Guest post from Leslee Miller, Sommelier & Wine Consultant, owner of Amusée. Leslee shares with us her top 10 wine gifts for this holiday season. Learn more about Leslee and Amusée, here.
First, let’s start with this delightful batch of crispy white gems.
#10 ~ Coto de Gomariz ‘The Flower & the Bee’ Treixadura ~ Ribeira, Spain
From the moment I tasted this zippy little gem, I was hooked! For a mere $13 retail, I was instantly impressed with the wine’s ability to bring such depth from its fresh, bright, sunny disposition. A white for those who are looking to ‘skip their Pinot Grigio borders’ and jump into Spain. Grape: Treixadura (pronounced Tre-shja-doora) A great gift for your Mom in Law, Bestie or Office Assistant!
#9 ~ A wine by Portuguese Quinta da Raza Winery: Dom Diogo Arinto ~ Vinho Verde, Portugal
Not your sister’s $5 Vinho Verde, that’s all I have to say. Grape: Arinto Another GEM at just $12 retail and a ONE BANG for your BUCK kind of wine! Fresh green apple skin, white florals and zesty peach skin make this one Portuguese white you’ll crave! A perfect gift for your book club besties or your favorite career/business mentor. New grapes for a new year – yes? Get to sippin’!
#8 ~ Jermann’s Pinot Grigio
A winery founded in 1881 by Anton Jermann, an Austrian who left his home country to grow grapes in northern Italy. Today, produces some of the world’s most coveted Italian wines from the family winery, Jermann. The second I tasted Jermann’s Pinot Grigio, I knew I had tasted the best Pinot Grigio of my life. This wine is almost as if acid and velvet had a baby! Sounds weird, I know. But when a wine feels this balanced, yet makes your mouth water for so much more — you know you’ve struck gold! Think you know Pinot Grigio? Try again. Not inexpensive, closer to a cool $40 – but worth every drop. Who to give it to? A great BOSS gift! Or really, should be given to ‘that guy’ that thinks he knows only culty-point scored wines. A kind of ‘double dog dare’ wine that will win you big points in the office!
#7 ~ Woodchuck USA customized wine journal
Next category? Objects of my obsession!
I keep a series of books that hold every wine I’ve ever consumed with notes as to my travels, my favorite food & pairings, future wine event ideas and more. As an English Literature major, my fondness for written language will never fade. Which is why…I collect a very fun series of journals, so that when the last one is full, I’m ready to fill the next. With a little plug for some local love, #7 on my list goes to Woodchuck USA. A very cool hand seller of custom wood products. Ahhh, and because EVERYONE needs a wine journal.
#6, I give you G.D. Vajra’s Italian ‘Langhe’ Riesling
Secondly, I love RIESLING! Can I say that loud enough? There is truly nothing like the brilliance and ethereal beauty in a glass of well made Riesling. A gorgeous dry Riesling, most days, trumps just about every other grape on the scale for me. But this past year, I had a gorgeous Riesling grown in a very unusual spot for Riesling to be grown, Italy!
From an area of the world that gives the majority of its love to the grape: Nebbiolo, this little beauty appears. I had the distinct pleasure of tasting this family made wine with the winery owner’s daughter, Francesca, one of THE most polished humans I have met in the wine-growing industry. Passionate, strong and connective to every ounce of her family’s winery, she told story upon story of her family’s wine & their history. At #6, I give you G.D. Vajra’s Italian ‘Langhe’ Riesling. Steely, with a good bit of crunchy minerality, backed by a gorgeous snap of lemon and lime zest. Fresh & vibrant every step of the way and unmistakably Riesling, in every sense of the grape’s name. Closer to $40 again, but certainly a wine well worth the price. Who to gift it to? YOURSELF! Always wondered why wine professionals adore this grape? Give the G.D. Vajra a taste and you’ll know why.
#5, Le Mesnil’s ‘Gran Cru’ 2005 Prestige ~ Champagne, France.
Next obsession? BUBBLES! From Champagne to Cava, Sekt to American sparklers, I am one girl that always has a few varieties on hand when it comes to the almighty sparkler. And while we absolutely do taste through some amazing bubbles in the industry year after year, one of my favorite regions for this ‘tiny little bubble’ is still…Champagne. (Stay tuned, our blog for some of the industry’s favorite NYE bubbles is coming!) But until then, sink your teeth into this stunning sipper. At #5, Le Mesnil’s ‘Gran Cru’ 2005 Prestige ~ Champagne, France.
