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Please help me buy a bottle of wine

I basically know nothing about wine. I have a very good friend who is retiring soon, she and her partner are absolutely wine obsessed. Her dog is named merlot. I want to bring a gift and am thinking that a nice bottle of wine would be good (though half the guests could be thinking this also) other than the fact i know she loves red wine and i assume merlot, im lost. My budget is in the 40 or less range. Maybe i should just get them nice glasses, or a cheese board, etc

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  1. What a sweet thing to do!

    In general, any place near you that has a reputation for being a good wine store or having a good wine department should be able to help you out with some great recs that they have in stock. There are always going to be some really nice ones at that price range. If you know that they love reds, then I would get them a bottle of red!

    They sound like fun loving people who will really be touched by your thoughtful gift.

    1. If you are that lost, I would go with wine "accessories" as opposed to a bottle itself. Some nice Riedel glassware is always appreciated.

      Wine buying as a gift is tricky business and without knowing their tastes etc. I'd go with something safer and more long lasting.

      1. Well I think both of the suggestions posted so far are fine ideas. Taking a flyer with the tip that their dog is named Merlot, I would suggest buying a bottle of Duckhorn Merlot, which is probably going to be in that price range and is a very nice wine, from the Napa Valley. One of the wines Duckhorn is well-known for is their merlots.

        1 Reply
        1. re: mikester

          The suggestion to find out their favorite wine shop will make your selection of a wine much easier.

          If you want to buy a great Merlot in the $40 range, though, your best bet (imho) will be one from Washington State. I haven't had a bad one from up there.

        2. First: where do you live?

          1. Another thought is maybe you could find out if they have a favorite local wine shop. If so, the proprietor probably knows their taste and could suggest something for you.

            1. I agree that your idea is a good one.

              A wine lover, will always appreciate a gift of good wine - one can <<almost>> never have too much.

              I would easily second the Duckhorn Merlot suggestion. Dan Duckhorn does a very nice job, though his Merlots might be slightly above your price-point.

              I do enjoy Merlots, BUT only a few. There is so very much on the US market, that is just not that drinkable. Duckhorn is an exception. Another, but it will likely be even farther above the price point is the Berringer, Howell Mtn, Bancroft Vineyeard Napa Merlot. Also, depending on where you live, it will be tougher to find.

              Another good choice, by my palate, is Milat Oakville Napa Merlot, but that will really be tough to locate, beyond Northern California.

              I also enjoy (at a lower level, than those above), the Jos. Phelps Napa Merlot, and the Groth Oakville Napa Merlots. Good for everyday, probably closer to the price-point, and both are pretty well-distributed in the US.

              There are a few others, but I have found some to be a bit uneven, year in - year out. Then, there are so many more, that I would not bother to cook with, let alone drink. Those are the Merlots, that give Merlot a bad name.

              In much of California, Merlot is a pretty easy grape to grow, but too few make a really worthwhile example of it.

              Good luck, and even if your friend gets a dozen other Merlots, you will still be a hit with a Duckhorn, or that Beringer.


              1. I'm not partial to Merlot (unless it tastes more like Cab ;o]), but one of the best I've had was a Twomey from around 2003 or so. Twomey is part of SIlver Oak (I think) so it should be available in most areas and these wines are usually fairly consistent year-to-year.

                In addition to the other suggestions here, I've enjoyed Jarvis too, but it's way out of your target price range.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Midlife


                  I had forgotten about the Twomey Merlot. I think that it was all Oakville fruit.

                  Twomey now owns both Towmey and Silver Oak, after the death of Justin Meyer and the sale of SO.

                  One of the Merlots that I mentioned in this thread, Milat, comes from some vineyards that also have Cab Sauvignon planted, and for many years, the fruit was sold to Justin. They contributed the "mint/eucalyptus" notes in SO Napa.

                  Our CC has done a couple of Towmey Tasting Dinners, and the wines have been very good - though I miss the older SO Napa greatly. Have no idea how broad the distribution is though.


                2. Thanks so much for all the info and suggestions. Sounds like i should track down the Duckhorn

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: Goatjunky


                    I do not recall where you are located.

                    If one is in/near California, WA, or OR, there might be many wines, that are not available, in say PA.

                    As with many wine threads, that ask for suggestions, people come forth with their personal favs., but sometimes, those are just not available where the OP resides.

                    Good luck,


                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                      I am in southern california. Going tomorrow to wine n more for the search. I called ahead and they have every one of the wines i was curious about.

                      1. re: Goatjunky

                        Great! You should be able to find almost everything mentioned.

                        Enjoy the search,


                        1. re: Goatjunky

                          FWIW, my favorite California Merlot is made by Trefethen in the Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley.

                      2. re: Goatjunky

                        Since your budget may be below your gift recipients' taste level, I'd either buy a gift certificate that will go towards a bottle they will love, or a gift certificate to a gourmet cheese store. Nice card, of course, commemorating the accomplishment, accompanying whatever you do.

                        If budget were not an issue (and you must respect yours, of course), then I'd agree with Bill on Beringer Howell Mountain and Duckhorn, and would add Paloma (absolutely beautiful), Swanson, and Pride to the list.

                        1. re: maria lorraine

                          I just wanted to say thank you for the input. The party was last night, and i brought a bottle of Duckhorn. They know im not a wine drinker and appreciated the choice made. My friends partner told me that she had had it before and really loved it. Soooo.. im feeling good!

                          1. re: Goatjunky


                            That is about as good, as it gets. Glad that you got a rec. for a wine, that will be appreciated.


                      3. I think Whitehall Lane fits your price point.

                        Of course, anything form Duckhorn or Newton or anywhere on Howell Mountain will fill the bill too.

                        Jusrt bought a few bottles of Merlot myself. Just not a Bordelais in any way.