You know a lot of people.
Birthdays, holidays, milestones...at some point, you're going to want to give some of those people the gift of alcohol.
If you're baffled by the seemingly endless options, you're not alone.
We asked noted Wine and Spirits writer Gabe Sasso for his can't-miss suggestions -- with budgets from $15 to $180.
Trivento Estate 2014 Amado Sur Malbec ($15)
Red fruit aromas such as cherry and raspberry fill the nose. Wisps of vanilla and pepper are present as well. Ripe, wild strawberry, red cherry and baking spices fill the juicy palate. Earth, dried cherry and bits of savory herbs are evident on the long finish. Supple tannins and firm acid provide nice structure. This Malbec is consistently one of the best under $20.
Stoller 2016 Pinot Noir Rosé ($25)
Bits of orange zest are evident here along with red cherry aromas. Citrus, mango and continued cherry dominate the layered and refreshing palate. The finish is long, crisp and begs you back to the glass for additional sips. It’s a great example of Rosé from one of Oregon’s best producers.
Dry Creek Vineyard Merlot 2013 ($26)
Wisps of thyme emerge from the nose alongside oodles of red cherry in this wine. A cornucopia of red fruit dominates the lush and incredibly appealing palate. Black pepper along with continued plum and cherry flavors are omnipresent on the long and cohesive finish. This is an exceptional Merlot for a really reasonable price. It’s widely available which will make it easy to locate.
Duckhorn Vineyards Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2014 ($29)
Lemon curd aromas lead the nose alongside bits of tropical fruit. A bevy of citrus characteristics are at play on the palate along with wet limestone and white pepper. A touch of creaminess, continued lemon and a hint of papaya are all part of the crisp finish that showcases the zippy acid at play here. One of the most classic Napa Valley Sauvignon Blancs, this wine is always in season.
Two Hands 2016 Gnarly Dudes Shiraz Barossa Valley ($35)
Violet and plum aromas emerge with conviction. Hints of earth are in play as well. The palate is strewn with black fruit flavors such as blackberry, dark plum, and black raspberry. Hints of bacon fat, toast and oodles of spice are evident as well. Black pepper, a dusting of cocoa and wisps of savory herbs mark the lengthy finish. This is an excellent example of a full flavored Shiraz.
Raymond Vineyards 2014 Reserve Selection 40th Anniversary Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($40)
The palate is stuffed with an explosion of black and red cherry flavors. Earth, baker’s chocolate, and crushed cherries are all layered on the long, velvety finish along with intermingling bits of spice. Firm tannins and acid provide excellent structure. This is an impressive Cabernet Sauvignon that offers great bang for the buck. It makes a great gift for any Napa Cab lover.
Purple Angel 2013 Colchagua Valley Carménère ($67)
This is a big, bold, bodacious wine that makes its presence known in terms that aren’t shy, from the first whiff to the last sip. With all that said it’s still a proportionate wine that respects some boundaries. Boysenberry, chocolate and spice all jump from the nose. The velvety palate is filled with black cherry, plum, spices, savory herbs, cocoa and more. The long, prodigious finish is deep, dark and loaded with ostentatious flavors. Purple Angel isn’t shy about being Carménère, or anything else for that matter. Year after year this is one of Chile’s best wines.
La Manella 2012 Brunello di Montalcino “I Poggiarelli” ($95)
Cherry, tobacco and cherry aromas dominate the alluring nose. Bits of savory herbs are present as well. The palate is loaded with a bevy of red fruits tinged with hints of darker fruits. A host of spices, earth and dried red fruits mark the impossibly long finish. Firm, gripping tannins and fine acid provide excellent structure. This wine is delicious today, particularly when decanted for a couple of hours. This Brunello will simply blow away lovers of Italian Wine.
Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé Champagne ($99)
You really can’t go wrong with Champagne as a gift. From the moment it’s poured, the salmon-colored hue is striking. Red berry fruit aromas abound on the nose along with a gentle hint of crème fraîche. The palate is generous and restrained with dry red fruit flavors in abundance. Spices, hints of flaky biscuit, and red berry flavors are in evidence on the lengthy finish. This is gorgeous and impressive Champagne in every way possible.
Goldeneye 2014 Ten Degrees Estate Pinot Noir ($120)
Black cherry and toast oak notes pop out from the nose here. The palate is a who’s who of characteristics and influences. Blueberry, leather, earth, spice and boysenberry are all present to varying degrees. The impressively long finish is deeply layered, complex and ultimately elegant in nature. Plum, cocoa, pepper and hints of vanilla are all evident. Pinot Noir is one of the wines that inspires the most cultish behavior, anyone who loves the grape will fall for this wine.
