Seriously? You haven’t overloaded the pile of gifts under the tree yet? You still have a few more to buy before you collapse on the cusp of Christmas?
Well, here goes a short list of wines you might be able to find at the last minute …
▪ Ravenswood is ubiquitous for Zinfandel, and while their Vintner’s Blend is a bit simple for me, their high end, single vineyard Zins are just plain wonderful.
I tend towards the Dickerson ($35) but I’m just as fond of the rich and savory Belloni Vineyard ($35) and especially the spicy Old Hill ($60), though you may get lucky and find their other single vineyard Zins from Barricia, Teldeschi, Pickberry or Big River.
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▪ If you need a French wine, head right over to the Rhone Valley section and look for names like Domaine Janasse, Beaucastel, Perrin, Jean-Luc Colombo or Etienne Guigal.
▪ If you need white wine, Spain’s top white wine area, Rias Baixas, makes delicious, fruit but dry wines from the Albariño grape. You can trust Martin Codax, or Vionta. Most of them are around or even less than $20.
▪ If you’re shopping for me, or others like me, I will never be anything but wildly delighted with a gift of a German Riesling, especially if the heraldic black eagle is on the shoulder of the bottle.
That indicates that the producer is a member of the VDP, an organization that polices its ranks and demands elevated standards – most of the wineries and brands with the black eagle are excellent. My favored German producers include Doenhoff, Gunderloch, Fritz Haag, Moenchhoff, Pfeffingen, J.J. Pruem, Schloss Lieser, Robert Weil, Weins-Pruem and Zilliken.
▪ And if your recipient is a cocktail enthusiast, the best book you can buy is “Liquid Intelligence: The Art & Science of the Perfect Cocktail” (W.W. Norton), by Dave Arnold. I cannot extoll the brilliance of this book — and its author — enough; if you’ve ever made a drink (and if you haven’t, what are you waiting for?) this is the book you’ll want by your side while you savor that Christmas cocktail.
Every cocktail making technique is explained, dissected and improved upon. Actually, the techniques are not merely explained; they are revealed in ways that help you truly understand flavor and aroma in cocktails.
Finish that drink, go make another one and congratulate yourself on another successful Christmas. Now go hang out with your friends and families and stop worrying about the material stuff.
Doug Frost is a Kansas City-based wine and spirits writer and consultant who for decades has happily educated the public about all things drink. He is one of only three people in the world to have earned the coveted titles of master sommelier and master of wine. He contributes a monthly wine column to The Star’s Food section.