facebook twitter pinterest instagram You Tube

100 Perfect Pours

Brett Anderson

Humorist Fran Lebowitz once amended Eleanor Roosevelt’s much-quoted remark on great minds (the former first lady took it as a matter of course that her own passed muster), stating, "Great people talk about ideas, average people talk about things, and small people talk about wine." We are inclined to agree with Lebowitz: Why talk about wine when you can drink it? Toward that end, we will keep the introduction to our list of the year’s worthiest bottles pleasantly brief. The selections presented herein have been categorized as red or white, though the latter grouping also includes dessert and sparkling wines. For many listings, we have included estimates of the average current market price; unless it is marked as an estimate, the given number reflects the suggested retail price at the time of release. And now, enough chatter. Let us indulge. After all, as one very small person by the name of Benjamin Franklin observed, "[Wine is] a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy."

RED WINES

Alban 2006 Grenache Edna Valley Alban Estate Vineyard
Long revered for its spectacular Rhône varietals, this superior producer from San Luis Obispo County on California’s Central Coast makes one of the most satisfying expressions of Grenache. With a satin texture and deep black-blue hue, this potent red offers the palate a potpourri of brambleberry and voluptuous tannins.(Estimate: $135)  

Amuse Bouche 2007 Napa Valley
A Pomerol-style wine from Napa Valley produced by the legendary winemaker Heidi Barrett, this Merlot-based red is darkly vibrant, exuding aromas of blackberry and black plum. On the palate, the wine expresses earthy, forest-floor flavors of wild mushroom alongside juicy berry fruit, roasted coffee, and bittersweet chocolate. ($1,350 per six-bottle case)  

Antinori 2005 Solaia
With this Super Tuscan blend, the Antinoris have once again achieved near-perfect Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Sangiovese. Marked by a floral nose of violets and lavender, this vintage roils with flavors of blackberry, coffee, and cocoa, while its finish shows a pleasingly cool granite minerality. (Estimate: $280)  

Antinori 2006 Guado al Tasso Bolgheri Superiore
This exceptional Super Tuscan makes a perfect pairing with grilled lamb. Generous and fleshy, it combines ripe berry and plum fruit with tantalizing traces of mint and rosemary. (Estimate: $90)  

Bennett Lane 2005 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
Lisa and Randy Lynch were only looking for a home with some vineyard land when they discovered that the Bennett Lane Winery in Calistoga, Calif., was for sale. No strangers to risky business decisions, they purchased the property and hired winemaker Rob Hunter, formerly of Sterling Vineyards, to produce their wines. Their gamble has paid off beautifully, as this succulent black cherry–, boysenberry-, and chocolate-filled Reserve attests. ($95)  

Blackbird Vineyards 2006 Contrarian Napa Valley Proprietary Red
Renowned for its miraculously complex Merlot-based wine, Blackbird Vineyards has historically flouted Napa Valley tradition by emphasizing red Bordeaux varietals other than Cabernet Sauvignon in its wine program. Winemaker Aaron Pott has rendered a lush liquid masterpiece in this blend, which is dominated by Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Redolent of raspberry and boysenberry, Contrarian reveals layers of dried blueberry, cocoa, coffee, fig, and cardamom spice. ($90)  

Bouchard Père et Fils 2006 Clos Vougeot
This top négociant has always produced some of our favorite whites, yet its reds are equally stunning. This grand cru offering is as darkly alluring to the eye as it is to the sense of taste: Flavors of cassis, cherry, and smoke abound. (Estimate: $150)  

Brewer-Clifton 2007 Pinot Noir Mount Carmel
Greg Brewer and Steve Clifton have redefined perceptions of the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir coming out of the Santa Rita Hills region of Santa Barbara County. This single-vineyard release eschews the intensely ripe sweetness of some New World Pinot Noir, revealing instead complex layers of cranberry, raspberry, smoky chaparral, and fine minerality. (Estimate: $78)  

Cardinale 2006 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Winemaker Chris Carpenter takes a different approach with this sophisticated Bordeaux-style blend of mountain fruit than with the single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignons he makes for the Lokoya label. Whereas the latter are built for power, Cardinale’s Cabernet Sauvignons are fine-tuned for finesse. The 2006 vintage is a harvest of black cherry, licorice, smoke, and mineral. ($200)  

