Forget the stress of holiday gift-buying. For many on your list, a bottle of wine will do just fine. And while there are a multitude of things to consider when choosing the perfect wine, there are essentially two types of gifts: bottles meant to be drunk now and bottles meant to be drunk later. The trick is to find those that will appeal to both the cork dork and the wine novice.
Finding wines to drink now isn't that difficult, considering that most wines are only aged in the car trunk on the way home from the liquor store. The simplest way to please someone is to give them a wine that is interesting or "off the radar."
Case in point: the Novy Family Cellars Four Mile Creek Red 2007, one of the more interesting, and rare, wines to be released all year. At 100 cases produced, there isn't much to go around, but it is available in Memphis.
Novy (and their sister winery Siduri) bleeds off juice from single-vineyard barrels — Syrah, Zinfandel, Pinot Noir — in order to craft a more concentrated wine. Rather than ditch the wine that's bled off, they blend it into this juicy, fruit-forward bottling. The Four Mile Creek is a medium-bodied, fruity, and lightly spicy wine that is unique enough for a wine aficionado and accessible enough for a newbie.
For a unique bubbly, opt for Szigeti Grüner Veltliner Brut NV from Austria. At $20, it's not only delicious but also a good value. The distinctive Grüner Veltliner acidity, minerality, and stone-fruit character shines through but with the added excitement of bubbles. Szigeti does employ methode Champenoise, so while it's not Champagne, it is made the same way and for less than half the price.
Candor Zinfandel from California is also one of the more interesting "drink now" wines released this year. What makes this wine unique is the fact that it is non-vintage — meaning, it's not from any specific year. Candor is the brainchild of Austin Hope. Hope wanted to craft a specific style of wine, and the best way to go about that was without the constraint of vintage laws. Hope sources his grapes from the Lodi, Sonoma County, and Paso Robles regions of California. His Zin is dark, bold, and rich (but not overpowering) and laden with dark plum, fig, and black raspberry.
Wines to hold on to shouldn't be any trickier to choose than wines to drink now. Nor do they have to be exorbitantly expensive.
Some of the most surprisingly age-worthy wines are Austrian. Stift Göttweig has been producing wines since the 11th century in the Kremstal region of Austria. Their Grüner Veltliner Gottschelle 2006 is rich, ripe, unctuous, and bursting with white peach, slate, limestone, and nectarine. All this is balanced out with an elevated acidity, which not only keeps the richness in check but is the very reason for its age-worthiness.
The Châteauneuf-du-Pape region of Southern France also has been producing top-quality, age-worthy bottles for quite some time. The rustic nature of the Grenache, the main grape in their blend, provides the backbone needed to age these bottles. Clos de l'Oratoire des Papes produced a dark and dense wine in the 2005 vintage. The wine displays a dark-purple color and expresses aromas of espresso, earth, clove, coriander, and black plums. The full weight and tannins of the wine are the very reasons it should be aged. Over time, those characteristics mellow and flow seamlessly into its texture.
Closer to home, in Washington State, Lachini Family Vineyards is crafting sublimely beautiful wines from the famed Klipsun Vineyard. Their Il Mulinello is a hearty blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot. This gorgeous, supple red wine is loaded with ripe black fruits and a velvet-tinged texture. What impresses the most is the elegance it displays alongside its powerful body, which makes it perfect for both the connoisseur and novice.
Novy Family Cellars Four Mile Creek Red 2007, California, $11.99
Szigeti Grüner Veltliner Brut NV
Burgenland, Austria, $20.99
Candor Lot 1 Zinfandel NV, California $20.99
Stift Göttweig Grüner Veltliner Gottschelle 2006 Kremstal, Austria $32.99
Clos de l'Oratoire des Papes Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2005, France $35.99
Lachini Family Vineyards Il Mulinello 2005 Klipsun Vineyard, Red Mountain, Washington, $50.99