2010 Big House Red, California; $10 bottle, $22 box
This wine is a blend of syrah, grenache, tannat, mourvedre, sangiovese, petite syrah, syrah and barbera grapes, to name a few. This wine always delivers with great flavors and is extremely affordable -- especially in the octavin, which holds 3 liters of Big House in an easy-to-store box. The wine starts with a great nose full of wild strawberries, ripe blueberries and a hint of oak. This leads into a great full-bodied wine, emphasizing the jam-like notes and layers of dark fruit. The finish is like red velvet -- lush and soft, with slight hints of oak. It has all the subtle hints of the different grapes, but is perfectly balanced. It's a terrific wine for the holidays, offering something to every wine drinker, and also soft enough for people just venturing into red wines.
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Three Olives Cake Vodka, England; $22
With all the craze in cupcakes, now you can enjoy them in an adult beverage. This vodka has a terrific nose of fresh-baked yellow cake and a note of sweetness. The magic begins as soon as it hits your lips with soft cake flavors, hints of vanilla icing and just a touch of vanilla frosting. There is a tiny bit of the vodka flavors on the finish, but this truly tastes like cake without any of the artificial flavoring you find in similar cake-flavored vodkas. It is terrific on the rocks or with cola. For one of my favorite cocktails, mix it with club soda and a splash of cranberry. This is a terrific flavored vodka, and now you can have your cake and drink it, too.
Lain Bradford is a wine writer and reviewer who has achieved his first level master sommelier certificate and is working toward his Certified Wine Educator degree. He only writes about beverages that are available in South Carolina and Georgia. Follow him on Twitter under the name "winereview."