Top 43 wines to buy now

Shopping for a wine-lover's gift? Here are some of our judges' favorite bottles from the Sunset International Wine Competition

MOST OFFBEAT WINNERS

Love the unusual? Loathe drinking the same thing everyone else is? Here’s your beverage list.

  • James Arthur 2011 Edelweiss (Nebraska; $17). This white grape was developed to withstand cold winters. Here, it’s slightly spritzy and semisweet, with bright Granny Smith apple flavors and a clean, balanced finish.
  • William Chris 2011 John Dale Vineyards Blanc du Bois (Washington County, Texas; $28). Yes, Blanc du Bois is a grape, too, in this case with characteristic honeyed florals, tropical fruit, and mouth-filling texture.
  • Chiarito 2009 Fox Hill Vineyards Negroamaro (Mendocino; $32). Dried herbs and crispy-edged brownies spice up ripe dark fruit and dusty tannins.
  • Sea Mist NV Cranberry/Raspberry Wine (Oregon; $14). Beautiful definition of cranberry and raspberry fruit, with impressive richness and a smooth finish.
  • Peter Vella NV Sangria (American; $11). If you don’t have time to make your wine punch from scratch, this is the way to go.
  • Eaglemount NV Ginger Cider (Washington State; $14). Clean and long—ginger hits just the right note on the nose with the apple aromas.

PERFECT ZINS

All-American Zinfandel is great with a pungent, spicy, fruity turkey dinner.

  • Ancient Peaks 2010 Zinfandel (Paso Robles; $17). Cranberries and cherries are sprinkled with spices and brightened with acidity.
  • Fritz 2009 Estate Grown Zinfandel (Dry Creek Valley; $25). Red cherries keep this one bright, but darker berries, licorice notes, and earth keep it interesting.
  • MacLeod Family 2010 Indian Springs Ranch Zinfandel (Sonoma Valley; $28). Textbook Zinfandel: wild raspberries and spicy black pepper in a mouth-filling style.
  • Meadowcroft 2009 Zinfandel (Sonoma County; $34). Rich, deep fruit, with good structure and balance and just a hint of toast.
  • Scott Harvey 2010 Mountain Selection Zinfandel (Amador County; $22). Well-ripened red fruit with a dash of briary spice and a firmly structured, racy finish.
  • Shenandoah 2010 Special Reserve Zinfandel (Amador County; $11). Great balance between fruit and acidity. Brambly berries touched with spice.
  • V. Sattui 2009 Black Sears Vineyard Zinfandel (Howell Mountain, Napa Valley; $42). Peppery, with exuberant red and black fruit and a long, spicy finish.
  • Zinfatuation 2010 Zinfandel (Amador County; $10). Shy aromas rebound with mouth-filling texture and firm structure.

GREAT GIFTS

Challenging people on your holiday gift list? We’ve got the perfect bottles for your...

  • Brother: Troublemaker by Austin Hope NV “Blend 3” (Paso Robles; $20). A classy response to all those years of his teasing.
  • Old college roommate who’s turned into a wine snob: Goldeneye 2009 Pinot Noir (Anderson Valley; $55). Hedge your bets with a variety that’s hot, but with a bottle that has the pedigree of an illustrious Napa winery (Duckhorn) behind it.
  • Pop culture–obsessed friend: Barrymore 2011 Pinot Grigio (Delle Venezie IGT; $20). With this winning Grigio, Drew Barrymore joins the legions of celebrities jumping into the wine biz.
  • New spouse: Fidélitas 2011 Semillon (Columbia Valley; $18). The name is the message: fidelity, loyalty, honor.
  • Recent college grad: Fetzer 2010 “Valley Oaks” Moscato (California; $8). Don’t waste big bucks on the bottle you tuck in this stocking—22-year-olds know the wine to drink now is the sweet white the likes of Drake and Gucci Mane have been rapping about.
  • Boss: Jordan 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon (Alexander Valley; $52). A role model of a California Cab.

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