The Best in Holiday 2012 Gift Finds is an ongoing series until December that celebrates the practical to the extravagant, the unusual to the commonly needed items of everyday life.
From food, wine and spirits to beauty, clothing and even home goods and appliances, we have been trying and testing and ultimately weeding out the good stuff you should consider for giving this holiday season. Take us shopping with you.
Serving up good wine need not be an exercise in guessing or picking the most appealing label (I am guilty of this). We tried the best in domestic and foreign pours and found a tight group to recommend for this festive season that will make you look like a badass oenephile who is also smart with money.
Champagne Nicolas Feuillate Brut Reserve
Made in France
In 1972, Nicolas Feuillatte started producing in Bouleuse, the Valley of Ardres. Then he founded, in 1976, the Champagne’s brand “Nicolas Feuillatte”. Located at Chouilly, near Epernay, the Brut champagnes of Nicolas Feuillatte are clear and crisp, dry and some sweeter (There is a Rose - which I am not fond of).
This is a big winery, with over 7 million bottles sold worldwide annually, the best-known vintages are Cuvée Rosé, Brut Réserve Particulière (launched in 1978), Cuvée Palmes d'Or Vintage (launched in 1985) and Cuvée 225 (marketed in 2005, and raised in oak barrels).
For a nice mid-range champagne to ring in 2013, it beats the more expensive Veuve, in my opinion.
Shafer One Point Five (2009)
Made in USA
Reds rule this time of year. American vintner Shafer Vineyards is a 30-year-old family-owned Napa Valley winery, named one of the top 25 vineyards in the world by prominent wine publication Wine & Spirits and “one of the world’s greatest wineries,” by distinguished critic Robert M. Parker, Jr.
The Shafer family have made their wine in the Stags Leap District, one of the most celebrated winegrowing regions within Napa Valley.
The winery makes many varietals, and for this recomendation, we were able to try the 2009 One Point Five Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon, a wine that settles on the palate like velvet-y jam with mocha hints, and is quite possibly is the best red I've ever had.
The black fruits, spices, plum you taste are smooth and seductive, and posess a richness, texture and body to it that consistently earns them the high marks from all the Wine glossies and uber wine critics.
Good to know that Shafer has practiced sustainable farming (since the 80s) to cultivate its fruit. In 2004 Shafer became the first winery in the U.S. to convert to 100 percent solar power too.
The One Point Five label is sourced primarily from two Stags Leap District vineyards – Shafer's hillside estate and the Borderline vineyard located two miles south of the winery, a 25-acre site purchased by the winery in 1999.
If you have a red wine lover on your list, please invest in a bottle or three of 2009 One Point Five Cabernet Sauvignon Stags Leap District from this top-notch, family run American winery. It's a revelatory experience.
For the best in wine gifts from a reputable and well-reviewed source that can package and send for gifts, go no further than American company Wine.com. They excel in selection, price range offerings and presentation, and feature an in-house expert who pairs wines with holiday meals. It is an impressive gift to send to family and friends in beautifully executed packaging.
The diversity of flavors at the holiday table calls for a versatile wine, one that can stand up to the foods on the table, but not overwhelm them.
A few rules of thumb on choosing good Holiday table wine, courtesy of Wine.com:
You need acidity! Acidity is a must for pairing food and wine so look for whites and red that are known for having good, crisp acidity to match your food.
Go for big fruit! A wine with big fruit will match well with both spicy stuffing and sweet potato soufflé.
Avoid green and herbal notes in both red and white wines - these aromas and flavors may offset some of your favorite dishes.
Avoid high tannins in your red and too much oak in your white.
Tannins needs protein and fat, which means your sweet potatoes will have that red tasting a bit too bitter or metallic. Too much oak in your Chardonnay may also change the flavors of your food.
For the best in wine gifts from a reputable and well-reviewed source that can package and send for gifts, go no further than American company Wine.com. They excel in selection and presentation, and feature an in-house expert who pairs wines with holiday meals.
Specific Food Pairings:
Ham: Ham is salty, and sometimes sweet. To match that salt you need some good acidity to bring out the fruit in the wine. Try Riesling, Pinot Gris (particularly from Alsace), Gruner Veltliner or Gewurtztraminer. For reds, try Cru Beaujolais or a fruit-forward Zinfandel. And remember, the sweeter the glaze, the sweeter the wine should be!
Turkey: Turkey, on its own, is a bit boring. That said, there are wines that pair well with the lean protein style of Turkey. For whites, try an un-oaked Chardonnay or Oregon Pinot Gris. Reds deserve a decadent Pinot Noir.
Holiday Desserts: Holiday desserts often mean cookies or pumpkin, pecan or apple, all three will have some sweet spices. We selected a Beaumes-de-Venise or icewine on the lighter side for our apple pie, and a delicious "sticky" Muscat from Australia for richer in flavor Pumpkin and Pecan pies.
A few wines that can stand up to your "table of many flavors," are:
Riesling: Riesling is full of both acidity and juicy fruit. It has powerful aromatics, but a light body, which will not overpower your food.
Our favorites from Wine.com include:
Michelle Eroica Riesling 2010
Pacific Rim Riesling 2010
Trimbach Riesling 2009
White Blends: it's a general category, and not every white wine will fit, but some blends, particularly those that include aromatic grapes, are great matches for the Holiday meal. Our favorites include
Layers White 2010
Hugel Gentil 2010
Pinot Noir: One of our favorite varieties to have on the table. Pinot has great fruit, low tannins and a silky smooth texture. This is an all-around great food wine and one loved by many. So many to choose from but for the Holidays, we loved:
Artesa Estate Reserve Pinot Noir 2007
Chehalem 3 Vineyard Pinot Noir 2009
Ritual Casablanca Valley Pinot Noir 2010
Grenache and Rhone Blends: Another good low-tannin, big fruit grape: Grenache. Often blended with heftier grapes Syrah & Mourvedre, Grenache-dominant blends hold up well to a diverse array of foods, particularly the affordable and food-friendly wines of Cotes-du-Rhone. Some bottles to try include:
Perrin et Fils Vinsobres Les Cornuds 2007
Borsao Tres Picos Garnacha 2010
Alsace: The region of Alsace, which includes the two above categories of wine, produces some of the best white wines for your Holiday table. You cannot go wrong with a bottle from Alsace.