holiday Gift Guide - leslie Sbrocco

Holiday Gift Guide 2018

It’s the heart of the holiday season and if you’re still looking for gifts or bottles to pour at parties to ring in 2019, here are some of my favorites from a year of tasting and traveling.

Cheers!

 

Affordable Party Wines

cashmere red wine particular carinena pizzolato fields prosecco

2016 Bodegas San Valero ‘Particular’ Cariñena, Spain $10

Not only is Cariñena one of Spain’s best value wine regions, it’s also the name of a grape variety. This spicy red is ideal for pairing with just about any food. Buy it by the case.

Pizzolato Fields Prosecco DOC, Treviso, Italy $10

Made with organically-grown Glera grapes, this is a bargain for bubbly drinkers.

2016 Cashmere Red Wine, California $15

From Sonoma’s Cline family comes a crowd-pleasing blend of red Rhone varieties. With a splash of holiday color, the packaging is stylish for gift-giving, too.

 

Splurge-Worthy Bubbly

 

domaine palmer & co

 

Palmer & Co Brut Reserve Champagne, France $60

If you love sparkling wine as much as I do, Palmer is a worthy discovery. Its class and complexity are apparent in every sip of this glorious Champagne.

Domaine Carneros ‘Jardin d’Hiver’ Ultra Brut, Carneros, California $59

The New World outpost of Champagne superstar, Taittinger, Domaine Carneros crafts bubbles that rank among the best in the world. This limited-edition sparkling is a treat for any time of the year.

 

Impress for Less than $25

 

 

J California Cuvée, California $25

A beautiful bubbly to span the seasons, the J is crisp and juicy. Ideal by itself to indulge before dinner, it’s layered and structured enough to pour throughout a meal.

2017 Susana Balbo ‘Brioso’, Valle de Uco-Mendoza, Argentina $24

Lush and full with a kiss of oak, this blend of Semillón, Torrontés and Sauvignon Blanc is a statuesque white that is imposing yet alluring.

2010 LAN Gran Reserva, Rioja, Spain $24

There is no better value in the red wine world than Gran Reserva Rioja. With years of aging, this smooth red is worth twice the price.

 

Diamonds of Napa Valley

 

groth

 

2015 Lyndenhurst Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California $85

This vibrantly supple wine offers chance to see why Spottswoode is one of Napa Valley’s classic stars and one of its iconic wine producers.

2016 Shafer Vineyards TD-9, Napa Valley, California $60

In an ode to the history of the famed winery, this lush blend is named for the TD-9 tractor John Shafer used when he started the iconic property in the 1970s. If you really want to splurge pick up a bottle of their Hillside Select ($295). It’s is one of my choices ‘Best Cabernet Sauvignon in the World’ status.

Listen to my podcast with Doug Shafer to find out more about their history (and mine).

2015 Groth’Reserve’ Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California $150

If I scored wine, this one would deserve a perfect 100 points. It has everything a world-class Cabernet should have – structure, dark-fruited intensity, cellar worthiness, and impeccable balance. Love.

Special Spirits

Pierre Ferrand ‘Ambré’ Premier Cru Cognac, France $80

As one of Cognac’s most celebrated producers, this silky, medium-bodied, aromatic version from Pierre Ferrand is an ideal way to begin exploring the beauty of Cognac.

Suntory Hibiki Whisky, Limited-Edition Bottle, Japan $115 

In my opinion, Hibiki is the pinnacle of Japanese whisky with its elegance and style. This stunning Limited-Edition bottle is a piece of art. Drink the whisky then save the bottle.

El Tesoro Añejo Tequila, Mexico $55 

I just returned from a visit to El Tesoro. What an amazing spot to see. Using traditional methods to craft tequila from the Jalisco Highlands, this creamy, vanilla-scented spirit with a touch of herbal freshness is aged in bourbon barrels for up to three years. Indulge yourself…you’re worth it.

Gift Sets

 

Have you ever tried wines from Virginia? You should. A historic wine region with a modern twist, it’s an emerging hot spot with wines that are garnering attention. One of the producers to look for is Early Mountain in the Blue Ridge Mountains. It’s a winery to watch.

2016 Early Mountain Vineyards, ‘Foothills’ blend, Virginia $27 

A supple red blend led by Merlot and Petit Verdot with a mélange of other varieties including the white grape, Petit Manseng. Delicious.

2017 Early Mountain Vineyards, Rosé, Virginia $25 

As a pink wine fan, I’m always on the hunt for swoon-worthy versions and found one in this delectable sipper. It’s like a ray of sunshine – drinking a glass just puts a smile on your face.

*****

“Eat Chocolate, Drink Wine”, Cliff Family Winery $75

This delectable bundle includes a bottle of the 2016 Gary’s Improv Zinfandel, as well as three tins of Cliff Family dark chocolate goodies. Let me tell you…the chocolate-covered Toffee Pistachios are fabulous (and I’m pretty sure they’re very good for you).

