow + Blue Malbec or Sauv Blanc ($13)—The Tetra-pak’ed sippers make it easy to bring along any backpacking trip. They are light, eco-friendly, and give you a whole Liter of liquid to get you through those chilly alpine nights.
For the Brown-Noser: 2009 Ass Kisser Red ($12)–I refuse to bring in gimicky wines, unless they got a good thing going for them. With good reason this Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre blend made it to the Top 100 Wine Enthusiast Best Buy list this year. Smooth, easy and a hilarious, an inexpensive addition to any present.
For the Cryptic type: 2009 Sinister Hand Syrah ($23)–Owen Roe is a producer every wine enthusiast should try at some point. He has a bit of a cult following, and with one sip of this decadent Syrah, you will likely know why. The graphic bloody hand on the label tells a most peculiar, haunting story for those who are into that sort of thing…
For those who play it safe: 2008 Ghostwriter Pinot Noir ($42)–A little pricey, sure. But I will bet you that if you try it once, you will again with no hesitation. This is hands down the most gorgeous Pinot Noir under $50 coming out of California! No hyperbole. Just the facts. The best gift for that Pinot person you need to buy for.
For those who like a gamble: For those who are more adventurous, pick something with a little age on it, like an old vintage port. It’s not really making a huge gamble, as they can age for decades, but it would certainly impress anyone on your list who has possibly never had an one. At Little’s we can go back to the 80’s. In fact, if you want to try something really different, go for a Primitivo Quiles Fondillon Gran Reserva Monastrell ($50) from Alicante drawn from soleras dating back to 1948.
For those who swear they only like red wine: 2010 Arndorfer Gruner Veltliner ($20)– Really, any Gruner will do, but this is one of the best for the money out there. This dry white has a lot going for it. It works perfectly with hard to pair food such as artichokes and asparagus, plus it has a mysterious way of gaining the trust of those who thought they’d never like white wine again. And, come on… it’s fun to say.
For those who enjoy the narrative of wine: 2000 Lopez de Heredia Tondonia Reserva ($43)– The story of a man who sought out Rioja in the 1870’s and fell in love with the land. Four generations later, this family hardly changes a thing about how these wines are made. They make their own barrels. They have moved writers, critics and sommeliers in ways that no other producer ever has. Give a wine that is truly capable of transporting one back in time.
For the farmer in your life: NV Chartogne-Taillet 1er Cru ($44)–Go with farmer fizz all the way. This is the cute term for serious, grower Champagne. In a land where over 80% of the wine made is by those who only own about 12% of the land, it is refereshing to taste the difference in quality by those who make bubbles starting with the vine all they way through the production in the bottle. Plus, you are getting Premier Cru at about the same price as the ever-variable Yellow Label Veuve.
For the uber eco-friendly friend: 2010 Nikolaihoff Gruner Veltliner ($24)– I know, I already discussed one Gruner. But seriously, it’s worth it to have two on the list. This wine comes from the oldest European winery–almost 2,000 years old! Nikolaihoff was also the first to be certified biodynamic by Demeter. All things considered, this is a smoking deal for what’s inside. A beautful, linear, elegant white that will surely keep you guessing at the unusual, terroir-driven aromatics on the nose.
For the KJ Chard person you want to convert: 2009 Cannonball Chardonnay ($14)– Don’t let the general label of ‘Sonoma Coast’ deceive you. In 2009, over 80% of this fruit was sourced from the Russian River, making this the steal of the century. Great for that Chard drinker who is trying to find something new, but has trouble with change.
For the Future Wine Collector who still has no money: 2009 Chateau Courroneau Bordeaux ($17)– It’s no lie, 2009 has proven itself to be one of the best in years, possibly even several decades. Some are comparing it to ’82, ’61 and ’47. This is perfect for someone who is just getting into collecting, but doesn’t want to spend a ton. It will easily age a good 6-10 years.
For the know-it-all who has tried every grape on earth: You’ve had it with the comments, the criticisms, the commentary. For once, you wish you’d just shut that person up who has something to say about every wine under the sun! Or do they? Here are a few curve balls you could throw your smart aleck’s way this season:
2005 Movia Pinot Nero ($40)– Sure they’ve have Pinot Noir, but have they ever tasted one from this highly respected Slovenian producer?
2008 Wild Hog Carignane ($23)– A popular choice varietal in the south of France, but one of the only of its kind in Cali. Perfect for anyone who prefers big burly Cabs, Malbecs or Bordeaux.
1996 Kalin Cellars Chardonnay ($35)– For the money, you are staring down the barrel of one of the best tasting, aged Chards from Sonoma Coast on the market. This is perfect if your gift recipient hasn’t much experience with mature California Chardonnay. A true gem.
2008 IBY Zweigelt or Blaufrankish ($19)– Watch the omnicient try and wrap their head around this one. These are the freshest reds to come onto the market out of Austria. Zippy, peppery and somewhat related to Pinot Noir, these take it up a notch in weight and spunk. Great if said recipient is really into grilling.
For the socially responsible: 2008 Walden Cotes de Roussillon ($15)– A fair trade collaboration by several small farms in the Roussillon region of south France, Walden is a project under the leadership of former sommelier Herve Bezeul who is motivate by the ethical project Mr. Thoreau used as guidance in his writings at Walden Pond. He uses those inspirational words as a compass in his own career. There are a lot of easy-drinking, smooth reds on the market, but few with such personality as this. Youthful and mischevious, this spicy, zesty red is up to something. It breathes new life into a region that I typically am drawn to for the old, rustic style of reds. Bright fruit, fun and playful.
For the coupon cutter: 2007 Domaine le Sang des Cailloux Blanc ($30)– Everybody loves a deal. But for those who are particularly passionate about savings, consider this curvy, voluptuous white blend from Vacqueryas. Typically selling for $50-70, this is an incredible deal for a wine that is made on a mere hectare of land. It has the potential to age for years to come.
For the Wall Street type: 2006 Rivetto Serralunga Barolo ($55)–Stick to the Speculator Top 100 to appease this aficionado by having him or her try a beautiful Barolo on for size. Collectors are quick to grab Bordeaux, Burgundy and Napa for the cellar, but they overlook the most bombproof varietal of all: Nebbiolo, which has no better home to thrive than Barolo in Piedmont, Italy. Dried roses are a classic aromatic people associate with this hardy little grape. I’d say that’s just the beginning of a lifelong friendship between Nebbiolo and your nose.
For the Literary type: 2009 Chateau d’Issan Margaux Bordeaux ($75-100)– Sipping this wine, you might understand why Ernest Hemingway’s protagonist Jake in The Sun Also Rises was so infatuated: “I drank a bottle of wine for company. It was a Chateau Margaux. It was pleasant to be drinking slowly and to be tasting the wine and to be drinking alone. A bottle of wine was good company.” By all means, if you have a few extra hundred bucks, really wow your bookworm with the first growth Chateau Margaux, but if you are looking to stay under a $100, this is your guy. It has years to go until it’s really ready to drink (in fact, it should age a good 25 years no problem). Only one tip… perhaps have your bookworm share it with someone (preferably you.)