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BASSERMANN-JORDAN

“Forst” Riesling Trocken 2018

(Pfalz, Germany) $30

In Germany in winter, exquisite, powerful dry Rieslings are drunk with delicious pork roasts, and the combination has to be tasted to be believed. The icicle-sleek freshness of the Riesling against the richness of the roast pork—oh my. Bassermann-Jordan’s Riesling is phenomenal. The aroma is so pure it’s evocative of fresh mountain air. The flavors—limey, minerally, spicy—bound out of the glass. Bassermann-Jordan is in the Pfalz, a warmish region (for Germany), and so the wines, while elegant, also have body and gravitas. The Jordan family (later Bassermann-Jordan) founded the estate in 1718 on the best south-facing slopes of what would become some of the “Grand Crus” of the Pfalz. (12% abv)

96 points KM

Available at Pogos Wine and Spirits

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BODEGAS FAUSTINO

Gran Reserva Rioja

(Rioja, Spain) $39

Eleven years old and just now released. That tells the story of Rioja, the one place in the world where you can buy beautifully aged red wines made from the grape variety Tempranillo for a fraction of what they should cost. (I’m not complaining). Faustino is a very traditional Rioja producer and true to form, this wine has great “old” flavors—old fine leather and old books—plus woodsy notes of earth and pipe tobacco, and a luscious savoriness. This wine and a couple of thick lambchops make for a sumptuous evening.  (13.5% abv)

94 points KM

Available at Vivino

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VIGNETI LE MONDE

Pinot Bianco

(Friuli Venezia Giulia, Italy) $16

Every January (austerity month), we hunt around for a stunning wine that costs under $20. Here that wine is— a terrific Pinot Blanc that’s creamy, inviting, and packed with delicious flavors (lemon meringue, crisp pear, fresh quince). It’s also alive with freshness and minerality—all for $16. Pinot Blanc is often overshadowed by ubiquitous and popular Pinot Grigio. But Vigneti Le Monde’s Pinot Blanc will change your mind about which sibling is superior. I could spend every weekend evening in the kitchen drinking this while I cook.  (13% abv)

92 points KM

Available at Vivino

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PIERRE PÉTERS

“Cuvée de Réserve” Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru NV Brut

(Champagne, France) $70

With all of their Grand Cru vineyards on the limestone veins that run through the Côte des Blancs, the grower Pierre Péters makes sleek, racy Champagnes that are jewels—ravishingly beautiful, snowy, crystalline. Perfect for a holiday celebration. Their brisk minerality plays on your palate like high notes on a piano. Yet the flavors are deeply resonant and complex. There’s something wonderfully salty about them, like sea spray on wet rocks, and something familiar yet surprising, like oranges tied up in ribbons of vanilla. The Pierre Péters winery was founded in 1919 and is now run by the fourth generation. Many of the family’s vineyards are specifically in the heralded Grand Cru village of Le Mesnil-sur-Oger.

97 points KM

Available at Vivino

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BRASH HIGGINS

“MCC Lennon Vineyard”

(McLaren Vale, Australia) $29

This fantastically lively MMC blend of Mourvèdre/Cinsault/Carignan is a little like watching three people at a party all of whom are busily outdoing one another to be the center of attention. The delicious flavors whizz around like balls in a pinball machine. And what flavors—loads of clove and cinnamon spiciness, waves of espresso and cedar, and clashing cymbals of violets and black cherry. I love it when a red wine is full of energy, freshness, and it’s moving fast. McLaren Vale is one of the top appellations within the state of South Australia, famous for old vineyards planted with Rhône varieties. 13.3% abv

94 points KM

Available at Wine House

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TURNBULL

Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2019

(Oakville, Napa Valley, CA) $95

The holidays always deserve a special wine—and this year, perhaps even more so. Here’s that wine—a beautifully-structured, intensely-flavored Napa Valley Cabernet. Turnbull, a small wine producer in Oakville, right in the heart of the valley, has an “insider” reputation for making fantastic Cabernets—wines of great power, richness, and elegance. I love the way this Cabernet’s fine tannin frames the luscious savory flavors. And while at $95, the wine is not inexpensive, it could easily go up against Napa Cabernets costing two or three times as much. If you’re ready for a bit of indulgence (or want to give a wine lover a sensational gift this year), Turnbull’s Reserve Cabernet is the wine you need. 14.5% abv

