Gift Guide 2008 - Bottle Talk

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peoplePickingWine.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

The Latin phrase "In Vino Veritas" - in wine there is truth - could easily inspire a second maxim:  "in wine gifting, there is always gratitude." When it comes to giving, a well-selected bottle of wine is always welcome and - as important - carries the added bonus of leaving an indelible impression that's likely to last long after its final sips have been swallowed.  Read on for our list of top picks for gifting this holiday season, for every oenophile on your list.  Prices are estimates.

Heidsieck Monopole Blue Top Champagne NV
With New Year's celebrations inevitably culminating each year's holiday season, Champagne is perhaps the most welcome wine gift of all. We like Heidsieck & Co's Blue Top non-vintage bubbly for its festive yellow and blue packaging and trademark rich texture - which ensures it'll make a big impression, even on a big night like New Year's Eve.  For trend-conscious giftees, consider hip Blue Top miniatures.  $30.

winegift.jpgHarlan Estate Napa Valley Red Wine
For some giftees, only the very best will do.  Oenophiles with considerable collections or just considerable wine savvy will know that Harlan Estate stands among - many even say a cut above - California's most famous cult wines.  You can score a variety of Harlan vintages at auction online, and while they don't come cheap we think you'll find them worth their weight in gold when it comes to the gratitude you'll receive upon gifting.  $450.

Inniskillin Vidal Ice Wine, Niagara Peninsula, Canada
Available at select merchants wherever fine wine is sold, ice wine is a rare, nectar-sweet sticky made from grapes that are picked after they've frozen on the vine.  Ice wine's singular balance of acidity and sweetness means it fairly dances across one's palate - a rare feat indeed for sweet wine, much of which can be cloying.  Inniskillin is Canada's banner producer of ice wine, which makes a great gift for the oenophile on your list with a serious sweet tooth.  $33 for 187mL.  

Ridge Vineyards "Monte Bello" Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Cruz Mountains
Each year just 2,500 cases are made of this legendary wine from maverick California winemaker Paul Draper. Recognized as a benchmark California red - in fact it's often referred to as one of the Golden State's "First Growths" - the cult-popular bottling from Santa Cruz's fog-swept Monte Bello vineyard is a muscular, nuanced wine that's a sure-fire bet for the seasoned California wine buff on your list.  $125.

Ferreira's Superior White Port, Portugal
The sweet wine lover on your list will appreciate a taste of something new, particularly when it's a rare style of port whose color recalls the festive outdoors during winter's whitest months.  Ferriera's version of this singular Portuguese specialty is surprisingly smooth and makes the perfect backdrop for the season's best berry- and white chocolate-based desserts.  $15

01_DVX.jpgMumm Napa "Cuvée DVX" Sparkling Wine, Napa Valley
Named for Mumm Napa's seminal sparkling wine producer, the late Guy Devaux, Cuvée DVX is a classy bubbly made from Mumm's best Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes grown in the Napa Valley.  The fetchingly packaged blend boasts a creaminess rarely seen in top California sparklers and makes a great gift for wine lovers who lean towards a mellow, breezy style of bubbly.  $45.

Luca "Laborde Double Select" Syrah, Mendoza, Argentina
Laura Catena - daughter of Argentine wine great Nicolas Catena - recently launched her own label of top-shelf wines from Mendoza.  Named for Laura's son, Luca, this Syrah is crafted with fruit from some of the oldest vineyards in Argentina and offers up powerful flavors of leather, tobacco, fruit, spice and herbs.  A full-throttle red for the wine lover who loves emerging regions.  $33.

Hundred Acre "Gold" Chardonnay, California & Australia
From wine innovator Jayson Woodbridge's Hundred Acre Winery hails this inventive blend of Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer and Viognier that comes with consumable flecks of real 24k gold in the bottle.  A shoe-in for the glamour-loving oenophile in your life, the wine has been well received by critics - which means it's not only easy on the eyes, it's also plenty pretty on the palate.  $25.
 
Wölffer Estate Premier Cru Merlot, The Hamptons, Long Island
Dubbed "number one among the 'greatest-quality wines' of the Atlantic Northeast" by noted wine critic Tom Stevenson, Wölffer Estate's limited-production Premier Cru Merlot offers flavors and finesse reminiscent of the great reds of Bordeaux's Pomerol and St. Émilion, but from vineyards right here on our own Atlantic seaboard.  Though a bit pricey, this is an exciting wine that gives a rare glimpse into Long Island wine's promising future.  $100.    

Beaux Frères "The Beaux Frères Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Oregon
If there is an Oregon Pinot that moves in a sphere of its own, then surely it's Beaux Frères.  Indeed, the soulful, layered Pinots from this powerhouse producer are so muscular they're sometimes called "the Cabernets of Oregon" - and their price confirms the comparison - but their remarkable nuance points unmistakably to Pinot. A must-give for the tough-to-please Pinot lover on your list.  $80.

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