Your guide to holiday wine gift giving

Judith Papesh
Lifestyle grey Dot

Thrill them with the gift of limited, small-batch wine

Wine lovers with wine lovers on their gift giving list know that the holidays are the time to celebrate and share that special wine find to put a thrill in the glass of someone you cherish. Wines whose first sip makes you say, “I can’t wait for them to taste this!” Enjoy our Rising Wines Collective Holiday Wine Gift Guide for those looking for that perfect wine gift or curious about what wine wonders might be out there. You can look to us for the best hard-to-find, small-production wines to share, savor, and delight.

’Tis the season for sparkling wine

A bit of bubbly is part of any great day, so let this ultimate bottle of festive fun energize your holiday gifting!

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A signature of the holiday season is big lights and big sparkle and is the ideal time to explore sparkling wines from Oregon and the bubbly fun in California pétillant naturel, pet-nat to those opting out of crystal stems, or NOT! 

The cool climate and marine sediments of the Willamette Valley have helped establish Oregon’s reputation as a home for distinguished and elegant Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. We are especially fond of the team at Lytle-Barnett, who craft those two classic grapes of the Champagne region into landmark sparkling wines that meld French tradition with Oregon’s bounty into wines of character and elegance. You will be carried away by the rich green apple and pear aromas and the wine’s bold, citrusy, leesy character. Yes, there should be oysters.

For those who might like their bubbles with a background in warm days and California sunshine, the bright, fruity, and fresh qualities of the pet-nat from Carboniste will be welcomed under the tree or in a glass while you’re under the tree. Made from Pinot Grigio with a single fermentation in bottle, the 2020 “Mackerel” Pet Nat Extra Brut has delicious aromas of apple, pear, and honeysuckle. There are hints of pineapple, tropical fruits, and stone fruits on the palate, with a dense froth of mousse. Although fruity and lighter in alcohol, your friends slurping the oysters with that Lytle-Barnett will have to share!

Check out our Celebration Wine Collection for a ready-to-deliver gift with the Lytle-Barnett and Carboniste wines and a yummy bottle of Warr-King Rosé tossed in for the rosé-all-day crowd.

A Story of Washington Syrah

Washington Syrah is the wine that starts by filling a room with unforgettable blueberry and dark fruit aromas and then delivers those scents to the glass in a burst of bold, berry flavors with spices, espresso, and even meaty notes.  Your most ardent Cabernet Sauvignon loving friend may even fall for the gift of a rich, intriguing Syrah found under the tree.

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Washington is known for its many powerful red wines, especially Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blends. Yet, a captivating story of terroir and winemaking is played out in our favorite Syrahs from Elephant Seven, Steetvine, Echolands, and Laterus. Syrah is typically loaded with brambly berries and spice, often with a meaty or bacon character. Sensitive to location and vintage variation, this group of stellar Syrahs from Washington shows off the grape and quality of Washington wines.

The 2018 Yellow Bird Vineyard Syrah from Walla Walla’s Elephant Seven is a minimal intervention wine loaded with blackberry and blueberry aromas and flavors. Lighter in body and terrifically balanced, this is a food wine if ever there was one. 

Our own Rising Wines Collective 2018 Streetvine Syrah from the mid-state Horse Heaven Hills has intense Syrah blueberry aromas like Elephant Seven, along with brambly fruits, red raspberry, vanilla, and cocoa. A rich, expressive mouthful follows with dark fruits, espresso, and chocolate. A bigger and bolder wine with medium acid and robust tannins shows the concentration from 18 months in French oak puncheons. There are interesting red fruit notes from a vineyard site moderated by the Columbia River. It’s also food-friendly, so cook it over a fire, whether beef or bird.

The Streetvine Syrah introduces the curious to the power of Syrah, and the Echolands 2018 Les Collines Syrah returns us to the Walla Walla Valley, where Master of Wine (MW) Doug Frost demonstrates the intense richness that Walla Walla Syrah can possess. Foot-stomped and fermented with native yeast and keeping 75% of the grape stems, those familiar blueberry aromas are joined with black cherry, black olive, dried herbs, and a hint of eucalyptus and tobacco. Powerful on the palate with blackberry, boysenberry, and sweet herbs, with medium acid and tannin, this wine also is natural with meats grilled over fire.

The last Syrah in our featured Washington set is the 2016 Laterus Syrah. Designated as a Columbia Valley wine, the Columbia Valley is the state’s largest AVA. Laterus highlights the characters we’ve seen in our other Washington Syrahs into an elegant and sophisticated delight. Our familiar aromas of black fruits and blueberry are rich and intense with smoke, grilled meat, dried herbs, and sweet vanilla. Bright on the palate with gobs of dark berries and a hint of smoke from the barrel. This is a mouth-filling wine with medium acid, robust tannins, and a long finish of berry and dried herbs. Get thee to a barbecue!

Classic Oregon Pinot Noir

When we think of a classic holiday wine gift, why not a classic Oregon Pinot Noir from the Yamhill-Carlton or the Eola-Amity Hills? Pinot Noir is a cerebral wine, a gift perhaps for your favorite wine aficionado?  Someone ready for a vinous excursion from wines with red fruits, earth and spice, to extracted wines with dark fruits and berries swirling with hints of the forest and herbs?

The delight of Pinot Noir is in the details, and gifting a wine from these Upper Willamette Valley AVAs will be the start of an adventure for you both.

