WILLIAMS SELYEM Pinot Noir 2015 

(Central Coast, CA) $65

One of the things I love most about a great wine is contrapuntal tension—the idea that the wine embodies completely opposite characteristics within the same sensory second. It might be concentrated but light; fruity but spicy; powerful yet elegant; satiny yet crisp. It’s a head trip when a wine does that. Which is why this Williams Selyem is so intriguing. It yin-yangs it’s way over your palate as if on a shopping spree, picking up descriptors as it goes. All you can do is hold on. This Central Coast pinot is theoretically the simplest of the numerous 2015 pinots Williams Selyem has made. I’m now dying to taste the rest. (13.2% abv)

92 points KM

Available at K & L Wines



GROTH Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

(Oakville, Napa Valley, CA) $45

Hundreds of times, I’ve heard the idea that one must wait to harvest cabernet. But, wait how long? Wait until the grapes are so full of sugar they end up making wine that tastes like flat Coke? Every winemaker talks about “perfect ripeness”—a physiological state for which there is actually no definition. Groth’s cabernet reminds me that the best cabernets are not overwhelming, overly alcoholic, or overly sweet. Instead, they possess structure, substance, energy, and length. Groth, a Napa Valley classic, is as classy as ever. (14.5% abv)

95 points KM

Available at K & L Wines



DOMAINE LEFLAIVE Puligny-Montrachet Premier Cru “Clavoillon” 2013 

(Burgundy, France) $139

What must it have been like to be a vigneron in the little village of Puligny-Montrachet in, say, 1980, watching as winemakers everywhere from Monterey, California, to Margaret River, Australia, began planting chardonnay as fast as they could. I bet they weren’t worrying. Because the winemakers of Puligny-Montrachet aren’t in the chardonnay business; they are in the Puligny-Montrachet business. This exquisite Leflaive tells the story best. Its vivid bolts of fresh acidity infuse the wine with an “aliveness” that’s electrifying. Meanwhile, the wine’s nutty/earthy richness is mind bending. Alas, chardonnay does not do this; Puligny-Montrachet does this. (13.5% abv)

96 points KM

Available at Calvert Woodley 



Blanc de Blancs 2010

(England) $79

Imagine a sword, dazzling sharp, coated in swirls of whipped cream. That’s English sparkling wine at its best—icicles of beautiful acidity sheathed in pillows of richness. This past fall, I spent a week visiting the top producers of English sparkling wine and came away stunned by the quality. Yes the south of England has the same chalky soils as Champagne, but nothing could have prepared me for such mesmerizing textures and delicious flavors. Nyetimber, one of the first English sparkling firms, is among the best. (12% abv)

95 points KM

Available at



Juliénas 2016

(Beaujolais, France) $29

For all the current distress in the world, it is still the season when we must find joy. Joy is imperative, for joy is renewal. I found myself wondering the other day if all wines give joy. And I decided they didn’t. Only certain wines have the rare ability to make us feel. This Juliénas is one of those wines. With its long, silky swaths of berries, spices, and minerals, it dances across the palate with what can only be described as joyousness.  And who couldn’t use a little bit more of that right now? (13.5% abv)

92 points KM

Available at Wine Exchange



“Las Piedras”

(Napa Valley, CA) $66

Let’s see. You need a wine gift. Maybe something impressive from the Napa Valley. Hopefully something that tastes like it costs a lot more than it does. This is your wine. Chappellet is one of the valley’s blue chip producers. “La Piedras” (The Stones) is a satiny blend of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and merlot. It’s a structured, expressive wine (like many top cabs), but with an immediate deliciousness that’s off the charts. Not only can you drink it now, it wants to be drunk now.  (14.5 abv)

91 points KM

Available at Chappellet



“Louise Vineyard” Pinot Noir 2015

(Eola-Amity Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon) $55

The aromas of Christmas-to-come were already floating in the room. The piney incense of the Christmas tree. The rich fruitiness of plums. The deep roast of chestnuts. The edgy spiciness of nutmeg. Wait. They weren’t in the room. They were just in the glass, and like all great wines, this one was capable of taking you (taking me anyway) on a riff of imagination. I hadn’t even tasted the wine yet, but I was intoxicated. As for flavor, imagine dancing slowly with someone who dances better than you. My advice: Don’t think. Just keep following. (14% abv).

94 points KM

Available at Hi-Time Wine Cellars



Oberhäuser Leistenberg Riesling Kabinett 2016

(Nahe, Germany) $22

Winter is a cook’s season. A cold Saturday; content hours in a warm kitchen making something that will simmer or roast all afternoon. I believe that to cook well, one has to drink wine at the same time—for flavor inspiration. The best “cooking wines” are bright, vivid, pure, thrillingly light, and low in alcohol. Like this exquisite Dönnhoff riesling. It’s a wave of delicious energy. It virtually vibrates with crystalline freshness. Dönnhoff is one of Germany’s finest artisanal producers. Their filigreed rieslings are wine as inspiration. (9% abv)

92 points KM

Available at Vinopolis



Special Cuvée Brut Champagne

(Champagne, France) $13

There I stood in the wine shop staring at a wall of Champagnes. Each one looked as though it wanted to be picked up and taken home–like puppies waiting to be adopted. In the end, I chose this Bollinger, a wine that has stopped me in my tracks before. If it were a person, it would be a Pre-Raphaelite woman—sensual, full-bodied, with long tresses of auburn hair. But it is of course a wine, and its long creamy-nutty richness feels exactly right right now when winter is upon us. Every Champagne is said to have a style, but only the best Champagnes are utterly distinctive—like this. (12% abv)

95 points KM

Available at Gary's Wine and Marketplace



Grüner Veltliner “Ried Loibenberg”  Smaragd 2013

(Wachau, Austria) $50

The best part of wine is time travel. This is Vienna. The old days. Snow falling outside but inside, a dizzying electricity from mouthfuls of vivid wine that twirl around on the palate as if the wine itself was dancing out of control. And yet for all the charm, this is a wine of gravitas. A wine that speaks of a place. A wine that wants to say, you have never tasted peaches and white pepper and mineraly wet stones like this. Grüner Veltliner is Austria’s great white grape. Knoll is a top producer. Smaragd is the highest classification a wine from the Wachau can have. This is a white for winter and a must. (13.5% abv)

92 points KM

Available at JJ Buckley