Which wine would you take as a gift overseas?

Dear Dr. Vino,

If you had to take a bottle of American wine to Bulgaria that reflects the most recent trend in American winemaking, what would that bottle be? I want to take a bottle to my key participant in my academic study (who is one of the best winemakers in Bulgaria) when I head out next month to the wild Balkans. If this is an impossible question to answer, forgive my boldness (& ignorance) and please ignore it!

Impossible–never! It’s a great question, actually. I thought about American wines recently for a piece that I contributed to on Forbes.com about ten independent wines from the good ole US of A. I’d probably take one of those. Many of them actually run counter to the trend in higher alcohol levels so I’d point out that they are, in fact, anti-trendy, or the beginning of a new trend, perhaps. And then maybe bring a Turley that I’m trying to get rid of just for laffs.

What about you? Which wine would you bring if you were in this reader’s shoes?

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31 Responses to “Which wine would you take as a gift overseas?”

  1. A Rosenblum Zin

  2. I got a nice introduction to the White Mountains. The weather forecast was not good, and I got up still unsure about my destination for the day. Sure enough it was overcast and the clouds were low enough to cover the top of the mountains.

  3. Uh, probably not anything that was supposed to be indicative of trend, that would be kind of foolish and if trend changes quickly, as we may be seeing, then you guessed wrong. But nothing really says America like full-throttle napa cab I think. Sure, I may prefer some other wines most of the time, but for all the shit talk there really is a lot of good rich Napa cabs that offer complexity. I would bring something a few years old, like an ’01, or better yet, a ’96, that way it shows how the wine can age. If I really wanted to go for in-your-face I would take a big, bold Cali Syrah, like a Pax. Good wine that still reflects America’s love of bold fruit, but without being gross like the Turley, or like all zin for that matter.

  4. Ferrari-Carano Fume Blanc for the white and a
    Cabernet Sauvignon from Chateau St. Michelle, or other Washington State Cab. I had both of these recently and though they were both showing great stuff.

  5. Now that Chateau Montelena is going Euro, maybe a bottle of old vine Zinfandel, such as the 2005 Mara Reserve Zinfandel from the Dolinsek Ranch vineyard planted in the Sonoma County Russian River Valley in 1910. http://www.marawines.com/

  6. Wasn’t it the Chateau Montelena reserve Chardonnay that took the win for Chardonnays at the 1976 judgement tasting against French wines? I can’t wait to see ‘Bottle Shock,’ a local wine shop called Just Grapes is having a premier in August. Other than the big names I think I’d bring something local. What’s bigger in the U.S. today than buying local, not to mention organic, everything. Cartlidge and Browne makes a really nice single vineyard organic Sauvignon Blanc. In the reds I agree that a nice old vine Zinfandel is about as American as you can get. Mauritson’s Rockpile Cemetary Vineyard Zin is a real gem, great complexity and fruit concentration.

  7. I hate to say it, but whenever I take my family visiting from Europe to wine country, they generally don’t like the wines being poured. They find them too big, etc.

    It would be hard to take something to them that they would like.

  8. Me Being Canadian and British Columbia Canadian, Id take something from the Oakangan Maybe A Poplar Grove Wine, their Merlot is nice. Dirty Laundry has some of the oldest Gwertz vines up their maybe even the Black Sage area Syrah.

  9. Oregon Pinot Noir. I suppose since the current american “trend” might be hard to peg, maybe bring something that reflects what we can be proud of (most of the time). I nominate Van Duzer or Elk Cove

  10. Any of the many excellent current California pinot noirs, a major “trend” at the mid price to higher end of the economic spectrum of American winemaking. (E.g., Calera, Talisman, Flying Goat, Williams Selyem, Sea Smoke, Au Bon Climat, Merry Edwards, Road 31, Lane Tanner, Longoria, Navarro – I’ve intentionally named a wide range of styles.) Also, fine pinot noir is inevitably a rather small production item, which makes it somewhat more artisanal and less industrial than most other varieties.

  11. Wow! Dr. Vino, you actually did post this here!
    Thank you all for the wonderful feedback! I will let you know what I took and how it was received…

  12. Dr. Konstantin Frank Rkatsiteli – an Eastern European grape and one of the best wines made on the East Coast.

  13. Send an older mature vintage of Cathy Corison’s Cabernets! I will also second something from Elk Cove especially any of their single vineyard wines!

  14. Send an older mature vintage of Cathy Corison’s Cabernets! I will also second something from Elk Cove especially any of their single vineyard wines!
    Rosenblum????????? Simple new world corporate wine!

  15. I’d take something local for me, which is the Mid-Atlantic. Perhaps a Michael Shaps Viognier or Petit Verdot, or Chester Gap Cuvee Manseng from Virginia. Maybe a new Black Ankle wine from Maryland. Straying a bit farther north, perhaps a Finger Lakes Riesling or the Dr Frank Rkats.

  16. Ditto on the Corison. Also, Edmunds St. John wines have really lovely depth, balance, and ageability.

    I hope like hell that these wines represent the future of American wine.

    Very much enjoy the blog, thanks


  17. If its American, it has to be a Napa Cab. As per recent NPR podcast that Chateau Montelenao winery is been bought out by a Bordeaux winery. I would take that a Cab from there!!


  18. I suggest a excellent Oregon Pinot Noir. Fine Oregon Pinot Noir is world-class and worth every penny. A bottle of Domaine Serene “Evenstad Reserve” or Anne Amie “La Colina”(I recomend the 2004 vintage for both) will impress and suprise those with the notion great Pinot Noir only comes from Burgundy.

