The Wine Gift Guide

Posted by Keith Wallace

Looking for a wine gift? Here is the Wine School’s guide to the best wine gifts available!

Table of Contents

Gift a Bottle of Wine!

I want three core elements for any wine: high quality, fairly priced, and small production. I’m the type of wine curmudgeon who doesn’t bother with mass-produced wines but doesn’t want to pay for that pleasure. It’s a fine line between quality and value, but I’ve been straddling it for decades.

I also need an extra layer of complexity and decadence for my wine gift recommendations, and that’s what the following wines offer. These wine bottles won’t be in every wine shop, as they are small production wines, but they are reasonably easy to find nonetheless.

Colorful wine bottles with psychedelic art labels.

Sixto “Uncovered” Chardonnay, Columbia Valley (Washington)

Sixto 2019 "Uncovered" Chardonnay, Columbia Valley (Washington)

The Sixto ‘Uncovered’ Chardonnay, a product of a cooler, more balanced growing season, showcases finesse and character. Sourced from distinct vineyards—38% from Frenchman Hills, 31% each from Moxee and Roza Hills—this wine benefits from the unique terroir of each site. Frenchman Hills, with its ancient limestone and basalt soils at 1650 feet, contributes to the wine’s maintained acidity and long hang time for the grapes. Moxee Vineyard, at 1450 feet elevation, adds complexity with its silt loam and limestone. Lastly, Roza Hills’ loamy silt and chalk soils at 1350 feet elevation introduce a distinctive profile. This blend offers a lovely nose of lemon peel and white flowers, leading to a palate of bright citrus and floral notes. Its moderate body balances acidity and minerality, unfolding into a tangy, vibrant finish. The cooler vintage brings out incredible balance and lovely flavors, maturing elegantly over time.

The oak notes of this wine evokes the best of the season. Try this and dream of a apple pie and a big scoop of vanilla ice cream!

At the time of writing, the Sixto “Uncovered” Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, was less than $35.

Two Vintners Grenache, Columbia Valley (Washington)

Two Vintners 2020 Grenache, Columbia Valley (Washington)

Two Vintners, a renowned Washington State winery, has once again showcased its expertise with a striking Grenache. This robust yet versatile wine is a testament to the winery’s commitment to quality and innovation. Sourced from three distinct vineyards—Olsen, Boushey, and Monnete—the blend predominantly features Grenache, complemented by a modest inclusion of Cabernet Sauvignon (10%) and Cinsault (5%).

Each grape variety undergoes individual fermentation using natural yeasts, a process meticulously designed to maintain their unique characteristics. The wine’s subsequent 15-month aging in used French barrels results in a profound, mature, and dark profile, abundant in fruit flavors yet retaining the signature finesse that Morgan Lee’s wines are known for. The wine’s aromatic profile is a complex tapestry, weaving together notes of cherries, fresh strawberry sorbet, orange peel, quince, and a nuanced hint of smoked pork. On the palate, it offers a tannin-rich experience with a sweet fruitfulness, balancing freshness with a substantial structure and a lingering aftertaste. This wine embodies a juxtaposition of robust fruit intensity and refined elegance, a hallmark of Washington State wines.

Founded in 2007 by the young winemaker Morgan Lee alongside David and Cindy Lawson, Two Vintners has consistently challenged conventional wisdom in the American wine industry. Initially focusing on then-underappreciated varietals like Syrah and Merlot, the winery has proven its foresight, as these grapes have contributed to some of the state’s finest wines. Positioned near Seattle in the Pacific Northwest, Two Vintners has solidified its status as a top producer, continually experimenting with new styles and grape varieties, a strategy that has yielded significant success.

Grenache is a great gift wine. Perfect with a pot roast, especially if you rub some rosemary into your roast

Two Vintners Grenache was under $40 at the time of this review.

