So what to pour if you’re hosting? What to bring if you’re going? What to buy if you’re gifting?
Just like anything else, it always depends on your scale of effort… or, in other words, how much do you want to spend? Here are some RED WINE recommendations with a variety of prices. Let your budget figure out whose been naughty or nice…
Wild Horse – Normally sells for under $14, but you can get it at a discount at most places. (Costco currently has a $3 discount per bottle going right now.) I recommended this one highly for Thanksgiving, and I will mention it again here if you are looking for great value.
Taking it up a notch, I have previously recommended Meiomi for $18. (Meiomi was covered in a previous post – “High-end Wineries and Value-Priced Wines”.) And Decoy is very good at $20. (Also mentioned in my previous post – “High-end Wineries and Value-Priced Wines”.) Domaine Carneros also makes an excellent Pinot for $28.
Going up to the $30-$40 range, both ZD and Patz & Hall Pinot Noir are consistently excellent for $36.
If you really want to impress someone, spend $42 for the Gary Farrell Russian River Selection or $55 for the Gary Farrell Bien Nacido Vineyard. Anything from Gary Farrell (Healdsburg) will rock your taste buds. Another wine that is in the same price range is Flying Goat. Winemaker Norm Yost makes some amazing Pinots from a variety of different vineyards from Santa Barbara County. One other Pinot definitely worth bringing to your attention is Twomey (owned by Silver Oak). They make several Pinots in this $40-$50 price range.
As I previously mentioned, the best value anywhere for Zinfandel is Gnarly Head for under $9. Another reasonable value is Peachy Canyon Incredible Red for about $10.
Opolo makes consistently good Zins – Summit Creek ($14) and Mountain ($25). This is a real good opportunity to buy both of these wines and taste them yourself to see the difference.
Tres Sabores – as mentioned in a previous post – makes a great Zin blend called ¿POR QUÉ NO?. That particular wine has limited production and may need to be ordered directly from the winery. It is definitely a winner – especially at $25. JC Cellars makes a wonderful Zinfandel blend with Syrah, Petite Sirah, Tempranillo and Carignan – an awesome value for $26. They also make a regular Zin for $28 that I like. But perhaps one of my favorites – especially given the price at $28 – is Saldo made by Dave Phinney (the winemaker of “The Prisoner”). You will be a HERO if you serve any of these at your party.
Moving up to $30-$40 is Frank Family Zinfandel at $32. Tres Sabores makes a yummy Rutherford Estate Zinfandel for $35. And of course, one of my all-time favorite Zinfandel blends mentioned many times in this blog is The Prisoner (with Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Charbono and Grenache). It sells for $38. There are some great Zins in the $40-$50 range including Nickel & Nickel and Turley.
To start in the $10+ category, I am talking value proposition for Cabernet Sauvignon. Bridlewood makes a good Cabernet for $12, Kendall Jackson sells for $14, and Wild Horse – $15. My personal take on Cabs is you may need to go up $20 before the wines really start to make an impression. Justin is probably my favorite for the value at $20. (I am a card-carrying member of Justin’s Isosceles Reserve Club. More on that later.) Decoy is another great find at $20 – see previous post on Decoy wines.
Orin Swift’s Palermo is a good value for about $35. Shafer is always a consistent winner for $35. And Rombauer makes a fine Cab for $37.
Hall is one of my favorite Cabs – period. And for $40, it’s a great wine. (Their high end Cab – “Kathryn Hall” ($110) – was recently voted #2 on Wine Spectator’s “Top 100 Wines of 2011”.) Another favorite of mine is Lancaster Estate Cab for around $50.
And just because I am a card-carrying member of Justin – the Isosceles is an amazing Bordeaux-style blend of Cabernet, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Year after year, it is awesome. Their widely distributed Isosceles sells for about $60. And it is worth it for that special occasion.
Please keep in mind that these are some of the California wines that I am familiar with and have a personal liking for. Look for my next post that will feature white wines, dessert wines and sparkling wines for the holidays.
Have a “wine-derful” holiday season! And don’t forget – Wine a little… you’ll feel better!