Robb Report Host Guide: Wine Gifts

  • Anthony Dias Blue

Forget gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Wine is still my favorite holiday gift, whether I am on the giving or the receiving end. In fact, wine makes a perfect present just about any time, but it is especially appropriate during the holiday season, when it can be accompanied by plenty of food.

From the gazillion bottles out there, I have weeded out the underperfomers and earmarked a few strong buys to assemble this blue-chip portfolio. The selections are divided into several user-friendly categories to help you find the right bottles for just about any holiday need.

RED BURGUNDIES FOR YOUR ACCOUNTANT AND PRIVATE BANKER
Accountants and bankers naturally gravitate toward Burgundy, cost overruns be damned. Stuff one of these reds into a stocking (or perhaps an argyle sock) for your favorite number cruncher.

Maison Joseph Drouhin 1999 Beaune Clos des Mouches
Lush and ripe with edgy bright flavor and a long, fresh finish

Domaine Daniel Rion 2000 Vosne-Romanée Les Beaux Monts
Spicy and long, fresh and smooth

Antonin Rodet 1999 Pommard, Les Epenots
Dense and ripe; concentrated and long; complex, chunky, and earthy

Maison Louis Jadot 1999 Corton Pougets
Bright, fresh, and lively; long and elegant; superb berry fruit and spice

Domaine Bouchard Père et Fils 1999 Le Corton
Lush and ripe with sweet fruit spice and caramel; intense, smooth, and amazing

Faiveley 2000 Corton, Clos des Cortons Faiveley
Rich and dense with tannins and ripe fruit; balanced, long, and elegant with a complex finish

Domaine Dujac 2000 Clos de la Roche
Soft texture and searing acidity; gorgeous, intense, and concentrated

Domaine Bertagna 1999 Chambolle Musigny, Clos de la Perrière
Dense and rich with sweet, fresh fruit and a long, smooth finish

Domaine de la Pousse d’Or 1999 Corton-Bressandes
Leather and lots of spice; lovely, stylish, and intense

Domaine Robert Arnoux 2000 Romanée St.-Vivant
Ripe and sweet with deep flavor and no edges; long and amazing

PORTS OF CALL: WINES FOR THOSE WHO TRAVEL DURING THE HOLIDAYS
Long lines. Lost luggage. Delayed flights. Holiday travel calls for fortitude. One of these ports or other fortified wines can help invigorate the weary traveler.

Fonseca Guimaraens 2000 Vintage Port 
Racy, jammy fruit, lots of spice and plum-pudding flavors

Taylor Fladgate 2000 Vintage Port 
Elegant and smooth with tangy spice and lively acidity; classic

Dow 2000 Vintage Port 
Fresh and juicy with tangy blackberry and cassis fruit; elegant and spicy with lovely ripe flavors; long and muscular with great finesse and style

Adriano Ramos-Pinto NV 30-Year-Old Tawny Port 
Creamy and lush with honey, spice, and a long, deep finish
 
Rozès NV Over 40 Years Old Tawny Port
Mandarin orange peel notes with elegant spice and vivid rancio

Barbeito 1863 Madeira Bual
Superb Madeira from the 19th century; still vibrant

Pedro Domecq NV Palo Cortado Sibarita, Sherry
Yeasty and lively, with awesome balance between fresh fruit and rancio
 
BUYERS AND CELLARS: WINES FOR LONG-TERM CELLARING
These investment wines are strictly hands-off for the next few years. Sure, they will make great gifts, but you will probably want to add a few of them to your own collection.

