Cougar Vineyard & Winery offers great options for holiday gift giving

Dr. John Piconi, a winemaker and winery owner at the John Piconi Family Winery, checks the clarity of a glass of vermentino during judging at the 2017 Cougar Meets Italy event held at Cougar Vineyard & Winery. Tickets to the 2018 Cougar Meets Italy event make for a great gift this holiday season. Kim Harris photo

Looking for that unique holiday gift for that hard to shop for recipient on the gift list? Look no further than Cougar Vineyard & Winery.

Featuring some of the finest Italian wines in Temecula Valley Wine Country, Cougar is a one-stop shop for those on the holiday giving list this season.

For lovers of white wine, try Cougar’s Pinot Grigio. This Italian white wine is perhaps the one most recognized by American wine consumers. This pale wine with a bright and flowery fragrance offers a nice mid-palate balance with a short clean finish. A true wine-lover’s wine, a bottle of Pinot Grigio is a great gift for any wine lover.

Cougar’s Falanghina, also a white, is always a good choice for gift-giving. One of the winery’s signature wines, Falanghina grapes produce a well-balanced wine with crisp acidity and hints of melon. Falanghina is hard to find on the shelf at most wineries, due to the rarity of the grape. Cougar is one of only a handful of growers in the U.S. who grow it, making this wine a great gift for any wine connoisseur.

For the red wine lover, try Cougar’s Sangiovese. Most often thought of as a Tuscan wine, Sangiovese is aged in oak barrels and finished in the large French Oak cask. Complete with fresh fruity flavors and a little bit of spiciness, this is one wine sure to please the red lover on your list.

When looking for a truly special gift, be sure to check out Cougar’s Library and Limited Quantity wines. Since Cougar Vineyard & Winery is a true boutique, the wines on the list are often retired to the library during the tasting season. If there’s a hard to find wine requested on that holiday list, take home a bottle or two before they disappear.

Try the Estate Lambrusca di Alessandria. This rare varietal is dark in color, with aromas of dark fruits, such as black cherry and anise on the nose. Rich on the palate, with a long, lingering velvet finish, and a rarity make the Lambrusca di Alessandria the wine to cherish for special occasions.

Looking for a true one-of-a-kind gift for the wine lover on a holiday shopping list, why not purchase a gift certificate to Cougar’s annual “Cougar Meets Italy” event?

Now in its third year, Cougar Meets Italy is a true wine tasting experience. Taking their unique varietals and comparing them to their Italian counterparts, this side-by-side, double-blind tasting event is truly entertaining as professional judges swirl, sniff and spit out their samples, evaluating every aspect of the wines served.

Based off the 2008 movie “Bottle Shock,” the true story of the now infamous, blind Paris wine tasting of 1976 known as the “Judgement of Paris,” Cougar Meets Italy kicks off 6 p.m., Jan. 17, with a viewing of the movie. Attendees will enjoy the movie, a complimentary glass of wine and all the popcorn they can eat. The following night, head back out to the winery for the official tasting and judging event which pits five wines from Cougar against five of their Italian counterparts.

The fun begins as those in attendance get to judge the wines alongside the professional judges. A quick tutorial on judging using the University of California Davis’ 20-point system is given at the start of the double-blind tasting, which is followed by a four-course dinner.

This two-day event can’t be missed and is sure to be a hit when presented as a gift this holiday season.

To purchase tickets to Cougar Meets Italy, call (951) 767-8529, send an email to [email protected] or come in to the winery to secure a spot.

Cougar Vineyard & Winery is located at 39870 DePortola Road in the Temecula Valley Wine Country. The tasting room is open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Fridays or by appointment. To learn more about the Italian varietals produced at Cougar, call (951) 491-0825 or visit

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