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|If you’re going to have Robert Parker or Stephen Tanzer over for dinner, selecting a wine they’ve rated highly will be a nice choice. However, when you’re buying wines for yourself, we’d love to see you find wines that match up your unique palate and pocketbook. We have a large staff of friendly and knowledgeable wine professionals that taste hundreds of wines each week. They can put you in touch with bottles that you are likely to love, often at a much lower cost than the highly-rated gems that often see a run-up in price and frequent availability issues. Like any great group of opinionated professionals, our staff has varied tastes themselves. Often our customers will find a particular staff member with a style that corresponds to their own. That concept works extremely well in our retail stores, and this section is our effort to bring you the same online. Don’t get us wrong, we love the highly rated wines from the press and will continue to offer them, but we think you’re missing out if you’re not augmenting those selections with picks from our excellent staff. Here are their favorites. (Click on a name to see their other selections - or to drop them a line.) Cheers!|
2011 Sobon Estate Amador County Cabernet Sauvignon
Another great value red from Sobon Estate. Great luscious richness, light spices and great overall fruit. The mouthfeel and weight on the palate is lighter than most Cabs I've drunk in the past. Just the right amount of wine for the money.
2013 Quarter Acre Sauvignon Blanc Hawke's Bay
While Marlborough is the region that put New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc on the map, some can find the wines too "punchy" or savory. In Hawkes Bay, though there are no shortage of aromatics in their "Savvy," texture is what seems to set them apart. The wine was fermented in older puncheons and barrique with wild yeast and then matured 12 months on the lees giving great texture. The nose shows notes of melon, passion fruit, lime blossom and a light flinty mineral accent. The palate is rich and round with a creaminess that is supported by a juicy acid line that cuts through to a long finish.
2014 Quarter Acre Syrah Rosé Hawke's Bay
While this wine shows a little darker color (hey, it's Syrah) than you might expect from most rosé, there is nothing heavy or overdone here. The bouquet offers notes of strawberry, white pepper spice and a hint of orange peel. On the palate, there is refreshing acidity along with a good middle texture that leads to a long finish.
2011 Quarter Acre Syrah Gimblett Gravels Hawke's Bay
This is a gorgeous expression of Syrah from Hawkes Bay where Rob McDonald employs more Pinot Noir winemaking techniques to create a wine of power and elegance. The nose is lifted with dark plum, blueberry, blackberry, violets and subtle black pepper accents. On the palate, earth and mineral notes combine with the core fruit character with seamless balance and fine texture and length. This is a must for lovers of Syrah.
Moet & Chandon "Ice Imperial" Champagne
My favorite use for the first Champagne made for rocks is this modified "Final Word" cocktail: 1 ounce Chartreuse Green 750m 1 ounce Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur 1 ounce fresh squeezed lime juice 2 ounces Moet & Chandon "Ice Imperial" Champagne Prepare a cocktail shaker with plenty of fresh ice, and a large rocks glass with plenty more. Shake the Chartreuse, Luxardo and Lime in the shaker until well chilled. Pour the mixture through a cocktail strainer over the ice in the rocks glass. Top with the Champagne, stir gently and enjoy. As Champagne is less concentrated than gin, it takes a little bit more of it to bring the drink into balance. Since both the lime and the Champagne are acidic, this drink is very bright and refreshing… Perhaps dangerously so! Be careful with these- I thought I was making a more “moderate” drink, but it is easy to get carried away with these!
2012 Château du Cèdre "Héritage" Cahors
Rustic, farmy with great dark fruits. Another great deal from the original birthplace of Malbec. Great balance from start to finish.
2010 Sons Of Eden "Romulus" Barossa Valley Shiraz
This a truly amazing bottle right here. The richness, intensity and length all play superbly together, sort of how The Beatles meshed so well when they played alongside each other. The tannins were very well integrated, with what seemed to be either neutral oak influence or just good old fashioned careful winemaking...I'm guessing both. This wine also had a meatiness, or savory character to it that I found most pleasing and fitting with the rich rib-eye steak dish that accompanied my numerous glasses. I see no reason why all the Syrah/Shiraz lovers would not be intrigued and pleased by this wine.
