A Sommelier’s Guide to Gift Wines
A bottle of wine is always a welcome gift, and ’tis the season to give gifts! We’ve commissioned two of our favorite local sommeliers, Kristin Codding and Leslee Miller, to suss out the most interesting, festive and engaging bottles at various price points. We’ve divided them into red, white and sparkling categories. And if you want to bring something fun and casual to a party, check out the $15 and under category. All of these wines are available at Edina Liquor or France 44, and each one is sure to spark conversation and merriment. Cheers!
Leslee Miller is a dually certified sommelier through the International Sommelier Guild and the Court of Master Sommeliers. She is the sole owner of Minneapolis-based Amusée, a wine-consulting and event-planning business. After time in the Pacific Northwest as director of the Archery Summit Winery in Oregon and a board of directors member for sister winery Pine Ridge of California, Miller has returned to her Midwest roots. She consults for on premise and retail accounts nationwide, works with a number of International wineries worldwide to provide consultation from the cellar to distribution, teaches wine education classes, hosts private wine tasting parties, manages commercial and residential cellars, and is a personal wine buyer. Miller is also available for corporate and private event planning.
Best Reds Under $100
Miller’s pick: Gaja Sito Moresco, Piedmont, Italy
This wine is a blend 35 percent nebbiolo, 35 percent merlot and 30 percent cabernet grapes. Sito Moresco combines the complexity and longevity of nebbiolo with the refinement and accessibility of cabernet sauvignon and merlot. Pheasants are featured on Sito Moresco’s label to commemorate the beautiful birds that inhabit the forests adjacent to Gaja’s vineyards.
Codding’s pick: O’Shaughnessy Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, 2009
This cabernet has rich, chewy, intense licorice and cassis flavors with serious structure and backbone. It’s an extraordinary example of a Napa cabernet.
Best Whites Under $100
Miller’s pick: Domaine Didier Dagueneau “Silex” Pouilly-Fumé, Loire, France
The Silex delivers an almost inordinate diversity of floral, herbal, citrus (predominately grapefruit) and pit fruit elements (predominately nectarine), with the bitterness of fruit pits, the smoky pungency of red currant and crushed stone, as well as notes of shrimp shell reduction and iodine. It inflects a long, bittersweet yet vibrant, buoyant finish.
Codding’s pick: J.J. Vincent Château Fuissé, Pouilly Fuissé 2010
This wine has a beautiful golden color and a flavor with hints of melon, orange peel and honey. It’s backed by a soft minerality and acidity.
Best Sparkling Under $100
Miller’s pick: Domaine Carneros Ultra Brut ~ Carneros, California
This cuvée epitomizes the elegant Domaine Carneros style. With near-perfect balance, its incredibly fine mousse delivers aromas of honeysuckle, lime peel, lemongrass, lychee and toasted almond. Creamy, round and long, the wine’s mouth-feel belies its minimal dosage.
Codding’s pick: Billecart Brut Reserve Champagne, France
Quince, roasted nuts and spice are evident in this toasty bubbly with a focused, modest finish. Simply gorgeous!
Best Red Under $50
Miller’s pick: Numanthia Termes: Toro, Spain
This wine is 100 percent tinta de toro grape, also known as tempranillo. Fresh, fruity notes (black fruits, raspberry, dark sherry) are nicely integrated with spices, tobacco and toasted aromas (vanilla, chocolate, cinnamon). The palate has a silky texture and is concentrated, well-structured and elegant. The finish is long and complex, with spices, tobacco, raspberries and blackberries notes.
Codding’s pick: Benovia Pinot Noir 2009, Sonoma, California
This is a silky red wine with notes of sweet cherry, flowers and spice. It has a structured, well-integrated body with a finely woven aftertaste of mineral, oak and berry.
Best White Under $50
Miller’s pick: Vietti Roero Arneis, Piedmont, Italy
This wine is pale sunshine-yellow and has aromas of fresh floral, citrus, melon and hints of almond. An unoaked, dry, medium-bodied white wine with crisp acidity, the Arneis is a well-balanced, elegant wine with good complexity and a lingering finish.
Codding’s pick: Le Portail “Champalou” Vouvray 2009, France
Luscious mouth-feel with bright but even grapefruit, melon and peach notes. Creamy but acidic, this wine is an excellent food match, able to stand up to anything with spice, depth and weight. Heavenly with butternut squash soup!
