2016 Holiday Gift Guide: Wine

Most of us have at least one wine lover on our holiday shopping list. With that in mind, I tasted through a ton of different wines to find some I could recommend in different price ranges. I also tried out some wine-related gift ideas and have a suggestion there too. Each of these wines is delicious and offers more value than the price would indicate. Of course, these also make great choices for your holiday table.

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Purple Heart 2014 Red Blend ($20)

This wine is predominately Merlot (80%) with smaller amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon (15%), Petite Sirah (4%) and Petit Verdot (1%) blended in. It’s created in cooperation with the Purple Heart foundation, and each year, a donation is made to them. Dark fruits, violets and bakers spices light up the nose. The palate is bold and substantial with tons of black fruit flavors tinged by intermingling bits of red fruit. Wisps of roasted espresso, mocha and clove are all evident on the substantial finish. This is a delicious wine that helps a good cause.

Alcance 2014 Merlot ($22)

In addition to Merlot (90%), some Cabernet Sauvignon (10%) was blended in. All of the fruit is from the Maule region of Chile, an area where Bordeaux varieties thrive. Cherry, red plum and spices are present on the nose. The palate is stuffed with chewy red fruit flavors, a hint of sage and black pepper spice. These elements all continue on the finish. Supple tannins and firm acid provide structure to this mouthwatering Merlot.

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Paso’s Peachy Canyon closes in on 30 years

Since 1988, Peachy Canyon has been producing distinct wines from Paso Robles. As with many wineries that have been in Paso that long, Zinfandel stands at the core of what they do. Over the years, Cabernet Sauvignon, Rhone varieties, and in a couple of cases, fine Pinot Noir have popped up and made a stand in Paso. However, Zinfandel remains the grape that many people think of and drink when they pop the cork on a bottle of Paso wine for the very first time.

That’s a good thing, too, because Paso Robles has a ton of producers growing and bottling distinct examples of Zinfandel. Some are single vineyard efforts, others Paso wide cuvees, and still more focus on a sub appellation. Peachy Canyon has their fair share of Zinfandels in a wide portfolio. Here’s a look at some current Zinfandel releases, as well as a couple of other fine wines from Peachy Canyon.

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Peachy Canyon 2014 Incredible Red ($14)

This is mostly Zinfandel (98%) with a splash of Petite Sirah (2%) blended in. If you’re looking for that everyday house red that provides lots of hedonistic drinking pleasure for a reasonable price, here’s a more than solid option. Black fruit aromas and Mexican vanilla bean are evident on the nose. The palate is full flavored, juicy and loaded with red and black fruit flavors. Boysenberry, bits of brown sugar and more are evident on the above average and somewhat lusty finish.

Peachy Canyon 2012 Cirque du Vin ($19)

This blend is comprised of Syrah (60%), Petite Sirah (28%), Zinfandel (5%), Merlot (3%), Malbec (2%) and Tannat (2%). Violet and plum aromas lead the nose. The palate is filled with bits of savory herb, dried cherry, raspberry and more. A touch of bacon fat leads the finish along with bits of toast and continued fruit flavors. This seamless blend will satisfy a crowd with varied tastes. The under-$20 price point makes it a no-brainer purchase.

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Oso Libre embraces sustainability in Paso Robles

The seeds of Oso Libre were planted in 1996 when Chris and Linda Behr purchased 90 acres of property. Over the next 11 years, they took what had been undeveloped land and turned it into a vineyard and cattle ranch. On their property, they utilize sustainable farming methods and also embrace renewable energies. Paso Robles has several distinct growing regions. Oso Libre sits in the Adelaida District, which is way out west in Paso, just 10 miles from the Pacific. Their property sits at an elevation of approximately 1,300 feet. I recently tasted through a selection of the family-owned winery’s offerings and found a lot to like. Everything I tasted was undoubtedly Paso – delicious, loaded with solid fruit, obvious curb appeal and reasonably priced for the quality in the bottle. Here’s a look at four wines to reach for at your next dinner.

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Oso Libre 2012 Osezno Zinfandel ($38)

All of the fruit came from the La Vista Vineyard in the Adelaida section of Paso Robles. It was aged over 20 months in a combination of new Hungarian (30%) and neutral French (70%) oak. 860 cases were produced. The beautifully engaging nose is loaded with red jam fruit and wisps of vanilla bean. Oodles of fresh, vibrant red fruit and spice flavors dominate the juicy palate. Pepper, hints of cinnamon and continued red fruit flavors are evident on the above average finish. This fruit-driven Zin retains excellent balance and will pair well with a wider array of foods than most Zinfandels.

