Great Wines For Dad — Reds, White and Sparkling Picks That Will Impress For Father’s Day Or Any Fun Occasion

We're Talking Grapes

BY // 06.07.24

If you’re looking for gifts for a father (or really anyone) who is passionate about wine, we’ve got you covered.

Let’s start big with a big wine from Napa Valley, the 2021 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon from Oleandri Wines. Founder Fred D’Amato and winemaker Patrick Saboe follow a business plan of sourcing fruit from vineyards of merit in California (in this wine’s case, Game Theory Vineyard, which is situated around 2,000 feet above the valley floor and consists primarily of volcanic ash and clay soil). You’ll want to consider giving this bottle to someone who appreciates a grilled ribeye or lamb roast, or, conversely, a gentleman looking to add a bottle to his cellar for aging.

Drink it now, but the fruit in this wine (94.375 percent cabernet sauvignon, 4 percent petit verdot, 1 percent Malbec, .375 percent cabernet franc, and .25 percent merlot) will certainly reward some patience. You can order this directly from Oleandri, or ask for it at your favorite wine merchant.

I love a good plate of pasta and sausage (merguez is one of my favorites), and a shiraz is a great pairing for this combination. Let’s go to Australia for our next wine for dad, a shiraz from Mount Langi Ghiran, a producer based in the Grampians mountain range due west of Melbourne. The 2019 “Mast” Shiraz Grampians (SRP $79) is named after Trevor Mast, the former head winemaker at Mount Langi Ghiran. This wine speaks boldly and has an outsized personality for a cool-climate creation. (Mast passed away in 2012 after a six-year struggle with early onset Alzheimer’s.)

You get spice and floral notes, along with tannins that possess both succulence and heft. Fresh berry, a bit of graphite and eucalyptus and wet stones in the mouth. Alcohol comes in at 14.8 percent, and the wine was fermented in small open-top vessels.

Mount Langi Ghiran head winemaker Adam Louden knows good wines for dad. (Photo by James Brock)
Mount Langi Ghiran head winemaker Adam Louder knows good wines for dad. (Photo by James Brock)

Head winemaker Adam Louder – who began his career in 1998 at Langi as a cellar hand under Mast – used 70 percent whole berry and 30 percent whole bunch in this vintage. (I had the pleasure of meeting and sharing a table with Louden earlier this year, and during the meal we shared he guided us through a tasting of his wines.)

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Your lucky recipient can drink this bottle now, and he’ll enjoy its grandeur, But if he’s of the mind to put it down for a decade or so, upon uncorking it, years wiser himself, he’ll appreciate a world class wine in its full maturity. Pair this wine with lamb or beef short ribs with a parsnip purée.

Night is busy at Acumen, where wines for dad abound.
Night is busy at Acumen, where wines for dad abound.

Acumen Napa Valley is the source of another red wine perfect for dads, and the 2021 Acumen PEAK Edcora Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon ($175) is fit for first class gifting. Fruit here is sourced from two Edcora blocks favored by winemaker Phillip Titus. Clones 15 and 169 are showcased in this vintage, which will provide lots of pleasure now and, cellared correctly, for many years in the future. The volcanic soils that dominate Edcora give this wine a precise minerality, while the fruit offers the drinker a powerhouse, though refined, melange of luscious cassis, graphite, dark berry and sensual herb. This 100 percent cabernet will pair wonderfully with a standing rib roast.

To close out my red wine gift recommendations, I give you the 2018 Chateau Montelena Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (SRP $95). (The winery’s profound legacy need not be recounted in this piece, but if you are unfamiliar with Montelena’s history, I urge you to learn about it – this is a good place to start.)

Note: Montelena’s Father’s Day Collection is another option here. For $575, you get a package consisting of two bottles of the 2018 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, a bottle of the winery’s 2021 cabernet, and a Wies><Made Archer Jacket sporting the Chateau Montelena logo. The three wines are also available without the jacket for $275. (Be sure to order this package by June 12).

A gift made for someone special.

Winemaker Matt Crafton created the 2018 vintage using 88 percent cab, 11 percent merlot and 1 percent cab franc. The nose here is lively and inviting, full of red berry fruit and an earthier hint of graphite. Confident yet calm tannins contribute to a wine that satisfies with a subdued finish of forest-floor fecundity . . . I loved the umami factor here. If the recipient of this wine likes a well-made meatloaf (pork, veal and beef, along with some mushrooms, garlic, grated zucchini and perhaps a bit of foie gras mixed in), that would be an ideal pairing.

Wine Reading

A slight detour now, because I’d like to propose two books  that are worthy reads for anyone interested in the great world of wine. The first is a classic — Kermit Lynch’s Adventure on the Wine Route – A Wine Buyer’s Tour of France. The 25th anniversary of this treasure is the one to get, and as a bonus includes Lynch’s epilogue and the list of his 25 most memorable wines.

