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A "big" California Red for my French cousin

Bazel Mar 10, 2010 08:33 PM

I am leaving for Paris tomorrow (and yep .. I am behind on packing and otherwise being ready to leave). My cousin - who is quite the wine connoisseur will be letting my niece and I use his Paris apartment during our stay (he has a house in Orleans too).

I would like to bring him a bottle of wine as a little thank you gift for making his apartment available to us. During his last visit he really went back and forth as to whether or not he would buy a bottle of Opus One (not sure the year). He commented to me that he really wanted to buy a big California wine but he was afraid his expectations would not match the bottle. While I don’t think I want to buy a bottle of Opus One – I would be interested in some recommendations for a big California red.

Any thoughts? I am in the Phoenix are and can hit Total Wine on my way to the airport (like I said, I am running behind).

Thanks for your thoughts and suggestions.


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  1. liza.calderon RE: Bazel Mar 10, 2010 09:35 PM

    I know that I may be roasted for suggesting this, but I would take a bottle of Silver Oak. It is my hands-down favorite for both sentimental and practical reasons. I mostly love it because it is consistently good, has a reliable cork, and is unique in its overwhelming oakiness. If American oak is not your cousin's style, I would take a bottle of Caymus Special Selection - depending on the year, it is a blockbuster wine. Bon voyage!

    2 Replies
    1. re: liza.calderon
      ChefJune RE: liza.calderon Mar 11, 2010 11:42 AM

      Silver Oak alexander Valley was my WOTY for 2009, so I wouldn't roast you. In fact, that would certainly qualify as a BIG Red.

      Be sure you put that bottle into your checked luggage before you get to the airport, tho, and that it is well protected by bubble wrap. I also put each bottle I carry in luggage into a zip lock freezer bag for extra protection for my clothes. However, I have never had any breakage.

      1. re: liza.calderon
        wew RE: liza.calderon Mar 14, 2010 12:01 PM

        "Silver Oak ... is unique in its overwhelming oakiness..."

        How I wish this were true

      2. carswell RE: Bazel Mar 11, 2010 05:52 AM

        Ridge Geyserville or Lytton Spings, which are Zinfandel-dominated field blends. He probably won't have tasted a Zin and, to a French palate, they'll be big wines. They're also iconic and affordable. What's more, if my experience with French people is anything to go buy, he may actually enjoy them.

        1 Reply
        1. re: carswell
          invinotheresverde RE: carswell Mar 11, 2010 08:34 AM

          LOVE the zin recs, and Ridge is superb.

          If the OP wants to stick to cabs, I'd probably grab Shafer Hillside Select. It's so robust, not overly gaudy with American oak, and not as cliche as Silver Oak, Opus, Caymus, etc.

        2. njfoodies RE: Bazel Mar 11, 2010 06:59 AM

          Opus is not a bad idea really, and I know the wine gets a bad rap for being over-priced, but it is still a good wine, and a good representation of the United States. Granted, there are many better choices out there.

          Another wine I would consider is Joseph Phelps Insignia. Have yet to have a bottle that we didn't appreciate!

          Regardless, I would go with a BIG juicy cabernet based wine, but that is just me! -mJ

          1. scrappydog RE: Bazel Mar 11, 2010 09:04 AM

            I took a quick look at the online inventory for Total Wine in Phoenix, and though there are many good suggestions in this thread, not that many are available at Total. I might pick the Montelena Estate Cabernet or the Stags Leap Fay Cabernet from what I saw on the list. If you have other stores available, in my opinion, Pahlmeyer Napa Valley Red would be a nice choice, in addition to some of the wines others have already mentioned.

            1. hill food RE: Bazel Mar 11, 2010 12:09 PM

              in CA I always liked reds from Clos du Val (not Bois) about $30 a bottle

              1 Reply
              1. re: hill food
                kaysyrahsyrah RE: hill food Mar 12, 2010 10:38 PM

                Now here's a brilliant idea - Clos du Val. It's half Bordeaux and half Napa...yet by most standards a great value in California cab.

              2. TonyO RE: Bazel Mar 11, 2010 04:42 PM

                Another thought is that there is more to American wine than just California. My personal choice would be something from OR/WA, perhaps a nice Owne Roe ? Beautiful wine, especially the Dubrul Cabernet, around $60.

                1. c
                  cstr RE: Bazel Mar 12, 2010 09:16 AM

                  Bring a bottle of Heitz Martha's Vineyard, a big 100% cab and it's awesome.

                  1. kaysyrahsyrah RE: Bazel Mar 12, 2010 10:36 PM

                    Given his French Euro taste buds I would bring him a somewhat restrained Napa cab and then a $20 bottle of overripe zin that's clocking at least 16%. There's no point in putting a $100 bottle of big Cali cab in front of someone who wont appreciate it.

                    1. b
                      Brad Ballinger RE: Bazel Mar 13, 2010 07:10 AM

                      Linne Coldao Nemesis.

                      1. PolarBear RE: Bazel Mar 14, 2010 10:24 AM

                        Turley Petit Sirah or Zin

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: PolarBear
                          Jasper1 RE: PolarBear Mar 23, 2010 11:02 PM

                          Try some of the smaller wineries that produce amazing wines like Robert Foley Claret (about $120 a bottle). Also great are some of the high-end California Central Coast pinot noirs, like Sea Smoke Ten (about $80 a bottle). Sea Smoke may not be available at the SAQ, but it's one of the best reds I've ever had!

                          1. re: Jasper1
                            njfoodies RE: Jasper1 Mar 24, 2010 04:49 AM

                            Sea Smoke is an awesome option, but probably hard to find. In my opinion, the '02 and '03 Ten are really starting to hit their stride now, and are great wines! -mJ

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