Casanova di Neri 2004 Brunello di Montalcino Cerretalto
Although the Montalcino region was recently rocked by scandal when accusations were made that some producers there were blending varietals other than Sangiovese into their Brunellos, the area continues to turn out some of Italy’s most age-worthy reds. This decadent elixir of blackberry extract, grilled bread, and sweet anise makes an admirable case for the enduring pleasures of Brunello. ($200)  

Ceretto 2005 Bricco Asili Barbaresco
The Ceretto family brings French precision and winemaking techniques to its estates outside of Alba in Italy’s Piedmont region. This single-vineyard Barbaresco expresses all the aromatic grace of the Nebbiolo grape: wild-blackberry perfume, bracing acidity, and firm but elegant tannins. ($154)  

Château Angélus 2006
The medieval town of Saint-Émilion lies on the right bank of the Gironde estuary in Bordeaux and was not included in the famous 1855 classification. Nevertheless, some of the greatest wines ever produced in France come from this dramatic landscape. This latest vintage from Château Angélus is velvety and dark with blackberry, licorice, and a tease of minerality on the lengthy finish. (Estimate: $250)

Château Cheval-Blanc 2006 St.-Émilion
Another dark beauty from Saint-Émilion, this intense and well-rounded red combines creamy chocolate and latte flavors with berry fruit and a ripe red-apple finish. (Estimate: $800)  

Château Ducru-Beaucaillou 2006 St.-Julien
Situated in Saint-Julien, which lies between Pauillac and Margaux, this château achieves some of the most beautiful expressions to be found in Bordeaux and is remarkably consistent in terms of quality. Essences of vanilla bean, blackberry, and red currant pour forth from this gratifying latest release. (Estimate: $160)  

Château Haut-Brion 2006 Pessac-Léognan
Haut-Brion, the only château in the Graves region to be included among the first growths in the 1855 classification, enjoys a warm climate that gives its wines not only ripeness but also delicate texture. The woodsy wildflower-scented nose of the 2006 vintage gives way to pure blackberry and roasted-coffee flavors supported by sturdy yet stylish tannins. (Estimate: $600)   

Château Latour 2006 Pauillac
Although certainly any strong opinion regarding wine would spark debate among a group of serious collectors, most would nevertheless concede that the wines of Château Latour have perhaps the longest cellar life of any in Bordeaux. The complexity and intensity of the 2006 vintage should ensure this release a long, fruit-filled career. (Estimate: $600)  

Château Margaux 2006 Margaux
While Château Latour excels at producing wines with impressive longevity, Château Margaux surpasses all comers in the sheer voluptuousness of its offerings—an assertion that the 2006 vintage does not contradict. The ripe red-fruit aromas on the nose are heightened by a thread of patchouli-like incense, and the gorgeous, silky texture blankets the taste buds. (Estimate: $600)  

Cliff Lede Songbook 2005
The fruit for this red was sourced from properties owned by esteemed vineyard manager David Abreu, who oversees the estate vineyards at Cliff Lede. Heady aromas of black cherry, cinnamon spice, orange peel, and amaretto prepare the senses for a palate of red-berry fruit and dark chocolate. ($150)   

Colgin 2005 Tychson Hill Vineyard Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
The Tychson Hill Vineyard was once owned by Josephine Tychson, an early vintner in the Napa Valley. Ann Colgin carries on this pioneering spirit, crafting exceptional red wines that have helped set the region’s standards of quality. This inky Cabernet is a poised arrangement of spiced plum, blackberry, tangy currant, and sultry floral scents. (Estimate: $410)   

Dana Estates Lotus Vineyard Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
This relatively new producer nevertheless has deep roots in the Napa Valley, thanks to its flagship property, the historic Helms Vineyard, whose winery dates to 1883. The 126-year-old structure has been refurbished and expanded by architect Howard Backen, providing legendary winemaker Philippe Melka the ideal workshop in which to ply his trade. This velvety single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon’s blueberry and blackberry flavors are enlivened by hints of cocoa and crème fraîche. ($275)   

Domaine de la Romanée-Conti 2006 Romanée-Conti
Even under the most grueling growing conditions, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti manages to produce a minor masterpiece. This splendid Pinot Noir from the world’s most famous vineyard plot presents a nose of wild mushrooms, grilled bread, and berries. Its ripe berry-filled flavor profile—showy for its youth—is tempered by vanilla cream, coffee, and holiday spice. (Estimate: $3,400)  