Kermit Lynch's classic wine book is a worthy read.
Kermit Lynch’s classic wine book is a worthy read.

Lynch in 1972 launched Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant with a $5,000 loan. The rest is history, a stupendous history of being knighted by the French government with the “Legion d’Honneur” and earning numerous other honors, among other events and achievements. He is a fine writer, and the wines he has introduced to American consumers are a legacy that will last forever.

In this book, one learns to love the opinion and viewpoints of Lynch and the men and women he encounters and befriends. These includes two of my favorite people whom I wish I had known — Richard Olney and Lucie “Lulu” Peyraud, the latter of who passed away in 2020 at the age of 102. Lynch’s life is one of which to be envious, and his words and experiences are enlivening, inspiring, filled with humor and longing, and vital.

I’ll let Lynch have the final sentences about his book, a passage contained early in its pages: “Wine is, above all, pleasure. Those who would make it ponderous make it dull. People talk about the mystery of wine, yet most don’t want anything to do with mystery. They want it all there in one sniff, one taste. If you keep an open mind and take each wine on its own terms, there is a world of magic to discover.”

The second book I would give my Father’s Day recipient is South of Somewhere – Wine, Food, and the Soul of Italy. Robert Camuto, this title’s author, was, I have no doubt, influenced by Lynch’s writing, and I wish I had asked him about that influence when I met him in Los Angeles several years ago.

What I did discuss with him was his passion for the chaotic, beautiful and messy country that now calls itself Italy.

This book about vino and the individuals who create it in glorious Italy is another great read.
This book about vino and the individuals who create it in glorious Italy is another great read.

Camuto takes the reader into the minds and worlds of a menagerie of winemakers across Southern Italy, beginning with a touching tale of his family’s ancestral home of Vico Equense, a small town south of Naples on the Sorrento Peninsula, which Camuto first encounters at the age of 10. As with Lynch’s book, Camuto’s eye brings his winemaker subjects to life in vivid manner. Whether it’s Umbria’s Giampaolo Tabarrini, a master of sagrantino, or Etna’s Andrea Franchetti, whose background is glamorous and whose wines are among those that have saved Etna.

“People don’t need to emigrate from here anymore – it’s a place that has been saved because of wine,” Camuto recounts Franchetti saying. (Franchetti passed away in 2023.)

Kris Kajani, the winemaker at Bouchaine Vineyards, knows great wine.
Chris Kajani, the winemaker at Bouchaine Vineyards, knows great wine.

White Wines For Dads

Let’s get a few bottles of white wine into our gift mix. I start with a gewürztraminer from California, the 2022 Bouchaine Estate Collection (SRP $45). Chris Kajani, the winemaker at Bouchaine Vineyards, seems to have a way with this grape, a floral wonder. I opened a bottle of this vintage last week, and was blown away by its stellar acidity and aromatic grace. At 13.5 percent alcohol, this wine begs to be paired with Asian food and I did just that, pouring a glass to go with a chicken larb I made. Around 320 cases of this vintage were made.

Jean-Luc Colombo at work.
Jean-Luc Colombo at work.

I spent some time in the Rhône back in May, and that’s the source of my second vin blanc wines for dad gift suggestion. It’s from Jean-Luc Colombo, the opinionated and passionate proprietor (along with his wife Anne, and daughter Laure) of the namesake winery, which is located in Cornas. The 2019 Amour de Dieu (Love of God) is 100 percent viognier from fruit grown on the slopes of Condrieu, plots full of granite.

Think vanilla, unctuous, apricots and pears. Those words come to mind immediately once you taste this wine, which you can find for sale in the $65 range. Hand-harvested grapes, de-stemming and stainless-steel fermentation result in a wine of elegance, one that should be savored alongside the most sublime roast chicken served with a morel sauce.

Bubbles For the Wine Loving Father

Finally, some bubbles, a gift that is never the wrong choice. I proffer one Champagne, and one American sparkling wine, the former from Billecart Salmon and the latter from Argyle Winery. Both outstanding choices for the father who finds pleasure in a sparkling wine.

The Billecart non-vintage selection is made from (as would be expected) chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier, and is vinified entirely in oak. It is aged sur lie for six to seven years. You get brioche, black walnuts and fine spices backed by fresh apple. A delightful pour that would open any gathering with aplomb. Look for it at your favorite wine retailer for $100.

The Reserve Cellar at the Argyle tasting house.

The Argyle sparkling (this producer makes some of my favorite domestic sparkling wines) I’m choosing for fathers is the 2013 Extended Tirage Brut. It is aged for a decade on its yeast and disgorged on demand, so the clarity and crispness are stellar. It retails for around $85, and its toast and warm apple notes will comfort and enliven. Sip it with fried chicken, or perhaps your preferred caviar.

Here’s to fathers everywhere, and may they be fortunate enough to dine and drink well every day of the year.

For more wine, travel and other stories from James Brock, check out his Mise en Place site.

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