Greetings and happy holidays!
It brings me great joy and gratitude to deliver my final wine column of 2020. This opportunity, made possible by A.C. Weekly and my team at Passion Vines, to connect with you monthly has made a profound and positive impact on my perspective, especially during this extremely challenging year. My intention with this particular column is to provide you with my “Top 5 Holiday Wines” (and a bonus two if you are so inclined) — selected to provoke inspiration, inquiry, reflection and gratitude.
1. Valdicava 2010
For all of the accolades the “Super Tuscan” wines receive in the press, the wines of Brunello di Montalcino are quintessential Tuscany. Made from Sangiovese at prime hillside vineyards, the wines show classic red cherry fruit flavor and wild herb aromatics. With time, the wines develop a smooth, leathery texture as they evolve in bottles. Valdicava is a timeless producer, elegantly creating outstanding Brunellos. With 10 years of age, this wine is entering its peak, where there is still plenty of ripe fruit, but smoky, meaty flavors are beginning to show. Whether you choose to enjoy this today or stash it in the cellar for another decade, you will have a rewarding experience. ($169)
2. Chateau le Puy Emilien
Bordeaux’s top estates along the Medoc peninsula and the Dordogne river (Saint-Emilion and Pomerol) are critically-acclaimed and command serious prices, and they are often worth the dollars. However, when you look just over the border of the Saint-Emilion “satellite” locations to the northeast, you encounter some incredible value in the Côtes de Bordeaux region. Château le Puy’s Emilien cuvee is dominated by Merlot, with Cabernet Sauvignon playing a supporting role. There is even a touch of Carmenere and Malbec (the same two grapes that eventually found stardom in South America). With 24 months aging in a combination of large vat and small barrels, this hidden gem will deliver complex flavors with a silky mouthfeel. ($49)
3. Dal Forno Valpolicella
Dal Forno Romano’s Amarone wines are the stuff of legend, consistently delivering upper-echelon quality year after year. Equally stunning is its Valpolicella Superiore, which if tasted blind you could believe is an Amarone. Dal Forno’s Valpolicella is made with the traditional Corvina and Rondinella grapes, while the rare (nearly extinct) Oseleta grape provides a deep, spicy character, the way Petit Verdot contributes to the top Bordeaux blends. Dark cherry fruit, fruitcake, hazelnuts, and the full range of baking spices (nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, etc) are on display here. It’s practically Christmas in a bottle! Taking it a step further, this wine was made in a year where Dal Forno had to overcome bouts of hail during the growing season. In a year where we are all trying to overcome various obstacles, we feel Dal Forno’s Valpolicella embodies the spirit of perseverance. ($107)
4. Honig Cab Napa
Cabernet Sauvignon is an essential component of so many Napa Valley red wines. Napa’s warm days and cool nights provide optimal conditions for Cabernet Sauvignon to achieve full ripeness with bold fruit flavor and soft tannins creating a richly textured wine. Wine estates are impeccably well-maintained, with some showcasing almost grand château-style buildings. While Honig eschews the glitz and glamor for a more laid-back setting, it doesn’t take away anything from the fact that this winery produces world-class wines. Honig’s Cabernet Sauvignon shows bright blackberry, red plum, and raspberry fruit with notes of cranberry, black tea, spice and coriander seed, luscious and balanced, with toasty oak and a long finish. Whether you are enjoying with a pork roast or in front of the fireplace, this will be a satisfying way to put a bow on 2020. ($39)
5. Billecart-Salmon Champagne Brut Rose (2007)
Non-vintage cuvees are an excellent way to get to know a producer’s “house style.” Billecart-Salmon has been a staple here at Passion Vines. The crossover of white and red wine flavors is astounding: blood oranges, red apples, strawberry jam, and white peaches, all wrapped in a pie crust and brioche toast. Savory components emerge here, too, with a full body and persistent bubbles. No amount of words we can write here will do justice ... it is simply a wine to dive into and contemplate ($74). Feeling adventurous and want to dive further? To engage with Champagne’s nuances of terroir and vintage in a marginal climate and short growing season combines education and fun like no other wine region in the world. Check out their “2007 Louis Salmon Blanc de Blancs” — nothing short of amazing ($169)…
Interested in the final two wines? Email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I’ll send them your way.
Lastly, I leave you with a quote of reflection, by Pico Iyer: “It’s the perspective we choose, not the places we visit, that ultimately tells us where we stand.”