18 Great Gift Wines for the Holidays from 18 Great Gift Wines for the Holidays

18 Great Gift Wines for the Holidays

Full Story
18 Great Gift Wines for the Holidays

Kristen Hom

18 Great Gift Wines for the Holidays

Around this time of year, you start seeing articles suggesting that you consider host or hostess gifts that don't come in a bottle. Why not bring a nice box of homemade cookies to your next holiday party? Why not gift-wrap a patchouli candle, or tie a bow around a ficus tree?

Fie, we say. Don't listen to that nonsense. A bottle of wine — something unusual, something good, something chosen with care  — brings joy to any holiday party, and induces smiles, and thoughts of Christmas dinner, when opened on Christmas morning. Wine is easy to wrap (the easiest way, of course, is to buy one of those ubiquitous wine-bottle-specific gift bags), colorful (both the labels in many cases and those gorgeous golden or garnet hues when it's poured into a glass), and doesn't need watering. It's the perfect gift.

Here are 18 bottles — a case-and-a-half's worth — of excellent bottles, at a wide range of prices, as selected by The Daily Meal's editorial tasting panel. Read on for 18 great gift wines for the holidays.

Smith-Madrone Riesling 2013 ($27)

Smith-Madrone

Smith-Madrone Riesling 2013 ($27)

A gem of a riesling from The Daily Meal's 2014 Winery of the Year, citrusy and lush, with plenty of acidity, loads of varietal character, and a long, elegant finish that leaves behind a mouthful of fruit. A nice change of pace for wine-lovers who are hooked on sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, and other trendier white wine types.

Kim Crawford Favourite Homestead Marlborough Pinot Gris, Awatere Valley, 2014 ($28)

Kim Crawford Wines

Kim Crawford Favourite Homestead Marlborough Pinot Gris, Awatere Valley, 2014 ($28)

A specialty bottling from a producer best-known for agreeable, modestly priced sauvignon blanc. Smooth and sturdy and more Alsatian than Oregonian in style, with a big, generous floral aroma and a flavor that suggests a caramelized pear tart accented with faint, attractive bitterness. A good potential match for holiday ham or turkey.

Vinci Coyade 2011 ($32)

Vinci Coyade

Vinci Coyade 2011 ($32)

An unusual offering from the French Catalan region of Roussillon, 75 percent macabeu (macabeu/macabeo), the grape prized for the crisp acidity it lends Catalonia's sparkling cava (the rest is grenache blanc and the uncommon white version of carignan). There's plenty of heft here, but it's outlined with a bright, steely sharpness that softens a little as the wine breathes; I'd call this a very self-confident wine. Buy it for the obscure-wine-lover on your list.

Dolin Malibu Coast Chardonnay 2013 ($38)

Dolin Malibu

Dolin Malibu Coast Chardonnay 2013 ($38)

There's immediate novelty-gift value here in the fact that this chardonnay comes from Malibu (the mountains behind the coast, not the beach itself, of course) — but that's hardly the best reason to buy or give this wine. It's just a very nice, unmistakably Californian chardonnay, with delicious pear-and-apple fruit, a lightly toasty aroma, medium body, and a long, clean finish.

Robert Mondavi Fumé Blanc Reserve 2013 ($40)

Robert Mondavi Winery

Robert Mondavi Fumé Blanc Reserve 2013 ($40)

Robert Mondavi himself invented "fumé blanc," playing off the luscious French sauvignon blanc called Pouilly Fumé ("smoked" Pouilly), and this wine, made with old-vine grapes from the famous To Kalon Vineyard, is a classic — full of ripe apricot and assorted tropical fruit flavors with, yes, a trace of smoke and a backbone of citrusy acidity, all in excellent balance.

Bonny Doon Le Cigare Blanc Réserve 2013 ($50)

Bonny Doon Vineyard

Bonny Doon Le Cigare Blanc Réserve 2013 ($50)

The term "meaty" doesn't usually get applied to white wines, but that's what I'd call this rich, multi-layered, almost chewy blend of roussanne (55 percent), grenache blanc, and picpoul blanc, aged for a year-and-a-half in five-gallon glass demijohns. Redolent of quince and honeysuckle, with a nice long finish, this should stand up nicely to holiday spices wherever they may appear (except in those silly lattes, of course).

Ravenswood Barricia Sonoma Valley Zinfandel 2013 ($37)

Ravenswood Winery

Ravenswood Barricia Sonoma Valley Zinfandel 2013 ($37)

A dark, brooding zinfandel with a noticeable percentage (unspecified) of petite sirah for added weight, spicy on the nose, with stalky berry fruit on the palate. This is possibly the closest to old-style (i.e., 1980s) zinfandel in zinfandel specialist Ravenswood's single-vineyard line.

 Ravenswood Dickerson Sonoma Valley Zinfandel 2013 ($37)

Ravenswood Winery

Ravenswood Dickerson Sonoma Valley Zinfandel 2013 ($37)

A brighter, slightly lighter zinfandel than the winery's aforementioned Barricia, with a spicy nose and a flavor of raspberry and of blackberry jelly rather than jam.

