Wine, etc.: 15 wines that make great holiday gifts

Tom Marquardt and Patrick Darr have been writing a weekly, syndicated wine column since 1985. See their blog at They can be reached at

There is no shortage of clever wine labels to draw your attention during this holiday season. Mommy's Day Off, Daddy's Day Off, Old Fart, Cheap Wine await your impulsive weakness. Don't go there.

The wine may get you a cheap laugh when you hand one of these silly wines to your host, but what do you think happens to it next? At best, it will be re-gifted but most likely it will sit there unconsumed by a host who didn't share your humor.


Below we have listed some great wines that are guaranteed to be consumed with great pleasure. They won't be re-gifted or left to gather dust. They will be consumed in private with great memories and appreciation of friends who generously bought them. Yes, they aren't cheap and neither is quality.

•Joseph Drouhin Vosne-Romanee 2014 ($95). If you want to spoil someone with a pricey pinot noir or chardonnay, look to Burgundy. Although there are many producers, we have found Joseph Drouhin to be consistent and well-priced for one of France's most expensive wine regions. We like the Vosne-Romanee, classified a village wine, for its simple elegance – something you rarely find in West Coast pinot noirs. Long finish with notes of cherries and strawberries.


•Franciscan Estate Magnificat 2013 ($55). A perennial favorite of ours, this wine is simply delicious and doesn't need to be aged to be enjoyed. Blended with cabernet sauvignon, merlot, malbec and cabernet franc, it takes on a Bordeaux personality with plum and cassis flavors, hints of anise, cocoa and vanilla.

•Spottswoode Lyndenhurst Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ($80). Winemaker Aron Weinkauf has taken advantage of a stellar vintage to create a dense, chewy cabernet from mostly estate fruit. Aged in oak for 20 months, it has good depth with young and vibrant blackberry fruit, fine tannins and a mineral finish.

•Sea Smoke Southing Pinot Noir 2014 ($60). Sea Smoke is a legendary producer in California's Santa Rita Hills appellation. Talk about an iron fist in a velvet glove – this giant manages to show both finesse and power. Lush red cherry flavors with a dusting of nutmeg, cloves and vanillin oak.

•Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvigon2013 ($170). The price continues to rise for this special wine from Napa Valley, but people still want to add it to their collections. Using only the best grapes from Beringer's top vineyards, this flagship wine is in its 36th vintage. Bold, complex and made for the cellar.

•Duckhorn Vineyards Three Palms Vineyard Merlot 2013 ($95). No one makes complex merlot like Duckhorn. Using top fruit from its rocky Three Palms Vineyard, winemaker Renee Ary is able to extract exquisite fruit, depth of character and richness.

•Concha y Toro Don Melchor 2013 ($125). With cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc vines planted in one of the coldest sections of Chile's Alto Maipo Valley, winemaker Enrique Tirado has his challenges in getting good ripening conditions. But the slow ripening process produces a complex, aromatic wine with fresh cherry fruit and fine tannins. Aged 15 months in French oak barrels.

Under $50

•Smith & Hook Proprietary Red Wine Blend 2013 ($25). You get an amazing amount of delicious red fruit and body for the money here. A blend of merlot (47 percent), malbec, petite sirah and cabernet sauvignon, this Central Coast wine is rich in style with a lavender nose and jam-packed with plums, cassis, sweet blueberries.


•Chateau la Garrigue La Cantarelle Vacqueyras 2014 ($23). This delicious wine brings the Rhone Valley to your doorstep at a very reasonable price. Effusive floral and perfumy aromas, it has great depth, thanks to a classic blend of grenache, syrah and mourvedre.

•Clio Jumilla 2013 ($50). One of our favorite wines vintage after vintage, this Spanish blend of cabernet sauvignon and monastrell is full bodied with loads of luscious black berry and blueberry flavors and a good dose of oak. There is a lot of wine here for the buck.

•Joseph Drouhin Chablis Premier Cru 2014 ($40). A remarkable value for a wine made exclusively from premier cru vineyards, this chablis is an opportunity to give a quality French wine without spending a lot of money. Pear and floral notes in the nose with pleasant, ripe pear flavors and a creamy mouth feel. Barrel fermented in used oak barrels, a hint of oak appears in the finish.

•Chimney Rock Elevage Blanc 2014 ($48). Although pricey for a white wine, this tasty treat is unique because it blends sauvignon blanc and sauvignon gris. Styled after Bordeaux, it is complex with rich, fleshy texture – thanks in part to exposure to lees.

•Etude Grace Benoist Ranch Pinot Noir 2014 ($45). From one of the best pinot noir producers in California, this Carneros gem is a blend of different parcels and combines to make a rich, elegant pinot noir with black cherry and plum flavors.

•Miner Wild Yeast Chardonnay 2012 ($50). We loved this delicious, full-bodied chardonnay for its expressive fruit. It is a unique wine for those in your circle who like chardonnay.


•Cadaretta Syrah 2013 ($35). This was a hit in a flight of wines we recently poured at a tasting. From Washington state, it is blended with mourvedre, grenache, viognier and cinsault. Together these grapes offer an opulent, rich wine with plum and cassis noes and a dash of chocolate. This producer makes other excellent wines as well.

Tom Marquardt and Patrick Darr have been writing a weekly, syndicated wine column since 1985. See their blog at They can be reached at