Chow Town

Some gift ideas for the wine lover on your Christmas list: Part 1

rpench@sacbee.com

I don’t know if you’re like me, but the older I get, the harder it is to come up with gift ideas for those special occasions: birthdays, anniversaries and Christmas.

I appreciate how hard my wife and kids work to get the information out of me, but I’m really not much help. I do have a standard fall back, though. A nice bottle of wine or two is always appreciated. For all of you out there of like mind, I’ve compiled a list of wine gift options sure to please the wine lover in your life.

I’ve divided them into categories to make your holiday shopping even easier. This article covers sparkling and white wine recommendations. Next week, I’ll be back with red wine picks and a couple of spirits selections.

Sparkling wine

I love sparkling wine whether you’re talking about Champagne, Cremants and other sparklers from throughout France, Prosecco and Franciancortas from Italy, Spanish Cavas or domestic bubbles. In fact, I enjoy sparkling wine so much that this entire list could be composed of nothing but sparklers.

But in my effort to spread the vinous love, I will recommend only five — two Champagnes, two from France’s Loire Valley and a fifth bottling from Spain.

My first pick is the Ackerman Cremant de Loire, a blend of 60 percent Chenin Blanc, 20 percent Chardonnay and 20 percent Cabernet Franc.

This is an elegant wine with aromas of white roses and flavors dominated by lemon and apple. I particularly like the balance of the wine and also appreciate the additional weight the Cabernet Franc adds to the blend. What’s more, for $20, it’s a steal! I plan to ring in the New Year with this beauty.

Another Loire sparkler that’s shown brightly to my palate is the Sebastien Brunet Vouvray Méthode Traditionnelle Brut. This is a hand-crafted wine as Brunet uses no chemicals or machines in his vineyards.

This is made of 100 percent Chenin Blanc, just like still Vouvrays, and the honeysuckle, white rose and green apple aromas leap out of the glass. The nose suggests that the wine may be sweet, but it is not, finishing with a dry, bracing acidity. This is also another steal at $20 retail. Heck, I might open both Loire Valley sparklers on New Year’s Eve!

Spanish Cavas can run the gamut in quality from rather coarse to refined and elegant. But if you find the right one at the right price, the quality-to-cost ratio is among the highest in the world. That’s where I’d put Vilarnau’s Limited Edition Gaudi Cava.

Not only is the bottle beautiful, a tribute to modern architecture, the wine inside the bottle is lovely, too. At just $15, this Spanish gem hails from the Penedes region in Cataluna, which includes the dynamic city of Barcelona. It’s bright and bubbly like Barcelona itself with green apples on the nose and a tiny, persistent mousse. Maybe I’ll save this one for New Year’s Day!

As much as I enjoy the diversity of sparkling wine from various countries and regions, you just can’t beat a great bottle of Champagne. Not only are they the most complex, elegant and delicious of the world’s sparkling wine offerings, they are also among the most underrated food wines in the world. That’s a subject for another article. Here, I will give my nod to two Champagnes, the Pol Roger Brut Reserve and the Taittinger Prestige Rose.

Pol Roger has long been one of my favorite producers, crafting beautifully balanced Champagne in a full-bodied style. The Champagne preference of Sir Winston Churchill, the Pol Roger Brut Reserve is dominated by Pinot Noir grapes, which adds to both the wine’s weight and complexity. Priced at around $50, this is a special occasion wine to be sure, but what an occasion it will be!

As for the Taittinger, well, what can I say? Rose Champagnes are among my favorite wines in the world, and the Taittinger Presitge Rose is among my favorite rose Champagnes. A combination of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, the two grapes are vinified separately.

At blending, a small amount of still red Pinot is added, creating a racy and stylish blend that spends an additional three years on the lees in bottle, augmenting its complexity and bouquet. At $70 (you can find it cheaper if you shop around), this is by far the most expensive wine on my holiday list, but it sure would bring a smile to my face!

White wine

I’m not normally a fan of domestic Chardonnay, but recently, I’ve been trying, and enjoying, quite a few. You can certainly put the 2015 Adler Fels Chardonnay in that camp. Made with a blend of 50 percent Russian River Valley Chardonnay and 50 percent Monterey County Chardonnay, this wine favors nuance over drama.

The Adler Fels Chard won’t bowl you over with gobs of oak and overcooked fruit. Rather, it’s elegant and balanced with a wide range of flavors and aromas, from pineapples to peaches, and beautiful, crisp acidity on the finish. The Adler Fels Chardonnay is a wine waiting for a roast chicken, pork tenderloin, or poached salmon. Another $20 bargain, the Adler Fels Chardonnay would make a delicious and affordable addition to your holiday table.

A little higher on the price ladder, at $30, the King Estate Willamette Valley Domaine Pinot Gris would be a terrific gift for any wine lover.

The wine is made from a selection of the best Pinot Gris grapes from estate’s Southern Willamette Valley vineyards. The grapes are certified organic and biodynamic. The winery points out that King Estate is the largest biodynamic vineyard in the United States, certified so since 2002.

I enjoy all of the King Estate’s Pinot Gris bottlings, from the entry level Acobat offering to its Oregon Pinot Gris, the Estate Pinot Gris, and especially this wine.

A wine of depth, length, and balance, the King Estate Domaine Pinot Gris is brimming with flavors of ripe tree and tropical fruit, kept fresh and in check by the wine’s terrific acidity. Oh, and one more note. In speaking with Ed King III, the winery’s founder, King suggested aging their Pinot Gris for a few years. King says that will deepen the wine’s flavors and make it even more complex. Might be worth picking up a few bottles and laying one or two down. That’s my plan anyway.

For the adventurous wine drinker, how about a lovely and refreshing white from Italy’s Piedmont region, the La Scolca Gavi? At $18, this is a dry white wine made from the native Cortese grape.

The La Scolaca Gavi was one of the first quality Gavis produced in the region, and it remains among the finest on the market. Aged in stainless steel tanks to preserve the delicate fruit of the Cortese grape, the wine finishes with lovely acidity and a distinctive flinty character. The La Scolca Gavi is quite the white wine find surrounded by a sea of Piedmontese red wines.

You can’t discuss flinty white wines without discussing Sancerre, and in my opinion, you can’t discuss Sancerre without talking about Pascal Jolivet. Jolivet is one of my favorite Sancerre producers and his standard Sancerre bottling, priced at $30, is an longtime favorite in the Eckert household.

As with all Sancerre wines, this bottling is comprised of 100 percent Sauvignon Blanc, but calling a Sancerre a Sauvignon Blanc would be like labeling a Chablis a Chardonnay.

It’s the terroir that expresses itself in Sancerre with minerals, flint, and off-the-charts acidity. If you’re used to New World Sauvignons, especially the fruit bombs that often emanate from Marlborough, New Zealand, this will be a shock to your palate.

You likely won’t even recognize it as the same grape, but pair it with some oysters on the half shell or a bowl of mussels with a broth of white wine and diced shallots, and you’ll see why a Sancerre, and this Sancerre in particular, is so special!

There you have it. Happy shopping. Happy Holidays. And, cheers! I’ll be back soon with some red wine and spirits selections.

Dave Eckert is a partner with Flavor Trade, a Kansas City-based gourmet food incubator and co-packer. Before that, Eckert was the producer and host of “Culinary Travels With Dave Eckert,” which aired on PBS and AWE for 12 seasons.

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