Don't beat yourself up. Sure Instagram will soon be rife with people posting pics of the thoughtful gifts they got their father, but let's be honest: few gifts are more rewarding than a properly chosen bottle of something special. And given the quasi-police state that is our liquor distribution system, it doesn't matter if you shop two months/weeks/days before the big day—the selection is, as they say, static.
But that doesn't mean it's uninteresting. On the contrary, there's gold for Papa in them thar shelves, and we're here with a treasure map that will help you locate the perfect bottle.
1. He loves Tignanello, but you don't have $150 to to drop
Solution: Tormaresca Trentangali 2017, $26
Everyone loves Tig (it's got its own nickname!) but its price has been a creepin' up the past few years. So lets take some of the things that make Tig great: a sense of experimentation, a sense of consistency and the power of the mighty Antinori empire behind it. We go south to Puglia—the heel of the boot—where Antinori's operations are situated in the more moderate climes of Castel del Monte. Puglia can get hot hot hot, and produce rich flabby wines, but this bottle shows far more restraint. For the experimentation side you not only have Aglianico (the noble grape of the south that's not often grown in Puglia), but you have some smaller pars of Cabernet (20%) and Syrah (10%). It's an out-there blend but it works, and still has plenty of ripe fruit—there's just some nice savoury, herbaceous elements to ramp up the interest on the palate.
2. He loves peaty Whisky, but has tried everything from Islay
Solution: Ledaig 10, $68
This isn't that uncommon, as Islay doesn't have that many distilleries. Those who love peat (I'm one of them) often hit the classics—Lagavulin, Laphroaig, Ardbeg, Bruichladdich, Bowmore et al. There's nothing wrong with those—they're among the greatest whisky brands in the world—but exclusive bottlings from them are very pricey, and the core range isn't exactly exciting for a present. And here comes Ledaig. It's new to our market, but it comes from the storied Tobermory distillery. It hails from the Isle of Mull, due north of Islay, so it's not some marketer's creation without any gravitas. And it's a beautiful, classy presentation that, at $68, is about 33% less expensive than Ardbeg's 10. This is a sleeper of a gift.
3. He's wanting to start "laying down" wine
Solution: Chateau Montus 2016, $40
The wine region of Madiran is about 2 hours south of Bordeaux, and at its best it produces red wines with finesse and ageability that rival the top Bordelaise Chateaux. But there are some differences: the main grape here is the dark, thick-skinned tannat. It's unique in that it produces wine that can age for decades thanks to a tannic backbone. And the wine is a fraction of the price of its Northern neigbours. Take this bottle from Chatea Montus: it's the Mouton Rothschild of the Madiran, it's been held back for 6 years and it's still under $40. It's drinkable now—though I'd really give this a hard decant if I just had to open it—but I have no doubt that this wine will improve every year for a decade and then hold for a decade more... maybe longer.
4. You want to give a boutique BC wine, but you're not on a wine list
Getting listed at the BCL is an onerous task for most wineries, and many of them sell all their wine anyway and can't be bothered, which leaves two main groups: the truly large wineries and those who can't sell their wine out. But there's a small third group—special wineries that can sell their wine out no problem, but want to preach their vinous gospel to everyone. Tantalus has long been in that category, and now thankfully Meyer Family Vineyards has joined them. Meyer has been a bedrock of quality for well over a decade, but in the last few years JAK Meyer's dream has ascended to the very pinnacle of winemaking under the guidance of head winemaker Chris Carson and assistant winemaker Ajay Chavan. The Pinots are a delight (and also newly available at the BCL) but the Chardonnays are even better—balanced, focussed with unbelievable refinement. I'm not sure anyone is doing better the last two years.
5. The Dude loves Dom
The Solution: Chandon California Brut $32
Pops, I hear you—I love Dom too! But the $280 price tag makes it a very special occasion treat (or a peace offering if you've done something like tell congress you knew your Dad lost the election). But here too, there's a work around, and it comes in a bargain from an unlikely place—Napa. I'm going out on a limb here, but pound-for-pound sparkling wine from California may be the best deal in wine right now and this bottle is exhibit A. For starters, it's made by Moet Hennessy, the makers of Dom Perignon and the unquestionable masters of worldwide luxury. I literally can't think of a single other item from LVMH (the parent company) that you can purchase for $32. But it's the wine that's the real winner here—made in the traditional method (same as Dom) with a classic lighter-style Champagne recipe of 73% Chardonnay, 26% Pinot Noir, 1% Pinot Meunier. It produces a crisp, refined glass of persistent small bubbles that tastes like it costs double.
MORE FATHER'S DAY GIFTS: 10 Ideas for What to Give Dad