Richard Jennings' Wine Gift Guide

Top wine gifts as recommended by Richard Jennings


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Continuing on with wines for our white wine loving friends, it’s hard to go wrong with one of the increasing numbers of great California Chardonnays available these days.

There’s a lot to choose from, though, so this is a tough category to distill down to two choices. Based on value, however, I’ve got to go with the Chanin Bien Nacido, which can be found for an average of $30, for my lower priced suggestion. At the higher priced level, I’ve got to go with deliciousness and track record by recommending the 2009 Mount Eden, a relative bargain at under $55.

Gavin Chanin started his eponymous label in 2007 at the age of 21. He learned winemaking working harvest for Hamilton Russell in South Africa, Bell Hill Vineyard and Carrick Winery in New Zealand, and starting as a cellar rat at Au Bon Climat and Qupe, wineries where he’s now assistant winemaker. He has sought out older vineyards with particular soil types in the Santa Barbara area, and picks his Chardonnay and Pinot Noir earlier than others there. He then ages in largely neutral barrels for about 14 months. The results are very impressive, not to mention a good value: complex wines with lots of flavor, minerality and vibrant acidity.

Mount Eden produces some of the most admirable, consistent and ageworthy expressions of terroir to be found anywhere in California. Their 2009 Chardonnay is the latest in a long line of exceptional Chardonnays from their cool climate, mountain-top Santa Cruz Mountains vineyard.

Under $50

2009 Chanin Chardonnay Bien Nacido Vineyard - Light yellow color; very nice, tart pear, baked pear nose; tasty, flavorful, tart pear, baked pear, mineral palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 92+ points

Under $100

2009 Mount Eden Vineyards Chardonnay Estate Bottled Santa Cruz Mountains - Light yellow color; lovely, floral, honeysuckle, ripe pear nose; tasty, poised, ripe pear, floral, mineral palate; medium-plus finish 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 124,506

    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 124,506

    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 1,084

    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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