Zaha Cabernet Sauvignon, Toko Vineyard, Paraje Altamira (Argentina)

Zaha  2018 Cabernet Sauvignon, Toko Vineyard, Paraje Altamira (Argentina)

Alejandro Sejonovich and Jeff Mausbach, seasoned veterans in Argentinian winemaking, have come together for a new venture, Bodega Teho. Their collaborative expertise is vividly expressed in the Zaha 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon from Toko Vineyard in the Uco Valley. This wine is a compelling blend of rich, fresh fruit and intricate nuances, sourced from a vineyard that speaks volumes of its unique terroir.

The Zaha Cabernet Sauvignon presents a harmonious balance of juicy black cherries and tarry notes, intermingled with roasted spices, hints of figs, and fresh herbs. On the palate, it offers a generosity matched by a structure of fine-grained, fresh tannins, suggesting its potential for both immediate enjoyment and aging. The wine’s profile is further enriched with deep, unctuous dark fruit, blueberry, and Asian spice flavors, complemented by decadent dark chocolate and mocha notes that persist through the finish.

Toko Vineyard, named “Stone” in the Huarpe language, is situated at an altitude of 4,000 feet in Paraje Altamira. The diversity of its soil profile, a result of varied alluvial activity, contributes significantly to the wine’s complexity. Spread over 7.5 hectares, the vineyard comprises four distinct soil types — silty northern soils, southern coarse-grained sands, rocky limestone, and silty soils with light gravel. Each soil type imparts a unique array of aromas, flavors, and textures to the grapes, culminating in a wine that truly embodies the heart and soul of Paraje Altamira’s privileged terroir.

A good value Cabernet like the Zaha is a great gift; I’ll be sipping this when the in-laws are in the kitchen and the kids are playing Mario Kart.

Zaha Cabernet Sauvignon, Toko Vineyard, Paraje Altamira was under $35 at the time of this review.

Vignobles Marie Maria “Greviere” Madiran

Vignobles Marie Maria 2018 "Greviere" Madiran

Founded in 1950, the Crouseilles Wine Cooperative, which powers Vignobles Marie Maria, brings together 130 winegrowers and spans 658 hectares of vineyards. This includes a significant portion of the AOC Madiran, making it a pivotal player in the region.

One of their most notable offerings is the 2018 Madiran”Greviere.” This wine stands as a testament to the cooperative’s dedication to quality and the potential of the Madiran region. The “Greviere” showcases a smooth, rich, and smoky texture, harmoniously weaving together layers of black-plum fruits with tight acidity that brings a juiciness to the palate. I recommend drinking in the next five years., it is a clear example of Madiran’s potential for producing good value wines with near-term aging capabilities.

Tannat is one of the most tannic wines made today. I open this bottle when I have my wine-geek friends over for dinner.

Vignobles Marie Maria “Greviere” Madiran was under $25 at the time of this review.

Chateau Lamartine “Cuvee Particuliere” Cahors

Chateau Lamartine 2018 "Cuvee Particuliere" Cahors

Château Lamartine, a name derived from a centuries-old oak tree that once sheltered romantic rendezvous at its site, has a rich heritage dating back to the 1870s. Originally, the Gayraud family, ancestors of the current owners, were stone cutters, not yet specialized in winemaking. Their transition to viticulture began in the 1920s when Edouard Sérougne, the great-grandfather of the current generation, replanted the first 5 hectares of vines. This marked the evolution of Château Lamartine from a classic farm to a dedicated winery.

The winery’s significant turning point came in 1955 with its first bottling, a major step in valorizing its wines. By 1971, under Edouard’s leadership, Château Lamartine, along with other Cahors winemakers, successfully advocated for the recognition of Cahors Wines, securing the Appellation d’Origine Protégée (AOP) status.

The Chateau Lamartine ‘Cuvee Particuliere’ Cahors blends concentrated, wood-aged richness with balance. Aromatic with black fruit, olive, and smoked thyme, this sleek red features ripe berry fruits, damson plum, and blackberry, complemented by peppery tannins, juicy acidity, and a hint of cocoa and toasted cedar. Its complex palate is both savory and vibrant, promising graceful aging.

My family in New England have given up on their boiled dinners and now opt for classical French food for celebrations. For such meals, Cahors is a wonderful choice, and will earn you respect from the sommelier.

