The holidays are fast approaching. That means you probably don’t have enough time to scrounge up a white elephant gift for the annual office party, much less dart to the local wine shop to make sure you not only have the appropriate bottle to gift to your hairdresser, but something unique to take to your sister-in-law’s house for Hanukkah. Thankfully, this list of 10 moderately priced but highly regarded award-winning vintages will save valuable shopping time while improving your reputation as a savvy wine buyer.
Gruet NV Blanc de Noirs New Mexico – $15 to $18
No holiday gathering would be complete without a sparkling centerpiece, and this jewel from (of all places) New Mexico is an excellent addition to your festive gathering. Gruet has a cohesive family of nine respectable sparkling wines, six of them non-vintage. This fruity offering is aged for a minimum of two years to develop a palate rich with complex flavors. The aroma of berries is evident and creates a lovely light salmon color, adding to the charm of this popular bubbly.
2009 Morgan Chardonnay Monterey Metallico Un-Oaked – $20 to $23
Yes, you heard right: An un-oaked Chardonnay from California, and from Monterey no less! What at first appears to be a perplexing oxymoron is actually an up-and-coming trend in winemaking, ensuring a crisp, nicely acidic flavor and a broader versatility in matching with foods. This honey-gold wine emits apple, pear and even guava flavors, with a refreshing finish of toast that pairs well with both main dishes and those ever-present holiday appetizers.
Domäne Wachau 2009 Grüner Veltliner – $13 – $30
If you can’t afford to bask in the beauty of Bavaria during the holidays, try the next best thing: this off-dry temptation hails from Austria’s classic white wine region, the Wachau. Grüner Veltliner (also known as “Gru Vee”) wines are being exported at an astronomical rate, and their racy style shows why this white shines so bright: look for subtle pepper overtones with essence of exotic tropical fruits and a rich finish. Drinkable on its own or especially good with cheese, fowl and risotto.
Domaine Saint-Amant, La Tabardonne 2009 Côtes du Rhône Villages Blanc – $15 to $19
Viognier’s full-bodied flavor and versatility have hailed it the “new chardonnay.” Nearly extinct 40 years ago, fresh vineyards are popping up in North America from coast to coast faster than corks on New Year’s Eve. However, the French have a longer history with the grape, and still achieve the most complex and balanced results. With hints of apple and melon, this vintage is one of the more moderately priced varietals available. Perfectly paired with Thai or Indian cuisine as well as sushi for an international holiday celebration!
2008 Donnafugata Ben Rye Passito di Pantelleria (half bottle) – $35
If the holidays have you feeling extravagant, here’s a vintage that truly reflects the best the season has to offer. This mesmerizing Muscat is a perfect nightcap to end your festive evening; a wine that deliciously expresses the romance and passion of Italy. Widely regarded and highly rated, this Sicilian-bred temptress displays intense aromas of the dried apricots and peaches grown on the island. Harmonious touches of date and raisin linger with each delicious sip. Molto amore!
Holiday Red Wines
2009 Perrin & Fils Côtes du Rhône-Villages – $10 to $18
A blend of Grenache (70%) and Syrah (30%), 2009 Perrin & Fils Côtes du Rhône-Villages offers holiday revelers a meaty southern Rhone wine that has a fresh feel with nicely balanced tannins. Even though it is a blend, don’t think for a moment that this wine will wither on the vine. It is very vibrant, well balanced, offering delicious accents of cherry, licorice and raspberry. Best of all, its peppery, herbal overtones will stand up to any main course you’re planning to serve your guests.
Domonio de Eguren 2009 Protocolo Red Wine – $6 to $9
If you haven’t tried this Spanish wine made with 100% Tempranillo, you’re in for a real treat. It is perfect with pork or any roasted entrée, since it is a full-bodied wine that is lush and filled with flavor. The wine has overtones of cherry and berry and offers a long finish with some hints of earthy minerals. Though very flavorful, you’ll find that it’s not as high in acid as some reds, making it extremely drinkable. Get several bottles, as your friends and family will ask for another glass or two.
MontGras 2009 Quatro – $12 to $20
A thoughtful blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Syrah and Carmenere, this delightful import from Chile is a good value, even at the price. It is consistently rated a top wine by critics and has a surprising flavor profile that is thick with fresh roasted coffee, blackberry, plum, spice, toast and a bit of hickory; a perfect complement to any red meats or spiced dishes. Though it’s complex in character, it is still well balanced and ready to drink.
Layer Cake 2009 Shiraz – $15 to $20
Layer Cake has a reputation for turning out wonderful wines and its 2009 Shiraz is a fine example. It offers a long, lingering drinking experience, full of black cherries, coffee and just a touch of olives. The finish is spice and dark chocolate, velvety smooth to the mouth. This wine shows why South Australia is considered the top growing region for Shiraz and if you love this grape, you will want this wine on your holiday table.
2008 Domino IV Pondering Ptolemy Pinot Noir – $22 to $30
Grown from some of Oregon’s oldest plantings of cloned Pommard, these grapes produce a Pinot Noir that is complex, full bodied and aromatic with the scent of sweet cherry and fresh fruit. Not only will this wine be a favorite of your guests, but it also will cellar well, becoming even richer and flavorful over the next five to 10 years. As such, you may just want to pick up a few extra bottles for Christmases to come.