Wines to Give … Your Most Special Someone

Unusual bottlings with great stories, selected by top sommeliers

Wines to Give … Your Most Special Someone
Say it with wine: The bottle you choose can send a message about romance or appeal to an interest in anything from history to the environment to helping others. (Aja Koska/Getty Images)
From the Dec 15, 2020, issue

How should we mark the holidays in this most confusing year? We posed that question to our sommelier friends in the restaurant industry for our "Bottles to Uncork, Bottles to Unwrap" feature in Wine Spectator's Dec. 15, 2020, issue.

Whether you are exchanging presents in-person with your nearest and dearest, or want to remind those you can’t be with how much you miss them, you can show your love in wine form. Here’s the advice drinks pros from Wine Spectator Restaurant Award–winning spots around the country gave us on bottles to gift to our closest family and longest-aged friends. From rare dessert wines to ancient cuvées, plus some accoutrements for true wine fanatics, here’s what they’ll be wrapping this holiday season.

For more gift ideas, see Wine Spectator's 2020 Gift Guide, including more sommelier picks and our Editors' Favorite Wine Accessories.


Parind Vora

Wine Director, chef and owner
Lockhart Bistro, Lockhart, Texas
Award of Excellence

Hands-down, the pair of blends from Chêne Bleu: Héloïse and Abélard. Must give together as one of the world’s greatest love stories that is very well-reflected in the blends’ connections to their respective vineyards.

Jill Davis

Beverage director
Jean-Georges and Vernick Fish, Philadelphia
Award of Excellence

If you can get your hands on a bottle of Chartogne-Taillet Les Barres Blanc de Noirs Extra Brut, it is a very small production of 100% Pinot Noir from the Les Barres vineyard (the black label; Alexandre Chartogne produces a white-label version too, and it’s Pinot Meunier). Chartogne vinified and blended several years together, 2012 through 2015, to make the first and only bottling so far of this wine. The vines are ungrafted, which is rare.

Matthew Pridgen

Wine director
Georgia James, Houston
Best of Award of Excellence

My personal favorite discovery from the last few years has been Zorah Wines from Armenia. Zorik Gharibian founded the winery after visiting his native country, from which he fled Soviet rule as a child. The region of Vayots Dzor is home to the Areni-1 Cave that is thought to be the oldest winemaking facility in the world, dating back more than 6,000 years. Zorah works with the ancient native varieties Voskeat, Garandmak and Areni Noir. The vineyards are incredibly old and grown at altitudes of around 5,000 feet, where they struggle for nutrients in the poor, rocky soils. The resulting wines are infinitely complex and unique, with incredible minerality. They are truly fascinating wines with an incredible story that, in a way, is just now beginning to be told.

Amy Racine

Wine director
701West, New York
Best of Award of Excellence

I am not the biggest orange wine person, but one that I’ve really come to love is from Channing Daughters. They’re in Long Island. They make this great [cuvée called] Ramato, and it’s a skin-contact Pinot Grigio. It’s traditionally a Friulian style, it has this coppery kind of color to it and this rosy, lemon oil, orange oil perfume to it. And it’s really clean; it’s not super funky and chewy like a lot of orange wines can be. It’s really fun. It’s vegan, and they were one of the founders of the Long Island Sustainable Winegrowing viticulture program. And they really, really care about the environment and giving back.

Anthony Wesley

Wine director
McNinch House Restaurant, Charlotte, N.C.
Award of Excellence

Everyone loves dessert, but when it comes to dessert wines, that’s a finicky territory. The most fuss is about dessert wine being too sweet—of course dessert wines are sweet—but some people are able to experience that the dessert tends to lessen the sweetness of the wine. The Coal Miner Robinson Run No. 95 Sweet Red 2016, a Merlot/Cabernet/Syrah from Brower Family Wines in Monterey, is just perfect for all. The sweetness is mellow, soft and smooth, and goes well with practically any dessert. It’s dedicated to coal miners with health issues upon closure of the mines, and 50 percent of proceeds goes toward helping those families.

Daniel Tucker Jr.

Wine director
Elements, Princeton, NJ
Best of Award of Excellence

I’d probably go with something like Castello di Verduno Basadone. This wine comes from the Pelaverga Piccolo grape, which is pretty cool in and of itself, producing light-bodied wines with inviting red fruit, pepper and floral notes. Basadone is local [Piedmontese] dialect for the poppy flower and also means “little kiss.” It is rumored to be an aphrodisiac. The estate is a landmark of beautiful castle structures overlooking La Morra.

Gretchen Allen

Wine director
The Cheyenne Club, Saratoga, Wyo.
Best of Award of Excellence

Moving forward after COVID, health will be a gift in and of itself. Commandaria St. John is a very special sweet wine from Cyprus, which carries the folklore of being the one of the oldest wines in the world. Because it is aged in a solera system, there is essentially a drop of wine in every bottle that dates back to the Crusades. Makes toasting to a long life special indeed.

What are you asking for this year? Or giving?

Peter Carillo

Wine director
Angler, Los Angeles
Best of Award of Excellence

I’m hoping my stocking is stuffed with Pierre Poupon maps of Burgundy.

Richard Hanauer

Wine director
RPM Restaurants
Best of Award of Excellence

I’m giving 2019 Bordeaux futures. I think that there is a lot to look forward to, and a lot to remember from years past, and that is what futures are all about ... no one will mind skipping 2020. The gift of a case of Bordeaux futures is classy, thoughtful, and 2019 looks like an exceptional vintage with approachable pricing.

Swati Bose

Co-owner and wine director
Flight Wine Bar, Washington, D.C.
Best of Award of Excellence

This has been on my list to give for many years, but I am finally doing it. I am getting a Champagne saber for my partner, [Flight co-owner] Kabir [Amir]. It is something that is fun and not serious, but the saber itself is not inexpensive, and so I have hesitated. But he turns the big five-oh this year, and we were nominated as James Beard semifinalists … so regardless of what happens in the world, maybe we can get a saber!

More 2020 Gift Guide

See More

What to Give … An Enthusiastic Newbie

Dec 15, 2020

Bottles to Uncork, Bottles to Unwrap

Dec 15, 2020

A Corkscrew Obsession

Dec 11, 2020

2020 Gift Guide: Cheese

Nov 30, 2020

2020 Gift Guide: Coffee

Nov 30, 2020

2020 Gift Guide Sommelier Holiday Picks Gifts and New Products Orange Wines Red Wines Sparkling Wines Sweet Wines Christmas and Hanukkah

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