Dallas wine experts share their 15 top holiday gift ideas
Amid the pandemic, we’re all shopping smarter, making lists instead of combing store aisles for inspiration. The Dallas Morning News Wine Panel’s gift guide targets the the wine and spirits lovers on your list. From stocking stuffers to a wine-geek splurge, with lots of affordable elegance in between, we’ve got you covered. Our picks include fine wines, bottled cocktails, books, and nifty wine gear. There’s even a tea and candy pairing. Read on for 15 great gift ideas — and don’t forget to shop for yourself.
Bodegas Naveran Brut Rose Cava, 2019, Spain
In a sea of budget-friendly bubbly, a vintage sparkler that over-delivers for its price is a rarity. Panelist Jennifer Uygur hits a home run with this bargain — a vintage cava made from 100% estate-grown, organic grapes. Although Bodegas Naveran is a relatively young estate at 120 years old, it’s a high quality cava producer. This bottling “has a little more stuffing to it than other cavas, and it’s great bang for the buck,” says Uygur, beverage director and co-owner of Lucia and Macellaio restaurants in Oak Cliff. Clean and bright, with tiny bubbles, the sparkler shows “citrus notes with a hint of spice,” she says. “It’s a great price point for something quite tasty.” Oh, and that label makes for a pretty gift, too. $15.99 at Central Market. (It’s being restocked at Pogos, and may be priced a bit higher).
Raventos i Blanc “de Nit” Rosé, 2017
For a step up from cava without a big bump in price, Uygur recommends this “lean and elegant” sparkling wine. It’s from a stellar producer that’s forming a new, terroir-focused DO, with higher standards than that of the Cava DO, which governs many high-volume producers. “Technically, it’s not a cava, although it’s made the same way as cava. This house has been growing grapes in the area since the 1400s. They left the cava DO because, with too many players, [they saw] less discrimination and care [in grape and cava production],” Uygur says. Produced under the proposed Conca del Riu Anoia appellation, this pale pink, terroir-focused sparkler is made with 100% estate grown grapes, which are biodynamically and organically grown. “It’s got an apple skin note, and a mineral-y, zippy” quality, Uygur says. You can’t beat the price for a wine of this exceptional quality. $22.99 to $23.99 at Pogo’s and Central Market on Lovers Lane.
Ca’ del Bosco Cuvée Prestige Brut Franciacorta DOCG, Italy
Franciacorta is Italy’s answer to Champagne (don’t confuse it with Prosecco, the other Italian sparkler). This one, made from estate-grown grapes, is exceptional, says Uygur. “It’s my favorite Franciacorta, and it is so underrated — it gives you Champagne taste for much less the cost,” she says. A blend of chardonnay, pinot nero, and pinot bianco, the wine is vinified like Champagne (methode champenoise, with two years aging on the lees) and shows rich, rounded, creamy notes. “It’s a marvelously delicious mouthful of bubbles,” she says. $32.99 (or $24.99 for a 375 ml bottle to squeeze into a stocking) at Jimmy’s Food Store.
Quinta do Crasto Douro wine(Quinta do Crasto Douro)
Palacios Remondo Rioja DOC, “Propiedad,” Sierra de Yerga, 2015
Wine writer Rebecca Murphy shares a special rioja — an old vine garnacha (100%) from a legendary producer. Rioja is best-known for tempranillo, but before the 19th century’s Phylloxera plague, garnacha (Spanish for grenache) was commonly planted in the region, Murphy says. Alvaro Palacios credits his success with the grape to growing at high elevation, using biodynamic and organic farming practices, and restricting yields for greater concentration of fruit.
“The pure, focused strawberry, cherry fruit of garnacha mingles with notes of orange zest and aromatic, woody herbs,” Murphy says. “In the mouth, it is at once lush with ripe fruit, and tightly structured, with bright acidity and fine-grained tannins. It is delicious now and has the structure to age gracefully,” she explains. $45.99 at Pogos (a few bottles are scattered between Sigel’s and Total Wine). Gift tip: For the wine geeks on your gift list, team a bottle of this wine with the Remelluri Rioja Reserva (below). They can enjoy two noteworthy, yet different, tastes of rioja.