*****

The category of Cider is growing. The best versions are succulent, racy and complex. Eden Specialty Ciders from Vermont is creating excitement with their wide range of sips. Working with heritage apple varieties, their high-quality ciders even include a Rosé style. Sign me up.

Eden Heirloom Blend Ice Cider $25

Eden’s Heirloom Ice Cider takes up to three years to produce and you can taste the care that goes into this decadently delicious drink.

Eden Dry Sparkling Heritage Cider, Extra Sec $15

As a lover of all things bubbly, this sparkling Cider won my heart. It’s tangy and dry with a juicy kick. A wonderful way to begin your Cider journey.

 

Stocking Stuffers and More!

 

 

Traveling Vineyards ‘Three Hearts’ Rosé, Pays d’Oc, France $19

The result of my partnership with Traveling Vineyard is a dry pink wine named for the special relationship I share with my mom and daughter. Who are your three hearts? Share a bottle with them this season!

Repour Winesaver $9 

This wine preserver is easy to use and effective. It’s a must-have for any wine drinker.

Wine Nots $10

Who wants wine stains on their teeth? You don’t need to worry about that with stocking-stuffer worthy Wine Nots.

Marin Cheese Company, Baked Brie en Croute $15

When I tasted this creamy round of deliciousness, I was ready to eat the whole thing myself! You will too.

 

Boozy Books

Last but not least, if you want to read about wine as WELL as drink it, try these two awesome reads.

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Get Your Boo-ze On with these Halloween Wine Picks

It’s Halloween so let’s get our BOO-ze on!!

 

D.I.P – 2014 Drink in Peace Merlot – Flora Springs, Napa Valley $130

Flora Springs is known for their spectacular Halloween-themed wines and this year’s Drink in Peace does not disappoint. Housed in a spooky casket, this darkly saturated, plum-colored Merlot from Rutherford offers a black currant and raspberry-scented nose and a palate dominated by rich black cherry fruit, spicy oak, toasty vanilla and cedary smoke.  This is a full-bodied, seamlessly styled Merlot that will drink well for the next 10-15 years.

 

2016 Ghost Winery Malbec, Flora Springs, Napa Valley $60

 Flora Springs has the distinction of being home to one of Napa Valley’s original “ghost wineries” – wineries built between 1860 and 1900 but abandoned in the early 20th century due to the triple threat of the vine disease phylloxera, the Great Depression, and of course Prohibition.

This Malbec offers a cauldron of forward black cherry, blackberry and blueberry along with spellbinding notes of leather, coffee and tobacco. A trickster’s treat for Halloween!

 

2015 LVE Red – Legend Vineyard Exclusive, Napa Valley $50

The LVE Red Blend has rich aromas of Santa Rosa plum, Bing cherry and a hint of pepper. The harmonious blend of weighty tannins with the a fruity suppleness creates a complete wine with length and persistence on the palate. Notes of cocoa nibs and coffee accent the finish on this dark and mysterious Halloween pick.

 

 

2015 Rabble Red Wine, Rabble Wine Company, Paso Robles $16

 “We cannot command nature except by obeying her.” This red blend is a blend of carefully sourced grapes from the wine region of Paso Robles, CA and is truly a terrifying tempest.

 

2017 Casillero del Diablo – Red Blend – Concha Y Toro, Chile $10

 Concha y Toro presents another date with the devil for Halloween this year, with their 2017 Red Blend. This wine has a velvety smooth and balanced texture, highlighting mild tannins with hints of toast and spice, followed by a satisfying finish.

 

2013 Alba de Domus, Miapo Valley, Chile $20

This Chilean blend offers chocolate and orange zest, underscored with leather and balsamic hints to create a spookily delicious finish.

 

Brut Sparkling Wine, Dark Horse, CA $13

 It’s not a Halloween party with a bottle of bubbles. These are deliciously dry with citrus undertones, yet are housed in a dark and mysterious bottle. A perfect toast on a dark and stormy Halloween night.

 

2017 9 Lives Reserve Sauvignon Blanc , San Pedro, Chile $10

 El Gato Negro -the black cat- has prowled the vineyards of Viña San Pedro for years. In homage, the winemakers toasted the mysterious feline with their 9 Lives Reserve Blend, a bright and citrusy Sauvignon Blanc that is frighteningly well-balanced.

 

2017 Pinot Grigio, Ecco Domani, Italy $10 

Dressed up for Halloween in robber’s stripes, Alice + Olivia have designed the signature spooky look for the 2017 Pinot Grigio bottle. The exotic fruit notes and lush tropical nature of the wine make this wine an absolute crime if you miss it.