Domaine Denis Mortet 2006 Chambertin
The Pinot Noir from this distinguished appellation was a favorite of Napoléon Bonaparte, who kept himself amply supplied with the wine on even his most far-ranging campaigns. This vintage is a sensory spectacle of black-cherry blasts and licorice explosions, with a long, smoky aftermath. (Estimate: $600)  

Domaine Faiveley 2007 Chambertin-Clos de Bèze Grand Cru
This exceptional Pinot Noir combines fruit from two of Burgundy’s most storied vineyards—Clos de Bèze, planted in the 7th century, and Chambertin, planted in the 12th century—which happen to be neighbors. Remarkably open for a young Burgundy, it unfolds with dark plum fruit, ethereal smokiness, and lively minerality. ($199)  

DuMol 2006 Pinot Noir Finn
DuMol continues to produce stunning Pinots that appeal to the senses as well as the intellect. This opulent example exhibits blackberry and plum flavors with earthy undercurrents of mushroom, nutmeg, and anise. ($80)  

Gaja 2005 Sorì Tildìn
Although Gaja produces some of the best Barolo available, the family-run wine producer is nevertheless known primarily for its arresting single-vineyard Barbaresco. Among these, the Sorì Tildìn—an infusion of black fruit, cherry, tobacco, and spice—reigns supreme. (Estimate: $380)   

Graham’s 2007 Vintage Port
This newly declared vintage in Portugal promises to fill our glasses with a wide array of wonderful fortified wines. Graham’s vintage port boasts a concentration of blackberry bolstered by sweet cedar, crisp acidity, and a clean finish. ($90)  

Hall 2006 Kathryn Hall Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
Tourists to Napa Valley will know Hall as much for its Frank Gehry–designed visitor’s center as for its dynamic Cabernet Sauvignon. This example is perhaps the best yet: Velvety in texture and alluringly dark, the wine’s black fruit is intriguingly peppered with accents of dried sage, thyme, and mushroom. ($75)  

Harlan Estate 2005
However imposing the selection of wines at a tasting may be, if a bottle of Harlan Estate is present, the glasses—and the conversation—will naturally drift in its direction. This wine seems to draw into itself all of the elements of its impeccable terroir. In its exuberant fruit, we taste the sun’s warmth; in its delicate smoky-oak and sage notes, the surrounding woods; and in its soft, earthy finish, the Oakville soil. (Estimate: $750)  

Hourglass 2006 Blueline Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
After his father’s Zinfandel vineyard was lost to phylloxera, Jeff Smith learned that the property’s unique location would be ideal for Cabernet Sauvignon. Hourglass’ Cabernets, produced by winemaker Robert Foley, have received high praise—and high scores—ever since. Bursting with blackberry fruit, this red’s flavor profile gains complexity from its blend of holiday spice and savory olive notes. (Estimate: $135)  

Hundred Acre 2006 Kayli Morgan Cabernet Sauvignon
Owner and winemaker Jayson Woodbridge’s seductive Cabernet Sauvignon engulfs the senses. Purple-black and darkly luscious, this full-bodied red has intense aromas and flavors—black raspberry, cassis, melted dark chocolate, and roasted coffee—that seem the embodiment of its maker’s obsession. ($300)  

Il Poggione 2004 Brunello di Montalcino
This Sangiovese will require some aging in order for its lovely fruit to emerge from its complex array of tannins. Even in youth, however, the wine is loaded with berries and currents of brown spice. (Estimate: $65)  

J.C. Cellars 2006 Rockpile Vineyard Syrah ‘Haley’
Jeff Cohn, formerly the winemaker at Rosenblum Cellars, has established relationships with the finest growers to produce an eclectic range of truly great Rhône-style wines. This intense Syrah offers a nose of fragrant wildflowers and flavors of brambleberry juice and concentrated black-cherry liqueur. ($60)  

L’Aventure 2007 Estate Cuvée Paso Robles
There may be no better producer of Syrah in California than Stephan Asseo, who came to the Golden State in the late 1990s to have the freedom to experiment with different varietals—a forbidden indulgence in his native Bordeaux. His Estate Cuvée, which typically combines Syrah with Bordelaise varietals, achieves a fascinating mélange of dark, meaty blueberry; damp tobacco; coffee; and leather. ($85)  

