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WEINGUT E. KNOLL

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

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ANNE SOPHIE DUBOIS

Fleurie “Clepsydre” 2015

(Beaujolais, France) $29

The leaves are in a death dance. The trees are brittle and bare. The sky is wary. Autumn has fallen around us. But in my glass is a vivid, almost giddy sense of joy, for drinking great Cru Beaujolais leaves you inexplicably happy—like when you were a kid and ate handfuls of cookie dough. Anne Sophie Dubois’ Fleurie called “Clepsydre” (from 70 year old vines) is a beauty—a rush of black raspberries and peaches that have collided with violets, spices, and stony minerals. I don’t know of any other red wine in the world that can be called exuberant. But when Cru Beaujolais is at full throttle—as this one is—it is hypnotically, vibrantly, irrepressibly delicious. (13.6% abv)

92 points KM

Available at Woodland Hills Wine Company

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CASA FERREIRINHA

“Planalto” Reserva Dry White Wine 2016

(Douro, Portugal) $12

Here’s what drifted through my mind as I thought about the smell and flavor of this wine: Fresh wind over dry hills. Wild shrubs. Sea salt on extra virgin olive oil. A cold martini with botanical gin and a few fine olives. And then I thought: every shrimp in the world should apply to be served alongside this simple, delicious wine. Planalto Reserva is a great example of an under-loved but fantastic category—dry Portuguese white wine. At this price, a bottle could always be in the fridge. Because you never know when Monday night might roll around.

89 points KM

Available at Wine.com

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Vasse Felix

Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

(Margaret River, Australia) $27

You know when you take rosemary, herbs, cracked pepper, salt, and olive oil and make a paste and slather it all over a leg of lamb and roast it, and when it’s done, there’s that charred bit of lamb-herb crust in the bottom of the pan sitting in warm meat juices, and you pick it up with your fingers and eat it? That’s a perfect savory moment. And it reminds me of the savory deliciousness of this wine. The Margaret River in far western Australia is famous for sleek cabernets with a dark cocoa and foresty character. Vasse Felix makes one of the best. And it tastes like it costs more than it does.

Available at Wine.com

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Gosset

Grande Réserve Brut Champagne NV

(Champagne, France) $50

What does finesse mean? The first time I heard that term I was a young writer, and I imagined that finesse was immediately knowable like “oaky” or “tannic” were knowable. But now I understand that finesse is the white space on the page. It’s the jewelry you took off. It’s the exquisite sense that what could have been done, wasn’t done. Or said. And so what’s left is a certain excitement because you’re close to something true and pure. Gosset (go SAY) Grande Réserve is all about finesse. Founded in 1584, the house of Gosset made still wines before making sparkling. It is the oldest wine firm in the Champagne region, and its Champagne is fitting to drink today, National Champagne Day.

95 points KM

Available at K&L Wines

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Felton Road

“Calvert” Pinot Noir

(Central Otago, New Zealand) $70

Mesmerizing flavor without mass. Richness without weight. I’ve always imagined that for the monks of Burgundy, a great pinot noir must have been a vinous “holy spirit”—a wine that transcended the corporeal. Felton Road’s “Calvert” Pinot Noir comes as close to this idea as any wine I’ve had in a long time. Ethereally light yet rivetingly rich, spicy, and mineraly, it springs onto the palate with gymnastic grace. And then the wine begins to slowly unfurl itself. If it wasn’t so monastic, it would be X-rated. (14% abv)

97 points KM

Available at K & L Wines

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Green & Red

“Tip Top Vineyard” Zinfandel 2013

(Napa Valley, CA) $30

Many of the great zinfandel producers insist that zinfandel can be refined, even elegant. I’ve always been a little dubious. Except when it comes to the very best of the best zins. Green & Red is one. This wine is classy, pure tasting, and so vivid in flavor you feel like your taste buds just put on 3D glasses. More raspberryish than raspberries. Spicy to the hilt. Rich and yet restrained at the same time. The Tip Top Vineyard rests in serpentine-laced rock at 1700 feet above the Napa Valley. It takes a great site to produce zinfandels that can be considered beautiful. Tasting is believing. (14.9 % abv)

93 points KM

Available at Green & Red

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Knudsen

Pinot Noir 2015

(Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon) $55

We had an employee once who, after tasting a really good pinot noir would always pronounce it “pretty.” What’s a pretty pinot noir? I would always ask. And she would say, Pretty is, well, …pretty. I think this is that wine. It has beguiling aromas of roses and tea and a delicate earthy flavor. Its richness is beautifully faded…like an exquisite old tapestry. Pinots such as this evoke a certain similarity with  Burgundies. (Interestingly, Knudsen’s Reserve pinot doesn’t have quite the same elegance). If you love classic pinot noir, this is for you. (14.1% abv)

91 points KM

Available at Knudsen Winery

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Cocchi Barolo Chinato

Cocchi Barolo Chinato

(Piedmont, Italy) $46

I am addicted to drinking Italian bitters after dinner. The savory/bitter/sweet/spicy tanginess and the kinetic freshness are sensational. Bitters are like drinking the entire botanical universe in one delicious sip. The bitter known as Barolo Chinato (pronounced key NAT oh) from Giulio Cocchi is made with lightly fortified Barolo wine that’s been infused with quinine bark, wormwood, rhubarb, ginger root, cardamom, and gentian plus a slew of secret spices. The recipe has remained the same since the wine was invented in 1891. While I usually drink it as a digestivo (after dinner), it’s equally good with a splash of soda and citrus as an aperitivo. (Who said you can’t bookend a meal with the same liquid inspiration?)

93 points KM

Available at K&L Wines

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Cloudy Bay

Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2016

(Marlborough, New Zealand) $32

Cloudy Bay—the original stunner from New Zealand—hasn’t lost her charm. When the wine debuted in 1985, it took London and New York by storm. (It was as if a new planet had been discovered in the solar system of taste). Today Cloudy Bay remains deliciously complex—a concatenation of flavors (minerals, lime zest, white pepper, papaya) and a kind of botanical hit at the end (like great gin). But it’s the choreography of the wine, the way it splashes onto on the palate, that makes Cloudy Bay especially compelling. (13.3 abv)

92 points KM

Available at Zachys