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Charles Heidsieck

CHARLES HEIDSIECK

Brut Réserve NV

(Champagne, France) $69

An exquisite classic Champagne. Elegant waves of brioche and apple tart flavors, lit up by sparks of minerality. Rich, yeasty aroma but as alive as lightning on the palate. Exuberantly fresh and fine, with miniscule bubbles that are crystalline. All in all, a Champagne you won’t want to put down (and perfect for tonight, Valentine’s night). Charles Heidsieck is one of the great traditional Houses, but it isn’t showy and doesn’t do a lot of flashy PR. It’s an “insider” Champagne. And insiders know that this Reserve over delivers. (12% Abv)

96 points KM

Available at Vivino.com

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VIETTI

“Perbacco” Nebbiolo Langhe 2016

(Piedmont, Italy) $28

Who doesn’t love Barolo? (Made from nebbiolo grapes, it can seem like pinot noir’s edgy, handsome older brother). The only problem is price. The great Barolos are very limited in production and require one to hock the family jewels to afford them. But wines like Vietti’s Perbacco put nebbiolo within the realm of possibility. Of course, nebbiolo from the general Langhe area won’t have all the exquisite nuance of a great Barolo. But with a rich, meaty pasta Bolognese or with some great Italian cheeses, this wine shines. I love nebbiolo’s notes of tar, espresso, cola, sea salt, and that incredible hint of roses. It’s an unusual set of flavors and aromas, and you only get them together from this one grape. (14% abv)

90 points KM

Available at Vivino.com

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MAISON JOSEPH DROUHIN

“Drouhin-Vaudon” Chablis 2018

(Chablis, Burgundy, France) $22

Chablis—one of the truest and earliest expressions of chardonnay—doesn’t seem like chardonnay at all to many modern chardonnay drinkers. But that’s precisely why many of us love it. Chablis is racy, taut, and fiercely refreshing. Chablis rides on waves of vivacity and minerality. It’s never sweet, never oaky, never ponderous. And this one from the well-established Burgundian firm of Joseph Drouhin is a downright steal. I love precise wines like this that seem almost spring-loaded with freshness. A terrific wine to start the night with. 12.5% abv

89 points KM

Available at Vivino

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SCALA DEI

"Cartoixa"

(Priorat, Spain) $55

Every time I taste this wine, almost no matter the vintage, I love its peaty, rich, licoricey blackness, and the way its rocky firmness yields ever so gently to the violet notes that dance through the flavors. Priorat wines can be so monolithic that they’re not easy to drink. But with Scala Dei, power and deliciousness are beautifully entwined (and it doesn’t hurt if there’s a grilled steak or lamb chops in the offing).  The wine is–as all top Priorat wines are–comprised of old vine garnacha (grenache) and cariñena (carignan). It’s named after the famous monastery of Scala Dei (“God’s stairway”) founded in 1163 by Carthusian monks on the spot where a local peasant witnessed a miracle sighting of angels ascending a staircase to heaven. The name of the wine, Cartoixa, means “charterhouse,” which is itself another name for a Carthusian monastery. 15% abv

93 points KM

Available at Westgate Wine

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DÖNNHOFF

Oberhäuser Leistenberg Riesling Kabinett 2018

(Nahe, Germany) $26

Dönnhoff is, without question, the greatest estate in the Nahe. A visit with Helmut Dönnhoff and his son Cornelius a few years ago left me convinced that their wines are masterpieces of laser-like precision and quivering energy. The minerality in the wines comes across with near atomic density. This kabinett, from the Leistenberg vineyard in the town of Oberhäusen, is one of their simplest, least expensive wines, and yet it moves on the palate in long wavelengths of deliciousness. If you like taut, fresh wines that are light in body but massive in flavor, this is for you.  (9% abv)

92 points KM

Available at The Wine House

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RAPTOR RIDGE

"Shea Vineyards" Pinot Noir 2015

(Yamhill-Carlton, Willamette Valley, OR) $44

Raptor Ridge’s pinot noir from the famous Shea Vineyard in Oregon’s Willamette Valley is not inexpensive exactly. But at $8 a glass, it delivers waves of sumptuous and beautiful pinot flavors and textures. I’d spend $8 a glass any day if I could get a pinot this good. I’m guessing that a considerable part of the success of this wine is the Shea Vineyard, one of the greatest vineyards in the Willamette, and a vineyard that, were this Burgundy centuries ago, would have probably been deemed a Grand Cru. Many wineries now make a pinot from this esteemed vineyard, but here’s a chance to taste it for a (relative) song.  Just 590 cases were produced, but you can still get your hands on it. (14.1% abv)