Lokoya 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Mount Veeder Napa Valley
The wines from Lokoya’s Mount Veeder vineyard are, at first, the most difficult to approach in the portfolio. Yet as one becomes familiar with the profound forces at work in this wine, one finds that one can settle for nothing less. Its mineral nose has almost a charred character that gives way to an elixir of mountain berries and dark-roasted coffee. The finish is best described as a sustained and captivating crescendo. ($220)  

Longoria 2007 Pinot Noir Santa Rita Hills Fe Ciega
Rick Longoria, who has been involved in winemaking in Santa Barbara County since the mid-1970s, produces very small quantities of red wine, including Tempranillo. But in the 2007 vintage, his most exciting effort is this single-vineyard Pinot Noir, which tantalizes the nose with its dense raspberry aroma, exquisite balance, and playful cinnamon spice. ($49)  

M by Michael Mondavi 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon
The Atlas Peak region of Napa Valley is garnering new attention, as top producers such as Heidi Barrett and Michael Mondavi embrace the mountainous area’s potential for growing world-class Cabernet Sauvignon. Mondavi’s inaugural vintage of M is a sophisticated and cerebral blend of black cherry, rose petals, ripe apple, plum, and almond paste. ($200)  

Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi 2006 Toscana Giramonte
This Merlot-and- Sangiovese blend from the Frescobaldi family is a nearly flawless Super Tuscan. Dense and rich, the wine’s haunting aromas are so complex and so fascinating that one almost forgets to take a sip. The palate is a moist, silky, almost unctuous medley of dark berries, buttery chocolate, and dark-roasted coffee. ($90)  

Masi Amarone della Valpolicella Costasera 2004
Amarones are among the most powerful reds because the grapes are allowed to begin to dry before pressing—a step that concentrates the juices. This Amarone shows black-plum fruit, dried black cherry, white pepper, and cocoa. (Estimate: $65)  

MENDEL 2006 Finca Remota
Winemaker Roberto de la Mota selects the grapes that go into this 100 percent Malbec from nearly 80-year-old vineyards in Argentina’s Mendoza region. This wine gives off a perfume of violets and boasts a cherry-rich palate. ($115)  

Merus 2005 Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon
This mellifluous composition delivers dimension and charm with its contrasting flavors of chocolate-covered cherry, toasted grain, sweet lavender, oak, and gentle curry. (Estimate: $135)  

Nicolas Potel 2006 Latricières-Chambertin
Though the house is newly established, Nicolas Potel continues to turn out wines that delight even the most discriminating connoisseurs. Like the 2005 vintage, the 2006 balances sweet black-cherry fruit with the earthier essences of mushroom and wet granite. (Estimate: $135)  

Numanthia-Termes 2006 Toro Termanthia
This Tempranillo-based wine from Castilla y León in Spain has a bouillonlike intensity. Creamy coffee and earthy cocoa join ripe blackberries to produce a powerful taste experience with a lingering finish. (Estimate: $200)  

O. Fournier 2004 Tinta del Pais Ribera del Duero
Owner José Manuel Ortega seldom stays in one place for long thanks to his international viticulture operation, which produces wines in Chile, Argentina, and Spain. This meaty red from Spain’s Ribera del Duero region blends nutmeg, sarsaparilla, and coffee with extracted blackberry fruit. ($75)  

Palacios Remondo 2007 Propiedad
A remarkable red from Rioja, this proprietary blend was made by Alvaro Palacios, whose wines from Priorat are the stuff of modern winemaking legend. He now also manages his family’s winery, where he crafted this seductive amalgam of boysenberry fruit spiced with cinnamon, fennel, leather, lavender, coriander, and sweet chili. ($40)  

Pali Wine Co. 2006 Proprietor’s Reserve Albright
This Lompoc, Calif.–based winery was formed by a group of friends with a passion for Pinot Noir, although it produces a Chardonnay and Grenache as well. Pali’s model, like that of winemaker Brian Loring’s own label, is to acquire fruit from the best vineyards throughout California and Oregon to create a series of small-production, mostly single-vineyard wines. This Reserve offers up a nose of raspberry jam and a smooth, velvety palate that culminates in a finish of toasted cinnamon. ($80 per 750 ml, $160 per magnum)  

Pio Cesare 2004 Single Vineyard Barolo Ornato
Enthusiasts have long prized the Barolos of Pio Cesare—particularly those from this extraordinary property. The bracing acidity seeps through the dense black fruit of this staunch Nebbiolo, whose tannins do not overpower its subtle spice and floral notes. ($110)  

