Every holiday I am asked, “What wine should I give as a gift for a friend, colleague, or customer who is a wine lover?” The answer: “Give the gift of their favorite wine, an iconic wine or a wine book.”

Always ask preferences. “Will it be a sparkling domestic wine, a Champagne, a famous Napa Valley or Sonoma wine, a specialty Italian or Spanish Wine or a traditional Bordeaux red or Provence Rosé?” “How about a celebrated wine book?” Depending on your budget and their preferences, here are some suggested wines and new wine books for the wine lover on your holiday gift list. Some bottles even come with matching isothermic gift bags!

Sparkling Wines and Champagne

Louis Roederer Cristal Brut with Gift Box, 2009

Vintage Champagne, France | Wine Enthusiast 97 points

Tasting/Gifting Note: This Champagne was created in 1876 for Tsar Alexander II for his personal use with its clear stylish bottle, designed to prevent his poisoning. The 2009 Vintage is a crisp balance of ripe fruit and texture that make it alive and bright. As it matures, it will deepen and become more intense.

Veuve Clicquot Brut Yellow Label with Isothermic Gift Bag

Champagne, France | Wine Spectator 90 Points

Tasting/Gifting Note: This is a tight, racy wine with spicy underpinnings of poached pear, grated ginger, and pink grapefruit zest. The Isothermic bag keeps a bottle of the Yellow Label cold for up to two hours.

Mumm Napa Brut Rosé

Napa Valley | Wine Enthusiast 91 points

Tasting Note: A hearty 80% Pinot Noir grapes dominate in this sparkler, and is rounded out with 20% Chardonnay. With a pink-salmon hue, it offers peach and wild strawberry aromas with flavors of succulent plum.

Napa and Sonoma Wines

Since the fires in Northern California last month, I want to encourage you to support your favorite Napa and Sonoma wines. The current vintages released are incredible.

Shafer TD-9, 2015

Stags Leap AVA, Napa Valley (a new Bordeaux-style blend) | Wine Spectator 92 Points

Tasting Note: This wine is powerful and finely textured with concentrated dried cherry, roasted plum flavors and a lively minerality. Richly spiced!

Joseph Phelps Insignia, 2013

Iconic Red Blend with 88% Cabernet Sauvignon | Wine Enthusiast 98 Points

Tasting Note: Aged for 24 months in 100% new French oak, this wine features an inky/purple color, gorgeous nose of blueberry and blackberry liquor, graphite, and saddle leather aromas. The wine has a tremendous potential for aging… a fantastic gift for the wine lover.

Merry Edwards Sauvignon Blanc, 2015 – half bottle

Russian River, Sonoma County | Wine Spectator 93 Points

Tasting/Gifting Notes: One of the best half-bottle gift choices. Merry Edwards brings out the best in this varietal with notes of mango, papaya and flavors of white peach, nectarine and Meyer lemon. Hints of minerality, crème brûlée and toasted hazelnuts add more sophistication.

Specialty Italian and Spanish Wines

Frescobaldi Castelgiocondo, 2012

Brunello di Montalcino, Tuscany | Italy Wine Enthusiast 93 Points

Tasting Note: This famous Tuscan wine is wonderful served with a Tuscan Steak (Bistecca alla Fiorentina) or with aged pecorino cheese. Fresh aromas of wild berry, pressed violet and dark baking spices come together in the glass. Flavors include ripe black cherry, mature plum, cinnamon, licorice and a hint of tobacco. Drink until 2027.

Antinori Tignanello, 2014

Super Tuscan blend, Tuscany, Italy | Wine Spectator 93 Points

Tasting Note: A black currant thread winds through this dense red wine, with cherry, leather, earth, iron and mineral flavors…a blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. Age through 2033.

Clos Mogador, 2013

Priorat, Spain Red Blend | Wine Spectator 93 Points

Tasting Note: A celebrated Spanish wine from the renowned Priorat region this is an old-vine blend of Garnacha and Carinena grapes with a touch of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. This plush red wine delivers alluring flavors of cherry, kirsch, licorice, espresso and mineral with well-integrated tannins and vibrant orange peel acidity. Drink now through 2025.

French Wines

Chateau Leoville Las Cases 2014

St. Julien Bordeaux, one of the largest and oldest classified growths in the Medoc region

Wine Spectator 95 points, $160

Tasting Note: The blend of mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot is aged with 85% new oak. This wine has powerful fruit, rich tannins with aromas of cassis, steeped in plum and blackberry….one of the best Left Bank 2014s for your wine lover.

Chateau d’Esclans Rock Angel Rosé 2015

Rosé from Cotes de Provence, France, Wine Enthusiast 90 points $32

Tasting Note: This rosé is a lightly oaked Esclans with fresh, bright strawberry and white raspberry fruit, rose water notes and a hint of pepper.

New Wine Books for the Wine Lover

Around the World in 80 Wines by Mike Veseth, Hardcover $17, Kindle $15

The journey starts in London as Mike Veseth follows Phileas Fogg’s Around the World in 80 Days journey to France and Italy and then diverts to some of the most fascinating wine regions of the world. Mike offers a special ending to this journey.

The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil, Hardcover $22, Paperback $17

Karen MacNeil, my Culinary Institute of America professor, and one of the foremost wine experts in the United States, offers her latest edition of this famous wine book. Her story telling about the making of wine and the world’s wine region keeps the novice and the wine connoisseur alike engaged. Her unique voice notes: “in the great years, Pétrus is ravishing, elegant, and rich – Ingrid Berman in red satin.”

Karen is the creator and Chairman Emeritus of the Rudd Center for Professional Wine Studies at the Culinary Institute of America, Napa Valley, which has been called the “Harvard” of wine education.


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