A dinner gathering of any kind gives our friends license to break out the good stuff. If you’ve been assigned to bring a wine, then this is the article for you. As the person responsible for bringing the evening’s, wine you have an opportunity to find that perfect wine for the night. One that will make your hosts and all of the guests take note and smile.
If you’re buying for someone who enjoys a $90 bottle of red with dinner, you should stay away from the easy predictable bottles. On the other hand, if you’re buying for someone who guzzles whatever white zin is available with bacon cheeseburgers, it’s a safe bet that this person will be satisfied with a bottle priced under $13. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Any true wine lover will tell you that you don’t have to spend a fortune for a great bottle of wine. Any professional gift giver will tell you it’s the story behind the gift and the first great sip that makes or breaks the night.
It’s easy to fall into a gift-giving routine, opting for traditional items like the always reliable Champagne, Sweet Reds or tannic blends. But to me, it’s not just about the beverage itself—it’s about the memories that the selection creates.
At a hosted tasting I attended last month, I came across seven really great wines. Each has its own story and place in the gift giving hierarchy. There should be something for every person you know for any kind of dinner event.
Let’s begin with Stemmari Wines. This company is helping out our fallen heroes by partnering with the Special Operations Warrior Foundation (SOWF) in honor of the Allied Invasion of Sicily in World War II. The Sicilian wine brand donates part of their proceeds in support of the SOWF programs to benefit the military’s special operation forces and their families. All wines are available at fine wine retailers nationwide. This is a great story and one that makes the wine just a bit more than the gift itself. Wrap these wines up in red, white and blue and attach a note giving the background of the wine.
1. Brunch: Stemmari Baci Vivaci: $10. Translating to “Lively Kisses” this is a refreshing and frisky wine with tiny, soft bubbles that showcase white blossom, peach, and acacia aromas. Nice minerality too. It is comparatively lower in alcohol (10.5%). This wine can go with anything. I am serious. It’s a beautiful wine at the price point. You can pair quiche, toast, jalapeno poppers, pork sliders, crème brulee or corn dogs with this wine and be the star of the party for bringing it.
2. Seafood Night: Stemmari Dalila 2012: $12. This blend of 80% Grillo and 20% Viognier conveys heady aromas of fragrant white flowers, exotic fruit and apricot. Wine Spectator gave it 87 pts. It’s an excellent choice for the price. If your person generally likes Sauvignon Blanc, this is a good one to get them to branch out with. Excellent with shrimp, dill, cheese and most seafood plates.
3. Pizza Night: Stemmari Nero Davola 2012: $11 Wine Spectator gave this wine 86 points. Wine Spectator: This plummy red is well-balanced and a bit chewy, with hints of strawberry preserves, red licorice and olive. Excellent with pork sandwiches, honey glazed ham, and a cheese and apple plate or pizza with extra garlic next to a roaring fire – camp or home, your choice.
4. Pasta Night: Stemmari 2011 Cantodoro: $13 A blend of 80% Nero d’Avola and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, this robust wine opens with aromas of red currant, black cherry and wild strawberry. The palate offers ripe blackberry and black cherry layered with notes of chocolate and vanilla. Wine Spectator gave this wine 87 points. The wine has an earthy taste. Based on critic scores this is the fifth most highly rated red wine from the region and has won many prizes. The 2011 vintage was awarded Gold from the Mundus Vini and a Silver from the Monde Selection. It’s complex structure makes it a good pairing for pastas with meat sauce, tuna steaks, grilled meats, game and aged cheeses.
Next up is a wine from Lake County, California, known for the cleanest air quality in the United States. Vigilance Vineyards & Winery is set amongst the historic Anderson Marsh sanctuary where preservation of the land and wildlife are equally matched to the beliefs of Clay & Margarita Shannon, owners of this incredible slice of heaven. Inspiration for this wine came from the tranquil attributes of this exceptional property. Wrap up this wine in recycled paper. Be sure to add a note about the origins of this wine.
5. Dessert Night: Vigilance Cimarron 2012: Sustainably farmed. 44% Zinfandel, 39% Syrah, 9% Petite Sirah and 8% Cabernet Sauvignon from Lake County, California. $25 . Best of Class 91 pts and a medium priced wine. If you have someone who is in to sustainable living, this is the wine to give them. The wine label “Vigilance” was generated from the owner’s art of farming using sustainable practices and their spirit of being careful to preserve land for future generations the blend became a truly harmonious expression of the earth and the Shannon’s commitment to it. Notes of black cherry, blackberry, creamy vanilla and toasty warm oak. Flavors of ripe cherry, dark berry, spice. Perfect with any kind of chocolate dessert.
Finally we have two High Valley wines.
6. Mexican Night: High Valley Vineyard 2011 Petite Sirah: full bodied and balanced with a nose of ripe dark berry fruits. $30. A gold and Best of Class winner that goes really well with baked jalapeño poppers. The High Valley AVA rises between 1,600 and 3,000 ft. elevation in the Coastal Ranges of northeastern Lake County. Thanks to the high elevation and cool breezes from the oldest lake in North America, it is one of the coolest appellations in Lake County. They run 1,000 head of sheep on these vineyards, composting the weeds into nutrients for the red, rocky volcanic soils. These are intensely flavored grapes, and are crafted into wines that capture the character of the remarkable region. The High Valley Petite Sirah is rich, full bodied and balanced with a nose of ripe dark berry fruits. It is hearty and rustically sensuous with intense wild blueberry, blackberry, juicy cherries and a hint of warm vanilla. This delicious wine has a backbone of well-rounded tannins and a long, elegant finish. Seriously, when was the last time you were able to find a wine that paired well with spicy food? This is it. THAT’s a good story in itself. Just sayin’.
7. Steak BBQ Night: High Valley Cab 2012: Enjoy aromas of blackberries, cherry pie and sweet vanilla. $30 Gold awards coming from everywhere. This Cabernet Sauvignon explodes with aromas of blackberries, cherry pie and sweet vanilla. Complex flavors of dark berries, black cherries and soft herbs coat the palette. It is a well-balanced wine with depth that finishes with silky tannins and great structure.
Still Stumped? Go With a Gift Basket
Some will say this is the easy way out. Your response should be, “So what?” When you choose a gift basket created by people who know how to group different types of wine or pair the right wine with the right food, you can’t make a wrong decision. There are gift baskets designed for romance, celebrations, lovers of gourmet food and chocolate indulgence. Some baskets highlight a particular brand, while others highlight a particular wine-making region. Regardless of the gift you plan to give, whether it’s a Mouton Bordeaux or a Red Ryder BB Gun, give it with love and raise a glass to family and friends. After all, isn’t that what getting together is all about?