Having said that, there is something nice about getting a great wine as a gift. It can open new doors for you and expose you to wines that you wouldn't otherwise buy or wines you thought you weren't interested in. Couple that with the thrill of knowing someone cares enough to find the very best, and that bottle you never would have bought for yourself can become a prized possession. If you buy the very best, you can be certain that when the time comes for that bottle to be opened, you will be remembered. Remembered as the person who got the wine that was perfect or the wine that opened new doors. Either way, everybody comes out smelling like roses! Maybe even the wine!
Photo courtesy stevegarfield via Flickr/CC
2006 Jean Grivot Nuits St Georges 1er Cru Les Boudots $90
Red Burgundy is known as a minefield. The effects of the growing season can have a perversely disparate effect on vineyards that lay mere paces from one another. The truly great vineyards are ones that can produce spectacular wines in almost any vintage, and those are the vineyards the connoisseurs follow. Les Boudots in Nuits St. Georges is one of the vineyards.
As is the case with most of the great vineyards of Burgundy, the fruit from Les Boudot is shared by a handful of producers. Two of the very finest producers craft exceptional bottlings from this small plot and sell them of hundreds of dollars a bottle, the remaining producers are all crowded in at close to $100 a bottle. Among these, Jean Grivot's is a standout. The fruit from these old vines yields a rich, structured Burgundy, full of black fruit, mineral scents and an edge of meatiness that needs just a few years to fully blossom.
2009 Bergstrom Winery De Lancellotti Pinot Noir $60
While it may not reach the same heights as Burgundy's Pinot Noirs, Oregon's have certainly made a mark for themselves. Richer and denser than red Burgundy, Oregon's wines have tended to be complex and elegant if more accessible. Given time, Oregon's 45 years of experience with Pinot Noir pales in comparison with the centuries Burgundians have had to hone their craft, I've no doubt that Oregon will produce wine of Grand Cru quality.
One of the producers at the forefront of this effort is Bergstrom Cellars, particularly with the rich and meaty De Lancellotti Cru. Tannic and dense for Pinot Noir, the De Lancellotti Cru packs in deep and ripe, yet fresh flavors of cherry and raspberry fruit, backed up with exotic spice notes and sweet toasty oak. Give this a few years to blossom and watch it develop for a decade.
2007 Kuleto India Ink Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon $80
I have lamented the change of style in Napa Valley's Cabernets. Gone are the balanced, nuanced wines of years past that needed time to show their innate depth and elegance, replaced instead by blueberry and chocolate bombs with the texture of a milk shake. If you prefer something more traditional, the 2007 Kuleto India Ink Cabernet Sauvignon is going to knock your socks off.
Right now, this is only available from the winery. Once word gets out about this wine, it might not even make it to distribution. This is a monster of a wine, powerful and rich but painfully young. There's incredible depth of fruit to this wine, but it's not going to come out and play today. Instead it's going to make you work for your rewards. When everything finally comes into balance, this will be one for the ages. Simply phenomenal stuff!
2005 Chateau Grand Puy Lacoste Paulliac Bordeaux $120
There are few wines that are so highly regarded, age worthy and important as Bordeaux. The first growths and super seconds have recently priced themselves out of the reach of mere mortals, but that doesn't mean there aren't any great wines to be had, you just have to search a little harder.
Surprisingly, you can still find wines like the 2005 Grand Puy Lacoste at fair pricing. I say surprisingly because 2005 has proven itself as one of the best vintages ever, and Grand Puy Lacoste has a track record for excelling in these rich, ripe vintages. Still very young, one can begin to see flashes of brilliance when tasting the 2005 Grand Puy Lacoste, but patience is required to see this wine at its finest. Today, its crushed blueberry and black currant fruit is kept at bay by intense mineral, earth and oak note, all supported by its balanced yet formidable structure.
2006 Conti Costanti Brunello di Montalcino $75
Brunello di Montalcino's reputation has taken a few dingers over the past years. It is the small producers who have always focused on quality who have come through mostly unscathed, though the downward pressure on pricing has kept Brunello quite affordable.
Conti Costanti is a traditional producer who has made compelling Brunello for decades. Emerging from the turmoil of recent years as a leader in preserving the expression of the wine, Conti Costanti's wines are finding new audiences. People are falling in love with the blend of complexity, power and elegance of these wines. Another Tuscan producer who seems to be able to tease some Burgundian magic out of his vines. This is drinking well today but will only improve with additional time in the cellar. I'm counting on it!
Marques de Murrieta Ygay Gran Reserva Especial $50
2001 was a spectacular vintage in Rioja and many producers rolled out their rarely used Reserva Especial labels to celebrate. Marques de Murrieta is one of the oldest and most respected Bodegas in Rioja, so when they opt to make an Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Especial, we should all take note. With a reputation for being one of the richest and most age-worthy Gran Reservas, Castillo Ygay is a wine for the cellar.
The 2001 Castillo Ygay is unusual for a Gran Reserva in that it could use some time in the bottle to integrate. Right now, it's dense and plush with lots of sweet oak adding a bit of a prune element to the palate, but underneath all that sweetness is an incredibly complex and long wine. So deep and seamless on the palate already, it could be hard to wait. This will reward additional cellaring with a fascinating array of herb, spice and savory elements adding detail to the brilliant core of cherry fruit.
2005 Rieussec Sauternes $80
Sauternes is undoubtedly one of the greatest wines in the world, when it is great. Too often they're more sweet than great, and many times they are not necessarily worth the prices asked. It only took me one sip of the 2005 Chateau Rieussec to convince me of its greatness. This is absolutely brilliant Sauternes and competes very favorably with more expensive examples. Packed full of pineapple, sweet lemon and peach fruit, topped with notes of vanilla, crème brûlée, coconut cream, ginger and honey, it is a breathtakingly complex wine. Rich and sweet yet not nearly cloying, this is fabulous Sauternes and will keep for decades, as long as you can keep your hands off of it!
The easiest way to do that is to buy half bottles to hold you over while your full bottles mature.
2004 Champagne Deutz Blanc de Blanc Champagne $100
Champagne, it's generally popped and poured, so your going to be drinking a young vintage unless you pony up the money for something with some age on it. There's a solution for that you know, it's called cellaring Champagne! I know it sounds a bit crazy, but fine Champagne is like fine wine, it gets better with age. Why do you think producers can charge so much for those matured bottles?
In time, Champagne rounds out, the effervescence moderating and allowing the wine to express its softer, creamier side. Have you never "gotten" Champagne? Can't see what the fuss is about? Think the wines are lean and simple? Join the club, but that's where the ageing comes in. This Deutz Blanc de Blanc is already delicious with classic vanilla-touched lemon and pear flavors in Deutsz's faceted, taut style. Ageing will add complexity, depth and an edge of softness that should make this shine in several year. Or you could just drink it on New Year's Eve and celebrate in luxurious style!
Want to Learn More?
Get more holiday wine ideas with our recommendations for White Dessert Wine!