Pride Mountain 2006 Vintner Select Merlot
This marvelous Merlot from Pride Mountain drinks like a meticulously constructed cocktail, each element balancing or contrasting with the others. Around its core structure, flavors of dried cherry, milk chocolate, café au lait, and anise intertwine. ($75)  

Promise 2004 Napa Valley
This saturated red blend is the result of a partnership formed by Frank Family Vineyards owner Rich Frank and ABC Entertainment Group President Stephen McPherson, who had always promised himself that, one day, he would become a vintner. The grapes come from a specific block of the Winston Hill Vineyard; the fruit, infused with deep blueberry and black cherry, sets the tone for the wine’s massive flavor profile. ($225)  

Quinta do Crasto 2005 vinha Maria Teresa
The table wines of Portugal have always been treated as something of an afterthought, given the country’s national emphasis on port wines. Those who have not tried the best of these bottlings should treat themselves to this exotic melding of black cherry, Chambord liqueur, and baked chocolate. ($110)  

Revana 2005 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
In 1997, when Dr. Madaiah Revana decided to buy vineyard property in Napa Valley to fulfill his dream of becoming a vintner, he assembled a dream team to accomplish the goal: Jim Barbour is his vineyard manager, and Heidi Barrett is his winemaker. On the palate, this wine’s sweet smoke, savory herbes de Provence, and cocoa powder radiate from a core of cherry fruit. ($125)  

Robert Mondavi 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve
One of the defining characteristics of the 2005 vintage is the evenness and focus of the wines—a result of unusually long hang times. This Private Reserve from Robert Mondavi Winery shows excellent clarity and balance, as well as gorgeous color, lively acidity, and blueberry and black-olive flavors. ($135)  

Rocca Family Vineyards 2005 Syrah Yountville Napa Valley
Mary Rocca grew up in Sonoma County’s wine country and—after years of running her own dental practice in Minnesota while her husband, Dr. Eric Grigsby, trained at the Mayo Clinic—moved back to California with her family and founded Rocca Family Vineyards. This elegantly extracted Syrah is rich with dried cherry, ripe plum, liquid smoke, and lemon verbena. ($45)  

Saxum 2006 Broken Stones Paso Robles
This Rhône blend from Paso Robles luminary Justin Smith contains a magical mixture of Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvèdre. The vibrant raspberry fruit is made more piquant by a pungent gaminess and pleasant, sweet barbecue smoke. ($45)  

Sea Smoke 2006 Pinot Noir Ten
The Pinot Noir from the Santa Rita Hills region just outside of Lompoc, Calif., continues to yield wines of unusual character and structure, thanks to a unique combination of marine influences and diatomaceous soils that were once an ancient seabed. This balanced, silky vintage from Sea Smoke shows black-?
raspberry fruit, sage, and nutmeg. (Estimate: $100)  

Sette Ponti 2006 Oreno
This superb Tuscan blend possesses a black-red color and a tremendous concentration of flavors. Aromas of black licorice are followed by scents of crushed blackberry. Flavors of black fruit, cedar, earth, and tobacco coat huge tannins. (Estimate: $90)  

Shafer Vineyards 2005 Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon
Since the Shafer family’s first vintage in 1978, the fruit from this vineyard has defined their brand. Almost black in color, with violet highlights, this massive yet graceful red unleashes a flood of flavors that range from black currant and black raspberry to banana cream, charred bread, and graphite. ($215)  

Silvio Nardi 2004 Brunello di Montalcino Manachiara
This strikingly brawny Brunello will settle and soften magnificently as it matures. It features dense plum, floral essences, and bracing minerality. ($90)  

Taylor Fladgate 2007 Vintage Port Quinta de Vargellas Vinha Velha
This very special port from the newly declared 2007 vintage yields a bouquet of black cherry and violet and exhibits tremendous poise in its palate of plum, root beer, and cedar. ($225)  

Tenuta dell’Ornellaia 2006 Bolgheri Masseto
What can one say about this single-vineyard Merlot from Bolgheri that has not been said? This stupendous vintage—which robes the palate in black cherry, violets, licorice, and crème brûlée—has already been declared a masterpiece by those connoisseurs who have had the opportunity to taste it. ($435)  