1945 Darroze Bas Armagnac Domaine de Lasserade 750ml
No surprise that this bottle represents some of the rarest brandy being sold at any price point. Not only is it from 70 years old stocks, a rarity in and of itself, but we're also talking about a war vintage and therefor one of the lowest production periods for the region. The Germans headed for Gascogne pretty early and by the end they were simply living off the local products as their supply chains broke down. That means regularly raiding farms for food and of course drink. Total liberation of the area did not occur until later in 1945, but by May of that year it must have been clear that things were about to change. What had started as the 5th harvest under occupation would end with France liberated and a plentiful, now legendary vendage. Nonetheless, precious few liters of Armagnac remain from the years of occupation, so this bottle is truly as special as it gets. Expect a massively rich nose of polished mahogany, dried plums, flinty earth and exotic spices. The palate is seamless and still lively, with wonderful balance of alcohol over the layers of deep dark fruit and spicy earthy aromas. Soft like the finest down, smooth like quantum stabilized atomic mirror. It is without a doubt in a class of it's own. If you want the ultimate trump card for winning the gift game at a 70th birthday party or simply want to own a piece of history that you can physically consume, this is the bottle for you.
1975 Bodegas Riojanas "Monte Real" Reserva Rioja
Sleeper alert! While Riojanas' reputation amongst Rioja aficionados in Spain and Europe is firmly established, they have only recently become better recognized here. This '75 is showing wonderfully, a fully developed gem of a wine that continues to drink in its prime - with red fruits intermingling with umami, rich meat and mushroom notes.
Plantation "Stiggin's Fancy" Pineapple Dark Rum 750ml
BOOOOOOM GOES THE DYNAMITE! Without question the finest flavored rum in the world. Start with awesome funky rum, add a centuries-old recipe exactingly recreated by the good people of Plantation, and you've got a product that will rule your bar for the foreseeable future. Heady and intense, yet subtle and overtly pleasurable, not for your typical flavored rum fans, but a must own for all bar/cocktail people. YOU HAVE NO EXCUSE!
2013 Quarter Acre Merlot-Malbec (Bordeaux Blend) Hawke's Bay
Wow, there is a lot of bang for the buck in this wine. After co-fermenting the Merlot, Malbec and a touch of Cabernet Franc, the wine spent 16 months in French oak to marry the flavors and integrate the wood. The bouquet soars with dark plum, blueberry, black cherry, cassis and a hint of bittersweet chocolate. The palate walks a fine line with a plush texture and entry framed by just enough backbone to add a more serious character accented by earth and spice. There is superb balance and length that's simply tough to beat for the price.
2011 Happy Canyon "K&L—Doug Margerum Cuvée" Happy Canyon Red Blend
With the rise of interest in Californian terroirs comes our own unique blend from the relatively new AVA in Happy Canyon. This beautiful territory is slightly hotter and has more minerality than the rest of Santa Barbara, lending it to produce excellent Bordeaux varietals. Our version is lush with lovely ripe fruits and a very slight chocolaty note. Acid balances the wine beautifully and helps drive the ending. All in all a well done red that can easily be enjoyed before and with dinner.
2005 Bodegas Casa Juan Señor de Lesmos Reserva Rioja
As usual, el Señor de Lesmos brings the deliciousness, and the intrigue, with this fantastic bottle of 10 year old Reserva Rioja. A blend of Tempranillo and Mazuelo, this dark fruited reserva shows the power and elegance of the 05 vintage, with the spicy, purely fruited, original Lesmos style, a style that I can say after all these years is one of the true originals in Rioja. Decant for at least half an hour to enjoy this wine to its fullest. Drink now or cellar with confidence for another decade.
2013 TWR (Te Whare Ra) Pinot Noir Marlborough
Another well done NZ Pinot Noir from our friends at TWR. Crimson red to purplish in color, with just the right amount of acidity and tannins. Great forward-facing fruit from raspberries to cherry. It ends with excellent follow-through all the way down the palate. At under $30, what's not to love? If you have never enjoyed a Pinot from New Zealand, this would be the perfect one to try.
Drink from 2015 to 2015
2014 TWR (Te Whare Ra) Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough
The 2014 vintage of this wine is just as stunning as the 2013 was, and if anything, is perhaps a bit more electric and dry. This is saline and juicy, with intense kiwi and gooseberry fruit, floral and herb notes and a fine, thirst-quenching mineral texture. This is clean, focused and penetrating.
