Smith-Madrone Riesling 2015 ($32) from 26 Drinkable Gifts Fit for Any Occasion Gallery
26 Drinkable Gifts Fit for Any Occasion Gallery
26 Drinkable Gifts Fit for Any Occasion
The 2018 holiday season is here, and it brings so many things with it. A big one is of course gift-giving, which is fun and gratifying but can also be time-consuming and stressful. Don’t worry, though, we’re here to make the process easier (and possibly even fool-proof). Nearly everyone has a wine or spirits lover on their gift list. The number of choices out there can be dizzying, but we have some amazing selections to share.
One of the great things about wine and booze as gifts is that concerns about size, style, and color go right out the window. A well-considered bottle of wine or hard alcohol always brings a smile from the recipient. As far as the “well-considered” part, we’ve got you covered.
Over the last few weeks we’ve tasted dozens of wines and spirits and selected 26 that are delicious, distinct, and a really good value. So whether your budget is less than $20 or over $500, you’re covered. This list comprises producers big and small, too, so whether you’re buying for someone who is going to be flattered by a well-known name or someone who leans toward lesser-known artisanal beverages, there’s a drinkable gift on this list for nearly everyone.
The wines and spirits that are the subject of this review were provided at no cost to the writer.
Viu Manent Secreto Viognier 2017 ($11)
In addition to viognier (85 percent), this wine from Chile’s Colchagua Valley has 15 percent other white grapes blended in, which is where the name comes from. It’s a remarkably fresh example of viognier. White flowers lead the aromatic charge, and the palate is driven by peach and apricot flavor. A ton of minerals and a gentle kiss of mesquite honey are evident on the long finish.
Eden Specialty Ciders Sparkling Brut Nature ($15)
Based in Vermont, Eden Specialty Ciders is using apples to produce an impressive line of heritage ciders. The methodology used in their process (from the orchards through the packaging) brings to mind wine-making. They’re an organic producer and there’s a real sense of purity when you taste their offerings. This sparkling cider is dry and refreshing. Bits of toast and subtle spice appear on the nose. Fresh yellow fruit dominates the palate and leads to bits of wet slate on the finish. You could do a lot worse on New Year’s Eve than popping this open.
Tempos Vega Sicilia Oremus Mandolás Dry Furmint 2016 ($18)
This wine is 100 percent furmint from estate vineyards and it represents a partnership between the Hungarian winery and Spanish producer Vega Sicilia. From the first whiff to the last sip, freshness is pervasive. Fleshy yellow fruit aromas lead the charge, and bits of dried papaya are underpinned with grapefruit notes. A dollop of salinity and spice drives the lengthy finish. Acid is firm and racy, providing a terrific backbone. This would be an inspired choice for the adventurous wine lover on your gift list.
Matetic Vineyards Corralillo Syrah 2014 ($28)
This wine is made entirely of syrah grapes from Chile’s San Antonio Valley. It’s a classic example of the grape: Black plum and violet aromas light up the nose, and the palate is stuffed with cherry and blackberry flavors that are tinged by spice. A dusting of cocoa and wisps of toast emerge on the finish alongside tiny bits of bacon fat.
J. Lohr Gesture Viognier 2017 ($30)
The Gesture line is a small-production series from Paso stalwart J. Lohr based on Rhone grapes. Inviting aromas of lilac, orange zest and stone fruit lead the way. Stone and tropical fruits are intertwined through the palate along with bits of citrus. All of these characteristics carry through the lengthy finish, which is full and deep.
Smith-Madrone Riesling 2015 ($32)
There are a handful of riesling producers in Napa Valley, but Smith-Madrone is the one that truly matters most. One vintage after another, they release reference-quality riesling that is delicious and often age-worthy. Peach and apricot aromas are joined by a hint of lilac. The palate is even-keeled with continuing stone fruit and a dollop of spice. The mineral-laden finish shows off a kiss of lemon curd. Firm acid provides a great backbone. Whether you drink it now or age it for a couple of decades, this wine showcases Smith-Madrone’s mastery of riesling.
