The Hollywood Reporter’s Holiday Wine Guide for Every Type of Vino Lover
It doesn’t matter if it’s “’tis season” or not, if you don’t know which wine to buy for a client, co-worker, or holiday party, THR We are here to help you with your confusion with industry experts’ tips.
Many highly sought-after wines are difficult to find right now. “Whether it’s because people drank their cellars during lockdown, or because of a general feeling of impatience we can’t provide enough library vintages to meet the demand,” says Vanessa Conlin. She is one of 53 masters in wine in the U.S., and head of wine sales for online retailers. Wine Access (whose offerings include wine selections of Michelin-starred restaurants).
Inflation and the fact that inexpensive wines are available from overseas are also a reason why they are so popular. Chris Lucchese (sommelier, co-owner of Lucchese Wines) says that people are becoming more budget-conscious. The Somm and the Wife Wine bar and restaurant in L.A.’s Glassell Park. “Everything that matters” Planeta Sicily is known for its outstanding wines. Most, if not all of them, are under $25.” (Selections available at wine.com.)
COLLECTORS FOR HARD-TO IMPRESS
It can be difficult to choose a vintage for those who are passionate about cellaring, especially if the goal is making an impact.
Conlin says that age-worthiness is key. Look for producers with a history in complexity and improvement over time. Conlin’s top picks are the 2017 hard-to-find. Ornellaia Bolgheri Superiore Magnum is what she calls “The Godfather Of Tuscany” ($599). mywineplus.com), and the “timeless masterpiece” 2010 Chateau Margaux Margaux ($1,250, wineaccess.com). Collectors also prize another exalted producer: Vega Sicilia Selections from the Ribera Del Duero region of Northern Spain can be found at wallywine.com.
Roberto Facciolla and Lucchese Facciolla, partners and sommeliers at Brentwood’s Toscana Barolos is a great restaurant and gift choice. “Two Italian wineries make exceptional versions of these wines. Marchesi [Availableat[availableatwine.com]And Bruna Grimaldi [also available at][alsoavailableatwine.com]Lucchese says that it is the best. Gaja in Italy’s Piemonte region. (Gaja vintages are available at totalwine.com.)
Phillip Dunn, Wally’s Beverly Hills wine director, has three California recommendations for you: Screaming Eagle’s 2018 The Flight cabernet Sauvignon ($1,200), wallywine.com); 2019 Michel Rolland MR Red ($200 wallywine.com); and the 2019 Tor Beckstoffer To Kalon Cabernet Sauvignon ($375, wallywine.com). Dunn says that Tor wines are large, concentrated, well-structured, and will age well.
FOR THE HOLIDAY PARTY
Lucchese says, “You can’t go wrong when you have a classic wine from a traditional region.” Look no further than bold offerings made in L.A. California’s Hamel Family 2018 is one of the most appealing options. Nuns Canyon; Healdsburg’s 2020 Aperture cabernet sauvignon Jesse Katz, a celebrated vintner; Napa’s 2017 Mondavi reserve To Kalon Vineyard fume blanche ($170). robertmondaviwinery.com); and the 2019 Far Niente Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon.
Facciolla adds that entertainment-industry titans at Toscana are enamored with white wine varieties such as Fiano di Avellino, Greco di Tufo and Falanghina from Campania near the Amalfi Coast. He says that they are full-bodied, elegant and easy to drink. “Quintodecimo[from$60[fromklwines.com]This is a lower-cost producer of these varietals.”
Conlin suggests magnums to be used for merrymaking. She says that magnums make any gathering a celebration in a flash. Dunn agrees, “You can’t go wrong with large format.” We are always bringing that as sommeliers. I would love to do a Billecart rose magnum[$250[0wallywine.com]If you really want to impress, I have a Bollinger 15-liter[$3900[900wallywine.com]– that’s party.”
FOR THE DISCERNING
Conlin suggests that friends who have a refined palate in vino should “think about small production wines with big reputations and up-and coming stars” when choosing wine. She recommends the 2021 John Duval Shiraz Entity Barossa Valley, South Australia ($35). jjbuckley.com). “This is a limited-production wine from the former winemaker for the most famous wine in Australia — Penfolds.” Connoisseurs are always taken with the 2011 Marques de Murieta Castillo Ygay Rioja Gran Reserva Especial ($180). lawineco.com).
Santa Barbara County is Lucchese’s choice for “really well made wines”, including the Feliz Noche Mi Pasion red ($100), feliznochecellars.comFelipe Hernandez, a vineyard manager who has been awarded the title of winemaker, created Happy Canyon’s 2017 Crown Point cabernet Sauvignon ($150). crownpointvineyards.com), where Simon Faury (a Northern Rhone native) is the winemaker; and Kings Carey made by James Sparks, who also makes wine at Liquid Farm winery. “I love James’ wines,” says Lucchese. His picks include Kings Carey’s single-varietal 2019 Grenache (right $38, kingscarey.com).
Another great option is wines from Marco Lucchesi (Buellton-based, Italian born vintner; his 2021 Arneis ($36) sectionwines.com) and 2018 Sangiovese (80 USD) have cult-worthy followings.
FOR THE BUDGET CONSCIOUS
While many wines are expensive, there are plenty of options that are affordable. Lucchese says that you should look for wines from smaller regions of Europe, South Africa, and Chile to find the best. Conlin suggests that you look for second wines. These are vintages made from grapes that were grown on the same estate as the more expensive ones. Her pick is Chateau La Gaffeliere’s 2019 Dame de Gaffeliere Saint Emilion Grand Cru Bordeaux ($45, wineaccess.com).
Lucchese believes California offers a wealth of options. He says that the Folk Machine label of Hobo Wine Co. makes some of the best and most affordable wines in the world. They are well-made, low interventionist, and exciting. Many bottles are priced at $25 or less.hobowines.com). Carhartt Family Wines, which features top-quality varietals at a fraction of the price of $35, also offers them for less than $35. Brooke and Chase Carhartt are the winemaking team behind Carhartt Family Wines.carharttfamilywines.com) and the newly-opened Vega Vineyard & Farm, where winemaker Steve Clifton is chopping it. (Vega’s offerings include 2021 Dolcetto, right; $34, vegavineyardandfarm.com.)
Lucchese loves cava, which is a sparkling wine favorite. He says that Spanish wine made using the champagne method will “knock your feet off without hurting you wallet.” Juve & Camps Gran Reserva ($23, wine.com), while Dunn recommends Ferrari Brut ($24. wallywine.com).
This story was first published in The Hollywood Reporter magazine’s December 16, 1996 issue. Click here to Subscribe.
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