Gift Box - Macallan 41 Year Old Gordon & MacPhail Speymalt Single Malt Whisky 750ml
The magnificent Gordon & Macphail's is famous for their incredible stocks of wonderful old whisky. They're a merchant bottler that's been in Elgin for over 200 years, and that means they've got relationships with the region's top distilleries that go back just as long. For some time they were indeed the official bottler of several famous distilleries whose operations rarely included proper bottling lines. Now, Gordon & Macphail, thanks to these age-old relationships, has some old stocks that even the distilleries themselves do not own. Rest assured that Macallan has tried countless times to purchase these stocks back from G&M, no doubt to repackage in crystal and sell upwards of $10k. While the prices from the venerated merchant have gone up they still destroy the distillery's OB offerings, while maintaining a level of quality and consistency that is non-existent in the competition's independent bottlings from this special distillery. Anyway, if you're seriously considering dropping the coin for a OB Mac 25 year, this bottle should make you reconsider that decision, because while it may not have the flashy Bentley exterior, you can be sure that it's got a massive Rolls-Royce jet engine under the hood.
2013 Kalinda "Rawiri Vineyard" Pinot Noir Marlborough
Exclusive to our Kalinda brand, the wine was made by David Eatwell (and I presume drink well!) with Jason and Anna Flowerday from Te Whare Ra (TWR) consulting. This all red fruit dominated, with notes of strawberry, raspberry, plum, cherry, orange peel and tea bag. On the palate the wine is elegant, with earth tones coming into the mix with a balancing acidity adding to the persistent finish.
1955 Bodegas Franco Españolas "Cosecha Especial" Rioja
Double nickels from Rioja! This is an historic bottling, from a very good 1955 vintage and Logroño's famous Franco Españolas winery. While the wine is still very much hanging in there, perhaps equally impressive is the presentation, a simple white label with pretty black script, red wax capsule, and very solid fills given the age of this bottling.
2014 Pedro Martinez Alesanco Rosado Rioja
Possibly one of the best rosés I have tasted, and definitely the most interesting, this easy drinking wine is a new favorite: crisp and clean with a surprising structure. What captured my attention was the almost saline core running through the middle. Although the wine is very light it has enough depth to make it desirable in the afternoon and to continue as the light fades.
Rittenhouse Rye 100 Proof, Bottled in Bond 750ml
Despite some grumblings regarding a distillery change (yes Rittenhouse was made under contract by Brown-Forman for years after Heaven Hill's Bardstown plant burned down in the late 90s) Rittenhouse remains the ultimate value for all bartending needs. It might not kick like a Willett Single Barrel Rye, but there's still very little in the price range that will make a better Manhattan, in fact I can't think of one thing.
2001 La Rioja Alta "890" Gran Reserva Rioja
This is one of the great traditional wines of Rioja. It's typically spicy, full of pipe tobacco and leathery notes, and seamlessly elegant as well. In the great 2001 vintage, it's safe to say that this is, as the old timers say, truly "un gran vino." To commemorate a special occasion (for yourself or others) this is still one of Spain's very best bottles.
2013 Bodegas Puelles Blanco Rioja
My favorite white wine value in the store, Chus Puelles' white wine is based primarily on Viura grapes, which give the wine a bright, citric and green apple character, as well as a clean, crisp chalky minerality. Most of the fruit in this wine is grown in the village of Abalos, one of the prime Rioja Alta villages. At under $10 it's tough to find a dry white that consistently hits the spot like this one.
2001 Guiraud, Sauternes
This is a great choice for those seeking a rich, flamboyant style of Sauternes coupled with mature flavors and texture. Deep golden color and a viscous texture compliment the mature flavors of Apricot, toasted marshmallow, baking spice and clover honey. A slight hint of paraffin adds aromatic complexity to the thick, smooth finish.
2009 Nairac, Sauternes
This sensational wine combines aromas and flavors of clover honey, saffron, pineapple, orange spice tea and sweet scented wildflowers. Full-bodied without being unctuous, an oily sleekness holds the mid-palate and a mineral/acid tension glides along the long finish. This really over-delivers for the price.
2013 TWR (Te Whare Ra) Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough
I am a big fan of the entire TWR portfolio but my favorite is always this vibrant Sauvignon Blanc because of its pure flavors and rich texture. Herb, melon, crushed citrus and just a hint of musk add complexity to this weighty but very refreshing value.
2014 Cognizant Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough
Man, what a delicious bargain Sauvignon Blanc...Orange and lemon peels, zippiness from the streamlined acidity, crispy and expressive apples and stone fruits, and a solid case of delicious minerality. Yep...that about sums up this great wine, enjoy!
