Home > Experiences, wine, wine fun, wine gifts > Playing Wine Secret Santa

Playing Wine Secret Santa

December 30, 2013 Leave a comment Go to comments

wine santaA few weeks ago, Jeff, a.k.a. the drunken cyclist, came up with the idea – how about making whole bunch of people happy and excited, just in time for the holidays, by exchanging a few bottles of wine – in secret. As the typical “secret Santa” game goes, we (all participants) have to send one or two bottles of wine to someone – of course nobody has any idea who is sending wine to whom, as all the recipients are set at random. We also were asked to include a little note about ourselves and how did we chose what wine to send – for all detailed rules and regulations you can look here.

I really liked the idea from the very beginning – being able to share the wine with someone and an anticipation of the surprise of the wine someone have chosen for you was definitely exciting. As the idea was discussed further, both in Jeff’s blog and in the e-mail, the main problem surfaced. Legally, you have to have a liquor license in US in order to send wine to someone. The creative ideas were exchanged – ask winery or a store to ship the wine you selected to your recipient; print the label at home and drop the box at UPS or FedEx – they will not ask the questions; ship the wine via US mail – but don’t tell them you have anything liquid inside (this is what I did). With this main problem out of the way, the next key question was: what to send?

Choosing the wine for such a secret mission is very far from simple (sorry, laugh all you want – we, wine snobs, like to complicate things). You want the wine to match the preferences of your recipient. Okay, so may be I’m complicating things for no reason – most of the participants should have a blog, and in that blog they probably talk about wine, so it should be not that difficult, right? Hmm, let’s see.

Finally I got the e-mail – my recipient was Chef Mimi. I went to Chef Mimi blog, which boasts beautiful pictures of food (I’m a sucker for the beautiful food pictures) and tons of recipes. I read the About section, I searched for the word “wine” in the Chef Mimi’s blog – and I couldn’t find any clues to what she might like! So I put my thinking cap on (just kidding – no cap – I just stare blindly into the computer screen). I went through Chem Mimi’s blog posts, thinking – what would I pair with this or that dish? Finally – yes, I got it – Riesling would be one, because it would perfectly pair with these sliders, and, and, and … a Merlot, middle-of-the-road-and-often-great red wine? I have a few bottles of this great Riesling, of course with the name only Oliver can pronounce, 2007 Eitelsbacher Karthauserhofberg Riesling Kabinett Mosel-Saar-Ruwer (I talked about Spatlese from the same producer in this post, but I chose to send a Kabinett). And for the Merlot – as I live close to Long Island, and I recently was on the trip there and immensely enjoyed 2005 Estate Merlot from Jamesport, this was kind of a no-brainer decision for the wine which is unique and different. Done and done. The rest is history – you can read about it in the Chef Mimi’s post.

A few days after, my wines arrived.

wines from SantaInside the box, there was a handwritten note from @NewfD90, explaining the preference for the Italian wines hence the selection sent to me – Sangiovese from California and Primitivo from Salento “just for fun”, as the note said.

I decided to start with 2010 Menhir Salento Quota 31 Primitivo Salento IGT (14% ABV). I have a limited experience with Primitivo wines. While Primitivo is a close relative of Zinfandel, and Zinfandel makes some of my most favorite wines, the Primitivo wines I taste in the past were nothing close to the Zinfandel, and shall we say it, not that great. So you can imagine that my expectations were not that high. Open the bottle, pour, sniff, swirl, sip – wow, this is great! I have to honestly say that this was the best Primitivo I ever tasted – and outside of the Primitivo category, this was simply an excellent wine. Ripe raspberries profile on the nose, dark dense fruit on the palate, with more raspberries and blackberries, good round tannins, overall very balanced. Medium to long finish. A very pleasant wine overall.

