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WOODWARD CANYON

Estate Reserve Red Blend 2014

(Walla Walla Valley, Washington) $89

I tasted this beautiful wine recently with owner/winemaker Rick Small. (Small, along with his friend the winemaker Gary Figgins, are legendary figures in Washington State, having virtually jumpstarted the modern wine industry in Walla Walla after teaching themselves winemaking in the 1970s). I suppose it’s hard not to be influenced when you taste with a wine’s winemaker. But the magnificence and artisanality of this wine could not be ignored. Bold streaks of red, blue, and black fruits splashed across the canvas of the wine. Tiny fireworks of saltiness and pepperiness kept exploding. Unlike many powerful and full-bodied cabernet-based wines, this Woodward Canyon feels sleek, but the richness of its flavor is undeniable (and attention grabbing). A great wine for your next dinner party perhaps. (Mostly cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc, with some merlot and petit verdot). (14.7% abv)

94 points KM

Available at Woodward Canyon

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LA JOTA

Merlot 2015

(Howell Mountain, California) $85

I usually like wines that are a bit more restrained, but I have to say, I’m smitten by this wine’s unleashed wild exuberance. Of course, mountain merlot is vastly different than “regular” merlot; it’s got more power, more potency, and more all-around gravitas. But big wines usually forfeit layers of flavor to achieve their magnitude. Not this one. The fleshy dark berry and sage-like flavors are laced with cassis, spices, and vanilla. An old stone winery atop Howell Mountain, La Jota was built in the 1800s by Italian stone masons and Chinese laborers who had worked on the Transcontinental Railroad. (15% abv)

93 points KM

Available at La Jota Vineyard Co.

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VALDESPINO

“Viejo C.P.” Single Vineyard Dry Palo Cortado Sherry 

(Jerez, Spain) $49

Valdespino—one of the oldest Sherry bodegas—makes bone dry Sherries that are so concentrated and rich they have atomic density. This Palo Cortado, for example, has laser-focused deliciousness, complex nutty flavors, and crashing waves of vivid minerality. Right now, as winter surrounds us, Palo Cortados like this are fantastic aperitifs with some slices of great Spanish jamón and dried cheeses like Manchego and Idiazábal. This Sherry would also be superb in place of bourbon in a Manhattan. (A sacrilege perhaps, but you have to taste it to believe it). (20% abv)

97 points KM

Available at Vivino.com

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GOSSET

“Grand Millesimé” Brut 2006

(Champagne, France) $100

This is the last of the “Wines to Know” for 2018 and with it, we offer you heartfelt thanks for being part of the WineSpeed community. Gosset (go-SAY) has always been one of my favorite Champagne Houses, and thus a fitting wine with which to end 2018 and usher in 2019. The wines have purity and, above all, personality. They are as fresh and invigorating as cold winter air.  The Blanc de Blancs is starched and minerally; the rosé is regal and delicious, and this complex, sumptuously elegant 2006 feels curiously exciting, like wildly imagined lemon-tinged snowflakes. Gosset was founded in 1584, making it the oldest Champagne House. We hope to drink their Champagnes several times in the upcoming year. Maybe you too? (12% abv)

96 points KM

Available at Vivino.com

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MAC FORBES

Pinot Noir 2017

(Yarra Valley, Victoria, Australia) $30

Several things are very surprising about this wine: the quality (stunning); the price (what a deal!), and the place it’s from (Australia—really?). Really. The fact that cool parts of Australia, like the Yarra Valley of Victoria, are the source of beautiful pinot is a secret that’s, by now, too well kept. As for this Mac Forbes: imagine a lovely, earthy, salty, savory, sexy pinot that smells (as so many great pinots do) gently human, like a newborn baby. If you love pinot noir, you know what I mean. I still can’t believe this costs thirty bucks. (12% abv)

93 points KM

Available at Vivino.com

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TINTO PESQUERA

Crianza 2014

(Ribera del Duero, Spain) $27

Spain is a country that takes its masculinity seriously (not to mention its wine). And so—after just a sip or two—a writer could be forgiven for an imagination, momentarily unleashed, that leaps to broad-shouldered, narrow-hipped bullfighters and smoky late-night cafes. (Okay, never mind). This part about the wine is true: Pesquera emerged on the international scene in the 1980s with such generous, sumptuous, and delicious tempranillos that a whole new style of tempranillo was born. Pesquera’s vanilla, earth, and sweet tobacco-leaf flavors bolt out of the glass, yet the wine has wonderful beauty and sophistication. (14.5% abv)

94 points KM

Available at Vivino.com

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CORISON

Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

(Napa Valley, California) $100

If one stellar cabernet is in your future this holiday season, this would be a brilliant option. It’s a cabernet of magnificence and beauty, precision and radiance—as though every single molecule in the wine was beaming out delicious flavor. Cathy Corison (who’s made wine over more than 40 vintages) has a reputation for exquisitely balanced, complex, long-lived cabernets that exude finesse. You could be forgiven for thinking it was Margaux in a good vintage. (13.6% abv)

96 points KM

Available at Corison Winery

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HENRY’S DRIVE

Shiraz 2013

(Padthaway, South Australia, Australia) $45

Beautiful structure and lift. Tight, focused, sleek, and exact. Gymnastics? No … wine. Henry’s Drive Shiraz comes from Padthaway, in the southern part of South Australia near the open bay known as the Great Australian Bight. This is a classic example of shirazes from that region which are sleeker and taste perhaps a bit fresher than many Barossa shirazes. One hallmark of nearly all top Australian shirazes is their generosity of fruit and flavor. This is one delicious, mouthfilling example. (14.5% abv)

90 points KM

Available at Vivino.com

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BISOL

“Jeio” Prosecco Superiore Brut NV D.O.C.G.

(Valdobbiadene, Veneto, Italy) $16

Who doesn’t need a really good sparkler that’s a steal at this time of year?  The operative words are “really good,” because Prosecco can be a little too bitter or a little too fruity or just plain neutral. It’s a hard wine to get right. But Bisol—founded in 1542, making it one of the oldest prosecco producers—has a terrific track record. Their “Jeio” (pronounced JAY-O) is clean and vibrant with wisps of pear and lemon. Not a touch of bitterness.  It’s made mostly from glera, the traditional Prosecco grape, plus small amounts of chardonnay, pinot blanc, and pinot grigio. A simple, quaffable beauty. (11.5% abv)

89 points KM

Available at Vivino.com

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NINE HATS

Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 

(Columbia Valley, Washington) $20

While an expensive cabernet sauvignon might be tasty, it will usually always miss the mark when it comes to structure. And if there’s one thing you want in cabernet, it’s definitely structure. Think of structure as a commanding framework—the flying buttresses of a cathedral of fruit. Nine Hats has real cabernet style, dark cassis flavors, and a fine tannic structure. The brand is the invention of Allen Shoup, one of Washington’s most creative wine men. Shoup assembled nine top international winemakers to each make great (expensive) wines with Washington grapes. The cabernet grapes that didn’t make the ultra-top cut went into this baby. So you’re drinking a lot of talent at a fraction of the typical cost. Party season is coming. (14.5% abv)

88 points KM

Available at Nine Hats Wines