Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is so much more than a bold, jammy fruit bomb; in years when the weather is perfect and the harvest conditions are just right, even the boldest of producers can craft wines that are balanced, refined, and elegantly supple in personality. This is precisely what happened during the 2014 growing season. The best 2014 Napa Cabernet has that rare, legendary combination of elegance, youthful charm, and robust tannins that will allow these wines to age spectacularly over the next 25 years or more. In other words, these are wines that will impress you whether you choose to uncork them now or wait until they’ve reached their full potential in 30 years. The 2014 vintage is the perfect balance of soft fruit and a firm backbone, making it one of the greatest Napa vintages of the past two decades, and well worth a space in your cellar.
Although sommeliers are well-versed in nearly every wine style imaginable, some still struggle with one wine in particular: German Riesling. They might be able to talk for hours about the origins of the obscure Négrette grape of southwest France and easily pronounce words like “Pouilly-Fuissé,” but there’s something about reading German wine labels that sends shivers down their spines. It’s easy to see why; knowing how to read a German wine label means not only understanding the basic mechanics of the German language, but also the complicated rules of their wine rating system. While most countries keep their labels simple, Germany packs as much information onto the front of the wine as possible–you often have to read through at least five, sometimes ten, different words at the top of the label just to get to the producer’s name.
For Christmas one year, my aunt gift-wrapped an entire case of wine for me. At first, I was excited to receive what was clearly a case of wine, but when I finally got the wrapping paper off, my excitement turned into dismay. The wine was low-quality white Zinfandel that I knew I would never drink. Although my aunt clearly meant well, she didn’t realize that the wine she had given me wasn’t at all to my taste. Moreover, I had no place to store those 12 bottles. I politely accepted the gift, but later on, I ended up regifting a few bottles to some white Zin-loving friends and taking the rest to a massive New Year’s Eve party.
When you think of the aftermath of a New Year’s Eve party, you probably picture dozens of empty and half-empty Champagne bottles scattered around the room. But while many people love a splash of bubbly on December 31st, not everyone wants to sip on it all night. Even though Champagne (and, increasingly, sparkling wine) has had a virtual monopoly on New Year’s for the past few decades, it’s certainly not your only option. In fact, some of the best red wine for New Year’s can be just as impressive as a vintage bottle of Krug, and may win the hearts of even the most diehard bubbly fans. Whether you want to break out of a Champagne rut or you simply want to offer your red wine-loving guests a few more choices this year, choosing a handful of high-quality, rare red wines could make your New Year’s party a raving success.
Champagne and New Year’s Eve go together like bread and butter–no New Year’s celebration feels quite right without a flute of bubbly to toast with when midnight strikes. The night of December 31st is all about new beginnings, and the right bottle of Champagne can make this special event feel like a major milestone in your life. Rather than kicking the new year off with a less-than-exciting glass of Prosecco, sipping on finely aged 1971 Moët & Chandon Dom Perignon feels significant and can set a positive tone for the year. The best Champagne for New Year’s Eve will make even the most casual party feel like an iconic, once-in-a-lifetime event, and it’s a great opportunity to uncork your true showstopper bottles.
From nutty, caramelized pecan pie to spiced gingerbread cookies, the holiday season is chock-full of decadent desserts. When you find the perfect dessert wine pairing for each of these classic treats, you make the experience feel even more indulgent for your guests. A honey-like German Riesling can bring out the nutmeg and cinnamon notes in a slice of pumpkin pie, while a rich ruby Pinot Noir can add a complex layer of fruitiness to a cup of chocolate mousse. Fine wine has the power to elevate even the simplest desserts, making them taste as though they were made from scratch in a French patisserie.
Every year, my family makes an enormous batch of lasagna on Christmas Eve. While this Italian holiday tradition makes for a delicious dining experience, sometimes, finding the perfect wine pairing can be a challenge. The layers of creamy ricotta, spicy sausage, acidic marinara, and buttery noodles have so many flavors that the lasagna tends to overpower all but a handful of wines. That’s why we usually go with a full-bodied, acidic wine like 2004 Vietti Barolo, which can pair well with just about any savory Christmas dish, from lasagna to prime rib. Whether you’re serving a holiday classic like Christmas ham or you’re cooking up something a little more exotic this year, the best wine for Christmas dinner usually falls in the category of acidic, full-bodied reds and whites. These varieties will enhance the food at your table and elevate the holiday experience for you and your guests.
One of the best Christmas gifts I ever received was a high-quality wine fridge that my parents filled to the brim with some of my favorite wines, including selections from Côtes du Rhône and a delicious bottle of 2005 Chevalier Père et Fils. It took me almost a year to get through all of the wonderful wines inside, but even after I opened my last gift bottle, that wine fridge remained an essential staple in my home. For the past six years, I’ve used it to store dozens and dozens of bottles, from wines for holiday celebrations to collectible Bordeaux.
Latkes and sour cream are a staple at my family’s dinner table as the first day of Hanukkah approaches. Recently, we’ve started giving each other Hanukkah wine gifts specifically designed to pair well with latkes, as well as all the other delicious fried foods on our plates. At first, we only served kosher wines or wines from Israel as a celebration of our family’s heritage. Today, we’ve expanded our Hanukkah wine gifts to include a wide range of varieties and regions, from white Burgundy to oaky California Chardonnay. Regardless of whether you stick with kosher wines or branch out, when it comes to giving wine for Hanukkah, it’s important to remember why we celebrate this holiday. As long as you buy wines that mean something to your gift recipient, you can enjoy just about any bottle with your family this year.
The Best 2006 Bordeaux Gifts: This Unusual, Breathtaking Vintage Will Impress Nearly Every Collector
In Bordeaux, there are vintages that seem destined for success from the start—and then there are the “sleeper vintages,” the wines that hide their true power for a decade or more. The 2006 Bordeaux vintage is one of these rare sleepers. While it was overshadowed by the legendary 2005 vintage in its youth, today, the best 2006 Bordeaux is rich, intensely concentrated, and an absolute joy to drink. These qualities, coupled with the wine’s potential for aging, make it the perfect gift for wine collectors on your holiday list this year. In order to take advantage of all that this vintage has to offer, you’ll need to consider which appellations had the most success, and choose the wines with the greatest potential for aging.
My friends know how much I love wine, which is why every year, I always end up with at least two or three wine gift baskets. But while some of these baskets are beautifully made and contain fascinating wines that I’ve never tried before, more often than not, they’re full of cheap California Cabernet or cloying Moscato. The problem with pre-made wine gift baskets is that they rarely offer the sort of unusual, interesting wines that connoisseurs enjoy. Gift basket wines also tend to be lower in value and are selected seemingly at random. One basket might contain Oregon Pinot Noir, German Riesling, and a super Tuscan from Italy all in the same gift, without rhyme or reason.
A few years ago, I found an incredible Cyber Monday wine deal on two mixed cases of superb California Cabernet from a variety of different wineries, including Robert Mondavi and Aubert—I simply couldn’t pass up this opportunity. However, by the time my wine haul arrived on my doorstep a few days later, I realized that I had made a major mistake: not only did I have very little space left in my cellar to store these cases, I also had no idea what to do with so much wine. While some of the bottles I bought could be stored long-term, a lot of them were meant to be drunk young. I ended up giving away most of the bottles to close friends and family.