Give the gift of wine for Christmas” spells out the best value wines I’ve had this year.
Top Mid-priced Wines
Each of these bottles delivers the goods in spades, and if you compared how good they are, against how much they cost, then you’d see that each of them is a relative value. This is the sweet spot where I find my most enjoyable drinking, because they perform beautifully, but won’t break the bank. Give one of these to your boss for Christmas or New Year’s, and there would be no shame.
2006 Piaggia Carmignano Riserva - The nose showed ripe black cherry, herbal fruit tea, leather, and dusty potpourri. On the palate, it was as soft as silk and flowed effortlessly across the senses. It was structured yet elegant with unmistakable Tuscan character and flavors of black cherry juice, mixed herbs and sweet spices. The finish lasted, showing red fruits with the slightest bitter character. The Carmignano Riserva walks the line between sex appeal and restraint, and the result is something magical. Give it an hour to decant, and let this beauty dazzle you. (95 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!
2007 Vietti Barbera d'Asti La Crena -The nose showed crushed blackberry and plum, along with a hint of undergrowth and a dark toasty note. On the palate, a rich, velvety wave of dark fruits swept across the senses with bitter dark chocolate. The intense fruit and zesty acidity cloaked this wine’s imposing structure, which was most noticeable on the long mouth-puckering finish. I am eager to see what this wine will mature into. (94 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!
2009 Ridge Zinfandel Pagani Ranch - The nose was massive, as aromas of wild berries, dry coco, vanilla, ginger spice and savory notes filled the senses. On the palate, it was medium to full-bodied with amazing focus to its intense red berry fruit and spice. The masses of fruit slowly gave way to show this wine’s structure and balance. The finish was long and clinging to the palate, yet ultimately refreshing as the tannins faded away. I seriously enjoyed this structured Zinfandel and am very happy to have more in my cellar, as I can imagine that it will get even better with time. (93 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!
2009 Peter Lauer Ayler Kupp Riesling Senior Faß 6 - The nose showed lime, green apple, white flowers and wet rocks. It was simple yet perfectly enjoyable. However, on the palate, this wine came to life, with rich and concentrated grapefruit, sweet lemon curd, which then turned to acid, minerals and stone--but then went back to sweetness into the long citrus finish. This wine kept me guessing what each new sip would reveal. It was amazingly fresh and enjoyable. (93 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!
Top Shelf Wines
Sometimes the occasion calls for the best wines, and the ones listed below are sure to please. These are wines that some may refer to as “collectable.” However, I prefer to call them highly drinkable. These are bottles that will blow away the competition and leave no survivors. They may cost a pretty penny, but they’re worth every red cent.
2006 Castello di Monsanto Chianti Classico Riserva Il Poggio - The 2006 Il Poggio was Tuscany personified, as aromas of animal musk, spice, wild berries and forest notes wafted up from the glass. On the palate, this wine showed wild red berries and autumnal notes with a mouth-feel of pure silk. The finish was long in sour berry and spice. (94 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!
2007 Arnaldo-Caprai Sagrantino di Montefalco 25 Anni - On the nose, this wine was a monster with raspberry, holiday spices and dark forest notes. It verged on sweet, but something animal about this Sagrantino pulled it back to reality. On the palate, a massive wave of concentration was turned fresh by vibrant acidity, as blackberry jam, pomegranate, cinnamon and herbs washed across the tongue like silk. The finish showed this wine’s intimidating structure, as velvety tannin coated the mouth. The Arnaldo Caprai 25 Anni is highly enjoyable now and will likely age into something magical. (96 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!
2001 Tommaso Bussola Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Tb - At first, the nose showed black cherries with dark chocolate and tobacco; however, as it opened up in the glass, aromas of herbs and seared meat in a buttery crust filled the nose. It was all at once a sweet and savory intoxicating bouquet. On the palate, it was full with a hint of sweetness, as macerated cherry, rum raisin and Christmas spice lingered into a long and pleasing finish. This may be made in a rich and sweet style, but it still manages to glide effortlessly across the palate with perfect balance and a graceful finish. (95 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!
Top Vintage Wines
If you’re anything like me, then it’s the older vintage wines that truly make cellaring wine worthwhile. Don’t get me wrong; I love young wines, but if there were a choice, I’d grab a 20+-year-old Barolo any day. These are all wines older than ten years that truly made me stop and take notice in 2011.
1990 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Riserva Collina Rionda - This wine was everything I ever wanted in a glass of Barolo. It was sweet yet sour, earthy yet fruity and rich yet with razor-like focus. The nose showed masses of ripe red berries with hot dried spices, gravelly moist earth, mushroom and hints of green stems. On the palate, this showed silky, sweet, ripe strawberry, yet it also had a savory warmth, full of earth, menthol and leather strap on a beautifully structured frame. It was amazing how young the Collina Rionda seemed as silky tannin washed across the palate and soothed me into a long, seductive finish that begged for the next sip. (98 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!
1990 Bodegas Vega-Sicilia Ribera del Duero Valbuena 5° - The 1990 Vega-Sicilia wowed me with its rich yet elegant personality. The nose showed cherry preserves and cranberry with hints of clove, vanilla and burnt sugar. However, with how rich and young the nose seemed, there was an underlying earthiness and hint of musky animal fur that truly kept it interesting. On the palate, it was elegant, with a velvety feel on the tongue as flavors of rich red then black fruits and dusty spices assaulted the senses. The finish was long and turned from juicy to sour as the fruit faded away. (96 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!
2000 Mastroberardino Taurasi Radici Riserva - The nose showed beautifully with ripe strawberry and potpourri; yet as the wine sat in the glass, it turned darker and fuller with notes of candle wax, earth, mushrooms and moist fall leaves. On the palate, this wine was eloquent and soft at first but turned more tannic into the finish. The senses were wrapped with penetrating black fruit, followed by minerals and a taste of older wood, which gave it a bit of a rustic feel. The finish was laden with intense cranberry fruit, giving it a really nice sendoff. This wine is just starting to show its age, yet still has many more years to go before its structure truly softens. (95 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!