Cosentino is the well known producer from Napa Valley in California, making a wide range of wines from Chardonnay to Cabernet Sauvignon to Zinfandel. This was my first experience with Cosentino Sangiovese. This 2011 Cosentino Sangiovese Il Chiaretto Napa County (15.5% ABV) opened up nicely with the nose of leather and smoke, generally resembling Pinot Noir a lot more than any Sangiovese wines I tasted in the past. On the palate it showed touch of tobacco and licorice, with a bit too much of a sweet fruit and then black pepper in the back. It also showed some noticeable tannins. What this wine was lacking was balance and harmony – all the components stuck out on their own. I decanted some amount of the wine, but 3 hours in decanter didn’t help it. I really tried to fall in love with this wine, by tasting it little by little over the next four days – to no avail. While the wine was changing day to day, and it was still drinkable on the day 4, it didn’t come to greatness. I had much better Sangiovese wines from Temecula valley, where the grape quite popular, so may be Napa Valley is just not the place for this grape to shine. But – tasting new wines is always a fun challenge, so I”m glad I had this experience.

That concludes the Secret Wine Santa report. This was definitely fun, so I would like to thank Jeff for coming up with the idea and I’m already looking forward to the next year’s Secret Wine Santa project. Hmmm, that’s a long wait, isn’t it? May be we need to extend the idea to the Secret Wine Admirer? That would be awesome! Cheers!

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  1. December 30, 2013 at 10:06 am

    Great write up Anatoli! Glad you had fun with it!

    • talkavino
      December 30, 2013 at 10:22 am

      Thanks, Jeff!

  2. December 30, 2013 at 10:19 am

    What a great idea to do it more than once a year!

    • talkavino
      December 30, 2013 at 10:22 am

      I know, right? : )

  3. December 30, 2013 at 11:37 am

    i love to Primitivo…
    is a great wine, the only thing is that need a lil bit more time to stay in the french oak to make it smoother cuz sometime it is not balenced the acids with the tannins or the fruit with the persitence…

    • talkavino
      December 30, 2013 at 1:01 pm

      Thanks for the comment! Apparently this wine was done right : ) I checked Menhir Salento web site – they produce quite a few Primitivo wines, so their experience is definitely showing.

  4. December 30, 2013 at 12:54 pm

    how fun i gotta get in on this next year :)

    • talkavino
      December 30, 2013 at 1:02 pm

      yep- this was definitely fun! will do it again!

  5. December 30, 2013 at 1:06 pm

    What a great idea!! Tell Jeff, he rocks with this idea.

    • talkavino
      December 30, 2013 at 1:12 pm

      Thank you, Laurie – will do! You should join us next year : )

  6. December 30, 2013 at 1:06 pm

    Great idea, Anatoli – and great gifts. You are the renage secret wine santas – shipping liquid alcohol. :-)

    • talkavino
      December 30, 2013 at 1:13 pm

      Thanks! Join in next time – it is fun!

      • December 30, 2013 at 9:19 pm

        Thank you: Done, done and DONE. :-) I have family is CA who send me lovely wines – that I am always dying to share. Take good care – Shanna

  7. December 30, 2013 at 2:02 pm

    Love the idea for the wine Secret Santa. Next year I want to join in!

    • talkavino
      December 31, 2013 at 7:06 am

      It is definitely fun! Will be playing again next year, of course!

  8. My French Heaven
    December 30, 2013 at 6:29 pm

    Lovely post! Such a great idea too!

    • talkavino
      December 31, 2013 at 7:07 am

      Thank you Stéphane, glad you like it!

  9. December 31, 2013 at 8:28 am

    Fun post, Anatoli! Can’t wait to read the rest of the Secret Wine Santa posts as they trickle in. Love the idea of doing it 2x a year. Maybe we need a Summer Wine Swap?

    • talkavino
      December 31, 2013 at 12:28 pm

      well, it should be rather a late spring or early fall : ) Summer heat is not a friend when it comes to shipping wines : )

      But I’m all for it : ) We can even start with Valentine’s Day : )

  10. January 5, 2014 at 8:17 am

    It’s a shame the Cosentino was a disappointment, I love most of their wines. I guess you are right about the varietal having a hard time in Napa. I can’t say I have ever found this grape to be of any good outside it’s homeland. Sounds like a good time was had by all though… Cheers.

    • talkavino
      January 5, 2014 at 11:41 pm

      Yes, this definitely was a fun idea and we will do it again!

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