Your 2018 Holiday Gift Guide is here! The experts have weighed in and cast their professional votes, and the list this year is more delicious (and nerdier) than ever. Take a look at France 44’s top picks for the Novice, Dabbler, and Highbrow beverage lovers on your shopping lists this year:
For the Novice
- West + Wilder Cans—If we’d been told three years ago that canned wines would be the thing of the future, we would have scoffed in the most polite, Minnesotan way possible. But we stand corrected, and we couldn’t be happier about it. This “canned wine” phenomenon has proven that as long as you start off making a good wine, you can put it in whatever container you’d like. And besides being delicious, the West + Wilder cans (which include a still white blend, a still rose, and sparkling white and rose as well) have absolutely beautiful botanical-themed packaging. 1% of the proceeds from the West + Wilder winery go back towards preserving wildlife through 1% for the Planet.What better—and more beautiful and conscientious—gift for the beginning wine lover in your life? $6.99/250ml can or $19.99/3-pk
- Gift Set Wines—Check out Washington’s Disruption Wines (a Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and a Red Blend) or California’s schnazzy Fable Wines (a Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon) to give your burgeoning wine aficionado. These textbook wines are perfect “introductory” bottles to understand what each of these grape varieties is capable of—and are beautiful to look at, besides. varied pricing
- Corkcicle Products—Corkcicle creates innovative barware and insulated beverage containers of all shapes and sizes, and the France 44 staff is absolutely smitten with this company. Our resident beverage-container-expert Sarah swears by them, declaring they’ll keep ice in your beverage for over 24 hours. That, friends, is well-insulated. From the single-serving stemless “wine glass” shape to the 750-milliliter canteens (aka, 1 bottle of wine) to the 60 oz larger-than-life vessels (aka, margaritas for 12 of your best friends), we’ve got you covered… along with all the Corkcicle accessories you could ever need. Perfect for the friend/family member who doesn’t play favorites with their beverage of choice. varied pricing
For The Dabbler
- Beaulieu Vineyard Tapestry Reserve—Here’s a quick bit of California wine history: Beaulieu Vineyard was founded back in 1900 by Georges de Latour and employed one of the most famous and important people to ever set foot in a California vineyard: Andre Tchelistcheff. BV was one of the few wineries to make it through Prohibition by selling sacramental wine, and then dedicated themselves to research and innovation that has forever altered the path of California wine. The BV Tapestry Reserve 2013, listed at $65 on the winery’s website, is at a phenomenal holiday value of $34.99. This is a Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot and showcases the best of what Napa Valley has to offer. For the wine enthusiast who knows a little something about wine but wants to stick to the classics, there’s no better value than this bottle.
- Poggio Antico ‘Lemartine’ Super Tuscan—Poggio Antico is another darling of France 44, hailing from Italy’s famed Tuscany region. Although the term “Super Tuscan” has little actual bearing on the style or quality of the wine, the Lemartine will assure you that the term was created specifically for wines of power and prestige such as this. Tucked away in one of Montalcino’s most elevated climates, Poggio Antico works with painstaking attention to detail and very low yields, resulting in wines of concentration and depth that will last for years to come. The Lemartine is an intriguing blend of 50% Sangiovese, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Petite Verdot (which gives the wine its deep, rich color and flavor), aged in French oak. This is another “new classic” to drink now, or to hold for years to come. $39.99
- Sallier de la Tour Set of Wines—Sallier de la Tour has quickly become a favorite of staff and customers alike, first for their delicious and unique character and secondly for their incredibly affordable price points. Hailing from the remote northwestern corner of the island of Sicily that’s famous for their fortified Marsala wines, Sallier de la Tour instead produces beautifully dry, elegant wines from the indigenous Inzolia and Grillo white grapes, as well as red wines from Syrah and Nero d’Avola. Inzolia and Grillo are mainly reserved for Marsala, so it’s pretty neat to see them in true form as dry, unfortified, characterful table wines. A great set of wines to catapult your Wine Dabbler into the “weird grapes” wormhole. varied pricing
For The Highbrow
- Georgian/Serbian Wines—If your highbrow wino has a “been there, done that” with even off-the-beaten-path varieties like Inzolia and Grillo, give them a first look at Piquentum’s Refosk from Croatia. Refosk is an old northern Italian/central European grape that has a rustic, dark-berried flavor and a confusing family tree. Or if you need to give your nerdiest wine lover a lesson in ancient wine history (along with pronunciation), try out the Mtsvane Rkatsiteli or Saperavi wines from the Tchotiashvili winery, located in the Kakhetki region of Georgia (the country, not the state). Also new this year to the store is our first-ever Serbian wine: Life Flows Red Blend by Vinarija Zvonko Bogdan. varied pricing
- Magnums!—Nothing says “I love you” like a magnum. The R. Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia Reserva 2002 is beautifully impressive to look at, and even more impressive to drink. Lopez de Heredia is 141 years old–you can be confident that they’ve hit upon a pretty solid style of making Rioja. If you have a Riesling lover on your list, check out this towering magnum of St. Urbans-Hof Ockfener Bockstein Riesling, a Kabinett-level stunner that can double as a very delicate weapon for sword-fighting after you’ve drained its contents. Check out of the rest of our magnum collection too—there are too many amazing choices to list here! varied pricing
- Collectables—Most wines are for drinking now. And after all, Americans are especially impatient when it comes to letting a wine “age” until the proper drinking time. But for the more principled wine collectors among us, one of the most rewarding experiences is opening a well-cared-for bottle after a 10-20 year nap in the cellar. Here are a few “investment bottles” for your collector’s treasure trove:
–La Gerla Brunello di Montalcino 2010: one of the greatest vintages in recent memory for Tuscany’s top wines.
