Gran Reserva Brut Cava 2011

(Penedès, Spain) $20

Cavas (Spanish sparkling wines made by the Champagne method of second fermentation in bottles) are not all alike. Not even close. There are the huge commercial producers whose sparklers are a bit bland and rubbery. Then, from small estates, there are top quality cavas that are fresh and lively and have a deep yeastiness from long aging on the lees. Roger Goulart’s Gran Reserva is one of those. The wine spent 36 months on the lees (and yet it costs a mere $20!). Lovely, floral, and citrusy, it’s also wonderfully creamy. While this is delicious on its own, I’ll look the other way if you make a mimosa or a kir with it. (12% abv)

90 points KM

Available at Stirling Fine Wine



Beaujolais 2018

(Beaujolais, France) $15

Wonder what lots of cabernet winemakers drink when they aren’t drinking cabernet (or beer)? They drink great gamay like this minerally rich Beaujolais from Dupeuble. The sheer deliciousness of this wine is exciting. It’s important to know that Dupeuble does not make a candylike, confected, tutti-frutti, commercial style of Beaujolais. Instead, the family’s gamays are serious wines made the old-fashioned way. If you’ve never had exquisite gamay and think of it only as a grape that makes simple quaffs, you must try this beauty. And at $15, there’s no reason not to! (13.5% abv)

93 points KM

Available at



“Kiedricher” Trocken Riesling 2018

(Rheingau, Germany) $38

At its best, German riesling doesn’t just have minerality; it has minerality that screams with excitement. Not to mention acidity so kinetic, you fear the glass might shatter. This bone dry (trocken) riesling from Robert Weil is a great example. The freshness and citrusy crispness are off-the-charts. If ever there was a terrific wine for drinking right this minute, this is it. Kiedrich is one of the top wine towns in the Rheingau, and Weil (pronounce “vile”) is a man passionate about riesling. (12.5% abv)

90 points KM

Available at K&L Wine Merchants



“Sanford & Benedict” Pinot Noir 2015

(Sta. Rita Hills, CA) $54

Sandhi is a Sanskrit word meaning “alliance” or “collaboration.” I’m sure the owners/winemakers meant an alliance with Nature, but the gods must have gotten in on the act too, for it’s hard to imagine a more luscious, mesmerizing, achingly supple, mindblowingly delicious pinot noir. OMG, indeed. Then again, everything about this wine was poised for greatness. It’s from a very famous vineyard; it’s from the oldest pinot noir vines in Santa Barbara County (planted in 1971); and it’s made by two of the most talented pinot noir fanatics in California—Sashi Moorman and Raj Parr. (13.5% abv)

97 points KM

Available at



Malvasia Single Cask #M235 Madeira

(Madeira, Portugal) $95

Great Madeira is one of the world’s most exquisite wines. Try this with a bit of Stilton or dry-aged cheese and you’ll see (or remember). Cask #M235 is one of four special 22-year old casks being bottled by Broadbent Selections, and the wine is screaming with tangy intensity. Who knew a wine could seem like Morocco in a glass? The waves of exotic flavors from preserved lemons and Mandarin oranges to crème brûlée, curry, black pepper, and cardamom are fantastic. About 970 bottles of wine from this cask exist, but if you can’t find #M235, get one of its sisters: #M204, #M217 or #M233. (And keep in mind, an opened bottle of Madeira lasts for many months.) (19% abv)

95 points KM

Available at K & L Wine Merchants



“Valserrano” Reserva 2015

(Rioja, Spain) $22

No wine tastes more “Old World” than tempranillo from Rioja, especially the reservas and gran reservas (aged three years and five years respectively). There’s a svelteness and suppleness to these wines as the Valserrano demonstrates. But what I love most of all is the Valserrano’s mellowness. It isn’t loud, isn’t bold, isn’t powerful. Instead, it’s earthy and sublime in the way that old Burgundy can be. Happily, this costs a lot less than old Burgundy. 14.5% abv

91 points KM

Available at West Side Wines & Spirits

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



“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



“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




(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



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



"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