Tis’ the season when one should have stock of that reliable Cabernet Sauvignon that you grab and tie with a ribbon as you run out the door to your next party. This Cabernet Sauvignon should be of exceptional value, this goes without saying, but it should also have an attractive outside appearance (I know this is a consideration when it comes to gift giving, so why pretend it’s not), and it shouldn’t have to cost a small fortune. I have a few favorites that meet these criteria that I’d like to share with you. BUT before I do, I’d like to boast that along with our vast budget-friendly offerings, we have in stock many hard-to-find, high-scoring California wines for those wine lovers on your list that are tough to WOW…to that end check out our offerings fromBedrock Wine Company, Carlisle and Varner. Ok, back to the task at hand, here are my recommendations for that last-minute gift for your neighbor who looks after your cat while you are away on vacation, the “within your budget” red for your legendary Boxing Day party, or that tasty boost needed to make wrapping gifts until 2am all the merrier…



At Humanitas, “Drink Charitably” is the motto. Proceeds from the sale of every bottle of Humanitas go to charity. Judd Wallenbreck, who moonlights as GM for Michel-Schlumberger in the Dry Creek Valley, began this new concept winery in the late ’90s. His thirty plus years of experience in the wine business has uniquely positioned him to be able create this charitable winery. Of course this concept wouldn’t go anywhere if the wines weren’t any good. The 2009 Dry Creek Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is marvelous; mountain fruit from the western part of the valley with a small percentage of Malbec and Merlot blended in for complexity.Because we’re in San Francisco, every time we sell a bottle of the 2009 Dry Creek Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, a donation is made to the San Francisco Food Bank. What a brilliant concept: you buy a stunning Dry Creek Valley Cabernet Sauvignon that has been aged in French oak and tastes of crushed blueberries and tart dried cherries, pay far less then what you would expect to pay for a comparable wine AND in the process do something good for someone else!
2009 Humanitas Cabernet Sauvignon Dry Creek Valley

Red Wine; Cabernet Sauvignon; Sonoma;
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Twenty Rows

This gem of a wine comes from Lori and Brian Nuss who also own Vinoce atop Mt. Veeder. The 2009 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is primarily made up of fruit from Mt. Veeder and Yountville, so power and structure are its hallmarks. Lots of dark red cherry fruit, hints of chocolate and vanilla bean spice greet the palate. Like Humanitas, you get more (pedigree, quality, winemaking) than what you pay for. Plus, this isn’t some large-scaled, faceless operation with a big marketing budget to promote their wine. Twenty Rows is simply about a winemaking couple who understand that not everyone can, or will, pay top dollar for a Napa Cabernet, and are able, with skill and know-how, to fashion a wine that can bottle up all the pleasure of a top-notch Napa Valley Cabernet into a sub $20 bottle. Kudos to Lori and Bill!
2009 Twenty Rows Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley

Red Wine; Cabernet Sauvignon; Napa;
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The 2009 Margarita Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon is Chris Broc’s fourth vintage. This single-vineyard Cabernet outperforms its price range by a wide margin. Margarita Vineyard is the southernmost vineyard in the Paso Robles appellation, is only 14 miles from the ocean and has limestone soils, making this a Cabernet Sauvignon that along with supple rich fruit has a mineral thread that adds energy to the finish. Each time I drink Broadside’s Margarita Vineyard Cabernet, I am struck by this thing…this other thing that makes this Cabernet way more interesting than 99% of what I taste in this price category. Is it the limestone soil, the natural fermentation, the judicious use of oak (only 2% new in this vintage), or just magic? You be the judge.
2009 Broadside Cabernet Sauvignon Margarita Vineyard

Red Wine; Cabernet Sauvignon; Central Coast;
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I went from humbug to ho-ho-ho overnight. I haven’t yet started Christmas shopping (if you are over 21 and on my list, this year you’re all getting wine!), but strangely I’m not panicking. It’ll get done, it always does. And besides it isn’t about that anyway, right? Sunday I’ll be having dinner with my “adoptive” parents for our annual “before Christmas get-together”. It is all the more special this year because last year my other father was at Stanford hospital recovering from heart-transplant surgery. I’m relieved and thankful to report, he’s going great! The menu is set for magret de canard, so I’m bringing Burgundy! Some occasions call for the good stuff! I’d like to wish all of you good health and plenty of time with loved ones, Cheers

Anya Balistreri