Best Sparkling Under $50
Miller’s pick: Pol Roger “White Foil” Champagne, France
Yeast and toasted brioche surround the round, creamy nose of this delicious sparkling wine.
A mix of floral, apple and berry aromas and flavors highlight this firmly structured, elegant bubbly, which is harmonious and vibrant, with a lingering finish.
Codding’s pick: Argyle Brut Rosé, 2008, Oregon
These fine, focused bubbles lead to pretty, elegant dried floral notes. Simply delicious!
Best Red Under $25
Miller’s pick: Ernie Els “Big Easy Red,” Stellenbosch, South Africa
A blend of 60 percent shiraz, 20 percent cabernet sauvignon, 6 percent mourvèdre, 6 percent grenache, 5 percent cinsaut and 3 viognier grapes. An alluring kaleidoscope of black fruits, Christmas cake, licorice and cinnamon tempt your nose, leading to a dense and full-bodied palate. Abounding with spice from the dominant shiraz, cabernet sauvignon adds punchy tannins and a robust structure. Floral and savory notes from mourvèdre, cinsaut and viognier all contribute to the exotic rhythm of the Big Easy.
Codding’s pick: Palacios Petalos del Bierzo 2010, Spain
A sexy Spanish red laced with blackberry, currant, clove, and a hint of lavender. This one is hands-down my favorite wine find of the year!
Best White Under $25
Miller’s pick: Olivier LeFlaive “Les Sétilles” Bourgogne Blanc, Burgundy, France
The fruit in this wine comes from 70 percent puligny and 30 percent meursault aged with 50 percent older wood. The very fresh and intensely floral nose also reflects hints of lemon-lime and earth, both of which can also be found on the nicely rich, round flavors that are not only intense and delicious but also deliver better than average complexity.
Codding’s pick: Menetou-Salon, Domaine Jean Teiller, 2010, France
A delicious white from the Loire Valley, this beauty produces herbaceous notes of verbena, straw and gooseberry. The finish is clean and mouthwatering.
Best Sparkling Under $25
Miller’s pick: Charles Smith Secco Bianco, Veneto, Italy
A mélange of 77 percent chardonnay, 15 percent pinot bianco and 8 percent raboso piave grapes. This brut spumante is fresh and elegant, with layers and layers of flavors. Elderberry, anise, Italian summer melon, beeswax and seashells live within so many tiny bubbles. Totally delicious!
Codding’s pick: Roederer Estate Brut, Anderson Valley, California
A delicate yet toasty sparkling wine with apple, acacia blossom, pear, and anise notes.
Best Red Under $15
Miller’s pick: A to Z “Night & Day,” Rogue Valley, Oregon
This wine is a blend of 30 percent merlot, 30 percent syrah, 14 percent sangiovese, 13 percent cabernet and 13 percent cabernet franc grapes. It has aromas of ripe blackberries, huckleberries, blackcurrants and graham crackers with honeycomb, dark chocolate, black pepper and tobacco. Full and generous, the wine opens to reveal flavors of these red and black fruits, as well as violets and cherry bark incorporated with ripe tannins and moderate alcohol that all harmonize on the palate and lead to a beautiful finish.
Codding’s pick: Annabella Pinot Noir, Carneros 2010
Soft, lush fruit focusing on cherry, strawberry, and plum laced over licorice, oak and spice. This is a phenomenal find in this category.
Best White Under $15
Miller’s pick: Tamari Reserva Torrontes, Mendoza, Argentina
This is a very elegant and delicate white with appropriate varietal aromas. Notes of white grapefruit are highlighted, as are white flowers like jasmine, with rose notes and some hints of tropical fruit. It is a wine with nerve and balance. The mouth is fruity, floral and spicy, with an enjoyable finish.
Codding’s pick: Brumont Sauvignon/Gros Mansang 2010
Mouth-watering fig, anise, and creamed pear notes blend well in this small French beauty.
Best Sparkling Under $15
Miller’s pick: Deinhard Sparkling Sekt, Mosel, Germany
Fresh, with notes of honeysuckle, pear and white flowers. Zippy, yet round a supple with loads of honeycomb and bright lilac. Pleasing to the palate for any occasion.
Codding’s pick: Saracco Moscato d’Asti 2011
This Italian sparkler has the most subtle, delicate effervescence with fresh lemon curd and vanilla on the palate; the perfect accompaniment to brunch.