Caparzo 1995 Brunello di Montalcino
Smooth and bright with deep, rich berry fruit and great structure

Lancaster 1999, Lancaster Estate, Alexander Valley
Dense and lush with ripe blackberry fruit and complex structure

Eberle 1997 Cabenet Sauvignon Reserve, Paso Robles 
Racy plum and cassis with notes of chocolate; dense, thick, and long

Beringer 1997 Cabernet Sauvignon, Marston Vineyard, Napa Valley
Elegant and intense with lovely plum and cassis; classic structure
 
Jim Barry 1999 Shiraz The Armagh, Clare Valley
Massive and extracted, with chewy, mouth-filling flavors
 
Beaulieu 1997 Cabernet Sauvignon, Clone 4, Winemaker’s Collection, Rutherford, Napa Valley
Firm, dense, and balanced with layered fruit, spice, and wood

Penfolds 1997 Grange South Australia
Powerful yet balanced, with intense fruit and spice

ZINSIBLE SHOES: LAID-BACK ZINFANDELS FOR DOWNTIME
Stock up on these straightforward, sensible zins when you want to kick off your Bruno Maglis, loosen your tie, and relax to that Bing Crosby Christmas album.

Turley 1999 Zinfandel, Moore-Earthquake Vineyard, Napa Valley
Spicy and dense, with amazing crisp fruit and lovely lift

Williams Selyem 2000 Zinfandel, Forchini Vineyard, South Knoll, Russian River Valley
Dense yet bright with juicy blackberry fruit and a long, fresh finish

Ravenswood 1999 Zinfandel, Old Hill Ranch, Sonoma Valley
Complex and concentrated with petite sirah and carignane in the blend; ripe and rich
 
Gary Farrell 2000 Zinfandel, Bradford Mountain Vineyards, Dry Creek Valley
Forward black fruit with gorgeous structure and racy acidity; supple and delicious

Seven Lions 1999 Zinfandel, 125 Year Old Vines, Joe & Emily’s Vineyard, Russian River Valley
Dense, dark, and bursting with juicy full-ahead flavors
 
WHITE CHRISTMAS: WINES FOR LADIES WHO SHOP AND LUNCH
From Fifth Avenue to Rodeo Drive, holiday shopping is fun . . . and famishing. What is a holiday shopping lunch without a glass of crisp white wine to wash down the Crab Louis?

Tor 2000 Chardonnay, David Arthur Vineyard, Napa Valley
Elegant and lovely, with citrus fruit, spice, and vanilla

Franciscan 2000 Chardonnay, Cuvée Sauvage, Napa Valley-Carneros
Crisp acidity, sweet vanilla, and toasty new oak; long and balanced

Hollywood & Vine Cellars 2001 Chardonnay 2480, Atlas Peak Vineyards, Napa Valley
Racy with sweet oak tones and a long, crisp finish

Far Niente Chardonnay, Estate, Napa Valley
Bright and tangy, with snappy, fresh fruit
 
Domaines Schlumberger 1998 Tokay Pinot Gris, Grand Cru Kitterlé,  Alsace
Ripe with sweet, lush apricot fruit; balance, complexity, and depth

Baron Patrick de Ladoucette 2000 Pouilly Fumé
Snappy and fresh with feisty acidity; bright and balanced 

BRAINSTORMING: CREATIVE PROPRIETARY WINES FOR THE DIFFICULT-TO-BUY-FOR
Unsure what to give offbeat Uncle Bert, the zany relative who pilots his own plane and wrestles crocodiles in his spare time? One of these creatively named wines could be the answer.

Caymus 2000 Conundrum, California
Five varietals from five California counties in an exotic, aromatic white 

Bonny Doon Vineyard 2000 Le Cigare Volant, California
An intense, juicy Rhône-style blend; the name is French for “flying saucer”

Peter Michael 2000 Chardonnay Mon Plaisir, Sonoma County
Racy acidity, bright fruit, and subtle oak; complex and exquisite

Michele Chiarlo 1999 Countacc!, Monferrato
Countacc! is an old Piedmontese expression of astonishment; a stunning barbera-nebbiolo-cabernet blend
 
Shafer Vineyards 1999 Relentless, Napa Valley
Syrah and petite sirah mix it up in this dense, nonstop powerhouse

Castello Banfi 1998 Summus, Montalcino
Sangiovese, cabernet, and syrah reach new heights in this supple super-Tuscan
 
WOW FACTOR: WHEN YOU NEED A GIFT TO IMPRESS
These high-end bottles are for high rollers only. We have not included prices; if you have to ask, move on to the next section.

