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CANVASBACK

Cabernet Sauvignon 2019

(Walla Walla Valley, Washington) $56

For Cabernet lovers priced out of Napa Valley and Bordeaux, Walla Walla, Washington is the place to know. The Cabernets are firmly structured with lots of richness and length. In particular, this Cab from Canvasback is terrific—lots of blackberry and cassis fruit, plus notes of vanilla and espresso. There’s tannic power here to be sure, but also a sense of refinement. Pour it into a decanter and watch it unfurl itself some weekend night soon. (14.5% abv)

94 points KM

Available at canvasbackwine.com

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Bottle image of featured Wine to Know 01-20-2023

THREE STICKS

“Gap’s Crown Vineyard” Pinot Noir 2020

(Sonoma Coast, CA) $75

Three Sticks makes more than a half dozen fantastic Pinot Noirs from extremely cool, Pacific-impacted vineyards all over Sonoma. Their Gap’s Crown is our favorite because it embodies Pinot’s great “magic trick”—which is to be simultaneously both utterly rich and beautifully restrained. I also think that all the best California Pinots are never simply fruity; they have hints of flavors that are “dark” and “corrupt” at the same time. In Gap’s Crown,   pomegranate, blackberry, and raspberry are woven into a delicious tapestry with notes of pipe tobacco, damp earth, and the addictive smell of soft (maybe slightly sweaty) leather gloves.  Pinot Noirs like this are never inexpensive, but they are such a compelling head-trip to drink that $15 a glass seems just about right.  14% abv

96 points KM

Available at Wine.com

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CHÂTEAU D’ÉPIRÉ

Savennières 2021

(Savennières, Loire Valley, France) $31

 

One of the most intriguing things a wine can possess is contrapuntal tension—a dynamic energy of opposite ideas. This Savennières, for example, is both languorously creamy and in the same split second, has slashing daggers of delicious acidity. Tasting it is like being plunged from a warm bath into a cold one. Savennières is one of my favorite white wine appellations in the Loire Valley. The wines (all made from Chenin Blanc) are sleek, vivid, and dance on waves of oceanic minerality. There’s lots of white pepper and citrusy stuff too. In fact, the wine is so damn refreshing, you won’t be able to put your glass down (a great thing if you’ve got, say, a platter of crunchy fried chicken for dinner). Château d’Épiré is a many-centuries-old celebrated estate, and their dry Savennières is widely considered a “Grand Cru.” It should cost a lot more than it does, so I hope you’ll snap up a few bottles(!).

95 points KM

Available at Kermit Lynch

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MAROLO ULRICH

Amaro

(Italy) $40

I absolutely love amaros and will happily end any restaurant meal doing a tasting of every amaro the restaurant has on its list. And so I found myself recently in New York at Eataly, with a line-up of fantastic amaros in front of me. The one pictured in the old-fashioned squat bottle, Marolo Ulrich, was sensational—a tidal wave of anise, floral, and botanical flavors with amaro’s classic “noble bitter” finish. Amaros (or more properly amari, the Italian plural) are Italian-made liqueurs that are aromatic, bittersweet, and herbal. They are traditionally drunk at the end of the meal as a digestif (usually a 2-ounce pour). Most amari are made from lightly fortified wine that’s been infused with a secret recipe of botanicals like quinine bark, wormwood, rhubarb, ginger root, cardamom, gentian, and all manner of spices. They are not as sweet as dessert wines, and for me, they’re a more dramatic, invigorating, and delicious way to end a meal. A bottle of amaro will last for many months. The Marolo Ulrich Amaro was first made in 1854 by an Italian doctor named Domenico Ulrich. It contains 19 different herbs, flowers, fruits and roots, and has a lively sophisticated flavor.

Available at Gary's Wine & Marketplace

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SANDHI

Pinot Noir 2021

(Sta. Rita Hills, Santa Barbara County, CA) $42

Discovering Sandhi feels like you’ve just been let in on a secret that a small group of Pinot Noir fanatics have kept to themselves.   The Pinots are fabulous—artisanal, silky, layered in the manner of Burgundy, but with a core of California richness. This 2021—just out—hums with freshness and energy, and dances with spiciness. Sandhi is a collaboration of super talented winemaker Sashi Moorman and the well-known former sommelier and Burgundy expert Raj Parr. With the mind-bending prices of Grand Cru Burgundy (which have skyrocketed in the last year, often to well over $1,000 a bottle), knowing a top small producer of delicious, affordable Sta. Rita Hills Pinot feels…fantastic.

93 points KM

Available at Mission Wines

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KOPKE

Colheita 1941 Port

(Oporto, Portugal) $850

Yes, you can still buy this wine. And yes, it is majestic. Made during the first years of World War II, Kopke’s Colheita Port is older than just about everyone reading this. It is a wine of great passion and integrity. A wine that’s both frail and powerful at the same time. Like silk falling in folds, it ever-so-gently fills your mouth with a sublime richness. The aromas and flavors of very old wines like this have coalesced into something entirely new, and they wrap themselves around you with astonishing beauty. Founded in 1638, Kopke is the oldest Port wine house. Colheita (col-YATE-ah) Ports are tawny Ports from a single vintage year and are extremely rare. Astoundingly, Port producers often release their colheitas after the wines are fifty years old or more. A stunning end of the year wine, and a superb gift to yourself or someone you love.

