Richard Jennings' Wine Gift Guide

Top wine gifts as recommended by Richard Jennings


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Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet is an easy choice as a gift for business acquaintances and the like when you aren’t so familiar with their wine preferences. What’s hard is to avoid spending a huge amount for a wine that doesn’t taste like all that much.

An admirable producer whose Cabernets are at a consistently high level, and whose stated goal is to keep prices fair, is Silverado. Diane and Ron Miller purchased their first vineyards in the 1970s and initially sold their grapes to top Napa producers. They ultimately acquired six vineyards in Napa and started making their own wines in 1981. The family farms their nearly 400 acres organically.

The last few vintages have been particularly strong for them, featuring delicious black currant and blackberry fruit. The 2008 is the vintage that’s most widely available in the market now, for about $40.

At the under $100 level, I have to recommend Dunn. Dunn has been making complex, ageworthy Cabernets, primarily from Howell Mountain fruit, since 1979. They specialize in Cabernet Sauvignon and produce two bottlings—a Howell Mountain with 100% Howell Mountain fruit, and a Napa Valley, also based on Howell Mountain fruit but including up to 15% grapes from elsewhere in Napa. The Napa has traditionally been approachable at a younger age than the Howell Mountain. The amazing thing is that these wines, which have been consistently good for over 30 years, are still comparatively well priced at under $100 a bottle.

Under $50

2008 Silverado Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley - Very dark ruby color; ripe black currant, ripe berry, light caramel nose; tasty, ripe black currant, blackberry, ripe black fruit palate; medium-plus finish (84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot, 2% Cabernet Franc; 18 mos. in 93% French, 7% American oak; 14.6% alcohol) 93 points

Under $100

2008 Dunn Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley - Opaque red violet color; lovely, lifted, pencil lead, cassis, cedar nose; tight, tasty, tart cassis, cedar, cherry palate with good grip and sweet tannins; medium-plus finish (reminiscent of a ripe, fine Pauillac) 94 points

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  • Did Richard Jennings ever live in Roswell New Mexico?

    Dec 06, 2012 at 1:51 PM

  • Snooth User: Richard Jennings
    Hand of Snooth
    780161 125,284

    Hi John. No, I never had the pleasure of living in Roswell.

    Dec 06, 2012 at 1:58 PM

  • Snooth User: Russ Beebe
    1100415 1

    An outstanding lineup, Richard - most especially in the way you presented it as gifts you would enjoy receiving yourself. A very practical (and delicious) viewpoint!

    Dec 06, 2012 at 3:55 PM

  • Snooth User: PFBG
    454785 1

    The picture shows a Rosso not a Brunello. Altough you can have very good Rossos, they don't compare to the simplest Brunello. Don't you agree?

    Dec 06, 2012 at 5:55 PM

  • Snooth User: Richard Jennings
    Hand of Snooth
    780161 125,284

    Russ, thank you for the kind words. I always try to select gifts for people that I would be happy to receive myself, and that philosophy has served me well.

    I totally agree that it would be the very rare Rosso that would hold a candle to most Brunellos, but there are also some lousy Brunellos out there, so we'd have to make rare exceptions. Good catch though.

    Dec 06, 2012 at 6:26 PM

  • Snooth User: zinfandel1
    Hand of Snooth
    154660 1,082

    I have always gave the RAMOS PINTO 20 yr. tawny for gifts. Is the Taylor Fladgate just as good?

    Dec 09, 2012 at 8:52 AM

  • How about a muscat?

    Dec 09, 2012 at 11:34 PM

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