Remelluri Rioja DOC Reserva, 2013
Trailblazing winemaker Telmo Rodríguez took over his father’s mountain estate winery in 2009, maintaining its terroir focus and obtaining organic certification. This flagship wine is a blend of tempranillo, garnacha and graciano sourced from the estate’s best vineyards, which average 40 years in age.
Rebecca Murphy gives high praise to this Reserva. “It’s a polished, pure and focused wine, displaying freshness that belies its age. Flavors of red plum and berry fruit are laced with notes of dried herbs. It’s medium bodied, refined and complex, and its youthfulness suggests many more years of enjoyment,” she says. If you happen to find the 2012 vintage, snap it up — Murphy says it too, is excellent. $39.99 to $48.99 at Pogo’s, Royal Blue Grocery (Highland Park Village), and Central Market in Southlake.
Quinta do Crasto Douro DOC Old Vines Reserva, 2015
Portugal’s Douro region has long been famous for its port wines, but its dry red wines also draw global acclaim — prices are attractive, too. Paul Botamer, sommelier and wine director at Fearing’s at the Ritz-Carlton, Dallas, lauds this rich, red blend as “an excellent value for the quality.” “It’s made with estate-grown fruit from a 40-acre vineyard that averages over 70 years in age. The vineyard is planted with 30 different grape varieties, which contribute to depth of flavor,” Botamer says. He cites the advanced age of the vineyards, low yields, and blend of 25 to 30 grape varieties as factors behind the wine’s “great complexity, with ability to age.” It’s an elegant wine, with rich dark fruit flavors, spice notes, and firm tannins. $42 to $49.99 at Spec’s on Central Expressway and Pogo’s; on closeout for $28.99 at Sigel’s on Greenville.
Blandy s Bual Madeira, 10-year-old, NV, Portugal(Blandy’s)
A perfect tea or booze pairing
For a fabulous stocking stuffer, master sommelier James Tidwell recommends Justin’s Peanut Butter Cups (available at most supermarkets, including Whole Foods Market) paired with The Cultured Cup’s Keemun Mao Feng Tea ($21.80 for 2 ounces). Complex and flavorful, the tea’s notes of cocoa, buttered toast and molasses perfectly enhance either the dark or milk chocolate peanut butter cups.
“For those extra-luxe evenings, add some Blandy’s Ten-Year-Old Bual Madeira ($29.99 for 500 ml at Pogo’s) to the mix,” Tidwell says. It’s a rich, complex dessert wine, with concentrated flavors of fig and caramel, and notes of orange marmalade and spice. Unlike most wines, an open bottle of Madeira can last for months, stored in the fridge.”
Gold in the Vineyards: Illustrated stories of the world’s most celebrated vineyards(Catapulta)
Gold in the Vineyards: Illustrated Stories of the World’s Most Celebrated Vineyards, by Laura Catena ($14.99 at amazon.com).
Rebecca Murphy recommends this wonderfully illustrated book, which chronicles the epic stories of 12 of the world’s most famous vineyards. Written by fourth generation Argentine vintner Laura Catena, this award-winning wine history book delves into the underpinnings of great winemaking, as well as some family sagas.
The Wines of Southwest U.S.A., by Jessica Dupuy — or all volumes in The Classic Wine Library
You may not be jetting off for wine travel anytime soon, but you can take a wine road trip closer to home. This book dives into the wine regions of Texas, New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona, featuring not only some of the regions’ best wineries, but lodging, restaurants and attractions along the wine trail, too. It’s one of many volumes in The Classic Wine Library — one the most respected international wine guide series — currently edited by Master of Wine Sarah Jane Evans, Master Sommelier James Tidwell, and Richard Mayson. Dupuy’s book represents the library’s first exploration of U.S. wines. There are 27 Classic Wine Library releases, including the recently published Wines of South Africa, by Jim Clarke. All of the Classic Wine Library volumes are available via amazon.com, but for a signed copy of The Wines of Southwest U.S.A. — and two-day delivery — order directly from jessicadupuy.com.