Oso Libre 2011 Querida Cabernet Sauvignon ($42)

In addition to Cabernet Sauvignon (90%), some Merlot (10%) was also blended in. All of the fruit came from the Abernathy Vineyard in Adelaida. It was aged over 14 months in new Hungarian (30%) and neutral French (30%) oak. 360 cases were produced. Paso is best known for Zinfandel and Rhone varieties. However, there is an increasing number of well-heeled Cabernet’s emerging, and this is one of them. Juicy black and red fruit aromas leap from the nose here along with bits of savory herbs. Raspberry and cherry flavors are evident on the palate, which has good depth. Bits of earth, spice and more appear on the solid finish. This Cabernet has racy acid and approachable tannins. Drink it over the next five years. Pair it with red meat for best results.

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Napa Valley’s Chappellet has a diverse portfolio that delivers quality

Next year will mark 50 years that the Chappellet family has been producing wines on Pritchard Hill in Napa Valley. These days, the second generation has joined the efforts at Chappellet. Their work involves a firm belief in sustainable practices, which they have become vanguards of in Napa Valley. A mere 16% of their 640 acre estate is under vine. The areas that are planted have been certified organic since 2012. Phillip Corallo-Titus joined Chappellet as assistant winemaker in 1981. In 1990, he took over the reins as head winemaker and has been driving the winemaking team ever since.

While their portfolio includes Napa Valley standard bearers such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, they also feature Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Zinfandel, Malbec and more. In short, it’s a diverse offering loaded with wines produced from their Estate, as well as select vineyards that meet their standards. Here’s a look at four current standout releases.

Chappellet 2014 Chenin Blanc ($32)

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This wine is comprised entirely of Chenin Blanc from Estate Vineyards on Pritchard Hill, which were replanted in 2004. Fermentation took place in stainless steel, neutral French oak and concrete egg. Not many producers in Napa Valley make a Chenin Blanc, and even fewer do it well, but this offering from Chappellet hits all the right notes for me. This starts with the lovely and somewhat boisterous nose, which features lychee fruit, apricot and bits of citrus zest. Additionally, the even-keeled palate is loaded with stone fruits, minerals and a dollop of spices. All of these characteristics come together on the clean, crisp finish, which has good length and depth.

Chappellet 2014 Napa Valley Chardonnay ($35)

The fruit for this Chardonnay was sourced in a handful of diverse areas in Napa Valley, the common thread being that they are all cool-growing regions, which is ideal for Chardonnay. It sat on the lees for eight months and was aged in one third new French oak. From the first whiff to the last sip, this remarkably delicious Chardonnay is simply loaded with a ton of pure and delicious fruit flavors. Orchard fruit and lemon curd aromas leap from the nose. The deeply layered palate is filled with apple, pear, bits of mango, toasty oak and more. Vanilla bean, crème fraiche and continuing pure fruit flavors are all evident on the long, lush finish.

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Martin Ray Vineyards & Winery highlights two California regions

Martin Ray Winery’s history dates back to the 1940s in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Their second life started in 1990 when Courtney Benham bought the winery and moved it to the Russian River Valley. While they’re now deeply ensconced in Sonoma County, Martin Ray Winery continues to produce wines from the Santa Cruz Mountains too. Both of these areas are well suited for a variety of grapes to thrive. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are among those that do the best. I recently tasted a number of selections from them. Here are four that I really enjoyed and highly recommend.

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Martin Ray 2014 Mill Station Chardonnay ($35)

This is entirely Chardonnay from a single vineyard located on Dutton Ranch in The Russian River Valley. Aging took place over 12 months in 40% new French oak. After aging, select barrels are chosen for the final blend. The spice-driven nose also features a bevy of other attractive aromas such as subtle toast, crème fraiche and yellow apple. Lemon curd, Anjou pear and more are on display throughout the layered and complex palate. Continued spices, hints of lemon merengue pie crust and more emerge on the long luscious finish.

Martin Ray 2014 Bald Mountain Vineyard Chardonnay ($35)

All of the fruit for this wine (entirely Chardonnay) was sourced at the namesake vineyard in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Barrel aging took place over a year in 40% New French oak. Pineapple and spice aromas dominate the lovely nose. Asian pear, citrus zest and hints of stone fruit are all apparent on the engaging palate. Wet limestone and gentle hints of brown sugar appear on the above average finish.

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