Purus Organic Vodka ($19.99)
This Vodka comes from the Piedmont region of Italy. As the name indicates there’s an inherent purity that runs all the way through Toasted grain, orchard fruit and a tiny hint of vanilla are all evident on the nose. The palate is smooth and refined with an elegance that belies the modest price point. Bits of white fruit are evident and accompanied by subtle spice notes. Limestone and wisps of white peach are in evidence on the above average finish. Bottom line this is a lot of Vodka for the money. It’s fully organic to boot.
Canadian Club Rye ($20)
The nose here has a nice ferocity to it with toast, vanilla, and a hint of biscuit. The palate is loaded with silky flavors. Burnt brown sugar, toasted pecan, and white pepper are all there. A host of spices emerge on the finish, which has good length. Rye of this quality is usually at least twice the price, this is a bargain
Uncle Val’s Botanical Gin ($39)
The aromas and flavors are fresh, natural and remarkably appealing. Sipped neat it’s pretty easy to pick out each of the botanicals that were used to create it. The flavors here are vibrant, refreshing and simply alive. There’s a firm acidity that keeps things crisp.
Bache-Gabrielsen American Oak Cognac ($40)
This cognac was aged in Tennessee-grown American oak. Its coppery hue shimmers in the glass when you pour it. Hints of toast, vanilla, and roasted almonds are evident on the nose. Candied pecan, mission fig, and a hint of toffee dominate the palate. Dates, black pepper, and some gentle heat mark the impressive finish. There’s plenty of sophistication here for the price.
Bunnahabhain 12-Year-Old Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky ($45)
The nose of this scotch shows off elements that put me in a mind of fine sherry. Toasted nuts and dried dates are in evidence along with a touch of wheat. The palate is refined and quite lovely with bits of golden raisin, white fig, apricot, and white pepper all present. Lots of spices, dried fruit, and a hint of cocoa emerge on the long, warm finish. This is really nice scotch that provides a lot of value for the money.
Villa de Varda Grappa Trié ($55)
This Grappa is a blend of Pinot Bianco, Müller Thurgau, and Teroldego. From the first whiff Trié shows off impressive complexity. Orange zest, dried plum, vanilla and roasted hazelnuts are present. All of these characteristics continue on the palate which is layered and complex. Dark chocolate and copious spice notes are evident on the lengthy finish. Trié is impressive and really of remarkable quality and depth for the price. Villa de Varda is the best producer of Grappa in the world; this is their most popular selection, a no brainer gift idea.
Blue Nectar Reposado Special Craft Tequila ($60)
Aromas of mesquite honey, agave and bits of thyme are evident on the nose. The palate is deeply layered, concentrated and elegant. Oodles of spice note are evident alongside roasted chestnuts, marzipan and a pure burst of agave. White pepper and hints of brown sugar are evident on the long, pleasing finish. This Reposado from Blue Nectar is perfectly suited for solo sipping, but it will also take cocktails to the next level.
Lepanto Oloroso Brandy De Jerez Solera Gran Reserva ($68.99)
It has a beautiful rich mahogany hue. Toasted hazelnut and brown sugar aromas are prominent. The palate is concentrated and simply strewn with toasted nuts, spices, dark dried fruits such as fig, and more. A gentle hint of toasted espresso leads the finish which also shows off chamomile tea, wisps of maple syrup, spices, and pecan notes. This is an extremely rich and elegant brandy that is sure to impress.
Glenmorangie Nectar D’Or Single Malt Scotch ($75)
Citrus, white fig and spices light up the welcoming nose. The palate has a remarkable combination of depth and complexity with an inherent lightness on the tongue that will knock you out. Dried stone fruits, lemon curd, and vanilla bean are present. Toasted macadamia, baker’s spices, and more are all part of the long, persistent, silky finish. This is consistently one of the great Single Malt Scotches in the world.
Dos Maderas Luxus Doble Crianza Rum ($180)
Simply put this is one of the best sipping rums in the world. Sticking your nose in reveals an intense potpourri of aromas such as toasted pecan, vanilla, leather and a hint of cocoa. The palate is deep, layered, complex and intense while maintaining great proportion. Roasted nuts, mission fig, dates, and wisps of cholate are all present. The finish is impossibly long with flavors dancing on your tongue well after the last sip is swallowed. Bits of marzipan and continued nut characteristics are present. Luxus is incredibly impressive Rum in every way, which includes lavish packaging.
- Gabe Sasso
Follow him on Twitter and Instagram: @gabesasso