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Yamhill-Carlton wines grow on the oldest soils in the Willamette Valley. They are characterized by full-bodied, extracted wines with aromas of blue and red fruits and layered with intense flavors of earth, dark spices, and chocolate. Our Yamhill-Carlton holiday selections focus on two single vineyard wines from Maxine Lily, the 2020 Gregory Ranch Pinot Noir and the 2020 DDL (Domaine Danielle Laurent) Pinot Noir which show in exquisite detail what the wines from this area embody. 

Those seeking heady aromas of dried strawberry and red cherry with hints of cinnamon and clove will enjoy the 2020 Gregory Ranch Pinot Noir. Those fantastic aromas lead to a mouth-filling array of cranberry, red cherry, and black tea flavors with traces of cedar and mushroom.

Equally compelling, the 2020 Maxine Lily DDL Pinot Noir is boldly aromatic with red cherry and cranberry, pomegranate, spices, earthy mushroom, and wet stone. It’s also intense and complex on the palate with cherry, cranberry, herbs, and mint with an almost liquid raspberry essence. The DDL, like the Gregory Ranch Pinot Noir, is a wine that will leave a memorable impression of Yamhill-Carlton wines that any Pinot Noir enthusiast will love.

The Eola-Amity Hills are composed of thin, rocky soil atop a fractured basalt base. Cooled by dominant afternoon winds, the wines are elegant and powerful, with rich fruit, tannin, and acid, showing characters of the forest, tea leaf, and cranberry, sometimes with a salty iodine note. Though there are many outstanding wines, your wine lover must experience the 2019 Aubaine Pinot Noir and the Project M Filament to understand the beauty of the Eola-Amity Hills wines.

Aubaine is a boutique, single vineyard, estate wine Pinot Noir and Chardonnay specialist. Classic in style, the 2019 Pinot Noir has bold aromas of red berries and cherries with forest floor, graham cracker, and earth. Beautifully balanced acid and tannin revolve around flavors of red cherry, red strawberry, dried Mediterranean herbs, and earth.  

The Project M 2017 Filament Vineyard Pinot Noir introduces the Pinot lover to a wine that begins as a field blend of Dijon and Pommard clones harvested together and allowed to follow a natural yeast fermentation. Project M is about intent, and that must include making gorgeous wines. Robust black cherry, red raspberry, mushroom, and tobacco aromas abound. Powerful black cherry and red fruits on the palate in a savory and mouth-filling wine with excellent balance.  

While choosing between these classic Oregon Pinots may be difficult, the insatiable Pinot fan might enjoy comparing wines in our Willamette Valley vs. Sonoma Pinot Noir Bundle. 

Winning white wines for winter

The Chardonnay grape may be the most gifted story-teller of place and vintage in the wine world, almost chameleon – like in its ability to shift from crisp, fruity wines to rich, full-bodied wines with flavors of citrus, apple, and baking spices. Chardonnay is the wine gift for your friends seeking to experience an unforgettable wine with a tale to tell.

Quick gift list

Winter holidays may be when those big red wines get the most attention, but our gift list includes stellar full-bodied Chardonnay from Washington, Oregon, and California. Chardonnay is simply a spectacular grape, yielding a variety of wines influenced by the vineyard and the hand of the winemaker, making it a compelling gift for wine thinkers and wine drinkers.

Washington is less known for Chardonnay than its powerhouse red wine lineup, but those who know know something is happening here. In contrast to other Pacific Coast wine regions, Washington vines are primarily in the desert lands of Eastern Washington, far from any ocean breezes. Washington Chardonnay benefits from high elevation, long growing days, and large diurnal shifts that allow the grapes to achieve ripeness and retain vital acidity, creating vibrant, fruity, and crisp wines. 

Our Washington favorite is the Florence Cellars 2019 Maenad Chardonnay. Made in a classic style with 18 months of aging in neutral oak barrels with frequent lees stirring, your friends who drink French Chardonnay will be intrigued by this Washington wine. Rich with aromas of apples and pears, white flowers, honey, baking spices, and orange cream. Lemon and lemon crème flavors quickly yield to spiced pear and melon with medium plus acidity that resolves in a lovely lemon, pear, and honey finish.

We’ve talked a lot about Oregon, but it’s hard not to mention our own Maxine Lily 2020 Willamette Valley Chardonnay regarding Oregon white wine. Oregon’s cool climate characteristics come from a combination of cooling ocean breezes and careful site selection of elevation and slope. Light and lively, the Maxine Lily Chardonnay has distinct aromas of white flowers and perfume, wet stones, lemon, and lime. Bright lemon and lemon rind on the palate with more wet stone, medium plus acidity, with a crisp, citrusy finish.

Our final Chardonnay that shouldn’t be missed is the Leo Steen 2018 Bruzzone Vineyard Chardonnay from California. Leo Steen embraces minimal intervention and traditional techniques to hand-craft food-friendly wines with a sense of place. The wine has subtle aromas of lemon cream, lemon rind, green apple, and unripe peach. It has a rich, creamy mouthfeel and flavors that range from lemon, nectarine, and melon to bitter lime and wet stone. Beautifully textured and balanced, it’s hard to imagine life without it.

Take time to ponder these selections and trust that any will be at home under the tree or wherever you enjoy your wines!

Happy Holidays from Rising Wines Collective!

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About Judith Papesh

Retired Winemaker, Winemaking Consultant, and Washington State Licensed Geologist. Bourgogne Master Level Certification, French, Italian, and Spanish Wine Scholar Certifications

In the first class to complete Washington State University (WSU) Extension Enology Certification, Judith opened her winery, crafting wines that garnered local and international acclaim before turning her attention to studying and educating about the world's wines. 

"Winemaking is very much an art as well as a science; it is a consuming passion that drives you during the day, keeps you up at night, and when the wine is right, simply leaves you breathless."