Big Reds and Whiskey for Dad

Give Dad Something Bold

Wine & whiskey are better than ties.

Father’s Day is around the corner, so it’s time to get Dad a gift. I suppose you could get him a tie, but it’ll probably end up at the back of his closet with so many other unnecessary artifacts. Instead, give him something delicious to drink. Here are 11 well-made wines and whiskeys that will quench his thirst and leave him smiling. Who knows — if you’re lucky, he may share.

Harney Lane 2012 Old Vine Zinfandel ($35)

All of the fruit for this truly old vine zinfandel was sourced at a single vineyard site. Lizzy James Vineyard was planted in Lodi, California, back in 1904. It was aged in French oak for 21 months. Black raspberry and plum aromas lead the charge on the deep, dark, and heady nose. Blueberry and blackberry flavors fill the substantial palate, which is loaded with sweet fruit and spice. A touch of roasted espresso leads a long and somewhat lusty finish that also shows off brown sugar, molasses, and lots of continuing dark fruit flavors. A lot of zinfandels say “Old Vine” on the label. Here’s one that really is, and what a terrific example it is.

Cadaretta 2012 Windthrow ($50)

The Rhône is the inspiration for this Washington State blend composed of syrah (56 percent), grenache (25 percent), and mourvèdre (19 percent). Aging occurred in French oak over 17 months; 33 percent of the barrels used were new. Heady aromas of black plum and spice fill the intoxicating nose. The palate is stuffed with a mouthful of black fruit such as blackberry, plum, and blueberry. Bits of chocolate sauce emerge on the finish along with plum pudding spices and blackberry elements that continue to reverberate. This is a lush, fruit-driven, and somewhat hedonistic blend. 

Rodney Strong Vineyards 2012 Symmetry Red Meritage ($55)

A classic Sonoma County wine, this Bordeaux-inspired blend from Alexander Valley is composed of cabernet sauvignon (75 percent), merlot (13 percent), cabernet Franc (5 percent), malbec (5 percent), and petit verdot (2 percent). Aging occurred over 18 months in French oak; 37 percent of the barrels utilized were new.  One vintage after another, Symmetry provides consistently enjoyable drinking pleasure. The 2012 is no exception. Black raspberry and currant aromas lead the welcoming nose along with savory herbs such as thyme and sage. Oodles of black fruit flavors and bits of earth fill the lush, giving palate. The long, persistent finish has continuing fruit, spices, dusty dark cocoa, and a wisp of chicory. Bet on this wine year after year and you’ll always come out a winner.

Avignonesi ‘Desiderio’ 2010 ($60)

This Tuscan red blends together merlot (85 percent) and cabernet sauvignon (15 percent). It was aged in French Barriques.  Rose petal and red cherry aromas rule the nose of this lovely Tuscan offering. Black cherry flavors fill the palate along with bits of red plum, bay leaf, and sage. Earth, cocoa, and black pepper join sour black cherry on the lengthy and warming finish. This spectacular example of merlot is delicious now, but will benefit from additional aging. Lay it down for five years and drink it in the 10 that follow. International varieties and indigenous style come together in an outstanding way here.

Kaiken 2009 Mai ($60)

This Argentine wine is composed entirely of malbec. All of the fruit came from the Mendoza region. It was aged entirely in new French oak for 18 months. Blueberry, violet, and cherry aromas all leap from the nose of this refined offering. The palate is a study in measured black fruit flavors that are both intense and precise. A hint of leather emerges on the finish, along with sweet dark chocolate and continuing dark fruit flavors. Mai has the big fruit flavors one expects from malbec, but they are joined by structure and finesse in a package that’s several notches above the pack.  It’s delicious now and it will age well over the next decade.

Cakebread 2012 Napa Valley Cabernet ($65)

This offering is composed of cabernet sauvignon (84 percent), merlot (six percent), cabernet Franc (six percent), and petit verdot (four percent). It was aged over 18 months in a combination of new and used French oak. Cakebread has built their reputation making wines that are alluring and approachable upon release and also have the ability to age well, in most cases. The 2012 edition of their Napa Valley cabernet fits that profile. It’s studded with a cornucopia of black fruits on the nose that are interspersed with hints of red. The palate is opulent but even keeled. Tons of appealing fruit flavors play alongside spices, minerals, and bits of tasty oak on the proportionate palate. Mission fig and black cherry flavors dominate the long finish. Medium tannins yield with some air, and firm acidity provides lovely structure. This is a lovely example of Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon from a great vintage.

Grgich Hills Estate 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon ($65)

This estate cabernet from Napa Valley is composed of cabernet sauvignon (85 percent), merlot (eight percent), petite verdot (three and a half percent), and cabernet Franc (three and a half  percent). It was aged over 21 months in French oak; 60 percent new. Hints of tobacco emerge from the nose here along with dark flowers and a bit of plum. The generous palate is strewn with black cherry, plum, and raspberry flavors in droves. All of those characteristics continue through the impressively long finish, where they are joined by pepper spice, bits of leather, and a touch of earth. Delicious today, this cabernet will age effortlessly for a decade or more.

Flora Springs 2012 Trilogy ($75)

Napa Valley is home to a host of impressive red blends. This offering is composed of cabernet sauvignon (82 percent), merlot (six percent), malbec (six percent), and petit verdot (six percent). It was aged for 22 months in a combination of new and used French oak. Black raspberry and blackberry aromas dominate the impressive nose. Those fruits, and oodles of black cherry, dominate the deeply layered palate along with a core of spices. Earth, chicory, and sweet dark chocolate are all in evidence on the finish of this classic Bordeaux-inspired blend that is stuffed with somewhat boisterous Napa Valley Fruit.

Maker’s Mark Cask Strength 375 milliliter ($40)

This limited edition of Maker’s Mark was bottled straight from the barrel without being cut or filtered. The moment you pour this bourbon the coppery hue shimmers in the glass. Toast, vanilla, and marzipan aromas light up the nose. The palate is dense, with wave after wave of intense flavors unleashing themselves. Papaya, apricot, yellow peach, and toasted pecan are of particular note. Hints of molasses and white pepper lead the finish, which has excellent length and wraps up with a somewhat fiery final note. If your dad is already a Maker’s Mark fan, this special release is going to impress him. If he’s not, this will convert him. Grab it while it lasts.

Baker’s Bourbon ($42)

Made in small batches using a specific strain of yeast, this bourbon was then aged for seven years in new oak. Burnt brown sugar, toasted marcona almonds, and hints of crème fraîche surface on the alluring nose here. The palate is firm but not overwhelming, with a potpourri of dried stone fruits, spices, and a hint of molasses. The above-average finish shows a bit of heat and lots of spice. This bourbon is tasty served neat, but works even better on the rocks.

Twelve Five Rye ($50)


This whiskey comes from the first licensed distillery in Iowa since prohibition. It’s composed of rye (70 percent), malted barley (15 percent), and corn (15 percent). Anise and praline aromas fill the complex nose. Apricot, roasted farro, pecan, and toast are all in evidence on the multifaceted palate. The persistent finish features white pepper, caramel, and a hint of acacia. There’s a lovely duality here in a whiskey that is somewhat light-bodied but also has a bit of a sizzling edge to it. Most important to me, this is a well-made selection that is also distinct.