  19. Actually, the idea to bring a US Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon would be really appropriate. Outside of Mavrud, Misket, Melnik and a host of other local varieties Bulgaria grows quite a lot of the Bordelais varieties.
    Maybe bring 3 Cabernet Sauvingons, one each from Napa (mountain fruit, of course), Alexander Valley and Washington. I guess if you wanted to show off the way the industry is “trending” keep the producers small and artisanal.

  20. Sean,

    If you want to give a spectrum of merlot or cabernet sauvignon, I would have to include wines from Carmel Valley, Arroyo Seco in Monterey, Santa Ynez Valley and Paso Robles.

    I know it makes for more bottles, but the Central Coast has been producing these wines for many years. These regions produce merlot and cabernet sauvignon of tremendous merit. Not infrequently, these wines are superior to the stuff with the four-letter N-word on the label.

  21. Arthur,

    I certainly appreciate the input. I do love Central Coast wines. In fact, you left out one of my favorite appellations, the Santa Cruz Mountains. There are some brilliant central coast Cabernets, but they require some careful research to find that gem in a land dominated by Pinot and Rhone varietals. The challenge is that while the Central Coast has been producing these varietals for years, they don’t have the consistency or track record of wines from Napa, Sonoma or even Washington for that matter. Perhaps if you suggested some particular brands for our Balkan traveller, he might have more success in choosing a great wine to represent the Central Coast style.

  22. Sean

    I couldn’t disagree more about the availability or consistency of Central Coast cabs. I focus on the Central Coast wines in my writing and there are plenty great cabs out of the region, though I do admit I overlooked the SCM in my post.

    I don’t think consistency is the issue with these CC cabs, but rather marketing, spin and exposure. The fact is though, that these wines are far more consistent than people imagine (partially because they don’t think of the CC as cab country).

    I would go with any of the following: Bernardus, the Jekel “Sanctuary” blend, Ventana does some pretty good things with cabs, Koehler, Foxen, Clautiere, Whalebone, Lucas & Lewellen (for solid values), Westerly, Villicana and Vogelzang – just off the top of my head.

    These wines are overlooked because everyone is enamoured with Napa.

  23. Oh, and East Valley Vineyard – I would be remiss…

  24. Those are all wonderful wines (although I have to admit that I have always felt that the Westerly Merlot fell a little short of their other offerings). They certainly make good selections to add to Napa and Sonoma selections to take to the Balkans. I wonder how many bottles Bulgarian customs allows an American traveller to bring?

    Arthur, I disagree with your presumptions about availability, consistency. Try to find the wines that you mentioned in any store outside New York, California or Chicago and you would have a serious treasure hunt on your hands. I also think that it is very easy to single out marketing and promotion as the single reason people are enamored with Napa wines. I have worked as a sommelier for several years for top chefs around the united states and will certainly give every region in the world their fair respect earned by the quality of the wines. I am in no way disparaging the reputation of the many wonderful Cabernet producers of the Central Coast. I am simply pointing out that you might miss a lot of beautiful wines if you champion and focus only on one region.

  25. Sean,

    Appreciate your thoughts. I would only say here that what I drink and cellar is not necessarily exclusive of any other wines. Every publication must have a focus and editorial tone.

  26. Sean,


    In 1960, how many Napa Cabs were available in NYC?

  27. Arthur,

    Very good point.
    In our shared passion for wine and debate we were getting a little off topic. I don’t really know where our jet-setting Balkan traveller is leaving from so I thought I would try and make recommendations which would be easy to fulfill. I look forward to future discussions.
    To our intrepid Bulgarian visitor… If it isn’t too much trouble, I would be overjoyed if you would share with us what your brought and your winemaker friend’s comments. It is always an amazing prospect to have some fresh perspective.

  28. I would take a Napa Valley blend. B Cellars offers wines made in the old world tradition with a new world California twist. They take the best grapes from the best vineyards (To Kalon, Georges III, Stagecoach, and Moss Creek just to name a few) from Napa and Kirk Venge makes magic. I would take either the Blend 24 which is a Cabernet Sauv & Merlot blend with some Sangiovese and Petite Sirah thrown in. Or I would take a Blend 25 which is Cabernet/Syrah blend. What better way to show the best grapes from the best Vineyards in Napa Valley. Check out their website at http://www.bcellars.com or http://www.thewinespies.com to get an idea of the wines.

  29. I’ve got a couple of central coast/santa ynez wines for you. Starlane 2005, Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s big and bad(in a good way). Also the Stolpman “Hilltops” Syrah, not your typical California Syrah, its fleshy and sultry, kind of sexy, really!

  30. Actually, the Rosenblum Zin comment is spot-on. A grape with Euro roots that is thought of now as strictly American…made in a fruit forward exotic style. Maybe a Maggie’s Reserve or a Richard Sauret vineyard Zinfandel would be appropriate. For a white, I would take a Riesling. Another European varietal, but one made in a fuller bodied style. My choice would be the Dr. Loosen inspired Eroica from Ch. Ste. Michelle.

    Count Mourvedre aka Rick Burbank

  31. When I visited Perth/Sydney/Auckland I brought a variety of Ontario ice wine’s. Needless to say, the friends and wineries that I shared them with were well pleased. For some, it was their very first time tasting authentic ice wine.


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