Holiday Gift List

23 Bottles of Bliss

Whether you want to splurge on a spectacular spirit, a seductive red wine, or a special Champagne, these 23 elixirs are sure to thrill. For almost every bottle on this list, I attended a tasting event or launch party with the wine or spirits makers and heard the story behind their creation. The prices range from affordable to “only-for-billionaires,” especially in the case of one collectible whisky at $75,000.

SPIRITS

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Rémy Martin XO by Lee Broom ($260)
Rémy Martin has just unveiled the first reinterpretation of its iconic XO bottle since its creation in 1981. Celebrated British lighting and furniture designer, Lee Broom, designed a stunning ribbed glass decanter which was released in limited edition. The XO Cognac remains the same, a blend of as many as 400 eaux-de-vie made from Petite and Grande Champagne grapes which after long aging develops rich aromas of plum, fig, and orange, with hints of honey, hazelnut, and ginger on the long finish.

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Gran Sociedad Tequila Joven ($189)
A blend of new and aged tequila, this bright Joven is unique in that much of it is aged in American oak barrels and then filtered back to clear like a blanco. Smooth and balanced with citrus and floral aromas, it shows notes of vanilla, honey, coffee, and spice and comes in a heavy glass exquisitely designed bottle. The brand was started by Luis Fernando Ochoa who brought together Mexican entrepreneurs—artists, architects, designers—in a creative collective to honor a “grand society” of Mexican heritage.

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Tequila Casa Dragones

Casa Dragones Reposado Mizunara ($170)
This small batch producer making exquisite sipping tequilas, is the creation of certified tequila expert Bertha González Nieves and media mogul Bob Pittman. The brand just released a unique Reposado, aged in new Mizunara casks, a rare oak from Japan used to age whisky. Resting in the oak complements the minerality of the blue agave, grown in fields in the Trans Mexican volcano belt in Jalisco, and brings forth butterscotch notes. Each bottle is labeled, signed, and numbered by hand.

Hibiki Blossom Harmony Lifestyle

Hibiki Blossom Harmony Suntory Whisky ($170)
From the House of Suntory, Habiki Blossom Harmony is a limited edition with floral and olive scents and tastes of pear and Acacia honey at 42% ABV. Inspired by Japan’s Sakura Blossom season when Sukura trees bloom in early spring, fifth generation master blender Shinji Fukuyo thought to age his blend of rare whiskies in Sakura wood casks. The casks impart distinctive floral and spicy aromas and a long-lasting rich finish.

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Corazón Tequila

Corazón Eagle Rare 17 Añejo Tequila ($80)
A unique limited edition añejo tequila that is aged for 17 months in barrels that were previously used to age Eagle Rare 17-Year-Old bourbon, Corazón is made from blue agave grown in Jalisco’s Los Altos region and possesses a natural sweetness and aromas of citrus and chocolate. At the release event, the tasters tried the Corazón alongside of the Buffalo Trace’s Eagle Rare to determine how the aging impacted the tequila. The result was a discernible density in texture making it extremely smooth with a slightly sweet bourbon note.

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Beam Suntory

Bowmore Rare Arc-52 Single Malt Scotch Whisky ($75,000)
Some marriages are out of a James Bond movie. Aston Martin partnered with Bowmore in issuing a collectible in an edition of 100 bottles for the world: a 52-year-old single malt whisky coming in a jaw dropping bottle design, a glass sculpture meant to invoke the spirit Aston Martin car design with its balance, heritage, and innovation. The Aston Martin design team worked on the bottle for years even creating a closure which requires a magnetic key to unlock. For the US launch journalists were driven in Aston Martin DBX cars to The Glass House, the Philip Johnson icon in New Canaan, CT., for a wee dram of the precious 52-year-old. Classic Bowmore from Islay is known for herbal and medicinal flavors along with exotic fruits and butterscotch on the finish. Rare Arc-52 is like drinking history, specifically the year 1964 when Aston Martin introduced the DB5 as first seen in Goldfinger.

RED WINES

Ornellaia 2019 Vda Large Formats 0750lOrnellaia 2019 Il Vigore ($260)
This highly rated 2019 vintage dubbed Il Vigore, for its strength and intense energy, is perfumed with black cherry, blackberry, tobacco, licorice, and dried herb aromas. A Super Tuscan Cabernet-dominate blend, it’s concentrated and powerful yet elegant with fine-grained tannins. There was much fanfare around this vintage, which became the 14th edition of Ornellaia’s Vendemmia d’Artista, where artists created a label and bottle design to interpret the vintage. The Swedish artist team Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg covered the bottle neck with thick mud from which plastic flowers, vines and worms sprouted.

