Monday Oct 03

December is my favorite month - for drinking. This time of year I tend to acquiesce to over-indulgence:

eating too much, buying too many gifts, feeling more melancholy than usual and more often than not, drinking too much during family gatherings or office parties. Yes, this festive time is about going over-the-top and dealing with it all in January with a new attitude. Nevertheless, this month’s column focus is all about the grape. A faultless time of year for wine lovers or is it?

My wife, my family and my good friends know one thing when it comes to me and gift giving: do not buy me wine. It’s that simple. So if you know someone who is any kind of aficionado, an enthusiast, a devotee of any sort, nine times out of ten you will end up getting them something they already have or something they find second-rate. I don’t want to appear crass or unappreciative, but rather save you money and disappointment when the intended recipient meets your gift with a less than overwhelming reception or you learn later that they gave it away at the ‘white elephant’ party or worse, they just pitched it. It has happened time and time again.

I love wine, but not just any wine. I love and demand a damn good wine. As my palate continues to develop, and as I have shared in previous reviews, it’s becoming harder and harder to drink lesser quality wines and this holds true for my wife as well. Her palate has enhanced to the point where she’d be quite pleased if our nightly wine was no less that $40 per bottle. We’re not drinking $40 bottles of wine nightly, but I think we are on our way there. If that sounds like you, start saving now.

To be clear, that ‘damn good wine’ is based on what I have grown accustom and how my palate has matured. As an additional note, I am not a heavy Bordeaux drinker. I appreciate and acknowledge that Bordeaux is the greatest region to ever exist for wine. I have fond memories of fine French reds, but it is not my go to varietal. Even if you spent $1000 on a Château Mouton Rothschild, I would not appreciate it as much as a highly sought after $300 California Pinot Noir (Marcassin Pinot Noir Three Sisters, 2006 – Hint, Hint).

Again, I do not want to come across as ungrateful or thoughtless. I totally get that the where gift giving is concerned, it really is the thought that counts. I am just attempting to share some insight with you when it comes to the ‘collector types’ in your life. When getting them something in the area that they are an expert, it may not be the best go to and they don’t have to fain appreciation and curse you when you are not there.

With all that now out in the open, I hope I have not put a damper on your gift giving ideas this year. It’s for all the reasons I just mentioned that I do not bring great wine to family gatherings. I bring nice wine, but not fine wine. Why? If someone does not have a palate for a great selection they will not notice the nuances, the color, the complexity, the rarity, the beauty. To those who have not taken the time to really learn what makes an amazing wine so special, to them it’s just wine and something to slug down with the holiday ham. I know I’m being fairly snooty about this, but I hope you will appreciate it when you call me for a wine recommendation for that dinner at your boss’s house.

Also, do not get me another f-ing corkscrew! I have a cabinet full of corkscrews: battery powered, air powered, vintage, oyster handled, silver plated, carbon fiber; actually I do like the carbon fiber one. So now that I have totally Grinched the holiday season with my persnickety attitude, let’s see what lovely holiday wine I have chosen for us.

Review Note: I was going to taste the Camus Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon that I mentioned a few reviews ago, but it is a 2008 and that lovely bottle needs a few more years. So while we wait for maturity let’s enjoy…

Far Niente, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2003
Produced by: Nickel & Nickel Proprietors
Owners: Beth Nickel, Erik Nickel, Jeremy Nickel, Dirk Hampson and Larry Maguire

From the Far Niente website: Founded in Oakville, California in 1885 and restored in 1979, Far Niente is consistently recognized as a benchmark producer of Napa Valley Chardonnay and Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. A dedication to winemaking in its highest form, paired with a focus on house style, vineyard ownership and social responsibility, has established Far Niente as one of the world’s great wine estates.

I quoted their website, because as I was writing about them it almost read the same and I did not want to be seen as a plagiarist so I opted for the lesser of two evils. However, in my own words, Far Niente is Napa Valley done right. A rich history filled with passion and preservation of a historic winery with a long tradition of quality wine. In my elusive palate’s opinion there are two chardonnays worth drinking. One is Chateau Montelena and the other is Far Niente. Even though this review focusses on their cabernet please also try their chardonnay. Visit their website for the full history of all their properties at, truly one of my favorite winery’s in all the land. For a spectacular dessert wine try their Dolce: expensive but worth every drop.

Winery: Far Niente Winery
Label: Estate Bottled Cabernet Sauvignon
City: Oakville
Vintage: 2003
Region: Napa Valley
Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon

Appearance (Color): Crimson
Aroma (Complexity): Oak, Black Currant, Tobacco, Licorice
Body (Texture and Weight): Full Body with Matured Tannins
Taste (Balance of Flavor): Forest Floor, Black Cherry, Fig Pudding, Clove, Mushroom, the flavors never stop
Finish (What lingers): Lush tannins, blackberry and mocha
Price: $150

Food Paring: Red Meats, Strong Cheese, Game Bird
Final Rating: 93
When to Drink: Now, it is reaching full maturity


My rating system is based on Wine Spectator's 100-point scale.

Wine Points     How Good the Wine Is

95-100             Classic: a great wine
90-94               Outstanding: wine with superior character & style
85-89               Very Good: wine with special qualities
80-84               Good: a solid, well-made wine
70-79               Average: drinkable wine that may have minor flaws
60-69               Below Average: drinkable wine but not recommended
50-59               Poor: undrinkable wine, not recommended

Wine Serving Temperatures:

Red Wine

64° - Full Bodied (Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec)
62° - Tawny Port
60° - Pinot Noir, Rhone, Burgundy
55° - Beaujolais Nouveau

White Wine

54°          Full Bodied White Wines (Chardonnay)
52°          Medium Bodied White Wines (Sauvignon Blanc)
50°          Rosé, Light Bodied White Wines (White Zinfandel)
48°          Champagne and Sparkling, Ice and Dessert Wine


John Turi has had an impulsive career as a writer, wine aficionado, and artist. He has two published books of short fiction and poetry.  He is a former child actor with the anxiety to prove it. He began college with a major in Mortuary Science. With a desire for writing he switched to Creative Writing and then finally finished at a free love hippie art college in Southern California as a graphic designer / sculptor. For over six years he worked in the wine industry and acquired a delicate palate for varietals.  For the last 20 years he has become a private rare book and wine collector. He desires California Pinot Noirs, but his true love is the Italian Sassicaia. As a way to pay for his wine collection he works as a senior marketing manager / designer for an adult sex toy company. He is also training to be a certified master sommelier. Currently he resides in Southern California with his lovely wife Shawn-Marie, a deaf, blind and diabetic dog named Buddy and an angry orange cat properly named Orange.