 

2017 Pam’s Un-Oaked Chardonnay, Ron Rubin Winery, CA

 Another bottle dressed up for Halloween hides away inside a refreshingly fruity and light-bodied chardonnay, with a beautifully transparent, pale yellow color. It has showy fruit aromas of Asian pear and Golden Delicious apple; and, ripe citrus, like key lime and tangerine. Grab a bottle!

 

Never tricks and always treats, my wine picks will have you celebrating a truly spooky Halloween night!

 

The Today Show – Save or Splurge: 8 great red, white, rosé and sparkling wines for any budget

Whether you want to splurge on a beautiful bottle of vino to celebrate the waning days of summer or save your cash for back-to-school supplies, these wines offer options for all. These red, white, sparkling and rosé selections are perfect for any occasion, no matter how upscale or laid-back. check out my video from my appearance last week on the Today Show and then read the tasting notes on the wines below!

 

 

 

Sparkling

In a perfect world, I would have a bottle of sparkling wine every night. With Prosecco, that is possible. It’s not only one of the top places to snag affordable bubbly; the northern Italian region is home to world-class sparkling worthy of hefty price tags.

2017 Bisol ‘Cartizze’ Prosecco, Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze DOCG, Italy, $45, Bisol

Bisol is history in a glass. A producer with more than a 500-year history, they know how to craft sparkling wine. Prosecco is made with a grape named Glera and most of it is easy-drinking and enjoyable bubbly. Some, however, carrying the Superiore DOCG designation are worthy of sitting with the best in the world. This wine is made with grapes grown on the coveted hill of Cartizze and is a classy and classic sparkler.

Riondo ‘Spago Nero’ Extra Dry Prosecco DOC, Italy, $15, Riondo

One of Italy’s top-selling Proseccos has made it to America. I have to say, I have tasted a slew of affordable Prosecco, and it ranks as one of my favorites. Light and lively with a whisper of sweetness, it’s a wine to have on hand for everyday (and every night) drinking. I highly recommend buying it by the case.

Rosé

France is known as the premier producer of dry pink wines, but these two bottles show top-notch roses are made all over the globe.

2017 Gran Moraine Rosé of Pinot Noir, Yamhill-Carlton, Oregon, $28, Gran Moraine

Oregon’s Willamette Valley — and the Yamhill-Carlton area within it — is home to world-class Pinot Noir. This expressive pink captures an ethereal lightness and delicate floral spiciness that could only come from Pinot Noir. Gran Moraine refers to the landscape carved by devastating floods that took place in the region during the last Ice Age. In its wake was left a place that would ultimately be ideal for growing grapes. After I tasted Gran Moraine’s roster of wines, I knew this one was special.

2017 Planeta Rosé, Sicila DOC, $15, Planeta

Sicily is magical. Ancient, modern, rugged and chic are all words I use to describe this remarkable island. Wines from Sicily can be thought of in the same way. They are a juxtaposition of light and dark, savory and sweet, spicy and fruity. The famous red grape hailing from Sicily is Nero d’Avola, which produces hearty reds. But in this dry, dark-cherry scented pink, Nero d’Avola’s lighter side shines through. Paired with Syrah, it becomes a zesty, mouth-watering rosé that makes summer come alive, Sicilian-style.

Red

These two wines go head-to-head for a battle of the best barbecue reds from Golden State. One is a coveted favorite and the other from a favored and famed California family.

2016 The Prisoner red blend, Napa Valley, California, $45, The Prisoner Wine Company

With a unique label inspired by the Spanish artist Goya, this big, bold red ranks among cult favorites of California. Blending grapes from Cabernet Sauvignon to Charbono and Zinfandel to Petite Sirah, this is a fruit-driven powerhouse ideal with spicy and sweet barbecue ribs. Their newly built tasting room, The Tasting Lounge and The Makery, is sure to become a Napa destination.

2016 J. Lohr Estates ‘Los Osos’ Merlot, Paso Robles, California, $15, J. Lohr

With more than five decades of grape growing on the Central Coast and wine-making from Napa Valley to Paso Robles, the Lohr family is iconic in California. They boast a wide portfolio of wines from pricey to value-driven. This structured yet plush Merlot captures their expertise in making affordable wines taste like they cost twice the price. Delicious alongside sizzling steak, it’s a steal worth stocking up on for summer (and fall) sipping.

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White

Chardonnay is America’s favorite white wine — and for good reason! It can be made in many styles and places worldwide. These two picks highlight high quality whether it’s a splurge or steal.

2016 Jordan Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, California, $33, Jordan Winery

Jordan is a California showpiece. With its tastefully stylish, vine-covered winery and extensive estate vineyards, the property evokes the feel of a French chateau. Known for Cabernet Sauvignon, they also craft age-worthy Chardonnay. Their elegant bottling reminds me of how California whites can successfully be French-inspired while maintaining their New World roots. This Chardonnay is crisp yet smooth with a kiss of spicy oak. A balanced beauty.

