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Mar 10, 2010 08:33 PM

A "big" California Red for my French cousin

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. 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

      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

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

        How I wish this were true

      2. 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

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

              1 Reply
              1. re: hill food

                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.