Sommeliers, connoiseurs, those who love the vino...please advise.
November 7, 2017 7:37 PM   Subscribe

For a Christmas present, I'm looking for three tasty and interesting bottles of wine that I can procure here in Southern California. Deets inside...

I can do about $75-$100 per bottle.

The back story is that she's an educator now and put herself through college/university as wait staff in some of the great restaurants on the west coast. (SF, LA and SD.) She knows her stuff and I kinda want to impress her! She likes the chards and blends like from Conundrum and Orfila.

Help me find something cool, tasty and interesting! Many thanks in advance!
posted by snsranch to Food & Drink (10 answers total)
Maybe you could go a little sideways and try some high-end sake. I went to a sake brewery not too long ago and their cafe had small plates and accompanying flights of four sakes. I had no idea that sake is so complex and enjoyed trying the different types. I'd find a wine shop that has a fine selection and knowledgeable staff, which should be easy on the West Coast. She might enjoy something a little different from what she's already familiar with. Happy sipping.
posted by MovableBookLady at 8:15 PM on November 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

Joseph Phelps makes an excellent Chardonnay.
posted by Oyéah at 8:27 PM on November 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

The Rochioli Sauvignon Blanc is great ($40). Are you specifically looking for whites? There's always the Montelena Chardonnay.

(If you go sake, I recommend Wakatake Onikoroshi Junmai Daiginjo. That stuff is amazing.)
posted by jeffamaphone at 8:42 PM on November 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

Take a run up to Napa, look for the tiniest out of the way small personal family run winery that only sells to folks that drive by.
posted by sammyo at 8:46 PM on November 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

She likes the chards and blends like from Conundrum and Orfila.

OK, I'm gonna run with the Chard thing (I also looked at those 2 wineries you suggested but I wasn't sure if I was supposed to focus on whites only, and anyway neither one triggered any specific ideas for me). One idea is to go historical and buy, for example, a Chateau Montelena as jeffamaphone suggests. Maybe something from the library rather than the latest vintage since it is a gift, but that's the right idea. Reason being, Montelena Chard is the wine that won the "Judgment of Paris" and put Napa wine on the map in the mid 70s. A lateral move from there would be to get a Grgich Hills Chard instead, since Mike Grgich was the winemaker at Montelena during the Judgement of Paris, and their Chards are still very well regarded.

Beyond that, here's the thing with Chard at the moment. It got a bad reputation as "too buttery" for a few years and got super un-popular as a result. Since then, CA winemakers have been trying to turn it around by featuring Chardonnay from a single vineyard and/or aging in steel to avoid that perception and highlight the individual flavors. Lots of people in Sonoma and South Napa / Carneros are doing this at the moment. As one example, Laird Family Estates has two vineyard-specific Chards right now, and they are good.

(p.s. I'm a Norcal guy and as much as I love Napa and Sonoma wines and wineries, I disagree with sammyo; I don't think you need to run all the way up here for this gift. I think you could definitely make do with Santa Barbara / Paso Robles, if you do decide to go taste instead of order online.)
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 9:36 PM on November 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

Depending where you are in SoCal: Hi-Time wine and spirits in Costa Mesa or Mission wine and spirits in Pasadena. Both have tremendous selection and well informed staff.
posted by notyou at 5:57 AM on November 8, 2017 [3 favorites]

Going with the idea of high-end California Chardonnay and some estimated prices here in my market:

Far Niente $55
Kongsgaard $105
Moone Tsai $60
Ramey (many different vineyard selections) $60
Ridge Chardonnay Monte Bello $70

around here at least if you really want to start hitting the $100/bottle threshold then you have to shift into white Burgundy and that might not be her style.
posted by komara at 6:42 AM on November 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

If she's open to dessert wines (hear me out), Kestrel Vintners from Washington State makes a delicious ice wine. Kestrel is pretty widely available, though their ice wine may be tricky to find on the shelf. It's sooooo tasty, lasts forever since you taste it in small amounts, and honestly I'd love to drizzle it on some fresh waffles because it tastes like complex unicorn kisses.
posted by Drosera at 6:53 AM on November 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm having a bit of trouble getting a read on your friend here. First of all, are you looking for whites, specifically? Conundrum is mainly a white wine, and Orfila is only selling a white blend right now, so do you have some specific wines that they liked?

That said, Conundrum is not a particularly well-regarded wine in geek circles. It tastes good, I like it, but it's also at Costco for $15. It's off-dry (slightly sweet) which is out of fashion at the moment. But if I was recommending something similar, I would say the Gundlach-Bundschu (say that give times fast, or just call it Gun Bun) gewurtztraminer would be good. It's floral, slightly off-dry, very nice. They're a smaller winery in Sonoma, the owner's house just burned down so they could use the help, hint, hint. You might be able to get that at your local Total Wine. Navarro (from Mendocino) makes an Edelzwicker (blend similar to Conundrum) that's off-dry and very good; they are mail-order only but also have some interesting gift packs.

If it were me, I might try to visit some wineries. Someone who works in restaurants has probably tried all the mass-market wines, but there are so many little wineries squirreled away that it's impossible to have tried all of those. I would look for something fun but educational, as suggested above. Like eastern Paso vs. western Paso, stainless vs. barrel fermented, different elevation or soil, or just different appellations. Such as two of the "Santas": Santa Maria, Santa Rita, Santa Lucia, or Santa Ynez.

The suggestion for Hi-Times is a good one; they have a huge selection but also prices which are pretty much at the top of the market. I have no doubt that if you go there with some specific wines that your friend liked, you will walk out with something suitable. But being able to tell a personal story with the gift is nice, too.
posted by wnissen at 10:54 AM on November 8, 2017

Thanks for all of the great suggestions and the background info. That's exactly what I was hoping for. For example I'm sure she and I have talked about Montelena and "The Judgement of Paris", but I would never have thought to surprise her with a bottle. Great idea! All great ideas!

Thanks again!
posted by snsranch at 4:12 PM on November 8, 2017

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