2010 Raymond Lafon, Sauternes (375ml)
Surprisingly viscous, fat and waxy but with great balancing acidity to boot, this seems to hit the sweet spot between flamboyant richness and cool, electric freshness. The pineapple, coconut, honey, citrus and marmalade flavors would be an ideal match for veined cheeses, fruit tarts, pound cake, a plate of butter cookies or my favorite, as an aperitif. The powerful finish here actually leaves an impression of dryness on the palate.
2012 Carpe Diem Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
2012 was a spectacular Pinot Noir vintage all up and down California and Anderson Valley was no exception. This has a wild, brambly side rarely seen in this appellation yet retains all the cool balance and equilibrium you expect from this outstanding Northern region. There is freshness as well as depth to the layers of earthy dark cherry and berry fruit that linger on the gripping finish.
2010 Fornacina Brunello di Montalcino
The Fornacina is a real standout for me. Beautiful notes of roasted currants, black plum and raspberries. There is a sexy game note and fresh tilled earth to round out the nose. On the palate it is generous and the tannins supple. I drank this with my homemade bolognese which I made on the spicier side. Ground beef is the base, I substituted hot Italian sausage for the pork and added a little ground chicken liver instead of pancetta because I like the earthy flavor it imparts. Served over pappardelle with this wine? Perfection!!
2010 Franco Pacenti Canalicchio Brunello di Montalcino
This has a great nose of crushed herbs and bing cherries. On the palate the wine is compact but after aeration it begins to unwind and develop real complexity. Put a few away as the Canalicchio is built for the cellar.
2011 Quinta do Vallado Douro
What an incredible Portuguese value! This wine has enough rich, ripe fruit to be approachable to everyone. What really stood out to me was the tangy, orange zest-like acidity and the crisp finish. This would be a wonderful BBQ or Asian fusion companion.
2014 Lanessan, Haut-Médoc
More modern style—nice flavor—good value at under $15.
2006 Baron Fuente "Grand Millésimé" Brut Champagne
Hello, a vintage Champagne for $30 bucks? This seems to good to be true, but it is. Capturing the ripe vintage of 2006, this wine oozes aromas of baked pastry and lemon. The palate is clean, and elegant with a silky mouthfeel. You don't have to be the rich and famous to drink like one. Get a bottle, you will be pleasantly surprised.
2013 Joan d'Anguera "Altaroses" Montsant
One of my newest and totally refreshing summertime go-tos is Joan D'Anguera Montsant Altaroses from Catalunya. This is 100% garnacha done in a playfully light, clean, and fruity style. This is a certified biodynamic wine that has a bouquet of sweet red fruit that follows with a delicious strawberry-raspberry note on the tongue, and then finishes up with a hint of hibiscus tea. This would be a great party cocktail wine or an amiable and flexible food pairing partner. This is great as is, but I have been really enjoying this with a slight chill. Recommended!
Cut Spike Nebraska Single Malt Whisky 750ml
I'm a whiskey guy! I love drinking it...smelling it... and collecting it! Easily, of course, my favorite of those three activities is the drinking, which makes this wonderful Nebraska whiskey so dangerous! It's so smooth that, if you're like me, you'll end up drinking way too much. Rich and savory in texture, this 2 year bottling is highlighted by an immense floral and herbaceous qualities. Along with a pronounced element of creamy vanilla, this is such a delight!
2007 Contino "Viña del Olivo" Reserva Rioja
Sure it ain't cheap but it sure is good! A big brooding wine with lots of contraction and structure. All the elements are in perfect balance, deep, dusty blue fruits, toasted spices a lovely earthy element of loamy clay. Everything is very pure and polished, a super classy wine. Long persistence on the palate and a long life ahead of it in the cellar.
2013 Lora Tempranillo Syrah Vino de la Tierra de Castilla
A dark, chewy, rich Tempranillo. Flavors of ripe plum, deep red currants, warm earth and some chocolate notes. Saturated, juicy palate weight with lots of sweet fruit and ripe tannins. This is sure to keep a lot of people happy at a seriously good price...$10!?
2013 La Zorra Rufete Vinos de Salamanca
The best Rufete I have ever tasted...ok that's not saying much...but still this is flat out delicious. Very floral, bright, perfumed. The palate is juicy, supple, mineral laden and fresh. A lovely, crowd pleasing wine that is very versatile with food and a great value. An esoteric grape, but a very accessible wine style that's easy to love.
2013 Lagar de Costa "Doelas" Albariño Rias Baixas
Wow...awesome wine. So many dimensions and layers. Floral nose, citrus notes, blistered padron pepper with sea salt and wet granite. On the palate the wine is richer and more round than the nose suggests with flavors of ripe citrus, even passion fruit. Floral notes return after swallowing, and the lees contact and mineral notes sail long into the finish. Very complex, detailed wine, I'm a fan.