Stags’ Leap Wine Cellars 1997 Cabernet Sauvignon, Cask 23, Napa Valley
Stunning structure and lovely length, from Napa’s vintage of the decade

Tenuta dell’Ornellaia 1998 Bolgheri Superiore
Round red fruit and herbal notes in a superlative Italian thoroughbred

Château Latour 1999 Pauillac
Dense and powerful with herbs, spice, and lush plum fruit; balanced, intense, and very long

Ceretto 1998 Barolo Bricco Rocche
Lush and packed with layers of earth, spice, leather, and violets

Dominio de Pingus 1998 Ribera del Duero
The cutting-edge red that brought cult status to Ribera del Duero; suave and seductive

M. Chapoutier 1999 Ermitage Le Pavillon
Fat, fleshy, ripe syrah, with amazingly generous fruit

Gaja 1997 Sori Tildin, Langhe
A nebbiolo with power and delicacy; extracted, silky, and stylish

Domaine de la Romanée-Conti 1999  Romanée-Conti
Intense, complex, and lingering; an amazing expression of soil and fruit

Screaming Eagle 1995 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Maybe the best vintage yet of this Napa cult classic

WINE NOT? RESERVE MERLOTS FOR THE FORGOTTEN PERSON ON YOUR LIST 
Merlot is a red for quick, easy drinking, but do not forget about those classy reserve merlots. How about one of these lovely bottles for the person you always forget about until the last minute?

Chateau Ste. Michelle 1999 Reserve Merlot, Columbia Valley
Smooth texture, ripe berry fruit, and a long, supple finish

Merryvale Vineyards 1999 Reserve Merlot, Napa Valley
Herbal and rich, with tangy acidity and plum-berry flavors

Canoe Ridge Vineyard 1999 Reserve Merlot, Columbia Valley
Excellent acid structure and perfectly integrated oak; long, balanced, and lovely

St. Francis Winery 1998 Reserve Merlot Behler Ranch, Sonoma
Good tannins and spice, with lovely lift

Matanzas Creek 1999 Reserve Merlot Selection, Sonoma
Dense and extracted, with lots of flesh, spice, and rich plum fruit

Sterling Vineyards 1998 Reserve Merlot, Carneros-Oakville-Rutherford-Calistoga-Napa Valley
Rich, complex, and long, with lots of charm

TABLE MANNERS: BOTTLES THAT CAN STAND UP TO HOLIDAY FOOD
Unsure what to serve with turkey and fixings . . . or with that 14-pound fruitcake Aunt Myrtle always sends you? These wines are perfect matches with heavy, spicy holiday foods.

Yalumba 2000 Viognier The Virgilius, Eden Valley
Luscious peach and melon flavors; ripe, balanced, and complex

Domaine Marc Kreydenweiss 2000 Pinot Gris Moenchberg, Alsace
Fragrant, rich, and classy, with lovely flavors

Domaine Laroche 2000 Chablis Premier Cru Les Fourchaumes
Long, racy, and balanced, with flinty mineral tones

Vasse Felix 2000 Shiraz, Margaret River
Long, lush flavors balanced by racy acidity; Australia’s up-and-coming appellation

Clos de l’Obac 1999 Priorat
Amazingly lush grenache- and cabernet-based blend, with astounding blackberry flavors

Domaine Drouhin 1998 Pinot Noir Laurene, Willamette Valley
Ripe and rich, with delightful flavors of plum, red berry, and cassis

Delas Frères 1998 Côte Rôtie La Landonne
Dense and rich, with spicy and long complex flavors of berry fruit and plum

HOLIDAY CRUSH: STRESS RELIEVERS FOR THE FRAZZLED
Take some of the stress out of the holidays with these choice but easy-to-find bottles. Stock up your cellar or pass them out as last-minute stocking stuffers.