Mulderbosch Single Vineyard Chenin Blanc 2016 ($33)
Chenin blanc is South Africa’s signature variety. This wine stands as Mulderbosch’s effort to celebrate the local heritage of the grape and establish a high quality, site-specific wine. Tropical fruit aromas and bits of white pepper illuminate the nose. Papaya and mango are joined by orange zest on the layered palate. A wisp of mesquite honey emerges on the long, finish, and racy acid keeps it all in check.
The Famous Grouse Ruby Cask Blended Scotch ($35)
This blended scotch is finished in ruby port casks. Red cherry and bits of toast emerge on the nose. Toasted barley, fresh apricot, and hints of milk chocolate are all part of the full-flavored palate. The finish is above-average for the price point, and laden with spice. This is a great choice as an everyday sipper.
Frankland Estate Isolation Ridge Riesling 2015 ($40)
A mélange of citrus zest aromas lead the way on this single-vineyard riesling. The citrus parade continues on the palate, where it’s underpinned by gentle bursts of dried apricot and white pepper. A tightly hewn core of minerals drives the long and unyielding finish. It’s delicious now, and it’ll also age well for the next 15 or so years.
Three Chord Bourbon ($40)
This is a project conceived by guitarist and songwriter Neil Giraldo, whose concept was to use tonal vibrations to finish the blend. It’s a blend of bourbon from Kentucky and Tennessee, aged up to 12 years. Brown sugar, Mexican vanilla bean, and bits of spice are present on the nose. The palate is warm, layered and elegant with red fruit, spice and hints of toast. The finish is above-average and persistent with waves of spice reverberating.
50 Harvests Meritage 2014 ($50)
This is a blend of cabernet sauvignon (75 percent) and petit verdot (25 percent) from winemaker Mitch Cosentino. Back in the day it was Cosentino who bottled Napa Valley’s very first Meritage wine. Leather and black fruit aromas fill the nose. The palate is stuffed with cherries of all sorts, blackberry and pepper spice. The exceedingly long finish shows off minerals, earth and a light dusting of cocoa. This is a fantastic Bordeaux-informed blend from one of California’s masters.
Clos Apalta Le Petit Clos 2014 ($50)
This second wine from Chile’s Clos Apalata is a blend of cabernet sauvignon, carmenère, merlot and petit verdot. Cherry and spice lead the nose, and the palate is loaded with plum, cherry and spice. Earth, chicory, and minerals drive the prodigiously long finish. This is a wonderful value which will age effortlessly for the next 15 years.
Clear Creek Douglas Fir Brandy ($50)
Starting with the light green hue, everything about this brandy is unique. As the name implies, fir makes an appearance, and there is also a medicinal undercurrent which is quite pleasing alongside all the other characteristics. Bits of menthol appear from the first whiff to the last sip. This is tasty and fascinating on its own, and it also makes a great cocktail ingredient.
Partida Tequila Añejo ($50)
This tequila has huge aromatics with tons of citrus and hints of green herbs. The complex palate is deep and layered. Plenty of yellow and orange dried fruits are present. The honeyed finish is long and persistent with a creamy edge to it. Bits of white pepper offer a final kiss.
Cognac Park Borderies Single Vineyard ($56)
This single-vineyard offering marries XO and VSOP Cognacs, giving it characteristics typical to both. Dried apricot, vanilla bean, and a dusting of cinnamon fill the nose. Yellow-cling peach, mango, and tangerine zest are all part of the fruit-laden and expressive palate. White pepper and papaya are in play on the finish. This is a really outstanding Cognac that is also an excellent value.
Bruno Paillard Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru ($70)
This Champagne is composed entirely of chardonnay exclusively from Grand Cru vineyards. From the first aroma to the last sip, everything about this Champagne is gentle, layered and exquisite. Bits of toasted hazelnut and lemon ice inform the nose. Continued citrus, bits of apple, and a touch of flaky biscuit dot the palate. The above-average finish shows off a bit of creme fraiche.
