2012 Gift Guides: Wine, Oysters and a Book

90+ Cellars Holiday Wine Essentials, photo credit: Michael Diskin

90+ Cellars Holiday Wine Essentials, photo credit: Michael Diskin

It’s that time of year again: gift giving season. Holidays abound, everyone’s going somewhere where they want to bring something. Heck, sometimes when you’re buying things for others you feel like buying something extra for yourself. There wil be a series of posts this week and next based around a number of items that either we were sent as gifts and enjoyed or picked up ourselves and have to tell you about them.

First up, the 90+ Cellars Holiday Wine Essentials. From the New England-based 90+ Cellars comes this curated selection of six wines for celebrating the season from a Prosecco to a Cabernet Sauvignon, wrapped in a convenient festive gift box. I’ve seen 90+ Cellars wines over the past year since they launched, but I’ll be honest, I was a little leery of buying wine, even well-priced wine, where I knew nothing about the wine other than where it came from and the varietal. Here’s how 90+ Cellars describes what they do.

“90+ Cellars is a limited collection of wine sourced from elite vineyards all over the world with a history of producing wines with 90-point ratings, gold medals, and best buy awards. The 90+ Cellars team tastes several wine samples each month, selects the best of the best for the 90+ Cellars label, and offers them at up to 50% less than the original brand’s price so savvy wine consumers can enjoy great wine anytime.”

As I tasted the six wines in the Holiday Wine Essentials box I realized, of course there’s value in finding a producer who’s wine you know and trust, but I have also come to trust certain importers of wine. For instance, I know I enjoy wines produced by Marchesi di Barolo, but at the same time, I’m more willing to blindly try a wine that Frederick Wildman imports. So perhaps I could put that same trust in the wines that 90+ Cellars is curating. 90+ Cellars is maintaining a form of producer individuality in their Lot number labeling. For example, their Lot 66 Riesling which was included in this Holiday Wine Essentials box is a 2011 vintage from Mosel, Germany, while they also sell a Lot 19 Riesling, which is a 2008 vintage from Columbia Valley. So we are getting specific wines, we just don’t know the producer’s names.

The 90+ Cellars Holiday Wine Essentials includes, with my notes in italics:

Lot 50 Prosecco, Veneto, Italy, NV: Possibly the best Prosecco I’ve ever had. Seriously. We opened it on Thanksgiving before dinner and as our guests took tastes the bottle quickly disappeared. Everyone wanted more of Lot 50.

šLot 64 Sauvignon Blanc, Lake County, CA, 2011: The weakest wine in the box, but drinkable. It seemed more like a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc with a lot of grapefruit up front. But it was a little too sharp and would be overpowering some foods you might have considered to be a good pairing.

Lot 66 Riesling, Mosel, Germany, 2011: This was excellent, very typical of a Riesling from Mosel, off-dry but not overly sweet. I rarely have met a Riesling I didn’t like and this was love.

Lot 68 Pinot Noir, Central Coast, CA, 2010: Also typical of a Central Coast Pinot Noir. It was very juicy, not particularly exciting, but good, and a nice, light red for all kinds of food.

Lot 21 French Fusion Red, Languedoc, France, 2009: Here’s where we saw some depth. This wine shouted Languedoc. It was a bit heavy and needed to open up a bit. This is a good wine for slow drinking over the course of a meal and seeing how it develops. Great spiciness and fruit as it opened.

Lot 72 Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles, CA, 2010: This was very enjoyable, and at it’s suggest price point on the 90+ Cellars site, a very good value. An easy drinking Cabernet Sauvignon with lots of cocoa and warm spices. It was very silky and of course went well with a steak.

The Holiday Wine Essentials is available for purchase at these Rhode Island retailers:

  • Madeira Liquors, Providence
  • Nocera’s Liquors, Providence
  • Haxton’s Kent Liquors, Warwick
  • Bobby Gasbarro’s Oaklawn Discount Liquors, Cranston
  • Bristol Wine & Spirits, Bristol

Suggested retail is $60, but you may find it on sale. It’s a great value for some very good wines. Plus, as I’ve found in person and read on Twitter, the whole 90+ Cellars concept is a great conversation starter, and isn’t that a large part of what holiday gatherings is all about?

The "Ditch the Fruitcake and Get 'Shucked'" Holiday Package

The “Ditch the Fruitcake and Get ‘Shucked'” Holiday Package

This next gift I haven’t received, but it was suggested to me and does seem like a perfect item on many levels. One, I love oysters and Island Creek Oysters from Duxbury, Massachusetts are excellent. Two, I’ve been reading Erin Byers Murray’s Shucked and very much enjoy it. Three, my good friend Jacqueline Church created the Oyster Century Club© this year and it’s a phenomenal way to get into eating the delicious bivalve. So I give you:

The “Ditch the Fruitcake and Get Shucked” Holiday Package

From Island Creek Oysters:

Island Creek Oysters has grown into one of the largest and most reputable aquaculture businesses in the US, selling nearly five million oysters a year around the world. Intense care is given to every step of the farming process, from hatchery to harvesting. Because of Island Creek’s commitment to excellence, the National Shellfish Association named Island Creek Oysters the best oyster in America. Today, diners can find Island Creek Oysters on the menu at restaurants across the country including Per Se, The French Laundry, Le Bernardin and even The White House.

Offering all the accouterments for bivalve novices or long-time fans, the “Ditch the Fruitcake and Get Shucked” Holiday Package package is almost too good to give away. For $100 it includes:

  • Erin Byers Murray’s memoir Shucked
  • Three dozen Island Creek Oysters
  • Shucking knife
  • Island Creek Oysters short sleeve t-shirt

Shucked chronicles Erin’s experience when in March of 2009 she decided to ditch her pampered city girl lifestyle and convince the rowdy and mostly male crew at Island Creek Oysters in Duxbury, Massachusetts, to let her learn the business of oysters for a year. Shucked is a lively narrative of oyster farming from a true farm-to-table perspective. Her book is part love letter, part memoir and part documentary about the world’s most beloved bivalves.

Again, another gift item that seems like a complete steal at that price and another brilliant gift for a holiday gathering because how do you not have a party when a group of people are shucking and slurping oysters?

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