I thought it would never happen, but phew, here it is, our 2021 Holiday Gift Guide, chock full of wine and spirits for the holidays and year ’round.
We sampled several wines, both sparkling and still, and here are our recommendations.
More than a decade ago, I traveled to Italy for a wine conference. I was one of the speakers that year, and I had the good fortune to meet and spend time with a couple who have become two of my dearest friends. Paul and Merrill Bonarrigo launched Messina Hof Winery in Bryan, Texas. I have visited there several times, and have witnessed their growth into Texas Hill country Grapevine, and now on the outskirts of Houston. Whenever someone turns their nose up at Texas wine, I ask them to taste Messina Hof. They have garnered awards far too numerous to mention. A grape we discovered mutually in Italy is Sagrantino. Paul has planted several acres in his home vineyard, and the wine is stunning. Deep and earthy, this is a wine that will hold its own against any hearty dish. $65-
I first tasted a Merry Edwards Pinot Noir a little over a year ago and I was blown away. They offer several different vineyard designates, as well as a Chardonnay, and each is exceptional. The 2019 Bucher Vineyard Pinot Noir is elegant, powerful and beautifully balanced. It sells for $63. The 2019 Meredith Estate has firm tannins great structure. These are pure examples of Pinot Noir and are certain to bring a smile to any Pinot lover’s face. Meredith Estate goes for $80-
Ring in the New Year without bubbles? A sacrilege! I have a couple of options for you. The Valdo Cuvée 1926 is elegantly presented, yet extremely affordable at $25. Look for notes of ripe apple, pear, and peach. Juvé & Camps Reserva de la Familia Gran Reserva 2017 is a superior Cava with an impressive heritage. Expect aromas of ripe white fruits with hints of fennel, toast, and citrus. $23.
E. Guigal Côtes du Rhône Rouge brings all you’d expect from a quality Rhône wine. Syrah based, it’s a deep red and intensely aromatic. You’ll find it very fruit-forward with a long and satisfying finish. $18-
I offer three Italian classics from Zenato. Their 2020 San Benedetto Lugano white is a mere $16, yet offers citrus on the nose with peach, bananas, and herbs on the palate. The 2020 Alanera Rosso Veronese is made from the Corvina grape and is reminiscent of dried cherries and prunes. $15- Finally, the 2017 Ripassa Valpolicella Superiore is a splendid Amarone, made from grapes allowed to raisin on the vine. Look for notes of blackcurrant syrup and baking spice. Yum! $30-
Did someone say spirits? Davidson Reserve offers four magnificent whiskies. Their Tennessee Straight Rye Whiskey, Tennessee Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Four Grain Small Batch Tennessee Straight Bourbon Whiskey, and Small Batch Tennessee Straight Sour Mash Whiskey. I enjoy these over ice with a tiny splash of water. These are truly exceptional whiskies that can hold their own with the best of them! Prices range from $35 a bottle and up.
We need something to pair with all that wine. May I recommend Sassy Mama’s Mustards, Fruit Butters, and Chutneys? Artisan crafted and lovingly made, They pair perfectly with cheese, waffles, crackers, and some of the butters are delightful over vanilla ice cream! Prices start at $10, and there are holiday specials. Mustard flavors include The Spirit of St. Bourbon, Elixir of Sassiness, and Sage Coach. Chutneys includes Lemon Jalapeño, and Mango Pineapple, and there are fruit butters like Cranberry/Maple and Pumpkin/Apple.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!