We invited Ben Hammer, a passionate wine drinker and foodie, to contribute this guest post on how to think about wine choices. Ben is a strategic communications advisor for technology, media and entertainment companies. His firm, Hammer Strategies, is based in Washington, D.C.
By Ben Hammer
The holidays often stir up memories of presents that brought excitement to young lives — a remote-controlled sports car, pint-sized toy kitchen, or a new pet. Now, as we get older, we often exchange bottles of our favorite refreshment with friends and business partners. Whether you’re catching up with old friends or attending a special holiday dinner, a top-notch bottle of wine is an excellent gift to spread cheer. So, what are some options for giving an extra special bottle of wine to tell someone they’re an important part of your life? We asked some wine experts for their views. Here’s what they told us:
Shem Hassen, Co-Owner, Arrowine in D.C. and Arlington, Va.
$150: Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru, Domaine Denis Peret et Fils 2012
A lot of Corton-Charlemagne is very rich price-wise, but this is a lot more reasonable. And the minerality and acidity is so precise. It’s like drinking champagne without the bubbles.
$160: Cade Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain, Napa, CA 2011
This is the second label to PlumpJack. If you try this one compared with a second growth bordeaux, this is good, something you can drink right away – not like you have to wait 10 years. It’s something you can open right away and drink without wasting a lot of money.
$300-$600: Mommessin Clos de Tart Grand Cru Monopole, Cote de Nuits, France
If you love Burgundy, and when you get to the Grand Crus, you stop there, it’s like Clos de Tart is one of the pioneers of wine-making, from 1100 [AD]. They make only one wine, it’s not like everyone else. Once in a while they make a second if they have extra left over.
Dean Myers, Sommelier, Brasserie Beck, Washington, DC
$65: A great gift idea for a client would be a bottle of Justin Vineyards & Winery Isosceles, Paso Robles. This is the wine that put the Paso Robles powerhouse on the map, and a wine I continually come back to. Cabernet Sauvignon blended with a touch of Cabernet Franc and Merlot, it’s Bordeaux-inspired but with California drinkability both now and later. I found 2010 on shelves the other day, but 2011 is the current release.
$600-$750 (magnum): If you’re like me, opening a bottle of wine is about sharing it with those who are close to me and who will appreciate what’s on the inside of the bottle. So when buying for a special meal, I go big or go home (literally). Buy a magnum and be that more popular. In this case, something that goes with a holiday meal and will warm you up from the temperatures outside, I’d go with 1.5 Liters of Chapoutier Hermitage Le Pavillion. 2011 is out now and got 100 points from ol’ Bobby Parker. But for drinking now, the older you can find, the better.
Tami Hatridge, Landini’s, Old Town Alexandria, VA:
$1,000-$1,500: Domaine Armand Rousseau Pere et Fils Chambertin Grand Cru, Cote de Nuits, France
“A very complete wine even at this young stage. Dark fruits, blackberries, herbs, minerals and spicy flavours. Generous mid-palate with velvety tannins and long finish. Love the silky texture of this wine,” says Jeannie Cho Lee, Master of Wine at Asian Palate.
$4,000: Magnum of same (Domaine Armand)
Christianna Sargent, Sommelier, Coppi’s organic, Cleveland Park, DC; and rep. with Monsieur Touton Selections:
$89: Errazuriz Don Maximiano Founders Reserve, Chile
“The 2007 Don Maximiano Founder’s Reserve is composed of 82% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Petit Verdot, 6% Cabernet Franc, and 6% Syrah that spent 20 months in new French oak. A glass-coating opaque purple color, it surrenders an enticing nose of toasty new oak, graphite, scorched earth, cinnamon, clove, violets, blueberry, and blackberry. On the palate, it reveals a suave personality that combines elegance and power. Impeccably balanced, it has the structure to evolve for 4-6 years and should provide pleasure through 2027,” writes Robert Parker in The Wine Advocate, scoring it a 93.
$140: Quintessa Red, Rutherford, Calif.
“Attractive wine to drink young – green herbs and capsicum notes with dark berry fruit. Wine offers fresh acidity and firm tannins with mid-palate that is slightly hollow. Most blocks were picked before the big rain. There was an optical sorter used during harvest in this wet vintage. Tasted in: Napa Valley, USA,” says Asian Palate’s Jeannie Cho Lee.
$100-$250: Rene Bouvier Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru, Cote de Nuits, France, 2005-2012
$221 (half bottle): 1983 Avignonesi Vin Santo di Montepulciano, Tuscany, Italy
Any wine that’s high-end from them. “Indicative blend: Grechetto, Malvasia Toscana, Trebbiano. This is the second most highly rated Vin Santo wine (based on critic scores): the 1997 vintage was given a score of 97 out of 100 by The Wine Advocate; and the 1999 vintage was given a score of 97 out of 100 by Wine Spectator. Ranked second for number of awards won among wines from this region: the Vinibuoni d’Italia awarded the 1999 vintage Golden Star and the 1998 vintage Corone,” says Wine-Searcher.com.
$400 (half bottle): 2001 Chateau d’Yquem, Sauternes, France
“This beautiful Sauternes offers intense aromatics packed with overripe pineapple drenched in honey, roasted nuts, apricots, nectarines, white peach, flowers, orange rind and honey in the complex perfume. Thick, rich and intense, with the viscosity of motor oil, along with tropical fruit dripping with honey and the perfect amount acidity to give this elixir life, 2011 Chateau d’Yquem is majestic,” says the Wine Cellar Insider.
$185-$750 and $1,000-$10,000: Blandy’s Bual Madeira 1905, 1863 or 1864
“Critics have rated this as the best available among Madeira wines… Ranked second for number of awards won among wines from this region: the International Wine & Spirit Competition awarded the 1969 vintage Gold Outstanding; the Decanter World Wine Awards awarded the 1969 vintage Gold; and the Decanter World Wine Awards awarded the 1968 vintage Gold,” says Wine-Searcher.com.