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Bottles for Santa’s sack

Wine’s a great holiday gift. But it must be given properly. The first thing you have to think about is price. Give your father-in-law too cheap a bottle, and he’ll think you’re miserly; pay too much, and he’ll think you’re trying to soap him up.

It’s not hard. Just plan to spend about the same amount as you would on a non-wine gift for the folks on your list, whether they’re best-seller, sweater or set-of-golf-clubs kinds of guys and gals.

That settled, the choices are endless. You’ll find below a selection of wines I’ve liked this year in three price ranges.

An extra benefit accrues if you can tell a story about the wine to the person receiving it. The Sanford pinot noir on the list, for example, was the star of the 2004 wine movie “Sideways.”

The Dolce is a dessert wine from grapes left on the vines late into the winter to let the “noble rot” called “botrytis cinerea” poke holes in their skins to desiccate them and concentrate their sugars and acids.

The Jalifa is a dry, powerful amontillado dessert sherry, aged for several years, fortified up to 20.5 percent alcohol and aged again for up to 30 years. It’s a great after-dinner sip with nuts and figs — and a fine wine to share with your boss while discussing your coming raise.

$20-$50 WINES

2007 MacRostie “Wildcat Mountain Vineyard” Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast: hint of toasted oak, rich and lush, with flavors of peaches and mangoes, creamy and smooth; $35.

2007 Arrowood Viognier, “Saralee’s Vineyard,” Russian River Valley: hint of oak, flavors of tart limes and ripe apricots, big and rich, intensely fruity; $30.

2008 Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand: crisp, powerfully fruity, classic New Zealand gooseberry and mineral flavors; $23.

2007 Wilson “Sawyer Vineyard” Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley: rich and fruity, with red raspberry and cinnamon flavors, soft tannin; $32.

2007 Sanford Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills: black plums, anise and herbs; rich and spicy; $40.

2006 Roth Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley: big and rich, with black cherry and licorice flavors, smooth, long finish; $40.

$50-$100 WINES

2007 Patz & Hall “Hudson Vineyard” Chardonnay, Carneros: tart limes and ripe apricots, very crisp, spicy; $55.

Nonvintage Williams & Humbert Rare Old Amontillado Solera Especial Sherry, aged 30 years: warm, hearty aromas and flavors of caramel and hazelnuts, powerful with 20.5 percent alcohol; $70.

2004 Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley (cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, petit verdot): powerful, intense and complex, with aromas and flavors of cassis, chocolate and cloves, long finish; $100.


2006 Beaulieu Vineyard Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley: powerful aromas and flavors of blackberries and licorice, youthful and in need of aging, with firm tannin, long finish; $110.

2004 Sugarille Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, by Gaja: aromas of violets, black-cherry flavors, concentrated, with firm tannins; very dry, age-worthy; $210.

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