Best California Wines for Gifts 2018
It's a good year to be looking at your holiday gift list and seeing California wines as the perfect gift. It's a great idea every year but this year it's especially brilliant! This year we are seeing some truly remarkable wines from the drought years in California (2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 vintages) which produced many unparalleled quality wines.
Why the quality difference? It's just what happens when vines are deprived of water. Their roots must stretch further into the earth. They are "stressed," searching ever deeper for sources of water and nourishment. This actually improves the quality of the grapes they produce. Grapes are generally smaller under these conditions but they are also more concentrated, and they produce more concentrated, high-quality wines with rich colors and flavors. In other words, vines that struggle with less water produce rich fruit that makes better wine.
The wines we've selected for our exclusive "Best Gift" list are all stellar wines produced by top California vintners who knew how to take advantage of these extraordinary years. All are outstanding in their own way and will cellar beautifully or can be enjoyed now. Whichever you choose, you can't go wrong gifting any of these exceptional quality wines - a gift of nature direct from California.
Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Silver Oak is one of California's finest vintners in any year. Located both in Napa Valley and in Sonoma County, north of Healdsburg, they have as their mission "the pursuit of exceptional Cabernet Sauvignon." They are calling the 2013 vintage "phenomenal" and they are right.
The Silver Oak 2013 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is garnet in color with a ruby red rim, it has an alluring nose of blackberry bramble, baking spices, and black olive. Aromas of vanilla, cassis, and sage fill the glass, revealing the influence of American oak barrel aging. On the palate, notes of raspberry are complemented with lingering acidity and a finish of dusty, silky tannins. Given proper cellaring, this wine will provide drinking pleasure through 2036.
Justin Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles
Justin Winery is recognized as the pioneer of award-winning Bordeaux-style wines on California's Central Coast. The 2014 Justin Cabernet Sauvignon is produced from Justin's organically certified grapes grown in their vineyards in the Santa Lucia Mountains near Paso Robles. This is a delicious wine, delightfully representative of this region.
It is medium-bodied with a soft entry. The aroma gives off hints of slightly toasted oak, strawberry, raspberry and black currant. The wine has well-balanced acidity and tannins, along with strawberry, earth, toasted oak and vanilla flavors. Very good with a filet steak, or hearty vegetarian cuisine, cheese courses or pasta.
Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon
A highly rated Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley's famed Stag's Leap Wine Cellars. Concentrated and rich, the wine features generous amounts of dark sour cherry, ripe plum, cassis and current. Oak and refined tannins provide a pleasing texture. The wine is a blend of 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Malbec, 4% Merlot, 2% Petite Sirah, 2% Petit Verdot. Drinks beautifully now but will be even better in 2020.
Coppola Directors Cut Sonoma Zinfandel
Francis Ford Coppola's family winery in Geyserville, CA creates superior wines from the famed Dry Creek Region of Sonoma County. The series of Director's Cut wines are the product of the Coppola winemaker's vision of each varietal's ideal expression. Every bottle bears a wraparound label designed after a Zoetrope strip, one of the earliest moving picture devices. Each Director's Cut label is a replica of a strip from Francis's personal Zoetrope collection.
Aromas of blackcurrant, dark cherry, anise, black pepper, blackberries, cloves, and oak are followed by flavors of black currants and raspberries Velvety smooth with dark fruit flavors and voluptuous, concentrated flavors of fruit jam, chocolate and vanilla. A blend of 84% Zinfandel, 14% Petite Sirah, 2% Syrah. This wine is very versatile, despite its powerful flavors. Some pairing suggestions include: beef brisket, pizza, hamburgers, venison, chicken or turkey.
Very fine quality, this is a full bodied, complex, crisp Chardonnay with excellent depth and balance. It is long on the finish, and tastes of pear, lemon peel, peach, honey, vanilla, and spicy oak. Cakebread's best ever version of this wine. Can be aged further.
Chardonnay - "Enticing aromas of vanilla, melon and mango are layered with apricot, creme brulee, butter and a slight minerality. Those scents are echoed as flavors on the creamy, rich palate, along with peach, pie crust and baking spices. The long, smooth finish is marked by mouthwatering acidity." - Winemaker
Far Niente Chardonnay
The 2015 Far Niente Chardonnay offers up loads of ripe fruit aromas, including tropical fruit, melon and hints of fig. This wine is balanced by lightly toasted oak. Rich, deep flavors of toasted nuts support flavors of melon and light citrus accompanied by a long, creamy finish. Wilfred Wong of Wine.com calls this wine "A poster child for high-class Napa Valley Chardonnays."
Frank Family Chardonnay
The Frank Family 2014 Chardonnay is a lush, full-bodied wine with concentrated flavors of caramelized oak. Sourced from various vineyards in the Carneros AVA. Tangy acidity balances a rich taste of baked pears. The initial impression is sweet upfront before it opens and expands on the palate into a broader spectrum of rounded texture and a whisper of anise.
Flowers Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast
The 2013 Flowers Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast is as beautiful and as refined as a wine can be. The color is an intense brick red hue. Crafted from Sonoma Coast wine grapes, it exudes aromas of wild strawberry, cranberry, dried herb, violet, rose petal and pinecone. Flavors on the palate are reminiscent of bing cherries, raspberry, pomegranate and strawberry cream. Coastal minerality, bright acidity and fine tannins provide structure and balance. The finish is soft and lingering. Give it a little time to open in your glass. Try pairings with salmon, tuna or any fatty fish, duck, pate, quail, pork tenderloin or mushrooms - even mushroom pizza.
Duckhorn Vineyards Napa Valley Merlot
Duckhorn Vineyards Napa Valley Merlot incorporates fruit from several individual vineyard lots, including Duckhorn estate vineyards and other top independent growers throughout the Napa Valley. The resulting wine is a rich expression of the entire Napa Valley, reflecting the various microclimates and soils of this famous appellation.
This is a classic example of Duckhorn Vineyards' Merlot. The nose features intense aromas of ripe cherry, plum and black fig. On the palate, the wine is supple and lush, with bright acidity and velvety tannins supporting layers of raspberry and black cherry. 88% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Petit Verdot, 2% Cabernet Franc.
Silverado Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon
This Silverado Vineyards Cab is a rich, full-bodied wine, highly rated by Wine & Spirits (93) and James Suckling (93). It is a blend of 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot and 3% Petit Verdot. The grapes were sourced from three estate vineyards, lending even more complexity. The deep red wine opens with aromas of dark fruit, blueberry, black cherry, blackberry and plum aromas. The blackberry and blueberry fruit is reflected in the flavors as well along with cassis, slate, minerals and gripping tannins. Pair with roast lamb, game, beef, rich cheese, mushrooms, red meat especially steak.