We know you’ve been putting in long hours perfecting your holiday shopping lists, honing in on exactly the right gift for everyone—from Great Aunt Mabel to your dad’s cousin’s step-brother. But for those of us who are lacking inspiration (or may have been *ahem* procrastinating a bit), the France 44 crew has put together a top-notch 2017 Holiday Gift Guide! It’s filled with products we’ve been especially excited about this year, including beer, spirits and wine gift ideas for every enthusiast—from The Novice, to The Dabbler, to The Highbrow. Don’t hesitate to grab one of the staff for more ideas, and their personal favorites!
For the Novice
- Libation Project Red Blend—This is a deliciously unique winemaking project, born right here in the Twin Cities: local wine dudes Weston Hoard and Chris Foster of The Libation Project distribution company have teamed up with their friends at Banshee Wines in Sonoma to do a red blend collaboration. The mission of this project is to direct all profits from this wine to a Minnesota-based nonprofit—specifically Harvest Pack, which is a local organization focused on eliminating hunger in households around the Twin Cities, as well as globally. This Cabernet Sauvignon-based red blend has juicy red and black fruit notes, a lusciously full body, and a balanced, lingering finish. Drink well and do good—what’s not to love?
- Poema Brut Cava—Bubbly is a staple for the holidays! This one-size-fits-all Spanish sparkler is perfect for any occasion, whether it’s to sip on while opening presents, mixing with orange juice for Christmas morning mimosas, or ringing in the New Year with a celebratory toast. Crisp, refreshing and with touches of citrus and orchard fruits, this schnazzy-labeled dry Cava will please any bubbles lover.
- Esprit Gassier Rose—By now, the world has woken up to the following facts: A) Rose is not sweet and not, in fact, White Zinfandel and B) Rose can and should be drunk year-round. This cheerily-hued pink wine from Provence doesn’t need it to be 80 degrees outside! Besides sparkling wine, rose is one of the most flexible food-pairing wines out there. It’s the perfect way to begin a long weekend of celebrating with family and friends, and is capable of carrying you through each course of the meal… all the way through to the annual viewing of Randy crying over meatloaf and Ralphie shooting his eye out.
For The Dabbler
- Coravin Model One—Marketed as a lightweight version of the Model Two, the Coravin Model One has a durable plastic body, and is targeted at millennial wine drinkers interested at expanding their wine horizon. Instead of popping the corks on several bottles per week and rushing to finish bottles before they go bad, the Coravin allows wine drinkers to pour a single glass without opening the bottle, keeping it fresh for far longer than any other wine preservation system.
- Val du Charron ‘Black Countess’ Double Magnum—Want to make a statement with your gift? Give the Dabbler on your list a DOUBLE magnum of wine—yep, that’s three liters of wine in one giant bottle! This delicious red is a Rhone-style blend of Shiraz, Pinotage, Mourvedre, Carignan and Grenache. It’s an elegant, complex wine with cassis, blueberry, blackberry, cherry, dried herbs, and hints of cinnamon, leather and cigar aromas.
- Kobal Yellow Muscat Brut—Over the last few years, Slovenian and Croatian wines have been catapulted into a well-deserved limelight. The outstanding vineyard sites found in Slovenian Styria have been renowned for millennia, and evidence of winemaking can be traced back to Ancient Roman times. Kobal makes an Extra Brut (very dry) sparkling wine from Yellow Muscat—an extremely aromatic variety that takes all the good parts from traditional Italian Moscato without any cloying sweetness. A lovely bouquet of fresh citrus fruit and fragrant floral notes is followed by a full-flavored palate and dry, elongated finish.
For The Highbrow
- Smockshop Band Oak Ridge Pinot Noir—“Natural wine” is all the rage these days, but who’s to say what the definition of the category is, or even if it is a category? Smockshop Band is an exploration of the Columbia River Gorge by the team at Hiyu Natural Wine Farm. At the helm is Master Sommelier Nate Ready, formerly of The French Laundry and Frasca restaurants. All of Hiyu’s wines are made without any addition of yeasts, nutrients, enzymes, sugar, acid, or water. This exceptionally delicate Pinot is seamless and without edges with a texture resembling gossamer thread. For the Pinot fanatic in your life—whether Burgundy, Oregon or California, this incredibly unique wine sings of a specific place; not a style.
