Richard Jennings' Wine Gift Guide

Top wine gifts as recommended by Richard Jennings


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Spanish Wine

For my more adventuresome friends, Spanish wine, based on Tempranillo from Rioja, is likely to be my choice this year. I spent a memorable week with fellow U.S. wine bloggers tasting there this past summer, and have also been tasting all the Riojas on the market in the U.S. I can get my hands on.

My top recommendations for delicious Rioja come from two producers I visited this year: a 2005 Reserva from Miguel Merino and a 2005 Gran Reserva from Federico Paternina. Both of these are remarkable values at less than $50, so I don’t even need to recommend anything over $50. The Spanish Table is actually carrying the Paternina for only $25.

Miguel Merino worked in the wine trade in Rioja for decades, serving as export director for several wineries. Instead of retiring, he decided to fulfill a longtime dream of making his own wine, in small quantities, mainly from old vine vineyards. The first vintage for his eponymous winery was 1994. I wouldn’t say his are classic Riojas, but they are very flavorful and elegant wines, inspired by Rioja traditions.

The Federico Paternina is much more of a traditional style Rioja. Federico Paternina is under the same ownership as one of my favorite traditional Rioja houses, Bodegas Franco-Españolas, and they have long shared the same winemaker, the very talented Carlos Estecha.

Under $50

2005 Federico Paternina Rioja Conde de los Andes Gran Reserva - lightly bricking dark ruby color; cinnamon, light brett, dried roses, raspberry, dried cherry nose; very tasty, spicy, ripe raspberry, dried cherry palate; needs 2-3 years; medium-plus finish 93 points

Under $100

2005 Miguel Merino Rioja Reserva - Dark ruby color; very appealing, complex, dried berry, licorice, dried black fruit nose; complex, structured, dried berry, dried herbs, tart licorice, tart blackberry, mineral palate; long finish 94+ points

Mentioned in this article


  • 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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