At the time of writing, the Chateau Lamartine “Cuvee Particuliere” Cahors was less than $25.

Sommelier-Level Wine Gifts

Gift Sommelier Education!

The best sommelier certification program in the US is offered by the National Wine School. It’s the industry standard for Universities, and SOMM has called it the best sommelier program available. Unfortunately, only a handful of all wine schools have qualified to offer the program, so unless you college-aged, you may never get the chance to take these programs.

We are the only East Coast school to offer these programs, both in class and an online sommelier course! If you have wine-loving folks on your gift list, send them one of our gift certificates?  They will love it.

Sommelier-Crafted Candles

Old City Canning Co.

When Stanford told me his plans for Old City Canning Co, I was skeptical. Why’s this dude making candles?  But then he busted one out, and it all made sense.

The guy’s aced his Sommelier certification and is only a few months from earning his Advanced Somm degree, too. He knows scents as few people do.  And he’s killing it.   “Campfire” is a personal favorite, but the “Driftwood & Moss” is a fantastic background scent for dinner, especially if you pop open a bottle of Pinot Noir.

Philly-made candles hand-crafted by a Sommelier? This is an awesome gift.  Check it out here:

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Swarovski Encrusted Wine Key

During last summer’s Wine Instructor Certification program, one of the top sommeliers in the program pulled out this bad boy, and I was smitten with the bling. I’ve been using one ever since, especially when famous winemakers visit. It’s pretty much guaranteed to banish all snobbery from the proceedings.   Check it out here:

Wine Gift Books

Is it wrong to still love books so much? 

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Hungover: The Morning After and One Man’s Quest for the Cure

A delightful trip down memory lane. Or more precisely, a stumble down the murky recollections of one saucy author. Shaughnessy Bishop-Stall delves deep into the myths and traditions of the morning after. Written with wit and backed with solid academic research, Hungover is the book we all will need this holiday season.   Via Amazon.

Tasting the Past

Science writer Kevin Begos (Scientific American, New York Times) has crafted an epic journey into the center of wine history. This book is now the defacto standard for teaching wine history at the Wine School.  A deep and compelling book that barbecues some sacred cows while serving up some much-needed scientific rigor. Bravo! Amazon Link

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How to Import Wine, Second Edition

Starting in the early ’90s, Deborah Gray was importing top-tier wines from Australia to the United States. She introduced Schild Estate and Torbreck to American wine lovers long before the low-rent kangaroos jumped across the globe.

Since released in 2011, the first edition has been the essential guide to wine importing. Many laws and procedures have changed in the past seven years, and this edition is a welcome update. If you are thinking of importing (or exporting) wine, this book will be a critical part of your education. Amazon link

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101 Wines to Try Before You Die

This year, some of our suggestions for wine books have been extremely geeky. That comes with the terroir, kiddo. If you are looking for a more hedonistic read, I’d suggest 101 Wines. Be warned: make sure you have a few bucks in your pocket before you pick it up: you’ll be tempted to buy every wine in this book.

I have a deep respect for Marget Rand, and her wine choices are well-considered. If all you drink are these 101 wines, then you’ve lived well.   Amazon link

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Whiskey America

If you’ve been around the world of whiskey, then the name Michael Jackson will drop you into the golden realm of single-malt nostalgia. He was the poet laureate of all things whisk(e)y, and his book, The Complete Guide to Single Malt Scotch, was the trade’s bible.  

With his passing in 2007, the authorship of the tome went to Dominic Roskrow. Over the past few years, he’s come out of Jackson’s shadow and is rightfully known as the greatest living whiskey writer.

If you want to keep up with ongoing trends in American Whiskey, pick up this book. It is one of the top reference books I use for my bourbon tasting classes—Amazon link

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The Bourbon Bible

Eric Zandona has an awesome job. He’s the Director of Spirits Information for the American Distilling Institute, a trade group for craft distillers.  He also writes for their in-house publishing group, White Mule Press. The Bourbon Bible is perfect for the new –or newly passionate– drinker of fine bourbon.  The history, the essential bottles, and a compendium of great cocktails are between the pages—Amazon link.

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