Honestly, what I love first and foremost about this little baby, is that it is made in a small grower situation. While the winery, yes, does sell a good deal of its grapes to other houses, they always save the best for their own production. Made from 100% Chardonnay (don’t forget to enjoy this bubbly from its proper glass, a Burgundy glass), this mouth watering sparkler will have you hook, line and sinker. Best part? It’s just less than $70. An absolute STEAL for a vintage Champagne of this quality! Who to give it to? Yes, of course, YOU AGAIN but really — if you’re going to share, this is the perfect hostess gift! Also, for that newlywed couple on your list, or for special someone that you just can’t say ‘thank you’ enough to for all they do in your life. Yum, yum, yum and YUM!
#4 ~ San Felice’s Pugnitello
Next on my list? A wine I’ve just discovered, and two, a wine made by my favorite winemaker this year.
Coming in at #4, let’s talk about the wine I just met. San Felice’s Pugnitello. The grape: Pugnitello, is an ancient Tuscan grape that the property of San Felice (located in the district of Chianti Classico) has invested its time & money into over the past two decades. And, a grape that the winery literally banked a majority of their future on. To top it off, a grape that will absolutely blow your mind! Like BIG reds, or better yet — think you know Tuscan wines? Try this jaw-dropping beast! Loaded with nettle, dried grass, sun dried hay notes, black cherry, anise, blackberry, raspberry, asphalt and violet — this wine will have you smacking your lips into next Sunday. For the cool $60 it asks for in a retail setting, THIS is the wine that one should give if you’re in the business of impressing someone. To all those snotty winos out there, this one’s for you!
#3 ~ Matthew Rorick’s Forlorn Hope ‘Suspiro del Moro’ Alvarelhão
At #3, a wine that comes from my favorite winemaker meeting this year. Matthew Rorick’s Forlorn Hope ‘Suspiro del Moro’ Alvarelhão. Just east of the Napa Valley in an AVA by the name of, Suisun Valley, Mr. Rorick is quietly changing the face of California wine from a small 1,000 case winery. By far, one of my favorite tastings of the year, not only from the perspective of the wines, laid sku after sku in front of me with a path and a story behind each wine, but because of the character, himself, that makes them. One of the most interesting, charming, brilliant new world wine minds I have met in so long. Full of intrigue, humility & wit, Matthew Rorick has to be one of my favorite winemakers to date from the newest wave of California winemaking.
In fact, here was my Instagram post of Matthew’s visit:
Mic Drop. Mind Blown! Matthew Rorick, you are my forever wine hero. 21 @forlornhopewine(s) for breakfast & there are still a few more back at the warehouse. THESE are the days, the tastings, the people, the experiences & the wines that leave me feeling so alive in my industry. Thanks for leaving the wine world that much better of a place, Matthew. You are truly a #wineunicorn!
Twenty-one wines later and a full run through Matthew’s portfolio, the Suspiro del Moro (grape: Alvarelhão) was my favorite. Lush, with notes of sun-ripened raspberry, strawberry, soft velvet, fresh rose, violet and bits of fresh herb – THIS was the wine that became my go ‘house’ wine after my meeting with him. And by ‘house’, I’m not talking restaurant glass list, I’m talking MY HOUSE wine. And, a wine still to this moment that I crave at the end of almost every week of work. Every time I show it to someone? Their reaction, the same, ‘Wow’! While the grape is most notably grown in Portugal, do not dismiss the fact that this same grape is grown with brilliance from the hands of Mr. Matthew Rorick in Californian soil. A gem and another immaculate steal at approx. $60 retail (if you can find it).
Last but certainly not least, TWO of the greatest wine gifts you can give all year round:
#2 ~ An Amusée Wine Class
At #2, give the gift of an Amusée wine class! From wine and yoga, to grape varietals, to our popular Female Tastemaker’s dinners, to my longtime Cooks of Crocus Hill food and wine pairing classes with Chef Mike Shannon, THIS is the gift for the person in your life that really enjoys wine, wants to know wine better or just wants to come and enjoy wine with other people that might like wine. Pick a date, a location, a time or simply buy a gift certificate for that special someone that loves wine.
#1 ~ In Home Sommelier OR Chef and Sommelier Catered Wine Tasting or Dinner
At #1, the gift of an In Home Sommelier OR Chef and Sommelier catered dinner or wine tasting party! That’s right, purchase an Amusée gift certificate today for any amount and gift it to…your significant other that has EVERYTHING or that special couple that means the most to you, Mom & Dad, or better yet, donate it to a neighborhood school, hospital or church fundraising charity, so they can auction it off towards a wonderful cause. Give the gift of an Amusée event and we’ll do the rest with your recipient — plan, tailor and execute one of the greatest wine experiences they’ve ever had!
A very Merry Christmas, you all and a very very Happy New Year! An enormous thank you to all who continue to love & support this little company that I’ve spent well over a decade growing. And, to the industry partners that I have had the honor of partnering with and have the ability of sharing your amazing stories and grape juice with others, thank you. Salut!