97 points KM

Available at Vivino

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CHÂTEAU LASSÈGUE

St. Emilion Grand Cru 2017

(St. Emilion, Bordeaux, France) $48

A Bordeaux from St. Emilion for under $50? That’s not easy to find. But Château Lassègue 2017 fits the bill admirably. It’s intense and grippy with an edge of tannin that lets you know you’re drinking Bordeaux. Lots of red currant, violet, espresso, and pipe tobacco notes with a spicy top spin. Comprised primarily of 50- to 60-year-old Merlot vines, along with Cabernet Franc and a small amount of Cabernet Sauvignon. Splashed into a carafe an hour before dinner, this wine unfurled beautifully and was terrific with slow roasted short ribs. (14% abv)

92 points KM

Available at Luekens Wine and Spirits

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AZIENDA AGRICOLA SOFIA

“Piano dei Daini” Etna Rosso 2018

(Etna, Sicily, Italy) $55

Etna Rossos, made on the ancient lava flows of the Mt. Etna volcano in Sicily, are made from red Nerello Mascalese grapes—Italy’s “Nebbiolos of the south.” The wines have a dark, savory, Italian edge of delicious bitterness that frames a core of spicy cherry fruit. This Sophia “Piano dei Daini” is also laced with notes of wild mushrooms and something like sarsaparilla. (Where oh where is a rich meat-sauced pasta dish when I need it?)  Sophia is a small family winery with vineyards 2100 feet above sea level. (12.5% abv)

94 points KM

Available at Vivino

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DOMAINE DU CLOS DU FIEF

“La Roche” Beaujolais Villages 2020

(Beaujolais, France) $19

Let us say right off the bat that we don’t drink Beaujolais one week a year in November. (That’s the Thursday devoted to popsicle-like Beaujolais Nouveau). We love real Beaujolais, true Beaujolais, year-round. You can “fall into” a nice glass of Beaujolais as effortlessly as you can a glass of rosé. Like this Beaujolais from Domaine du Clos du Fief—a favorite from our tastings. It’s soft and delicious with vivid raspberry, violet, and cherry flavors; plus, a lively minerality. Beaujolais Villages can come from any one of 38 villages in the Beaujolais area south of Burgundy. This one is stellar and a steal to boot. (13% abv)

 

92 points KM

Available at Martin Wine and Spirits

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Premiere Napa Valley Wine Week

Among the Napa Valley’s best kept secrets are the wines known as “Premiere Napa Valley.” These rare wines, hand numbered and signed by the winemakers, are made each year in very small lots, generally about 20 cases. The retailers who offer the wines for sale, do so starting this week— Premiere Napa Valley Wine Week. From now until next spring, you’ll be able to buy these wines, all of which are labeled with the word “Premiere.” But don’t delay. Because of the special nature of the wines and the fact that they are made in tiny quantities, the wines sell out fast. Wouldn’t one of these one-of-a-kind wines be great on your Thanksgiving or holiday table? Go to the Premiere Napa Valley online marketplace for a list of the retailers where you can buy them.

Available at Premiere Napa Valley

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DESCENDIENTES DE J. PALACIOS

“Pétalos” 2018

(Bierzo, Spain) $27

From the famous Palacios family of Spain comes Pétalos (“petal” in Spanish)—a wine of sheer deliciousness that’s so satisfying and easy to drink, it would make a great house wine over the next few months. Pétalos is made from the grape variety Mencia, one of the unsung historic indigenous red grapes of Spain. Mencia makes wildly spicy, peppery, minerally, dramatic reds that, to me, often seem poised somewhere between Pinot Noir and Syrah. Like all of the top Mencias, Pétalos is rich with fruit but well balanced. I can’t think of a fall dish that it wouldn’t go with.  The grapes for Pétalos are from old, biodynamically-farmed vineyards on the steep, slatey slopes of Bierzo, a remote mountainous region in northwest Spain. (14% abv)

93 points KM

Available at Vivino

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A. RAFANELLI

Zinfandel 2018

(Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, CA) $50

The Rafanelli family makes Zinfandels that are as precise and vivid as a single note of music reverberating in a concert hall. The wines’ purity is remarkable. Black cherries, raspberries, and boysenberries–deep, generous, and totally alive with flavor. Plus a sensual softness that you could lose yourself in. This is the beauty (not the beast) side of Zinfandel, and part of the reason is that the Rafanellis (who have made Zinfandel since the early 1900s over four generations) work with low-yielding Zinfandel vineyards that have been in existence for close to a century. Roast a chicken, open a bottle of this, and your autumn evening has just gotten really nice. (14.8% abv)

95 points KM

Available at Bottle Shop