You love your family. Naturally. Your boss is OK, some of the co-workers tolerable. They mean well but don’t exactly summon the holiday spirit in full. It’s December, though. Firmly December. Kin and colleagues are reminders of the impending.
Muster the strength and, if you must, switch on Linus and Lucy or glance out at the wintry mix to bring out the year-end jingle bells. And for goodness sake, wrap up the shopping before December sinks deeper into memory.
But aren’t there enough MyPillows and fleece-lined slippers or scuffs (or whatever you call them) in the world?
You know what we’re here to recommend. It’s the gift of decent taste, an act of thoughtfulness that can improve with age. Selected with care, your holiday present can make the recipient’s good times even better. So spread the cheer and, if you don’t choose to do it for Auntie Babs, pick up a little something for yourself. Go ahead. Your secret’s safe with us.
Bella Vista Cuvee Brut Franciacorta NV – $34.99
A sophisticated, sly and highly satisfying pour from Italy’s Franciacorta region, the Bella Vista takes its time to unfurl the full charm from its brut package. Less forward in fruit, with breadiness and a touch of cream, it shares plenty of yeast and sharpness. Undertones of green apple mixed with lemony zest. About 80% Chardonnay, with Pinot Noir rounding out the cuvee’s balance. A complex, slow burn of a sparkler that hits the mark.
The party pleaser:
Novy Syrah Napa Valley – $14.99
A lush, fruit-forward wine that lives up to its Napa Valley label. Smooth, fresh, and sure to please both novices and oenophiles alike, this is an easy pairing for party sipping or hearty winter meals, and punches well above its meager price tag. Sounds like hostess gift heaven.
The safe bet:
Laetitia Pinot Noir Estate 2012 – $20.79
This wine hails from the Arroyo Grande Valley, part of California’s Central Coast AVA. It’s classic PN body and cast, with a nose grounded in earthy and mellowed fruit. A structured wine, flush with flavors of bright strawberry, cherry cola, cream and baking spice. An alive and straightforward effort, with a moderate price that makes for wide appeal. Should settle more into itself with a couple years of rest. (SLO code 536627 – minimum 3)
Turning the corner toward wine snob:
Truchard Chardonnay 2012 – $26.98 at Wine Library
A zippy, intense play for anyone tiring of over-the-top Chards. In general, Truchard gets it done. Well. The ’12 carries forward their reputation of excellence with this in-check beauty. Slightly hot in alcohol yet expressive of citrus and fall fruits, a tab of butter, minerals, light oak and lively spice. Well-suited for food. The acidic vigor of this intense and complex wine should provide ample potential for aging. The 2011 bottling is currently available for $25.99 in Pennsylvania.
The true aficionado:
Baer Winery Ursa Columbia Valley 2010 – $37.99
This is a bit of an oddity – a Cabernet Franc-based blend out of Washington State – but it’s a freaking awesome wine. Probably not a gift for trophy-seekers, those looking for a luxury label or a prestigious parcel, it would be a great pick for someone who appreciates what’s in the bottle more than what’s on it. This garnet beauty explodes with cherry and raspberry fruit, but also offers waves of secondary flavor: herbs, mint, balsamic, vanilla, cloves, smoke, mushrooms & more. It’s ripe and bright, silky smooth and very food-friendly. Drinking well now (decant 1-3 hours), it should also reward moderate cellaring.
These freshly-reviewed wines would also make for fine gifts:
Penchant for decadence:
Boyden Valley Red Ice Wine Frontenac Vermont 2011 – $59.99
A little bit button-down, a little bit boogie:
Contadi Castaldi Rosé NV – $22.99
Visions of grandeur:
Conway Family Cabernet Sauvignon Rutherford 2009 – $39.99
Old school, money:
Heitz Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon Trailside Vineyard 2001 – $49.99
Quality to the core:
Truchard Pinot Noir Carneros 2011 – $27.99