It is that time of year, when holiday gift shopping is on everyone’s mind. Buying a bottle of wine as a gift is not always easy. Let’s face it, there are a lot of wines out there and everyone seems to have a different taste for wine. To help out, I’ve selected three wines in the shop that I think will satisfy a broad range of palates and pocketbooks.
2008 Chateau Ste. Michelle ‘Eroica’ ($23.99)
As far as I’m concerned, there is not a better domestic off-dry Riesling for the price. ‘Eroica’ is a partnership between Washington’s Chateau Ste. Michelle and Ernie Loosen (one Germany’s most famous Riesling producers). From the outset, the goal was to produce a great American Riesling comparable to Loosen’s wines from the famed Mosel Region. The 2008 represents the tenth vintage of this wine that, over the years, has not only garnered praise from all corners of the wine world, but also played a major role in establishing Washington as a prime region for high quality Riesling. What makes the 2008 wine so compelling is its balance. The crisp apple, pear, and white peach flavors are checked by bracing acidity and piercing minerality. While this wine is technically off-dry, it is just barely—there is not even a hint of sweetness. The ‘Eroica’ is a very versatile wine and pairs well with Indian curries, Asian cuisine, seafood (especially crab cakes and scallops), and roast turkey. And, if you are so inclined, the racy acidity will permit this wine to gracefully age for at least a decade.
2008 Bethel Heights Estate Pinot Noir ($34.99)
I am truly enamored with this wine. Bethel Heights is one of the oldest vineyards in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA, part of Oregon’s Willamette Valley, and it has a long track record of producing wonderfully balanced Pinot Noirs. The 2008 vintage in the Willamette valley was a marvelous one, and Bethel Heights has hit a home run with their Estate Pinot Noir. A lush cherry fragrance with hints of spice extends to the rich flavors on the palate. This wine exhibits fantastic concentration balanced by surprising acidity. Ripe fruit flavors and an exceptionally lush mouthfeel belie the 13% alcohol. Though this wine was perfectly approachable when it was first opened, it only got better with time. This has the stuffing to age for, at least, a decade. Rarely does one encounter an Oregon Pinot Noir of such quality with less sticker shock attached. It is also worth noting that this is an Oregon Certified Sustainable Wine.
2006 Andrew Will Champoux Vineyard ($58.99)
For the money, Andrew Will is producing some of the finest Bordeaux blends in the country. Every vintage, Andrew Will garners big scores from not only Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate, but also the Wine Spectator and even Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar. Among those that follow the Washington wine scene, Andrew Will has long been considered one of the state’s top wineries (alongside the likes of Quilceda Creek and Leonetti), but outside of these wine circles, Andrew Will is hardly a household name. Perhaps it’s the winery’s small production and the relatively limited exposure of most American wine drinkers to high-end Washington wines that are to blame. Anyway, anyone who enjoys Bordeaux-style blends should take notice.
One of the great virtues of Andrew Will wines is their balance. Few wines today so perfectly span the stylistic divide between Bordeaux and Napa. Taking advantage of one of Washington’s most heralded old vine vineyards, Champoux Vineyard, the wine displays the ripe fruit character of a top-flight Napa wine, yet it also possesses the restraint and complexity of a classed-growth Bordeaux. One of the key elements to this feat is the substantial acid profile of the wine, which is much more in line with Bordeaux than Napa. The 2006 Champoux Vineyard is comprised of 57% cabernet sauvignon, 35% cabernet franc, and 8% merlot and it is a real stunner. The cabernet sauvignon is readily apparent on the nose, with dark fruit, cassis, and a hint of methol. These aromas carry over into the flavors on the palate along with undertones of cream, spices, and chocolate. Overall, this wine offers wonderful complexity, balance, a beautifully round mouthfeel, and excellent length. The 2006 Champoux Vineyard possesses a definite sense of charisma and gravitas. This will reach its peak in 3-5 years and will remain there for at least another 5 years. If consuming soon, decant for at least 3 hours.