2013 Carballal "Sete Cepas" Albariño Rias Baixas
Exceptional value in Albarino. This same wine 6 months ago was good...but now it's really special. Some of the primary fruit has backed off and the intense mineral core is shining through. Lovely savory lees notes and exquisite focus and persistence for such an inexpensive bottle. I'm super impressed by how this has developed.
2012 Domaine Michel & Stéphane Ogier Syrah "d'Ogier" Collines Rhodaniennes
Fantastic Syrah. Even though this is the entry level wine for Ogier it shows its pedigree. Amazing purity, elegance and expression of place. Violets, dark spices, purple fruit, meat and cracked peppercorns. Very supple and fluid on the palate. Fantastic value for money...who said you couldn't find serious values in the Northern Rhone.
2014 Domaine Dupuy de Lôme Bandol Rosé
Serious Rose. Light and elegant in extract, but powerful in presence and flavor concentration. Spiced orange peel, crunchy red berries, clove, flinty minerals, chalky feel adds length on back palate. Balanced, dry classy Rose.
2014 Domaine Cherrier Père & Fils Sancerre
The 2014 opens with notes of green melon, talc, lime, and tomato leaf. There is a decidedly cool, brisk, greenness to this Sancerre, with its focused, tangy flavors of lime and crushed rock. The mineral component asserts itself on the finish, giving the emerald glade bit a little textural contrast.
1998 Bodegas Casa Juan Señor de Lesmos Gran Reserva Rioja
If you're looking for a Rioja with some age on it, you won't do much better than this bottle for the price. The earthy, dark fruit profile makes this a big, rich wine. That being said, the acidity and long finish make it distinctly Spanish. Fantastic wine!
2012 Seigneurs d'Aiguilhe, Côtes de Castillon
Stephan von Neipperg of Canon-La-Gaffeliere, Clos l'Oratoire and La Mondotte also owns Chateau d'Aiguilhe in the Castillon appellation. This is the 2nd wine from that over-achieving property and is a stunning value every vintage. This is supple, rich and elegant showing classy restraint and wonderful pedigree. This is one of the best values in Bordeaux.
2010 Innocenti Brunello di Montalcino
I love this style of Brunello, filled with leather, earthy and dusty minerality! One of the few 2010 Brunello that is enjoyable right out of the bottle! The wine is aged in big wood and under 700 cases were produced, so if you enjoy a classic, rustic Brunello with plenty of secondary savory characters, you'd better stock up on this one before it's all gone!
2014 Domaine Cherrier Père & Fils Sancerre
This Sancerre emanates a minerally bouquet with traces of white nectarines and lime peel on the back. The palate leads to a profoundly concentrated, flinty core that finishes clean and citrusy. Top quality Sancerre for $16.99.
2010 Tolaini Valdisanti Toscana
Here is a big, hearty Bordeaux wannabe from Tuscany that thinks it's a Chianti. This is ripe, rich and focused, with smooth, earthy black cherry fruit, a deep, warm personality and a blockbuster finish of deeply embedded tannin, mineral and roasted herb. This chewy, mouth-filling wine could handle the richest lasagna or braised or grilled meat.
2011 Bodegas Zugober "Belezos" Rioja
Produced by Bodegas Zugober, from vineyards in the Rioja Alavesa village of Lapuebla, this 100% Tempranillo-based Rioja is delicious, a great tasting, crisp, and generously fruited wine. Rich red and dark fruits display themselves on the palate, which has some textural heft that is held in check by fresh acidity. This is a red that would be great for parties, particularly amongst people who are more accustomed to California wines.
2013 Joan d'Anguera "Altaroses" Montsant
Joan and Joseph d'Anguera have been making some serious changes at their family owned winery over the past decade or so. Starting with a focus on organic farming (they are now Biodynamic, Demeter certified), the brothers soon reaped the rewards of healthier vineyards and fruit, but felt that they were still looking for brighter, lighter, fresher wines. To achieve this they began picking a bit earlier and including some whole clusters in the fermentation, going for what Joseph calls more an "infusion" rather than extraction, of color and flavor. The result is in this 2013 vintage Garnacha, a beautiful wine with aromas of almonds, peaches, red fruits and rose hips, and such a pure, crisp and fresh palate profile. This is wonderful, honest, incredibly drinkable red from Montsant.