This Is My Favorite Wine to Gift for the Holidays
Open it with the meal or save it for a special occasion.
Wine often gets written off as an impersonal fallback gift. I’m here to write it right back onto the best-gift list! The right wine can be the perfect gift. After all, it ticks a lot of boxes. It’s useful — who doesn’t need a great bottle to open with a good meal? It can be personal — find a bottle that reminds you of a place you visited or meal you enjoyed together or the name reminds you of an inside joke. But best of all, it’s inclusive, and offers a chance to gather again (someday) with the recipient to open and drink it together.
Certain wines call for certain moments — there’s a hard-to-find dry rosé that an old friend and I compete to track down and sneak into each other’s lives at unexpected moments. And a robust over-the-top California Merlot blend that has become my family’s once-a-year Christmas juice, so can only be opened when I’m wearing a colorful Christmas-popper crown. And the sparkling dry Austrian natural wine that a far-away girlfriend and I each open to drink communally from afar on Zoom check-ins (it’s also perfect with turkey).
But in instances when there isn’t a go-to meaningful bottle, I turn to The Prisoner. I originally found this in Napa, learning about the maverick maker Dave Phinney through a small local wine shop where the owners worshipped Phinney’s bold extraction and commended the stark label. That first bottle was a revelation – savorable on its own, but exceptional with our Christmas turkey. I bought a bottle for myself and one for my dad, instantly inducting him into the fan club. (If you purchase a bottle from Drizly, consider using their White Glove Service to deliver bottles to everyone on your Zoom party.)
After that, each year’s “Release the Prisoner” announcement of the newest vintage would make me chuckle, then scurry to hit purchase. The Zinfandel-based blend, which typically involves Petit Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, is deep and inky, rich with the aromas you want on your holiday table — chocolate, baking spices, cherry and berries.
After growing the collection from The Prisoner to several other boldly styled and scrumptious labels, like the Bordeaux-style Papillon, showing the weathered, tattooed knuckles of a beloved local grower, Phinney sold The Prisoner to Constellation Brands, which distributes some of the most well-known labels of spirits, beer and wine. This has meant a radical increase in both production and accessibility, making The Prisoner blessedly easy to track down and send to loved ones near and far. The price now hovers around $50, which is a large investment for a bottle of wine, but the price point is right for a special gift.
It’s the kind of wine you can find when you shop at bigger wine stores, as well as a cool local shop, because it’s universally appealing, and if you’re lucky, your recipient will save it to open with you.