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2016 Caves de Lugny, ‘Les Charmes’ Chardonnay, Macon-Villages, France, $15, Caves de Lugny

When Chardonnay lovers crave a succulent, citrus-scented, wine-sporting freshness and complexity, I direct them to the wines of Caves de Lugny. Hailing from southern Burgundy in the Maconnais, the Caves de Lugny is a cooperative of more than 100 growers with a focus on quality. For the price, this wine simply cannot be beat. I consider “Les Charmes” the best-value Chardonnay on the market. Period.

 

 

 

Summer Sipping with Hoda Kotb and The Today Show

You know I always love a trip to NYC and the Today Show to hang with my ladies, Kathie Lee and Hoda Kotb. This time, I was with my old partner in crime, Ray Isle from Food and Wine, and we showcased our favorite summertime wines. From sparkling wine in a can and day drinking whites to sultry summer night reds and even wine in a box, we have something for everyone when the temperatures soar.

 

Day Drinking

Ray’s pick: Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay, Livermore Valley, California, $18, Wente Vineyards

This peachy, full-bodied Chardonnay from America’s oldest, continuously operated family-owned winery (founded in 1883) stays crisp thanks to the cool growing season in California’s Livermore Valley.

 

Leslie’s pick: 2017 Mar de Frades ‘Albarino Atlantico’, Rias Baixas, Spain, $20, Mar de Frades

This is one of my top summer whites because it’s the epitome of refreshing. Made with northwestern Spain’s famed Albariño grape variety and features floral aromas and a crisp citrusy flavor. An alluring ocean-blue bottle makes it as attractive to look at, as it is delicious to drink. Pair it with fresh fish to capture the feel of being alongside the water.

 

Night Sipper

Ray’s pick: Cosentino ‘The Dark’ red blend, Lodi, California, $20, Cosentino Winery

A rich red from Lodi, this peppery, plummy blend of Petite Sarah, Petit Verdot and Cabernet is dark (appropriate, given the name) and luscious, ideal for a date-night dinner.

 

Leslie’s pick: 2015 Shooting Star Zinfandel, Lake County, California, $14, Steele Wines

Winemaker Jed Steele has been crafting top Golden State wines for nearly 50 years and his experience shows in this affordable yet complex red. Hearty and full-bodied with a spicy kick, it’s the wine to ease into night when served alongside grilled meats and rich pasta dishes.

Beach Refresher

Ray’s pick: Ah-So Rosé, Spain, $19 for 4 cans, Ah-So Wines

Spain’s Navarra region produces the Garnacha grapes for this vibrant, refreshing rosé. Chill down a few four-packs of these cheeky pink cans for your next beach party — or for anywhere that glass bottles aren’t welcome.

Leslie’s pick: House Wine Brut Bubbles, American wine, $6 per can, House Wine

How often do you take bubbles to the beach? Now you can with House Wines sparkling in a can. Easy to quaff with juicy flavors that are crafted in a dry-style, this fizz is pure fun.

BBQ Pairing

Ray’s pick: Beso de Sol Sangria, Spain, $20 for a 3-liter box, Beso Del Sol Sangria

Sangria in the summer is one of Spain’s great contributions to the world! Made from Tempranillo together with the flavors of Spanish oranges, lemons and a touch of cinnamon, this juicy, all-natural sangria — delicious over ice — is also low in alcohol than regular wine (about 8.5 percent) and in calories, too (only 74 per serving).

Leslie’s pick: Bota Box Dry Rosé, California $25 for a 3-liter box, Bota Box

M. J. Wickham

This is the first boxed wine that I’ve truly fallen in love with sipping. Usually, I drink wines-in-box for the convenience, but this wine is simply succulent. Dry yet fruity with pink grapefruit and strawberry notes, it’s a wine to pair with everything … or nothing at all. The 3-liter box size stays fresh for up to a month and containing the equivalent of four bottles per box, it’s a value at around $6 per bottle. You’ll want a box in your refrigerator the whole summer long.

Aspen Food and Wine: Portugal’s Perfect Pours

Even if you can’t be with me for my Aspen Food and Wine Classic Class, check out a list of the beautiful Portuguese wines that I poured!

*****

 

 

NV Luis Pato Rosé Baga Bruto, Bairrada, Portugal ($20)

 

2017 Soalheiro Alvarino, Melgaço, Monção, Portugal ($13)

 

 

2014 Esporão Reserva Red, DOC Alentejo, Portugal ($25)

 

2014 Prats & Symington Chryseia, Duoro, Portugal ($74) 

 

 

 

2010 JM da Fonseca Alambre Moscatel, Setúbal Peninsula DOC ($22) 

 

 

Graham’s Quinta dos Malvedos 2004 Vintage Port ($62)