- Kopke Colheita 1999 Port 375mL—Why are we so excited by this Port? For starters, the House of Kopke is the oldest wine export firm in Porto, Portugal, having been in continuous production for nearly 380 years. To be able to put a 1999 half-bottle of their Colheita Port on our shelves for only $30 is awe-inspiring and humbling—and definitely puts Time into a bigger perspective. It presents a complex bouquet of red fruit aromas, and the mouthfeel is elegant, well-structured and with an excellent aromatic intensity. The freshness is in perfect harmony with a layered and detailed finish.
- Lagier-Meredith Wines—If the name Carole Meredith sounds familiar to you, you’ve cleared Level 100 in Wine Geekiness. Dr. Meredith is one of the world’s leading grape geneticists, having discovered the parentage and family trees of hundreds of important wine grapes—namely, the ancestry of the world’s favorite grape, Cabernet Sauvignon. It just so happens that Dr. Meredith and her husband, Steve Lagier, have a pristine little plot of vineyard land on Napa’s Mount Veeder. Their Syrah is characterful, deep and goes on for days, while their Mondeuse tells of times long past, when Mondeuse was Napa’s #1 grape. Peppery, regal and dark, it bridges a narrow gap between the New World and Old World.
For The Novice
- Minnesota Craft Sampler –The ultimate stocking stuffer for someone who’s just getting into craft beer. These four pack samplers feature an individual beer from four different local breweries. Choose from two different combinations! $9.49/4pk 16oz
- Warpigs Salmon Pants Lager –Circa 2015, Warpigs was founded as a collaboration between Munster, Indiana’s 3 Floyds and Copenhagen’s Mikkeller. Salmon Pants is the third installment of this hop-driven lineup Chicagoan craft beer. A crisp, dry, and grainy malt base carries juicy cantaloupe and honeydew-laden hop tones. $11.99/6pk
- Indeed Old Friend Winter Warmer Ale –A true taste of the holidays! Welcome back an old friend with a cheers. Old Friend is brewed with fresh ginger root, clover honey, and orange blossom honey. It’s like a big, malty hug with little kisses of ginger and spice. $10.99/4pk 16oz
For The Dabbler:
- Blackstack Local 755 NE-Style IPA –The Haze Craze continues! Treat the hop-lover to this locally-brewed NE-style IPA with sweet, equatorial notes of mango, guava, and pineapple. It’s plush, pillow-y mouthfeel finishes with a soft, pithy bitterness. $13.99/4pk 16oz
- Stone Xocoveza Imperial Mocha Stout –A perennial France 44 favorite. This imperial stout has all that and the kitchen sink. Cocoa, coffee, pasilla peppers, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and milk sugars join forces in perfect harmony, making it an ideal choice for any stout drinker. It’s complex without being convoluted. Each ingredient gets time the spotlight. This full-bodied beauty is a must-try! $16.99/6pk
- Schell’s Electrik Empress Berliner-Style Weisse Aged on Plums –Electrik Empress pours a dazzling cotton candy pink from maturation on over three tons of plums. Bursting aromas of juicy plums and pear, with a soft lemony-tart acidity. Schell’s is pushing the boundaries of Berliner Weisse-style beers. The Empress is a perfect gift for those who savor sour beers. $17.99/750ml
For The Highbrow:
- Chimay Trappist Grande Réserve Wooden Crate 12pk –First created as a celebratory Christmas brew in 1948, Chimay “Blue” has grown to define the Chimay brewery and is widely considered one of the best beers of Belgium. Brewed within the confines of the magnificent Scourmont Abbey, this dark ale has commanding aromas and flavors of caramel, chocolate, cola, dark fruit, and nuts. This twelve pack wood crate is a foolproof gift for any Belgian beer-lover. $74.99/12pk
- Spiegelau IPA Glasses –Developed from collaboration between two leading IPA brewers, Dogfish Head and Sierra Nevada, the Spiegelau IPA glasses are well-known by beer geeks for best showcasing pungent American hop profiles, aiding head-retention, and enhancing flavor. Spiegelau glassware is a must-add to any beer drinker’s cabinet. $29.99/6pk (SUPER SALE, ALMOST HALF OFF!!!)
