What's a good christmas gift for someone who loves wine? Wine is a common gift during the Christmas holiday season. However nobody wants to give a random bottle, particularly if the recipient is a wine connoisseur. To offer some guidance for holiday shoppers looking for an appropriate and unique wine gift, IntoWine.com asked a panel of wine experts to share their best suggestion for a unique wine gift idea:
"Chateau Musar vintage red. Chateau Musar is one of the most unusual gift items for Christmas. It is always a surprise to those that don't know that Lebanon makes wine. For those who do know, they know that it is highly regarded and it was a wine chosen with a bit more thought and attention than just a big brand name.
It is a wine that ages for as long as you like, so it is for collectors, yet can be drunk immediately. It is also a wine which goes perfectly with almost any sort of food, so whether having turkey, ham, goose or salmon." - Bartholomew Broadbent, CEO, Broadbent Selections, San Francisco.
We all know the standard wine varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Sauvignon Blanc, but there are an astounding 10,000 grape varieties here on Planet Earth. The majority of California vineyard acreage is planted to just eight grape varietals and less than 10 percent is home to grapes few people care about, and even fewer understand, let alone can pronounce. But an accomplished assemblage of odd-ball varietals and their winemaker shepherds champion these grapes. These winemakers are the first and only line of defense against the abyss of sameness. Here in alphabetical order are just 25 (there are more) of the most odd-ball grapes turned into wine in the Golden State, followed by their producer, and location.
In putting together a list of the top California Cabernets, there is sure to be some disagreement. I tried to include those wines that have a track record, the wineries still making great wines, those that seemed to have the commitment for the future and some personal favorites. I am sure I left some out.
1. Shafer Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select – It’s always hard to name the number one wine. But this has a track record that’s very long. Even in less than stellar vintages, it is an outstanding wine. They just don’t seem to make a dud. My only complaint is the price at over $200 a bottle. But, in comparison to other Napa Cabs or elsewhere in the world, this is a fair price.
In my last article, I listed the Top 75 French Wines to Try Before You Quit Drinking. In this article I look at the “non-dump bucket” list for wines from California. This proved to be a different task. First, very few wineries have a long track record of making great wine. Secondly, while California is diverse, it does not have the diversity of climates and terroir and grape varietals of France. Still, it does produce some of the best wines in the world and any wine lover should make it a point to try as many of them as they can. Here is my list:
1. Shafer Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon – It’s hard to pick the first wine. This one is a great wine in every vintage and has been for a long time. Expensive but still possible to afford and made in large enough quantities to be found in grocery stores. Every lover of Cabernet should try this once.
If you are a wine lover, wine connoisseur, wine aficionado or even if you just like to have a couple of glasses on a Friday night, it soon becomes obvious that there are some wines that are held in a higher esteem in the wine world. Sometimes, it is because these wines are very rare. Other times, it’s because the wine has a place in history. Sometimes it’s because the wine is just that good. Here is a list of 75 wines from France that make up that category. A few caveats. I have not tried every wine on this list. Some I have and others I hope to. Many of these wines are rare and hard to find. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be on the list. After all, if the opportunity presents itself, go for it.
Our 2013 iteration of this list is intended as a source of education and discussion. The making of this list is never an easy process. Who are the most influential wine people in the United States, and how exactly do you define ‘influential?’ Does influential mean people who move markets, impact consumers, inspire winemakers, form policy, and create debate? Yes. Though some decry the consolidation of the wine industry (and that is an issue worth considering) we are not trying to suggest who is “good” or “bad” within America’s wine industry. We merely define the Top 100 people, from winemakers to law makers, bankers to bloggers, and sommeliers to celebrities who influence wine; how it is made, marketed, perceived, sold, shipped, purchased, shared and consumed. As was true in 2012, we sought help to assemble this list people from a diverse group of people and we are grateful for their input. And we chose to release it today, January 29th, as it was on this day in 1919 when the pathetic policy of Prohibition was ratified; the effects of this lunatic legislation still evident in our country’s inability to ship and sell wine across state lines. We honor winemakers, wine drinkers and wine lovers of every conceivable demographic. Use this list, comment on it, share it with everyone, learn from it, and continue your joy of being IntoWine.
In 1855, the Exposition Universelle was held in Paris to showcase all that was good in France. Emperor Napoleon III requested the leading Bordeaux merchants to rank the best wines. The top wines were rated as First Growths. Over the years, many people in the rest of the world have discussed what wines from their country would be First Growths. I am often asked what I think the First Growths of California are. It is an interesting conversation with lots of room for debate.
John Concannon is the Fourth Generation Vintner at Concannon Vineyard, now celebrating its 131st Anniversary. Founded in 1883, Concannon is home of the Concannon Cabernet Sauvignon Clones 7, 8 and 11 which resulted from the highly successful, collaborative work between Jim Concannon and UC Davis in preparing for heat treatment cuttings from a single vine propagated from Cabernet Sauvignon that John’s great-grandfather imported from Château Margaux in 1893. The Concannon Clones played a key role in helping California Cabernet achieve international recognition and are by far the most widely planted Cabernet Sauvignon clones in California. The winery is also home of “America’s First Petite Sirah” among other significant contributions which John has been intensively researching over the past several years. A tireless advocate of environmental stewardship and historic preservation within the vineyard and the Livermore Valley, some of John’s most energetic endeavors have been focused upon revitalizing the landmark winery while preserving its history and the estate’s historic sense of place.
There is a wine phenomenon every November when the cry goes out: Beaujolais Nouveau est Arrive! For more information about this phenomenon, go here.
Beaujolais Nouveau is a popular wine to serve at Thanksgiving for a few reasons. First, they are prominently displayed on the store shelves at the same time people are shopping for their Thanksgiving groceries, 2) they are affordable wines that should cost less than $15 per bottle and can often be found for under $10, and 3) they match surprisingly well with Thanksgiving Turkey, cranberries and stuffing.
I find most Beaujolai Nouveau falls in one of two groups. They are either fun wines or wines that I wouldn’t drink. A good Beaujolais Nouveau will have lots of cherry fruit, perhaps a bit of banana aromas and should be smooth and easy to drink. Here are ten in the first group; wines that are fun, taste good and provide value. There are others out there as well, but these are go-to wines for me. One bit of caution, don’t buy too many. These should be consumed by the end of the year. The best thing about them is their freshness.
It seems most everyone has some kind of superstition: a lucky hat, the old stand-by the rabbit’s foot, a certain ritual before a specific event. We humans are curious creatures of habit and redundancy. Winemakers too have superstitions they employ during harvest to planting to verasion. So who in the U.S. is doing what, and when, and more importantly why? We do not judge, for these intrepid winemakers are doing great work so we can have great juice.