Gift Box 2019 Daou Soul Of A Lion

Daou Estate Soul of a Lion 2019 ($170)
Made from the best vineyard blocks of Daou’s 212-acre hilltop estate in the Adelaida District of Paso Robles, this Cabernet-dominant Bordeaux blend expresses luscious concentrated dark fruit flavors—blackberry, blueberry, and black current—along with licorice and tobacco notes. Winemaker Daniel Daou creates high phenolic wines which are structured and explosive in flavor yet elegant. The 2019 was an exceptional vintage.Pyros Limestone Hill Malbec Nv Bottle 2016on

Pyros Limestone Hill Malbec 2018 ($100)
Pyros was started as a terroir-driven project to establish the Pedernal Valley—with its extremely high-altitude vineyards, up to 4,900 feet in elevation, and distinct soil types—as a top viticultural area in Argentina. This 100% Malbec wine from Limestone Hill, Pedernal Valley’s exceptional terroir with its limestone, silt, and clay soils, has intense aromas of violets, red fruits, and wild herbs, distinctive minerality and a lingering finish.

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Goosecross Aeros 2019 ($165)
At the pinnacle of Goosecross’s portfolio is Aeros, a Bordeaux blend with 65% Cabernet and 35% Merlot from the State Lane Vineyard on the eastern side of Yountville in Napa Valley. The grapes benefit from a unique microclimate with cooling breezes blowing up the valley from San Pablo Bay.  Long aged in new French oak barrels, it possesses a deep dark red color and intense flavors. It opens with aromas of violet and blackberry and shows notes of cassis, plums, leather, and tobacco with a hint of licorice on its long finish.

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Seña 2019 ($150)
In 1995 Chilean winemaker Eduardo Chadwick and Napa’s Robert Mondavi teamed up and founded Seña, a property farmed under biodynamic viticulture in the Aconcagua Valley, to showcase the potential of Chilean terroir. This year Seña released the 25th anniversary edition, a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon with Malbec, Carmenère, and Petit Verdot, aged 22 months in 90% French oak.  With its aromas of red berries, blackcurrants, nutmeg and hints of rosemary and dill, it’s a stunning wine.

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Frank Family Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 ($60)
With grapes from estate vineyards in Rutherford and Napa’s Capell Valley, this 95% Cabernet Sauvignon is structured and elegant with seductive aromas of blackberry plum, cassis, nutmeg, and vanilla.  Since the early 90’s when Frank Rich, former President of Disney Studios, settled in Rutherford and took over an historic winery built in 1884, the Frank Family Vineyards has been making great Napa Cabernets.

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Concha y Toro Carmin de Peumo 2018 ($173)
Highly celebrated as Chile’s first iconic Carmenère wine, Carmin de Peumo from the Peumo Vineyard in the Cachapoal Valley is deep and concentrated with flavors of blackberries and blackcurrants and an elegant structure and minerality. Melchor Concha y Toro started his winery in 1883 when he brought back grapevines from Bordeaux and the winery went on to be known for the most critically acclaimed wines from Chile.

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Château Lassègue Saint-Émilion Grand Cru 2018 ($60)
This Right Bank Bordeaux estate benefits from limestone soils and over 50-year-old vines giving this Merlot-dominant, Cabernet Franc blend from the great 2018 vintage complexity and power. With its lovely bouquet of violet and cassis, it unfolds with red and black fruits flavors with hints of black truffles and stony minerality.

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Poderi Einaudi Barolo Monvigliero DOCG 2018 ($72)
This is the first release of Barolo from a prestigious DOCG cru on the Monvigliero hill at 1000 feet above sea level. With its limestone and chalk soils, the Monvigliero vineyard, recently acquired by the Einaudi family, makes for expressive Nebbiolo grapes giving this Barolo, which is matured in large oak barrels, floral scents, spicy red fruit flavors, and lots of personality.