- Tilquin Oude Gueuze Lambic –Produced with wort sourced from Boon, Lindeman’s, Girardin, and Cantillon, Tilquin Oude Gueuze is a benchmark for the style. One, two, and three year old lambic is blended and then refermented for at minimum half a year in the bottle. A fresh lemony nose welcomes its tart, dry and lightly funky palate. Youthful oak contributes softly bitter tannins. Drink now or even twenty years from now. Tilquin is a sought after name for any lambic aficionado. $11.99/375ml
For The Novice
- Larceny Bourbon $22.99–Have new bourbon drinker in the family or on the block? Look no further than Larceny Small Batch Wheated Bourbon. Many of the heavy-hitting bourbon producers make some great bourbons at inexpensive prices and Heaven Hill is one of the best at it. Larceny is a new wheated bourbon, meaning there is no rye in the mashbill, it is replaced by wheat, a softer and sweeter grain. The wheated bourbons you may know are Maker’s Mark, Weller, and Pappy Van Winkle. Larceny is a soft, sweet, caramel forward bourbon with some dry cinnamon to round out the finish and an absolute steal at $22.99.
- Ford’s Gin $32.99—Made by bartenders for bartenders in a liter (bigger) bottle with milliliter measurement up and down the bottle, Ford’s Gin is the epitome of a London Dry Gin with just a touch of sweetness to give this beautiful gin a nice round body. Heavy on classic botanicals of juniper and coriander with some tones of cassia and jasmine, this is the perfect gin for any cocktails. If you aren’t sure what kind of gin you may be looking for, Ford’s is the way to go!
- Macallan 12 Year Double Cask $64.99—A classic Macallan, a name we all know, but with a twist! Aged its entire life in sherry barrels just like the classic red Macallan 12 giving it dark rich fruit and nuttiness, the difference being the use of American oak along with French oak. American oak has a different DNA than French oak, so it imparts different flavors. In this case it adds a dimension of citrus and vanilla to the mix. It also clocked in at #17 on Whisky Advocate’s Whiskies of the year.
For The Dabbler
- Cocchi Dopo Teatro $17.99—Do you know a Manhattan or Negroni enthusiast? Get them a bottle of the new Cocchi Dopo Teatro this season! Made by the people who make our #1 selling sweet vermouth Cocchi Di Torino, Cocchi Dopo Teatro is its darker and richer cousin. Made with more bitter quinine and an extra dash of rhubarb, with is a bold and delicious vermouth for making cocktails or drinking on the rocks.
- Del Maguey Vida $36.99—Have someone dabbling at home with cocktails? A good bottle of mezcal is a fine addition to any bar. Vida is inherently smoky with a touch of mesquite sweetness and a ton of tropical mango and papaya fruit. You could also go with a smokier style in Yuu Baal Joven Mezcal if you’re looking to pack a phenolic punch to a drink, but Vida brings a balanced attitude that is great for easy sipping or mixing.
- EH Taylor Single Barrel $59.99—If you’re shopping for a burgeoning bourbon drinker, look no further than EH Taylor Single Barrel. Made by the prestigious Buffalo Trace Distillery, a France 44 favorite. Almost unfortunately so since almost everything they make is now allocated, meaning we cannot get enough of it. EH Taylor is some of the best bourbon they make. Filled with flavors of cherry, vanilla, sweet cinnamon and caramel corn, it is the perfect splurge bourbon one may not spring for themselves.
For The Highbrow
- Barr Hill Gin $37.99 and Nolet’s Gin $39.99—Have a gin drinker that’s impossible to buy for? Try out one of our many unique and different gins that is sure to impress. Two that stand out with season are Barr Hill and Nolet’s. Barr Hill comes from an apiary (honey farm) in Vermont and they incorporate they honey into the gin by diluting it with their estate honey. This leads to a sweet, rich style of gin perfect for the cold holiday season. Another France 44 favorite is Nolet’s Silver Gin. You may know the Nolet family from making Ketel One, but Nolet’s is where they hang their hat. Made with unique botanicals of peach, rose, and raspberry, along with a heavy dose of juniper. This fruity and spicy gin is bound to impress this holiday season.
- Nonino Amaro $46.99–This is the best amaro on the shelf, period. Made by the historic Nonino family with a base of their grappa and aged in small barrels with all sorts of herbs, including orange peel, saffron, cinchona bark, rhubarb, and tamarind, and many more. Get this for drinking after a special meal as a digestif or for the cocktail maker in your life, you will not be disappointed.
- Barrell Bourbon, Rye, and Whiskey $69.99-89.99—Know a whiskey drink who has absolutely everything? Cue Barrell Whiskey Company. Barrell is a negociant American Whiskey company, meaning they purchase whiskey before blending and finishing them for optimal flavor profiles. Recently brought to the state, barrel has a beautifully bold and fruity 9 year cask strength bourbon, an 11 year whiskey aged in rye and bourbon barrels (Tom’s favorite), as well as their first ever rye. All super bold and flavorful, and super limited of course!