Hecht & Bannier Bandol 2011 ($38)

Hecht & Bannier

Hecht & Bannier Bandol 2011 ($38)

A relative newcomer — 2009 was the first vintage — from a small négociant firm founded by an Alsatian and a Bordelais but specializing in the wines of Provence and the Languedoc. A very bright and chewy Bandol, with lots of meaty mourvèdre character (80 percent is that grape, with equal parts of cinsault and grenache making up the balance) and a soft but astringent finish.

Vinci Rafalot 2012 "Carignan Centenaire”($38)

Vinci Rafalot

Vinci Rafalot 2012 "Carignan Centenaire”($38)

A dark, mysterious wine from century-old carignan vines in the Roussillon, in a dark, mysterious-looking bottle. An aroma of dried fruit and anise leads to a rich, extracted mouthful of spicy, mineral-tinged deliciousness.

Crocus Malbec de Cahors 2011 ($45)

Cahors

Crocus Malbec de Cahors 2011 ($45)

Malbec has become so closely identified with Argentina in recent years that many people forget that it first reached prominence in a varietal wine in Cahors, in southwestern France (it is also planted in Bordeaux as a blending grape). Crocus is noted multi-national winemaker Paul Hobbs’ new winery, a joint venture with French vintner Bertrand-Gabriel Vigouroux. This has all the tannic structure and dense fruit we've come to expect from Argentinian malbecs, but it's more elegant and tart and more meaty than jammy.

Oso Libre 2012 Nativo Adelaida District Paso Robles Primitivo ($45)

Oso Libre

Oso Libre 2012 Nativo Adelaida District Paso Robles Primitivo ($45)

Primitivo is a close relative of zinfandel (both are clones of crljenak, a Croatian variety), and like its cousin can produce wine high in alcohol and intense in flavor — like this one. There's some faint sweetness here and plenty of fruit, but it finishes a little hot. Good for spicy food.

CrossBarn Paul Hobbs Napa Valley Cabernet Franc, Napa Valley 2013 ($50)

Paul Hobbs Napa Valley

CrossBarn Paul Hobbs Napa Valley Cabernet Franc, Napa Valley 2013 ($50)

The first 100-percent cabernet franc from Hobbs, this shows plenty of the grape's unmistakable leafy, anise-tinged aroma, and fills the mouth with a low-key cluster of berries and herbs, finishing with a hint of charcoal flavor.

Gaja Sito Moresco 2013 ($50)

Gaja Sito

Gaja Sito Moresco 2013 ($50)

A "super Piedmontese" (on the model of the so-called super Tuscans) from the super Piedmontese himself, Angelo Gaja. This blend of approximately equal parts of nebbiolo, merlot, and cabernet sauvignon is considerably more accessible in its youth than Gaja's (or anyone's) Barbarescos, with a pleasant cherry-tinged nose and a soft, nicely rounded mouth feel, in which the merlot seems to predominate. The bright red pheasants on the label add a Christmasy feel to the packaging.

Trossos Tros Negre 2011 ($54)

Trossos Tros Negre

Trossos Tros Negre 2011 ($54)

A luscious 100-percent garnacha (grenache) from Spain's trendy Priorat region, not as tannic and extracted as the carignan-based wines of the area but with plenty of heft, a nose full of cinnamon-scented strawberries with a hint of citrus, and a whole bowlful of summer fruit, outlined by a suggestion of lemon zest and plenty of defining acidity, on the palate.

Marchesi di Barolo Sarmassa Barolo DOCG 2011 ($107)

Barolo Sarmassa

Marchesi di Barolo Sarmassa Barolo DOCG 2011 ($107)

A classy Barolo from a venerable producer, rich and tannic, still tight and shy about showing its charms with notes of anise and pine tar in the nose and a dry, woody character on the palate. Three or four years should do wonders for this one; give it to somebody with a cellar.

2012 Ehlers Estate 1886 Cabernet Sauvignon ($110)

Ehlers Estate

2012 Ehlers Estate 1886 Cabernet Sauvignon ($110)

The top-of-the-line cabernet from this French-owned Napa Valley property, fashioned by winemaker Kevin Morrisey, ex-Etude and -Stags' Leap Winery. One of those dark, tannic, extracted Napa Valley monsters that "tastes" better than it "drinks" — that is, a sip will dazzle you, but you may not want to quaff it throughout a meal. At least not if you're eating anything subtle. Nice packaging, though, and would make an impressive gift on looks alone.

Concha y Toro Don Melchor Puente Alto Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 ($125)

Concha y Toro Don Melchor Puente Alto Vineyard

Concha y Toro Don Melchor Puente Alto Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 ($125)

The idea of a Chilean cabernet costing over $100 would have seemed like pure fantasy 25 years ago when Concha y Toro launched Don Melchor (at a considerably lower price). This intensely fruity, inky wine, with its concentrated cabernet aroma and surprising softness on the palate, makes a strong argument for the appropriateness of its price, especially if you like sturdy cabernets in the international style.

You've just watched...

Vinci Coyade

18 Great Gift Wines for the Holidays