SPARKLING WINES 

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Krug Grande Cuvée 170th Edition ($210)
Krug commissioned the Ryuichi Sakamoto to compose a symphony inspired by three expressions of their champagnes. The “Suite for Krug 2008” was performed this fall at the Brooklyn Museum. As the audience listened to each movement of the suite, servers presented glasses to pair with the symphony–first the Krug Clos Du Mesnil 2008 ($1,249), then the Krug 2008 vintage ($349), and finally the Krug Grande Cuvée 164th Edition. The House of Krug has made Grande Cuvée since 1843 and each progressive release is termed an “edition” rather than a vintage. Twelve vintage years and 195 different wines are blended in the 170th edition, which possesses floral, citrus fruit, and marzipan aromas. Krug is known for its dynamic texture, often referred to as a symphonic experience, with different flavor notes releasing like sections of an orchestra.

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Iron Horse Stargazing Cuvée ($195, Magnum)
Sporting a label based on an image released by NASA showing “cosmic cliffs” of the Carina Nebula, (which scientists call the earliest rapid phases of star formation), Stargazing Cuvée is made from a late disgorged Iron Horse Brut 2014 vintage which spent eight additional years on its lees giving it tiny bubbles and fresh brioche and almond aromas. It was Iron Horse’s co-founder, Audrey Sterling, now 91, who came up with the idea of creating 250 magnums, released this October 2022.

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Champagne Telmont Réserve Brut ($68)
Combining the three Champagne grapes in multi-vintage blend of seven vintage years, the Réserve Brut is an energetic, rich, and harmonious cuvée. The House of Telmont is committed to converting its entire vineyard property to organic viticulture by 2025 (sections are already certified organic) and has instituted many green measures like using lighter bottles made from recycled glass. Since its founding in the early 1900’s, the House stayed within the Lhôpital family. In 2020 it joined the Rémy Cointreau group, who kept on Bernard Lhôpital as cellar master, and took on Leonardo DiCaprio is a minority shareholder.

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Champagne Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve Collectors Edition ($80)
Made with 50% reserve wines in the blend from Grand Cru vineyards in Montagne de Reims and the Côte des Blancs, this collectors cuvée was created in celebration of the bicentennial of Charles Heidsieck’s birth in 1822. It’s splendid with its aromas of brioche, mango, apricot with a finish of vanilla and praline. For the bicentennial, the house also relaunched Champagne Charlie—as Charles Heidsieck was nicknamed as he tirelessly promoted his Champagne in the U.S..  Heidsieck was among the early pioneers in the art of blending using as many as 60 different crus, aged at different lengths of time, to create his vintage blends. The U.S. was allocated 1440 bottles of Champagne Charlie ($700).

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Champagne Rare Rosé Millésime 2012 ($499)
Known for its ornate bottle with removable gold tiara designed by a Parisian jeweler, Rare has made only three rosés since its founding in 1976 and this is a beauty with aromas of cherry blossom, lychee, ginger, and citrus. A blend of 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir aged eight years on its lees, the rose petal-hued rosé has a floral, fruity, and spicy personality and a touch of salinity on the finish.

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Champagne Pommery Grand Cru Royal 2009 ($75)
A blend of seven grand crus with 50% Chardonnay from the Côte des Blancs and 50% Pinot Noir from the Montagne de Reims, this extraordinary cuvée from the great 2009 vintage, is perfumed with peony, violet, and hawthorn, and has honeysuckle, blueberry, and brioche flavors along with the chalky minerality singular to the terroir of the Champagne region.0s2a0188 002

Champagne Mandois Blanc de Noirs Premier Cru Brut ($75)
Possessing intense richness from 100% Pinot Noir and notes of cherry and plum, the Blanc de Noirs from all premier crus has finesse and fine bubbles. The Mandois family acquired vineyards in 1735 on the hillsides of Épernay and by the 1860s started selling Champagne. Now in its 9th generation, based in Pierry, a village in the Côte des Blancs, Mandois has grown to 87 acres within prestigious villages, among them Chouilly, Vertus, and Epernay.  The Champagne undergoes long aging in Mandois’ 17th century caves.

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Biltmore Estate Chateau Reserve Blanc de Blancs 2019 ($65)
With its grapes grown in vineyards at 2500 feet in elevation in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Asheville, North Carolina, the Biltmore winery is located on George Vanderbilt’s 8,000-acre estate. The Chateau Reserve 100% Chardonnay made in méthode champenoise is aged for 20 months and has bouquet of tropical fruits and green apple, and tiny refined bubbles.