Seattle Wine Blog

This blog is dedicated to commentary on all aspects of wine, especially short entries to help you find the best wines without the usual hype and spin. These are my frank, independent opinions, usually based on tasting wine at a public event, off the shelf or at the winery. "All creative acts must arise out of a specific soil and flicker with a spirit of place" -D.H. Lawrence

Monday, December 07, 2009

Best Holiday Wine Gifts For Under Twenty Bucks

I recently gave a class on Holiday Wine Gifts. We tasted a baker's dozen and I threw in one more for a total of fourteen. I also gave the students a list of Best Holiday Wine Gifts. A gift should be different and special, not some run of the mill everyday wine.A holiday wine should be festive, celebratory, and pair well with holiday fare. Giving can be out of love, caring, obligation, showing off, status, or prestige among other motives. Giving is a social transaction and on certain occasions, such as births, weddings, holidays, takes on an obligatory tone. There is the obligation to give, to receive, and to reciprocate.  How many orphan gifts make the rounds of recycling. Is it an insult to give a recycled gift. Gift wine is not just primarily about what is in the bottle. It is about esteem, status and prestige. A gift indebts the receiver, obligating him or her to reciprocate (quick, honey get out another homemade fruitcake) Most of the wines we recommend are widely distributed in the United States.

The most celebratory wine is Champagne or Sparkling wine. Fortunately, Champagne quality is consistently pretty good across the board, so you can almost buy any bubbly and get a decent wine. Remember, Brut is dry, and Extra Dry is sweet. Go Figure! We recommend the
following sparklers at decent prices (with one exception):

  • NV Ch. Ste. Michelle Brut - a little softer and sweeter bubbly from Washington - about $10 @ Safeway
  • NV Freixinet - don't even try to pronounce it (Fresh -ee- ney) - a good dry sparkler from Spain at an excellent price - about $8 @ Safeway
  • NV Gruet Brut - fabulous sparkler from New Mexico about $15
  • NV Mtn Dome - another fabulous buy for about $15
  • Sparkling Dry Vouvray from the Loire Valley - great value, produced in large quantities, but hard to find outside of the Loire Valley - about $5 - $10 @ French supermarches
  • NV Mumm Brut - Slightly softer, yeasty top notch sparkler from a great French Champagne house made in California about $15 @ Safeway
  • NV Chandon Brut - a really dry French style sparkling wine made in California by another great French Champagne house - about $12 @ Safeway on sale
  • Vintage Dom Perignon - Okay, so it isn't under $20, but if you really want to impress the boss, it's only about $120 @ Costco - do not pass go, do not collect $200, go directly to jail or the poor house.

Why pay $30 or more for a Merlot or Bordeaux style blend , when you can find very interesting reds for ten dollars or less. It is difficult to find good Boreadaux in this price range, but since the 2005 vitange is available this makes it easier. Then, of course, you can get off the beaten path with Malbec from Argentina, Carmenere fom Chile and wines fom such unusual grapes as Tannat and PetitVerdot.

  • Red Bordeaux - for whatever reason (value?) Costco has shifted away from Argentinian Malbec to Bordeaux - 2005 Chateau Bois Chantant, 2006 Chateau Bailloux, 2005 Chateau Bel Air, for example, all under $10
  • Red Diamond Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot, Columbia Crest Merlot - about  $8 @ supermarkets and convenience stores
  • 2008 Maipe Malbec, 2008 Cruz Alta Malbec under $10 @ Total wines
  • 2006 Chapillon "Harmonie", Cataluyud, Aragon, Spain - an interesting blend of Petit Verdot and Tannat by Frenchman Cristophe Chapillon - about$9 @ Costco all under $10

Sweet dessert wines are perfect for the holidays. They complement the desserts, fruitcake, chocolate and nuts so typical during the holidays. Even if you think you don't like sweet wine, you wil enjoy these holiday food pairings and , of course, if you  have a sweet tooth, you will be in heaven.

  • Sherry - Real Tesoro Sherry @ Trader Joe's for $5.50. La Ina orTio Pepe about $15 @ supermarkets
  • Port - 2006 Evenus Zinfandel Port, Paso Robles, about $10 for 375ml @ Trader Joe's, 2003 Taylor Fladgate Late Bottled Vintage Porto, Portugal -about $20 @ Total
  • 2007 Villa Palatina TBA Ortega, Pfalz, Germany - about $19 @ Trader Joe's
  • 2007 Jackson-Triggs Vidal Icewine, Niagara Peninsula, Canada - about $19 @ Total
These are outstanding gifts at excellent prices You don't need a $165m bonus to share the holiday spirits with family and friends. You're more knowledgeable friends will enjoy cellaring the Bordeaux for a year or two. Everyone will love the Champagne. And everyone will enjoy the sweet wines with dessert, chocolate or nuts. Have a Happy Holiday!
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