Columns by John

John Brown has been a wine and food columnist in West Virginia since the 1980’s. His regular columns appear in the Charleston (WV) Gazette-Mail under the title Vines & Vittles and in The State Journal - a statewide business weekly

Some tasteful holiday gift ideas

We’re all struggling right now to find just the right wine for the lucky folks on our holiday gift short list. To make things a little easier for you, I’ve spent a whole lot of time and exhausted a plethora of brain cells just to come up with some really tasty suggestions for your consideration.

All the wines I’m recommending are under $35 a bottle (most are under $20) and are available throughout the state at your favorite wine shops and grocery stores. So go out and have a little fun. You might even buy a bottle or two for your own pleasure.

2009 Estancia Chardonnay Pinnacle Ranches -The cool Monterey climate accompanied by a long growing season produced a ripe, mouth-filling chardonnay. Highlighted by a soft, creamy texture, this wine was partially barrel fermented and aged a while in oak. Roasted cod or sea bass that is simply sauced would benefit greatly from an accompaniment of this lovely wine.

2007 Allegrini Palazzo Della Torre – One of my all-time favorite reds, this blend of corvina and rondinella is a smooth, yet full-bodied wine made using the ripasso method where a portion of the grapes is allowed to dry for a few months before fermenting. The resulting wine is rich and robust with great black cherry fruit and cola flavors. This one begs to be paired with Osso Bucco or beef carbonade.

Rotari Rose- This non-vintage sparkler from Trento in northern Italy is a blend of 25% chardonnay 75% pinot noir. It was number 13 on Wine Enthusiast Magazine's 2010 Top 100 Best Buys of the Year. Produced in the champagne method, Rotari can be sipped as an aperitif or matched with appetizers like cheese, olives or fruit.

2009 Davis Bynum Pinot Noir - From the Russian River region of Sonoma County this pinot noir is medium-bodied, silky smooth and well balanced which makes it an exceptional match to dishes like grilled salmon or chicken breast stuffed with cheese and mushrooms.

2009 Benzinger Chardonnay –This wine is produced from grapes grown on the Sangiacomo vineyard in Carneros which is where I source the grapes for the chardonnay I make right here at Chez Brown. I must admit that - while my wine is pretty good - it’s not quite up to the standard of Benzinger which is creamy, rich and well-balanced. Try this chardonnay with lobster or Alaskan king crab in drawn butter. Ah decadence!

2008 Newton Claret - This Bordeaux blend from Napa, comprised of 53% merlot, 33% cabernet sauvignon, 8% malbec, 5% cabernet franc and 1% petit verdot, is an amazing value for just a little more than $20. Flavors of mocha and coffee are subtle, but rich and there is very good balancing acidity. Match this wine with a rib roast rubbed with garlic, rosemary, black pepper and kosher salt.

2010 Robert Mondavi Riesling – A simple, refreshing wine with peach and ripe apple flavors, this riesling is slightly sweet with excellent acidity that would make it a good match to brunch dishes like quiche or to assorted fruit. Or just use it as an aperitif.

2007 Luigi Righetti Amarone - This medium-bodied Amarone (which is produced from dried Valpolicella grapes) still exhibits plum and other dark fruit flavors one expects from Amarone. The good news, though, is you can enjoy it now instead of having to wait for a decade or more for the wine to come around. This Amarone would be spectacular with marinated and grilled leg of lamb.

Wine and related holiday gift ideas
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