Lafond 2000 Syrah SRH, Santa Ynez Valley
Fresh and lifted, with great black raspberry fruit

Benziger 1998 Merlot, NcNabb Ranch, Mendocino
Smooth and bright, with lifted plum fruit and lovely, clean flavors

Merryvale 1999 Reserve Chardonnay, Carneros
Fresh and lively, with creamy fruit and spicy complexity

Nozzole 1998 Chianti Classico Riserva La Forra
Lush berry fruit and vanilla-tinged oak; long and lovely

Frazier 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Dark and lush, with dense, complex flavors of tar, spice, and oak

Robert Craig 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon, Mt. Veeder-Napa Valley
Herbal and smooth, with sweet oak and lovely plum tones

Arrowood 1999 Syrah, Sonoma Valley
Smoky and ripe, with gorgeous extraction and a long spicy finish

FROTH BITE: SPARKLING WINES FOR CHILLY WINTER EVENINGS
Curl up in front of the fire with one of these foreign or domestic bubblies. Let it flow, let it flow, let it flow.

Domaine Chandon NV Etoile Rosé, Napa-Sonoma
Long, fresh, and charming, with lovely berry notes

Roederer Estate 1996 Brut L’Ermitage, Anderson Valley
Crisp pear and citrus fruit, with lovely depth and length

Bollinger 1995 Brut Grande Année, Champagne
Silky and soft, with elegant yet tangy fruit; rich and lovely

Moët & Chandon 1995 Cuvée Dom Pérignon, Champagne
Toasty aromas and ripe white-fruit flavors in a beautifully balanced classic

Perrier-Jouët 1993 Blanc de Blancs Fleur de Champagne
Yeasty and rich, with pear and honey notes; scintillating and superb

Laurent-Perrier  NV Brut Grand Siecle La Cuvée Champagne
Lush, layered, and complex, with toasty flavors and creamy texture

Salon 1990 Brut Blanc de Blancs Le Mesnil, Champagne
Finely structured and exquisite, with toasty hazelnut notes

Krug 1988 Brut Blanc de Blancs Clos du Mesnil
Stunningly complex and multifaceted, with finesse and power

DIFFICULTIES NOTWITHSTANDING: GREAT 1998 WINES FOR DIFFICULT PEOPLE
Sometimes even the problematic people in your life deserve a gift? Hit them with a great wine from the notoriously difficult 1998 vintage.

Acacia 1998 Pinot Noir, Beckstoffer Las Amigas Vineyard, Napa Valley, Carneros District
Racy and bright, with lifted, blackberry fruit

Hanzell 1998 Pinot Noir, Sonoma Valley
Earthy, dense, and complex; showing great aging potential

Duckhorn 1998 Merlot, Three Palms Vineyard, Napa Valley
Lovely structure, with restrained oak and great finesse

Rudd 1998 Jericho Canyon, Napa Valley
Dense and lush, with gorgeous fruit and spice

Chimney Rock 1998 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, Napa Valley—Stag’s Leap District
Dark, structured, rich, and loaded with sweet oak

Chalk Hill 1998 Merlot, Adele’s Vineyard, Chalk Hill
Smooth and intense, with fine tannins, herbs, spice, and fruit

Joseph Phelps 1998 Insignia, Napa Valley
Lush and spicy, with balanced flavor; elegant structure and lovely fruit

MIXED SINGLES: SINGLE-VINEYARD WINES FOR THE BACHELOR OR BACHELORETTE
These vineyard-designated wines show varietal character and terroir in spades. They are perfect choices for the single guy or gal on your list.