–Arnaldo Rivera ‘Undicicomuni’ Barolo 2013: the greatest-value Barolo we’ve come across this year.
–Big Table Farm Pinot Noir 2016: #73 in Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of 2018. They started out as a humble 150-case-production farm, and have now caught the attention of the likes of Eric Asimov, the Wall Street Journal, and (obviously) Wine Spectator Magazine.
–Domaine Beaurenard Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2015: Beaurenard is consistently part of the cream of the crop for producers of Chateauneuf. Critics put the drink-by date as 2020-2040.
For the Novice:
Castle Danger Choice Pils—One of our favorite new beers of 2018. Castle Danger puts its own spin on a traditional German pilsner by adding Cascade hops to the classic duo of Saaz hops and choice German pilsner malt. The incredibly soft, pure water of Lake Superior is perfect for the production of this style. Pouring an extremely pale gold with a dense head that perseveres sip after sip, Choice Pils smells of spicy, citrus-peel hop tones and drinks as crisp and quaffing as they come. $9.99/6pk
Steel Toe Size 4 India Session Ale—Size 4 exhibits all the best qualities of a top-notch IPA with a mindfully-low 4.4% abv. Steel Toe is notoriously secretive about their hop choices so don’t expect to find easy answers, but this beautiful brew is pungent with notes of ripe berries, juicy pineapple, citrus candy, and pine. Clean, light malt and moderate bitterness make this one easy drinking session IPA. $9.99/6pk
Mix and Match 6-Pack—Don’t know what to gift to the beer drinker in your life? Fear not! Mix and Match 6-packs are a great way to gift a variety of beer styles to someone who is still finding their taste for craft beer. Our selection is constantly rotating and features the latest seasonal releases and year-round favorites. Don’t see what you’re looking for? Ask a beer staff for assistance! $10.99/6pk
For the Dabbler:
BlackStack Elevators Australian Ella IPA—One of the hottest breweries of the year is back at it with another limited release. Elevators is an IPA (yes, it’s hazy) brewed with all Ella hops, a variety native to Australia. More subtle than galaxy, but with a high oil content, Ella imparts distinct tropical flavors when used for extensive dry-hopping. Notes of under-ripe strawberries and pineapple candy atop a body that’s soft like Cadillac leather. $15.99/4pk
Sisyphus Peanut Butter Jackpot! Stout—One dangerously named local brewery brought popularity to this style in the Twin Cities, and now we won’t stop getting questions about peanut butter stouts! Sisyphus makes a veritably delicious one, with delightful aromas of roasted peanuts and dark chocolate. Semi-sweet on the palate, it is neither cloying or thin. A perfect beer for cold wintry nights. $12.99/4pk
Beer Glassware—You may not have known, but we stock a wide variety of beer glasses that are perfect stocking stuffers. Chalices, goblets, tulips, pilsner glasses, shaker pints, weizen glasses, Spiegelaus, you name it, we’ve got ‘em! $4.99/glass (except Spiegelau)
For the Highbrow:
Zundert Trappist 8 Ale—The newest member of our Trappist selection, a section of beer that, by nature, doesn’t grow too often! The Zundert Brewery was built in 2011 after the monks became overwhelmed by work on the abbey’s farm. Zundert is producing only 4,000 barrels a year, making it one of the smallest Trappist breweries. Described by the abbey as ‘slightly unruly’, the Zundert 8 has softly sweet caramelized malt tones and a spicy, herbal hop bitterness. $6.49/12oz
O’so Arbre Qui Donne Sour Ale—O’so good! Yes, very unoriginal, but true. Arbre Qui Donne, which translates to Giving Tree, is a blend of barrel-aged blonde sours that have been re-fermented on 1800 pounds of fresh Georgia peaches. Vibrant aromas of under-ripe peach, lemon peel, pepper, and oak. The flavors are much less acidic than the aroma would suggest. Juicy, acidic peach, lime, honey, a little oak, and a dry oak-y finish. A perfect gift for the sour-drinker or lambic-lover in your life. $17.99/750ml
For the Novice