Coravin wine tool(Coravin)
Coravin Wine Preservation System
Master Sommelier James Tidwell swears by this ingenious wine preservation gadget. It allows you to pour wine without uncorking it, preserving the remainder for revisits over weeks or months to come. “It’s indispensable for any wine lover who might want to ‘tap’ several different bottles to taste as a set; anyone who wants a great wine, but perhaps not a whole bottle; or enjoying a special bottle over time,” Tidwell says. The patented technology involves a micro-thin needle that pierces the cork — yet leaves no trace of entry — and a pump that extracts the wine and air, replacing it with a neutral gas which prevents oxidation. Prices range from $150 for the entry level model, to $500 for the more sophisticated “Wine Collector” package. This video demonstrates how it works. It’s sold at Pogo’s, Neiman Marcus, Williams Sonoma.
Vacu Vin Wine Saver
For those who drink a bottle of wine over the course of days (but not weeks), this inexpensive gizmo is the way to go. It makes a great stocking stuffer. Using it is simple and oddly satisfying: replace the cork with the enclosed rubber stopper, connect the device to the stopper, and pump until you hear a clicking sound. The pump removes air from the bottle and creates a vacuum seal. You can get the entry level model, which includes a stopper or two, for $10.99 to $14.99 (widely available at liquor stores, Bed Bath and Beyond and Crate and Barrel); or the sleeker Concerto model, with four or five stoppers, for $19.99 to $24.99 (at Home Depot and Spec’s).
This practical stocking stuffer gets high marks from Paul Botamer: erasable glass marker pens. They can be used instead of wine charms to mark wine glasses “when we can socialize again,” he says. The set of five colored markers ($9.99) can also be used to write on wine bottles (or your house-made hooch) — a nice alternative to tying gift tags onto bottles.
Bottled Cocktails from Bullion To-Go(Bullion To-Go)
Bottled Cocktails from Bullion To-Go ($8 to $11)
This stylish downtown Dallas restaurant’s to-go pivot includes excellent, ready-to-drink cocktails, bottled in individual servings. Impeccably balanced, they’re made with top-quality ingredients (they even juice their own ginger for house-made ginger syrup). Winter favorites include: La Paloma, a classic tequila drink made with Texas Ruby Red grapefruit; the Penicillin, a smoky scotch cocktail with ginger soda, honey, and lemon juice; and Spiced White Pear Sangria, made with white Burgundy and pear brandy. Eggnog and hot buttered rum round out the holiday offerings. There’s a little price break for two and four bottles, a bigger one for a sampler pack. You can pick up curbside, or have it delivered ($5). Bundle a few in a gift bag, or slip one into a stocking Christmas morning. Order online at bullionrestaurant.com.
Riedel Crystal Stemless Wine Glasses
These capacious wine glasses are as handsome as they are practical. They could even double as a cocktail glasses — ideal for Spanish gin and tonics or sangria. Unlike their stemmed counterparts, they can go in the dishwasher without fears of breakage. You can buy them in sets of four at Bed Bath and Beyond: the 21-ounce cabernet/merlot glass set sells for under $45; the similarly shaped 20-ounce glass set (a store exclusive) is on sale for under $34. Another plus: you can request 2-hour curbside pickup, ordering at bedbathandbeyond.com.
Jennifer Uygur keeps an eye out for vintage stemware and bar glasses to give as gifts. Snider Plaza Antiques (sniderplazaantiques.co) has a wide selection of vintage and antique glassware, including: rare collectibles, like American pattern glass (pre-Civil War-era pressed glass); Anglo-Irish glass (lead crystal from the early 19th century); cut glass lead crystal from the American Brilliant period; and mid-century modern cocktail pitchers. Many pieces are surprising affordable, considering their age and quality. You might pay as little as $50 for a small, collectable antique glass, to over $100 for a rare or larger stem. In Lakewood, Curiosities (facebook.com/curiositiesdallas/) usually has several glass styles, ranging from vintage crystal cordial glasses, to Mad Men-style bar ware. Flea Style fleastyle.com in Deep Ellum is a good source for inexpensive glassware from the 60′s and 70′s; the Frisco store has a few offerings, too.
Tina Danze is a Dallas freelance writer.