Bonaccorsi 2000 Syrah, Firepeak Vineyard, Edna Valley
Rich, long, and ripe, with luscious berry fruit

Arcadian 1999 Pinot Noir, Gary’s Vineyard, Monterey
Brilliant cherry fruit, deep color, and smooth texture

Patz & Hall 2000 Chardonnay, Hyde Vineyard, Carneros
Racy and bright, with intense vanilla and honey notes

Merry Edwards 1999 Pinot Noir, Windsor Gardens, Russian River Valley
Black cherry and raspberry fruit tinged with brown sugar; luscious and long

Cambria 2000 Pinot Noir, Rae’s Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley
Packed with mineral, black cherry, and lots of spice

Hartford Court 1999 Pinot Noir, Arrendell Vineyard, Russian River Valley
Powerful, complex, and voluptuous; filled with explosive raspberry fruit

Whitehall Lane 1998 Cabernet Sauvignon, Leonardini Vineyard, Napa Valley
Complex, gorgeous flavors, with racy, pure blackberry and spice

Atalon 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon, Beckstoffer Vineyard, Oakville
Big and fleshy, with smooth spice and luxurious plum; rich and concentrated

HANG TIME: LATE-HARVEST WINES FOR VISITING IN-LAWS
If your in-laws overstay their welcome this holiday season, help them get the point by opening one of these late-harvest wines, made from grapes that hang on the vine just a little longer than necessary.

Château Suduiraut 1999 Sauternes
Apricots and lush fruit, with great balance and a long, gorgeous finish

Robert Mondavi 1998 Sauvignon Blanc Botrytis, Napa Valley
Sweet and lush, with tangy acidity and lovely fruit flavors; balanced and long

Castello di Monsanto 1985 Vin Santo La Chimera, Toscana
Dark and lush, with rancio and bright acidity; intense and lovely

Inniskillin Wines 1999 Riesling Ice Wine, Niagara Peninsula
Amazing intensity and gorgeous flavors; a Canadian specialty wine

Far Niente 1998 Dolce, Napa Valley
Amazing finesse, with peaches, apricots, and honey; elegant, smooth, and
remarkable

Royal Tokaji 1993 Tokaji Szt Tamas, Aszu 6 Puttonyos 
Gorgeously concentrated and dense, with powerful fruit

Chateau Ste. Michelle & Dr. Loosen 1999 Riesling Single Berry Select, Columbia Valley
A partnership wine with thick texture and honied botrytis tones

Robert Weil 1999 Riesling Beerenauslese Kiedricher Gräfenberg, Rheingau
Layered exotic fruit woven with delicate botrytis flavors

THAT'S A WRAP: WINES WITH GREAT PACKAGING
Sometimes you can judge a wine by its label. Take inspiration for your holiday gift wrapping from the stylish packaging on these bottles.

Palmina 2001 Pinot Grigio, Alisos Vineyard, Santa Barbara
Bright and clean, with lively honey-vanilla overtones

Vérité 1999 Archipel, 68% Sonoma–32% Napa Valley
A Bordeaux-style blend with lovely, elegant balance

Nickel & Nickel 2000 Chardonnay, John’s Creek Vineyard, Napa Valley
Dense fruit, toasty oak, and crisp acidity; long and balanced

Swanson 1999 Alexis Napa Valley
A four-varietal blend with velvety texture; intense and luscious

Almaviva 2000 Puente Alto, Maipo Valley
A dark, sexy Chilean blend with complex fruit and layers of spice

Read Next Article >>
Photo by Paul Dimalanta
At the Judgment of Paris in 1976, a bottle of Chardonnay from the Napa Valley’s Chateau Montelena...
As prices for rare Cubans rise, it is getting harder to put a match to the most collectible cigars...
Packshot Factory
Back by popular demand, Supernova is one of the most robust single malts ever produced...
After 22 years of aging, the second installment of the 1992 vintage has reached full maturity…
Now in its 15th year, the wine- and food-filled festival has raised more than $123 million for...
Photo by Cordero Studios
The Arturo Fuente 100th Anniversary Destino Siglo ($416–$520; www.cigar​family.com) is aptly...
Earthy mushrooms, both pungent and delicate, will enhance every sip of these Cabernet Sauvignons,...
HIGHLAND PARK DISTILLERY Highland Park is made today with the same enduring belief and integrity,...
Photo by Cordero Studios
For the longest time, most serious wine drinkers adhered to the notion that California wines did...
The vibrant and deep notes of these wonderful white wines and brilliant rosé Champagne marry...