You can give the wine lover in your life one of the usual suspects, or you can be creative and gift them with an off the radar wine that’ll knock their socks off. Here’s a roundup of some off the radar wines that will impress the wine aficianados in your life:
Free Dog Wines, Off The Leash White and 2019 Riesling, $17
The owners of Free Dog Wines were at a farm auction, where they were auctioning off the last of their farm equipment before they started their winery when a man announced that he had free puppies. They took a look at one puppy, but before they could give her back, her owner had disappeared. Tess, their “free dog,” inspired the name of this Snake River Valley winery. Their refreshing and decidedly not sweet Riesling is as delicious as it is refreshing, and their white blend is also quite lovely.
Tilia, Torrontés, $11
Say “Argentina” and “wine,” and most people immediately think only of Malbec. And while Malbec might be the most well known varietal of this South American country, there are plenty of other wonderful wines to be had. Torrontés is an indigenous grape to Argentina, and Tilia, the first Argentine winemaker to carry the Bodegas de Argentina certified sustainable seal on its label, makes a sublime version.
Colter’s Creek Winery 2018 Fondo Syrah, $25
Though the original vines for this vineyard were planted in 1983, the vineyard lay abandoned for more than a decade until 2007 when a weekend drive past it led Mike Pearson and Melissa Sanborn to revive it. They’ve since become known for their Rhône River varietals, including their Syrah wines. The 2018 Fondo Syrah is everything beautiful about Syrah, and it’s an exquisite example from this 2020 Idaho winery of the year.
Oliver Winery, Sweet Red$8.5
Oliver Winery makes some pretty upscale wines from vinefera grapes, but this little oasis of Napa Valley in the Midwest also makes some down-to-earth sweet wines, including its perennial best-seller, Sweet Red. “Looking for something sweet but not overpowering, Oliver’s Sweet Red is a great pick for gift giving or entertaining over the holidays,” says Dennis Durham, director of winemaking. “This semi-sweet wine complements just about any food from dinner to dessert. Crafted with classic Concord grapes, this consumer-rated best buy offers a refreshing, velvety smooth taste and a crisp finish.”
Fiddlehead Cellars, Grüner Veltliner 2016 Estate, $30
Founded in 1989 by pioneering winemaker and grape grower Kathy Joseph, Fiddlehead Cellers makes several iconic Santa Barbara County wines, including this delectable Grüner Veltliner. She only makes about 4,000 cases every year, and each bottle is produced with extreme care and attention to detail.
Biltmore Winery, Reserve Chardonnay, $25
North Carolina is actually home to one of the most beautiful wineries in the world, on the estate of George Vanderbilt. This Biltmore Reserve Chardonnay was crafted with Chardonnay grapes grown right on the Biltmore estate and some neighboring farms. It honors the vineyard’s mission of self-sufficiency, which originated with founder George Vanderbilt, whose great-grandson Bill Cecil opened the winery in 1985.
Dom Maria Brazilian Brut ‘18, $30
Brazil isn’t the first South American country you think of when you ponder wine, but it does produce some exquisite wines. This Dom Maria Brut ’18 is produced by Casa Valduga, one of Brazil’s oldest wine making houses,. Bright with flavor and bubbles, its makers say it “embodies the spirit of Brazil.” It’s a lovely wine to ring in the new year.
De Négoce, N. 77 2018 Chardonnay Willamette Valley, $16
Do you prefer champagne but live on a beer budget? Are you sustainable? Well, then De Négoce wines might be your new best friend. This new wine platform buys up the extra wine high-end producers have at the end of the season, and they then bottle it and sell it, making sure it doesn’t go to waste. They basically purchase luxury wines from luxe producers…and then sell it for less. This Chardonnay from the Willamette Valley is no exception, as it’s exceptionally creamy and crisp with ripe fruit.