Downton Abbey fans will love Highclere Castle Gin. (©Highclere Castle Gin)
By Jennifer McKee
While it’s always a fine time for wine and spirits, your special occasion will be that much more so with these flavorful bottles. Read on for a list of our favorites for toasting your loved ones (and yourself), and looking ahead to better times.
A silky, earthy blend from South Africa, Mullineux Syrah draws you in with fragrances of violets, lilies, black fruits and spicy citrus and seals the deal with its elegant finish and fresh, natural acidity. Half its grapes are whole-bunch fermented (all fermentation is done with indigenous yeasts) and is bottled unfiltered. It is aged for 11 months in French oak.
Made from Syrah grapes in Sonoma County, Sosie Wines’ sparkling red, “A Moment of Weakness,” shines. The region, particularly Bennett Valley, where Vivio Vineyard can be found, delivers supreme, nuanced Syrahs that benefit from cool Pacific air and a nurturing blanket of fog. This allows for the grapes’ greater “hang time,” to develop bright red fruit flavors.
White wine lovers will adore Chateau Montelena’s classic Napa Chardonnay. Its winemaker, Matt Crafton, notes its “incredible floral and ripe fruit character” that is best served slightly chilled. Pair it with fresh seafood, shellfish or poultry to cut through the acidity and citrus notes of the wine. Another treat: the Potter Valley Riesling.
A gorgeous, clean wine line from Cameron Diaz and Katherine Power, Avaline is made from organic grapes, is vegan friendly and free of added sugars, concentrates and colors. Diaz calls the rosé “light, delicious and so French.” The crisp wine is made from a blend of five different grapes and has notes of melon and zest.
The full-bodied Florio Targa Riserva Semisecco is a semi-dry wine that pairs deliciously with blue-veined cheeses such as gorgonzola, as well as dry pastries and dried fruit—marked with scents of dates, apricots and stewed prunes, it’s no wonder. Made in southern Italy, it’s produced from the Grillo grape, a white grape typically used in such fortified wines. This flavorful wine is best served at room temperature.
What would a special occasion be without Champagne? Forged from difficult conditions in 2012, Champagne Louis Roederer’s Brut Nature is nonetheless ripe and juicy, with aromas of vineyard peaches, candied lemon, baked apples and caramelized spices giving way to velvety smooth and effervescent bubbles. These medium-sized bubbles are refreshing to the palate, offering bursts of freshness and zing. It’s our new favorite champagne.
Produced in Cognac, France, Alfred Giraud’s master blender spent decades at an acclaimed cognac house and uses his expertise to blend complex, layered flavors into the brand’s malt whisky. The Harmonie blend is matured in three different types of casks, through which it picks up subtle hints of peat. For those who want to try something dramatically different, this is it.
Grace O’Malley Blended Irish Whiskey is the first Irish whiskey to be named after a woman, a chieftain of the O’Malley clan who was a skillful leader and convention-breaker in her time. Following in that tradition, the whiskey named for her boasts one of the highest malt contents in its category, 46 percent, making for a smooth complexity never before tasted.
Distilled in England’s oldest gin distillery, Highclere Castle Gin truly is the drink of royalty. The spirit of the “real Downton Abbey,” the brand was developed in partnership with the 8th Earl & Countess of Carnarvon and is distilled from a blend of botanicals grown on the estate, including oranges from the Victorian Orangery, creating a lush flavor profile. It’s won 14 gold awards and quickly becoming a worldwide favorite.
Named after the American Prairie Reserve, a non-profit working to create the largest land reserve in the lower 48 states, High West American Prairie Bourbon is a standout in specialty cocktails, but is also the perfect sipping spirit. That’s thanks to notes of caramel and vanilla that give it a rich, earthy complexity. It’s carefully crafted from a blend of straight bourbons that are at least two years old.
An exquisite vodka hand-crafted in Greece, Kastra Elion is distilled from Greek olives and makes the best dirty martini we’ve ever had! Its buttery smoothness also makes it the perfect sipping vodka; savor the refined, peppery undertones that make for a soft, rounded finish. A true luxury, indeed.
Known for its crispness and smoothness, you really can taste the essence of agave in Casa Dragones’ pure Blanco tequila. The small-batch, 100 percent blue agave silver tequila was named the “Best Blanco Tequila” by Epicurious. It’s fresh and herbaceous, with notes of grapefruit and green apple, and finishes with a bright aftertaste and hint of almond.