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Randall Murray: 5 perfect Christmas presents for wine lovers
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Sequoia Grove Chardonnay 2013

The wine: Lush but dry white table wine.

The grapes: 100 percent Chardonnay.

The source: Napa Valley.

The verdict: Give yourself or someone you really like a lovely Christmas gift this year: a bottle or three of this terrific, classic chardonnay from one of California’s terrific, classic wineries. Sequoia Grove’s Cabernet Sauvignon has for many years wound up on my Top 10 list of cabs. This equally impressive chardonnay follows close behind. Sequoia Grove is not one of those ultra-exclusive producers that trots out 500 cases of $150 a bottle wine that wind up in high-end eateries or in collectors’ cellars. Nearly 5,500 cases of this chardonnay left the winery. This wine should be available in Georgia stores with just a little searching. I love the full, fruity flavors of this wine. I was surprised to learn it had not undergone malolactic fermentation, a process that softens the wine. This is soft, but well-defined by lots of hands-on tender loving care and oak barrels. What makes it even better is this wine will age well for another three to five years. So buy a bunch; some to drink now, some to save.

The price: About $30.

Time is still on the clock — which has been ticking in retail stores since about Aug. 1 — to do some poking around for a nice bottle of wine or related goodies to give as a nice Christmas gift.

I have encountered some lovely surprises during the year and would like to share some with you.

I try not to write about wines that cannot be found in Georgia or wines made in such small quantities they never will be seen more than 50 miles from the wineries or in some wealthy person’s vault.


First is a Bordeaux-style red from South Africa called Faithful Hound.

While it is a fine red made from a traditional blend of five Bordeaux grapes — cabernet sauvignon, merlot, malbec, petit verdot and cabernet franc — the label tells a sad story. Abandoned by his master, the faithful hound kept a three-year vigil outside an empty cabin. He died there.

The wine, however, is more upbeat. This offering from the well-respected Mulderbosch producers gives a plummy flavor, with a hint of white pepper. Serve this fine selection with red meats and other hearty meat-oriented dishes. It’s about $20.


Looking for a lovely, soft white wine that’s great with seafood and light cheeses? I found the Pieropan Soave Classico from the 2014 vintage, and I’m glad I did.

Soave at one time was the most popular Italian wine in this country, until two things happened: Too many producers shipped mediocre examples here, and pinot grigio wines grabbed America’s taste buds. BTW: It’s pronounced “so AV ay.”

Pieropan goes back to the 1800s and they have mastered this winemaking thing. The wine is made from a blend of garganega and trebbiano di Soave grapes with a handful of others heaved in.

It comes from the Soave zone, near Verona, and the result of some careful vinification is a treat for the nose and mouth.

This Soave shows how texture and flavor play well together. You’ll find this one with a price tag of about $22.


From the famed Russian River Valley of Sonoma County, Calif., comes one of the finest pinot noirs I’ve sampled in many a month. It’s the Gary Farrell Vineyards Russian River Selection Pinot Noir 2013.

It’s 100 percent pinot noir that is aged for nine months in 35 percent new French oak and enjoys lots of hands-on processing.

This is a true California-style pinot; lots of fruit and spice in nose and mouth. I picked out cloves and something like star anise. The word to describe the texture is “silky.” Check this one out for $50.


Friends brought a bottle of one of my favorite sparkling wines, Chandon Rose, to a dinner gathering. We consumed it with a raft of chilled shrimp.

Chandon, of Moet & Chandon fame, was the first French Champagne company to locate in the Napa Valley; producing super sparkling wines with Old World techniques using rich, ripe Napa Valley fruit. And this one is a delight.

It’s beautiful in the glass; glowing pink with scads of tiny bubbles.

But, wait! Just because it’s pink does not mean it’s sweet, or even semi-sweet. It’s a Brut and very dry. And as such it is a definitive food wine. It mated happily with the shrimp and even with my homemade ginger-based cocktail sauce. But it would have been equally happy with a big slab of beef or lamb.

“Chandon” on the label tells you the wine inside is high quality. And the price tag of $25 tells you it’s good value, too.


Looking for a wine gadget for a gift? I’ve finally entered the 21st century and bought an electric corkscrew, but only because recent surgery left my right hand diminished in strength and dexterity. I did a fair amount of research and settled on the Oster rechargeable corkscrew. And it’s great, mostly.

Push the top of the button and the Teflon-coated screw bites into the cork and stops when it’s through. Push the bottom of the button and the device reverses itself and spits out the cork. Easy, effortless and quite reasonable.

I’ve seen all sorts of online prices for this tool ranging from $22 to $35. I paid about $26.

Warning: It does not do well with dry, crumbly corks. I opened two mid-1990s Super Tuscans and the corks broke off inside the corkscrew, jamming it.

Oster’s customer service was absolutely no help; not responding for nearly three weeks and then offering a boilerplate solution — take it in for servicing. Thanks for nothing.

I finally pried out the remains using an icepick and a hemostat following about two hours of work.

OK, Santas, time to head on out to the store, or to the computer, and start stocking up on goodies for friends and family. And maybe for yourself.

Randall Murray is a Gainesville-area resident. Have a question about wine? He can be contacted at His column appears on the first Wednesday of the month and on