100 points KM

Available at The Spanish Table

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QUILCEDA CREEK

Cabernet Sauvignon 2017

(Columbia Valley, WA) $199

For decades, Quilceda Creek has been the iconic Washington State producer of Cabernets with a cult following—Cabernets that are so unbelievably delicious, they sell out almost before they hit the market. The texture of the wines is pure velvet. The flavors yin yang back and forth between vibrant black cherry/blackberry notes and compelling “dark” flavors reminiscent of leather, peat, espresso, and cigar box. This is a Cabernet with a “lit from within” sense of aliveness. It fills your palate from every direction. Quilceda Creek was founded in 1978 by the Golitzin family, making it one of the oldest family-owned wineries in Washington. In a blind Cabernet tasting I did recently (which included Sassicaia and Château Ducru Beaucaillou—both of which are more expensive), the Quilceda came out on top.

98 points KM

Available at Vivino.com

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RIDGE

Geyserville 2020

(Alexander Valley, Sonoma County, CA) $50

The 2020 was Ridge’s 55th consecutive vintage of Geyserville, a wine that many Ridge collectors consider the winery’s best Zinfandel blend, if not the best Zinfandel in the country. Its pedigree is uncontested: Old vines some of which are more than 125 years old and 60% of which are 50 years old or older. An historic field blend of mostly Zinfandel, along with Carignane, Petite Sirah, Alicante Bouschet, and Mataro (the old name used in California for Mourvèdre). The wine is enormously complex and full of personality. Lots of juiciness and briaryness, with notes of espresso, soy sauce and gameyness. Very rich, impressive, and structured. (See our profile on Ridge and reviews of more Ridge wines in this week’s Blog.)

96 points KM

Available at Ridge Vineyards

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GLENELLY

“Lady May” 2014

(Stellenbosch, South Africa) $56

When I was served this wine blind, I thought it was a fantastic Bordeaux. And now I understand why. Glenelly Estate was founded in 1682. Among the first great South African wine farms, it was bought in 2003 by one of the legendary wine women of Bordeaux—May de Lenquesaing, former owner of Bordeaux’s famous Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande (today the estate has passed to her grandchildren).  “Lady May” has classic Bordeaux written all over it. Immaculate purity of fruit; magnificent structure; rich, long flavors reminiscent of cassis, cigar box, vanilla, graphite, and spices. It’s mostly Cabernet Sauvignon with some Merlot and Cabernet Franc. You can still buy the 2014 which has the added benefit of being aged and nicely “open.” Pour it into a decanter and serve it blind this holiday season. I guarantee your friends will be surprised.

95 points KM

Available at Saratoga Wine Exchange

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ROBERT WEIL

Riesling Spätlese 2021

(Rheingau, Germany) $45

Between now and New Years, this is what we all need—a wine that you can stand in the kitchen and just drink. Maybe you’re cooking. Maybe you’re just hanging out. But whatever you’re doing, here’s a wine that will light up your tastebuds for hours and leave you feeling perfectly fine. (It’s just 9% alcohol.) Robert Weil is one of the top producers of the Rheingau, and the estate’s Rieslings have so much delicious energy that the flavors virtually vibrate in your glass. I love this wine’s richness, crystalline purity, and crinoline crispness. In fact, Riesling is my favorite “winter white”—not only because I love to drink it while cooking anything and everything, but if dinner happens to be a slow-cooked pork roast? Oh man, the fireworks between the wine and the roast are off the charts.

94 points KM

Available at The Wine Stop

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DOMAINE DE BEAURENARD

Côtes du Rhône 2021

(Rhône Valley, France) $25

Oh my, does this wine overdeliver! Juicy and alive, it’s bursting with cherry kirsch, vanilla bean, sandalwood, black pepper, and espresso flavors. Yet, for all of its savory richness, the wine is sleek and beautifully balanced. Côtes du Rhône is an appellation of non-contiguous parcels that fall mostly in the southern Rhône Valley. Alas, a good share of the wines are, as the French might say: ordinaire. But this Beaurenard rocks with southern French deliciousness.  It’s 70% Grenache and 30% Syrah. The domaine also makes a good Châteauneuf-du-Pape, but penny for penny, you can’t beat this Côtes du Rhône.

93 points KM

Available at Wine.com

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BODEGAS BORSAO

“Tres Picos” Garnacha 2019

(Campo de Borja, Spain) $20

I can’t imagine a better $20 red. Tres Picos (Three Peaks) is the kind of wine that’s both delicious and sophisticated. It has the classic flavor of Garnacha –super rich cherry preserves—plus vanilla bean, espresso, white chocolate and notes of tobacco. Garnacha (known in France as Grenache) is often thought of as a French grape variety, but in fact, it’s Spanish. And the northern area called Campo de Borja may well be this grape’s birthplace. The wine’s texture—somewhere between silk and velvet—is superb. No raspy hard edges of tannin here. Bodegas Borsao was founded in 2001 and soon after that, I visited. I was impressed then, and I’m still so today.

93 points KM

Available at Wine.com