What to Buy a Winemaker as a Gift

As I look at my receipt from The Wine Club shop in San Francisco, I could have regrets for tagging along with my friend who is a supplier to the wine industry while he bought gifts for his winemaker clients. But no. It was highly educational.

Think of the challenge: you need to buy a gift for a winemaker, and it should be wine. But the truth is that winemakers often develop a jaded palate from drinking their own wines (or wines from other wineries nearby – part of the research, you know). So this is an opportunity to think through ways that you can introduce a winemaker to something special and unique.

We headed to The Wine Club, located on Harrison Street in San Francisco. It’s long had a reputation for great selection and fair prices. I ran into one of my fellow wine reviewers there, so that’s some indication of its quality. Once inside this almost-warehouse, the champagne section was the first stop.

As most of you who have shopped for champagne recently – the real stuff, from the Champagne district of France – a healthy credit line is a good thing to bring along. But in fact, there are many good champagnes from France that will not require a second mortgage and that’s good since no one can get one of those these days!

A Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé landed in the shopping card. $65. This is a beautiful rosé, perfect in color and possibly one of the best values for Brut Rosé. The maison has a reputation for making a steady wine that will not disappoint. Wineaccess.com calls it “delicate, impeccably balanced” and notes that “for many Champagne lovers, especially in the US, this is the house for rosé.” For those of you who are impacted by the point system: Robert Parker's Wine Advocate: 90 points, Wine Spectator: 90 points

Hailing from around the corner, but a tad less expensive at $42, the Guy Charlemagne Reserve Brut Blanc de Blancs shows characteristics of pears, caramel, with some apple and vanilla notes.

A sleeper of a value at $14 is the South African version, called Methode Cap Classique, a Chardonnay and Pinot Noir Brut from Graham Beck. I love South African wines. More on that later.

The cha-ching was already up there, so a quick trip to the Bordeaux section. Into the cart went a Sociando-Mallet 2005, a blend of 55% cabernet, 40% merlot and 5% cab franc. “A great bottle… it’s heaven”, said David Goodwin, a manager at Wine Club. $55.

We shashayed through the sauternes. Splits are really the way to go on these, otherwise a full bottle is a lot of sweetness. The Chateau La Tour Blanche 2003, with gentle honey and quince aroma, is $35 the half bottle.

Next to the Burgundy section. A 2007 Latour-Girard Mersault-Charmes at $60 was lovingly placed into the cart. This lovely wine received a 91-93 score by “Burghound”, the nom de plume of Allen Meadows who has become the definitive reviewer of Burgundies in recent years. A finance executive for 21 years, he retired to focus on his passion for burgundies. Follow him at http://www.burghound.com/

To finish the shopping, we spent a half hour at the shop’s honor-code tasting bar. They supply glasses with a red line to indicate a fair tasting pour, and you pour from the 20 or so open bottles and note what you tasted. You pay 10% of the bottle price per pour. Great concept!

If you don’t have the time now to go into San Francisco, of course they have an internet presence: http://www.thewineclub.com/. Happy wine shopping, wherever you go! Happy New Year too!
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© 2011 Barbara Keck

For more information on dining and the wide range of activities around Lake Tahoe, see the online version of
The Tahoe Weekly. This article appeared in my column "It's Grape" in January 2011.

Book in Process: " Mountain Wineries of the Sierra and Its Foothills".

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