Lambay Single Malt Irish Whiskey ($70)
This offering was finished in Cognac casks. White and yellow peach aromas are underpinned by subtle wisps of spice. The palate is stuffed with stone fruit tinged by tropical fruit flavors. A core of spice and salinity drives the long and impressive finish. This is a lovely whiskey that could turn the scotch lover in your life toward Irish whiskey.
Trivento Eolo Malbec ($79)
Eolo is entirely malbec from a 10-acre parcel planted in 1912. Mission fig and black cherry aromas are prominent. Blackberry, raspberry, leather, and dark chocolate notes drive the deeply nuanced palate. Toasty oak, vanilla, and a dollop of espresso are evident on the memorable finish.
Laurent-Perrier Millésime 2007 Champagne ($80)
This Grand Cru Champagne is equal parts chardonnay and pinot noir. Aging in-bottle took place over seven years. Citrus and floral aromas burst from the glass, and flavors of apple and orange zest are punctuated with bits of salinity. Dollops of tangerine and spice dot the lengthy, mouth-filling finish.
Diplomático Single Batch Kettle Rum ($80)
A batch kettle still that was brought to Diplomatico’s distillery in Venezuela in 1959 is the centerpiece of this production. This offering from Diplomatico’s Distillery Collection is in a league with their single-vintage rums. Single Batch is a distinct and noteworthy expression. Shaved dark chocolate and dried mission fig are apparent on the nose, and toasted pecan, brown sugar and dried dates are all in play on the palate. The long finish shows off a tiny bit of heat and another bit of chocolate.
Inniskillin 2017 Riesling Icewine ($90)
All of the grapes used in this icewine were harvested at minus 10 degrees Celsius. Copious stone fruit and citrus aromas lead the way. All of those characteristics, along with a bit of ripe papaya, carry through the palate. The finish is long and honeyed. This would make a perfect gift alongside a hunk of fine blue cheese.
Merlet Saint-Sauvant No. 1 Cognac XO ($115)
This XO Cognac is composed entirely of Ugni Blanc. Bits of brine and lemon zest inform the nose. The palate is direct and weighty with hints of leather, rum raisin, and a hint of clove. Chicory, hints of espresso, and a dollop of cocoa do the long, expressive finish. Savor this Cognac over a long evening.
Four Roses 130th Anniversary Limited Edition Small Batch ($140)
This limited bourbon combines four barrels with 10 to 16 years of age on them. Each utilized a different one of Four Roses’ 10 proprietary recipes. Red fruit aromas are joined by spice and vanilla bean. The palate shows off continued red berry, baker’s spices, stone fruit, and toasty oak notes. The remarkably long finish shows all of those characteristics repeating.
Stewart Cellars 2016 Nomad ($175)
This single-vineyard cabernet sauvignon is from vines with 20 years of age on them. A mere 190 cases were produced. Cherry, fig and raspberry aromas lead the way. The palate is stuffed with blackberry, black plum, baker’s spices, and bitter dark chocolate. The finish is long and velvety. Firm acid and tannins provide terrific structure, assuring this wine will drink well for the next decade.
Dalla Valle 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon ($200)
Dalla Valle has a more than 30-year history in Napa Valley. Today it’s run by mother-and-daughter team Naoko and Maya Dalla Valle. At four years old, this Estate cabernet sauvignon is incredibly impressive. Proportionate dark fruit, dotted by spice, is the driving force from the first whiff to the last sip. Blackberry, hints of clove, and a dusting of dark chocolate are all present. This wine is loaded with indulgent flavors yet never abandons a sense of proportion. Drink it over the next dozen years.
Ardbeg Twenty Something 22 Year Old Single Malt Scotch ($550)
This limited-release 22-year-old single malt was aged in ex-bourbon casks. Aromas of brine, smoke, anise, and vanilla fill the nose. The palate is elegant and gentle with layer after layer of orchard fruit, spice, salt, and bits of creme brulee. The finish is long and graceful with salinity, smoke, and spice ringing on and on. This scotch, along with the aforementioned choices, would make an excellent holiday gift. But if you prefer to take your loved one out for a drink rather than buy them a bottle, these famed watering holes are legendary must-visits.
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