93 points KM

Available at Vivino.com

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CUNE

Crianza 2016

(Rioja, Spain) $14

Having spent a ton of money over the holidays, I’ve vowed to make January “austerity month.” And this wine—a crianza (which means it’s been aged 2 years)—from the well-known producer CUNE, fits the bill perfectly. Made primarily from tempranillo grapes, it’s the sort of supple, luscious red wine that you always hope to find (but almost never do). Beautifully savory with notes of red fruits and earth, it drinks like a simple Burgundy. Traditional crianzas like this are some of Riojas—indeed, some of Spain’s—most satisfying and easy drinking wines. Lay in a few bottles for the rest of the winter. (13.5% abv)

89 points KM

Available at Vivino.com

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TALBOTT

“Sleepy Hollow” Pinot Noir 2016

(Santa Lucia Highlands, California) $40

Can a wine be sexy? Anyone who reads WineSpeed probably agrees that it can. In fact, when it comes to pinot noir, sexiness just might be an obligation. To me, sexy wines aren’t merely fruity and they don’t smell antiseptically monochromatic. They are nuanced and hedonistically textural wines. They possess a bit of “animali”—the pleasant aroma of a man who’s just run a mile (five miles, IMO, is a little too much). This Talbott is quite sophisticated and unfurls itself beautifully as you drink it. The Sleepy Hollow Vineyard, planted in 1972, is one of the top sites in California’s Santa Lucia Highlands. (14.2% abv)

93 points KM

Available at Vivino.com

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LAMBERT de SEYSSEL

“Petit Royal” Brut NV

(Savoie, France) $19

When you’re in the mood to drink Champagne, but your wallet is not in the mood to be quite so obliging, this is your wine. The sparklers from the Savoie (sav-WA) region in the French Alps are not yet well known, but they are super lively, fresh, bone-dry, and very brisk in the manner of a good Champagne. Importantly, like the Champagne region, the Savoie has a cold climate and the soils are laced with limestone. This tasty sparkler is a blend of the indigenous grapes molette and altesse from vineyards 10 to 25 years old. A must-try, and a steal to boot. (12% abv)

90 points KM

Available at Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant

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CHAPPELLET

“Signature” Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

(Napa Valley, CA) $70

Situated on the rolling mountain slopes of Pritchard Hill above the Napa Valley, the Chappellet vineyards yield cabernets of intense personality. For me, “primordial” is always the word that comes to mind.  They are dark, savory, sexy wines redolent of tobacco, old leather, sandalwood, woodsmoke, and exotic spices. And although they are powerful structurally, winemaker Phillip Corallo-Titus is a master of coaxing out a certain plushness. I’ve tasted this wine many times in the last year, often in the company of wines that cost two or three times as much, and it always shines. Got a dinner party coming up? This is your wine. (14.5% abv)

95 points KM

Available at Vivino

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OREMUS

“Mandolás” Furmint 2017

(Tokaj-Hegyalja, Hungary) $24

Furmint (Hungary’s famous grape) makes the best dry white wine you may not have had enough of (or even tried) yet. It’s got weight without heaviness, and crispness without tartness. Plus, it bursts with vibrant notes of pepperiness and salty minerals. If you’re a good cook, this should be your house wine because it goes with scores of foods—everything from Italian to Asian dishes. This is Oremus’ bone-dry furmint from a vineyard called Mandolá’s, and it was one of the first dry furmints in Hungary. The winery is owned by the same family who owns Spain’s most famous wine—Vega Sicilia. (13% abv)

90 points KM

Available at Solano Cellars

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ATA RANGI

Pinot Noir 2016

(Martinborough, New Zealand) $53

In 1980 Clive Paton, along with his wife and sister, bought an old sheep paddock on the southern end of the North Island and planted it with vines.  Little did he know it would one day be considered a “Grand Cru” of New Zealand.  Ata Rangi (the name is Maori for “dawn sky” or “new beginning”) is a pinot of great beauty, with long swaths of richness, plus a lovely pepperiness. The finish fades out slowly like an old French film. If you’ve ever wondered how a top New Zealand pinot noir compares to one from Burgundy, Oregon, or California, Ata Rangi is the pinot you should try. (13% abv)

94 points KM

Available at Vivino.com