“myBottles Worth Bringing

The Holidays are upon us, as is the hopefully pleasant task of choosing the perfect gifts for friends, loved ones and other people necessarily further down our list of acquaintances. A bottle of holiday cheer has been a popular present or hostess-gift option for many years for many reasons. They’re portable, easy to wrap, come in all price ranges and are appreciated as a special treat by just about anyone. For some people, choosing the right bottle requires no thought at all. If someone you know only drinks a certain California Cabernet, or a particular brand of Scotch, your selection couldn’t be easier. But for most people on our list, a little more thought is required. Here then, are a dozen suggestions of different styles of wines, at a variety of prices, at least one of which should please any wine drinker on your gift list.

“myShafer 2010 Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay, $46 This wine will be a big hit with any Chardonnay drinker. It’s full and rich with plenty of ripe melon and pineapple, nicely oaked – but not over oaked – with great acidity, minerality and focus.

Saintsbury 2010 Carneros Chardonnay, Unfiltered, $16 A great value in a very nice California Chardonnay, this wine is well balanced with soft oak, bracing acidity and ripe pears.

Bollinger Special Cuvée Champagne, $56 This non-vintage Champagne is a beautiful bottle that any wine drinker will love. It is aromatic and complex, with ripe fruit, spice, walnuts and buttered toast. It’s elegant, balanced, integrated and a real treat under any circumstance.

Mumm Napa Brut Prestige, $17 This sparkling non-vintage Brut from Napa Valley is a great value for such a totally pleasant bottle of wine. It’s creamy and floral, with nice, ripe fruit, all held together with great acidity.

Château Pontet-Canet 2006 Pauillac, Bordeaux, $90 A classic Bordeaux that will drink well in just a few years, but will continue to improve for many. It has an intense, black cherry color, a lively, cedar and licorice nose, classic structure and great concentration of blackcurrant fruit.

Ségla 2003 Margaux, Bordeaux, $40 Ségla is the second wine of the famous Château Rauzan-Ségla. As such, it receives less new oak and is ready to drink at release. It’s a very enjoyable wine, with plenty of ripe red fruit, violets and cedar. Friendly tannins, good structure and a long finish complete the package. This would be a good choice for a friend who enjoys California Cabs, but would like to branch out a bit.

Heitz Cellar 2006 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, $45 This wine has everything that people love in a California Cab. Elegant and well structured, it is loaded with dark, ripe red fruit, spice and generous oak, all wrapped up in a smooth, velvety package with a great finish.

Decoy 2010 Napa County Cabernet Sauvignon, $17 Decoy is the value label of the well-respected Duckhorn Vineyards, and their Decoy Cab is a very pleasant bottle of wine at a very good price. It is ready to drink when it’s released, with smooth, soft tannins, lots of varietal character and good acidity. This is an easy way to please any Cab lover on your list with a well-balanced and totally enjoyable bottle for under $20.

Domaine De Mourchon 2009 Séguret Côtes du Rhône Villages, $27 A relative newcomer to the wine world, Domaine De Mourchon is quickly earning a reputation as a leading maker in the Rhône. This wine is loaded with ripe raspberries, blackberries and spices. It’s well balanced with good acidity, tannins and fruit, and is an excellent, smooth, food-friendly wine.

Domaine la Suffrène 2009 Bandol, $32 This big red wine from Provence would be a great choice for any wine lover on your list who is open to trying something new. Primarily made from the Mourvèdre grape, it is a rich, intensely flavored wine that’s meaty and earthy, and balanced with bright notes of dark red fruit. The tannins are fairly soft, but plentiful enough to complement a rich stew or grilled rib-eye.

Tinto Pesquera 2009 Ribera Del Duero, $32 Spanish wines, in general, are some of the tastiest, most food-friendly, good values available, and this wine is one of the best of the bunch. It features tart cherries, blackberries, currants and a lot of earthiness, all within a dense but velvety structure that’s as much fun to drink alone as it is with food. The oak is generous, but perfectly integrated.

Warre’s 1991 Vintage Porto, $86 Vintage Porto is one of the all-time classic punctuations for a great meal. They are sweet, highly alcoholic (for wine), intense, rich, decadent and hard to beat, either served with a not-too-sweet dark chocolate dessert, or all by themselves. They also age at least as long as any other wine. This 1991 Warre’s is fun to drink right now, but will keep improving for a long time to come. It’s an elegant, complex and highly structured wine with flavors of blueberry, rose petals, anise, ripe plums and chocolate covered almonds. All vintage Portos need to be decanted to separate the wine from the sediment in the bottle. There are several methods, but the easiest is to pour the wine through a coffee filter into a decanter. It should be served at room temperature.

Joe Abuso is the chef/owner of Recipes & Rotations – Real Food for Mom and Dad, menus, recipes and associated tools to senior-living communities. He is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and has cooked at some of the country’s best restaurants.