If you’re wondering what to give this holiday season, recall what Ernest Hemingway famously said, “Wine is the most civilized thing in the world.”
For wine collectors, receiving a special bottle is cherished for years, and possibly decades. Chateau Montelena is renowned for its Judgment of Paris first-place award in 1976. While that was given for its chardonnay, its estate cabernet sauvignon is sought after by red wine connoisseurs. The current vintage is the delicious blackberry, plum and pomegranate-flavored 2014 that will be prized by every collector. I’ve tasted this wine twice, most recently last month. Both times rated 92 points. Retail prices range $119 to $165. For a full review see: https://thewineodyssey.com/napa-valley/part-2-40-year-restrospective-of-ch-montelena-estate-cabernets/.
The Judgment of Paris first-place winner for red wine was Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars’ cabernet sauvignon, then owned by Warren Winiarski. In 2007, the estate was purchased by Chateau Ste.Michelle (Washington State) and Tuscan persona Piero Antinori, one of the most famous wine producers in the world. The 2014 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Fay Vineyard is loaded with rich black-fruit aroma and flavor with velvety tannins and a refined texture. Fay vineyard, which has a distinguished history, will be greatly appreciated by every wine connoisseur. 94 points. Retail prices range from $103 to $144.
Also in the Stags Leap District is Shafer Vineyard whose Hillside Select cabernet sauvignon is considered by many California wine collectors to be one of America’s greatest wines. Its 2016 Shafer Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay will surprise those who think all California chardonnays are over-the-top fruit and oak bombs. While the new French oak barrel aroma and flavor is prevalent, 25% of it was fermented and aged in stainless-steel vessels, and that, with the absence of malolactic fermentation, takes it down a few notches. These techniques produced a pear and vanilla aroma and flavor with a crisp Granny Smith apple background. I only wish the alcohol level was lower than 14.9%. 90 points. Widely priced from $48 to $70.
For wine collectors with a broad palate, one of the best cabernet sauvignons is one of the least known: Don Melchor. Named for the founder of Chile’s Concha y Toro wine company, this Bordeaux-style blend shines brightly in the 2015 Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon. Made with 92% cabernet sauvignon, 7% cabernet franc and 1% petit verdot, the mild-toasted oak seasons the black-cherry aroma and flavor; integrated tannins give balance and a round texture to this mouth-filling wine with its lingering finish. Don Melchor ages very well and the 2015 has at least two decades of life. 94 points. Retail prices range from $90 to $140.
Collectors aren’t the only ones who appreciate gifts of wine. Many enjoy receiving and drinking everyday bottles like the 2015 Brolio Chianti Classico. The ancestoral Baron Bettino Ricasoli brought fame to Brolio when he created the formula for Chianti Classico wine in 1872. That recipe was changed in 2006 with the elimination of white grapes, and the option to use up to 20% of merlot and cabernet sauvignon, or make the wine with only Tuscany’s sangiovese. Today, the winery is owned by Francesco Ricasoli, the 32nd Baron of Brolio.
The 2015 Brolio Chianti Classico includes merlot and cabernet sauvignon but they do not dominate sangiovese’s bright cherry aroma and flavor. Its medium body holds soft tannins, balancing the red fruit and making it an ideal wine for full-flavored fish, poultry and pizza. This is a gift that can be enjoyed immediately. 90 points. Priced from $16 to $24.
Unfortunately, few wine drinkers put together pinot noir and Alsace in the same thought. But that will make your gift a complete surprise when the recipient unwraps the 2014 Hugel Pinot Noir Classic.
Hugel’s winery dates to 1639, and like all Alsace producers are dominated by white grapes such as riesling, pinot blanc, pinot gris and gewurztraminer. The 2014 pinot noir’s translucent cranberry color dovetails with its cranberry, raspberry and tart cherry aromas and flavors. This is classic northern climate pinot noir with its light body, delicious fruit and low alcohol of 12.3%. 89 points. Retail prices are $15 to $20.
Enrico Cerulli in NYC
For friends or clients always looking for something new, gift them with the 2016 Cerulli Spinozzi Pecorino Cortalto white wine. You might have to explain that the pecorino is the grape’s name not the cheese; it grows throughout central Italy, including Cerulli Spinozzi’s Abruzzo hillside Cortalto vineyard.
The wine is fermented and aged for seven months in stainless-steel tanks, yielding a yellow-ish tint with an appealing floral and sea salt scent, tasty fruit flavors and supporting acidity. Enjoy it with veal tortellini and grated pecorino romano. 88 points. Just arrived in our market, expect to pay $18 to $22.
And don’t forget to gift yourself because, who deserves it more?
Photos by John Foy