Evan Williams Single Barrel—Evan Williams Single Barrel Bourbon is a hand dated eight year whiskey for fewer than thirty bucks. Filled with flavors of caramel, orange rind, and a creamy nuttiness, this bourbon is perfect for making old fashioneds or sipping neat. This is a great bourbon to play around with in different cocktails or to serve at a party for the holidays! $23.99
Tattersall Liqueurs–Hailing from Northeast Minneapolis, Tattersall has a plethora of different liqueurs to give as gifts. Do you know a special person who likes a little cherry in their Manhattan or grapefruit in their margaritas? Tattersall has you covered. Their cranberry liqueur is killer in a Cosmo as well. They have ten different flavors including lime, orange, and blueberry to fit any gift need you made have.
Manley’s Old Fashioned–Heather Manley is a local entrepreneur who makes many different gins and whiskies along with a bottled old fashioned. Her signature bottled old fashioned combines her bourbon, rich demerara syrup and Italian bitters for an all in one just pour it over ice experience. Get one for the cocktail drinker in your life that doesn’t like making cocktails at home or use a bottle at your family holiday party instead of carrying the cocktail burden all on your own! $39.99
For the Dabbler
Hendrick’s Orbium Gin—This brand new limited release from Hendrick’s has been quininated! That’s right; quinine has been added to this gin along with oily floral lotus blossom and wormwood to balance. Quinine is the bittering agent in tonic water, making it a perfect for gin and tonics as well as vespers. Brand new and fun to play around with in different cocktails, get your Orbium while you can! $39.99
High West Single Barrel Double Rye! Whiskey–We were lucky enough to get our hands on a single barrel of Double Rye! Whiskey finished in Moscatel barrels for an entire year. The muscatel barrel used was a fruity white desert wine filling up the gaps in the spice with rich peach, apricot jam, and pear tones. This unique rye clocks in right above 99 proof, this rye gives a super unique fruity flavor to any classic cocktail. $47.99
Plantation Xaymaca Rum–Plantation is the rum branch of Pierre Ferrand Congac Company that sources rums from various islands all over the greater Caribbean area. This brand new rum is 100% Jamaican Pot Still Rum is non-dosage, making only one of two rums on my shelf with zero added sugar. This rum tastes like rich caramel and real raw pineapple. It makes the perfect addition to any burgeoning home bar and is unlike any other rum on the shelf. $21.99
For the High Brow
Belle Meade Bourbon—Belle Meade is a new hot distillery out of Tennessee that made its debut here in Minnesota just six months ago. They are most known for their three finished bourbons: cognac, madeira, and sherry. Each bourbon has its own spin, the cognac finish has a ton of maple and vanilla, the madeira is filled with orange ring and cinnamon, while the sherry is filled with dark dried fruit and baking spices. Each is starkly different from one another and make a perfect gift for the person in your life who has everything.
GINRAW Barcelona Gin–GINRAW is a gin that just kicked off in the U.S. just a few months ago and made it to Minnesota, its 7th state, just one month ago. It is low temperature distilled giving it a heavy rich mouthfeel that goes well with its few but prominent botanicals: lemon and citron peel, kaffir lime and laurel leaf, smoky black cardamom and coriander, along with juniper, of course. This gin is both citrusy and spicy at the same time. Perfect for any citrus lover in your life and is an experience all in its own. $44.99
Fidencio Pechuga Mezcal–Mezcal is one of the hottest areas in spirits right now. The smoky brother of mezcal is being sipped and put into cocktails all over the country. Pechuga is a special version of mezcal made once a year as the celebration of the harvest where the distillers gather local fruits and grains and macerate them into the mezcal (in Fidencio’s case, they infuse a ton of tropical fruit such as quince, pineapple and guava), along with, you know, a whole raw chicken, to give it a savory side to balance the fruit and the smoke. A very unique experience to be sure, but one they will not forget! $79.99