Tenuta dell’Ornellaia 2006 Bolgheri Ornellaia
Winemaker Axel Heinz and the Frescobaldi family have created no less a masterpiece with the 2006 Ornellaia than with the Masseto of the same vintage. The liquorlike flavors of black fruit seem to surge in the mouth, gaining volume and complexity, while sweet licorice, fresh-cut lavender, and smoky oak create an irresistible landscape of taste sensations. ($200)  

Tenuta San Guido 2005 Bolgheri Sassicaia
The 2005 vintage of this prototypical Super Tuscan is a velvety melding of blackberry, chocolate cream, and currant. Secondary flavors of mesquite smoke, sweet oregano, and earth precede a gentle finish. (Estimate: $170)  

Tenuta Tre Rose Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Simposio 2004
This Vino Nobile is produced only in the very best vintages. The 2004 vintage marries intense dried-cherry fruit to a sumptuous bouquet of rustic herbs. ($55)  

Tor 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer To Kalon Vineyard
Heady aromas of red-raspberry liqueur, ripe cherry, and concentrated boysenberry fruit wash in soft waves over scents of allspice and sandalwood; in the mouth, the wine’s texture—a voluptuous liquid fabric that is at once warm and cool, soft and powerful—almost trumps its gorgeous succession of fruit, toffee, and toasted-wood flavors. ($150)  

Tua Rita 2005 Giusto di Notri
This Cabernet Sauvignon–based wine includes portions of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot. The latter lends to this bracing brew its prominent aromas of dark berry and mocha. The texture is supple, silky, and sensuous. ($75)  

Vall Llach 2005 Priorat Vall Llach
Cofounded by the Spanish singer Lluis Llach, this exceptional winery produces the heterogeneous, international-style blends that have made Priorat one of the most exciting wine regions in Europe. This flagship wine’s complex profile mingles mushrooms, charcoal, tarragon, mineral, and espresso with dark blueberry fruit. ($80)  

Vincent Girardin 2006 Clos de Vougeot
This distinguished producer’s elegant Chardonnays have often appeared on our lists of top releases; however, this Pinot Noir from one of the Côte de Nuits’ most fabled grand crus will seduce the senses with its satiny texture and pomegranate, red-currant, and cranberry fruit. ($159)   


WHITE WINES

Alois Lageder 2007 Beta Delta Chardonnay-Pinot Grigio
This historic winery in Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy’s northernmost wine-growing region, does produce some Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon, but its reputation rests primarily on its stellar white wines. This blend’s pale-yellow color belies the brisk force of its acids and the tropical splendor of its fruit. ($25)  

Avignonesi 1996 Vin Santo di Montepulciano
Some might consider Vin Santo, Tuscany’s "holy" late-harvest wine, an acquired taste; yet those who sample this beauty from Avignonesi will thank the saints that its complex, ever-evolving taste was acquired. The wine’s nectarlike viscosity envelops the tongue, offering gentle acidity and flavors of caramel, butterscotch, honey,
and baked apples. (Estimate: $150)  

Bollinger 2003 by Bollinger
While Bollinger’s nonvintage Brut Cuvée can be quite light and feathery, this special vintage Champagne has powerful presence. Its sea-spray minerality quickly leads into a layered confection of buttery brioche, butterscotch mousse, and vanilla ice cream. (Estimate: $110)  

Bonneau du Martray 2006 Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru
Named for the French emperor, this majestic vineyard balances opulence and restraint. This vintage begins and ends with limestone minerality; in between, crisp citrus, white-peach, vanilla, and nutmeg flavors mingle. ($150)  

Captûre 2008 Tradition Sauvignon Blanc
This Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc was made by May-Britt and Denis Malbec, formerly of Château Latour. The wine is brilliantly crisp, with notes of tar on the nose. A dense texture mirrors a substantial palate of creamy pear, lychee, lime, and bay leaf. ($32)  

Champagne Salon Le Mesnil 1997 Blanc de Blancs
This vintage stands in contrast to its older sibling, 1996, which was dense and forceful in style. This gentler wine dances on the nose and palate, evoking scents of brioche and brine and flavors of candied lemon, roasted nuts, and green apple. ($500)  

Clos Solène 2007 Essence de Roussanne Paso Robles
Rhône varietals have come to dominate winemaking—at least, the very best winemaking—in the Paso Robles region, whose reputation not long ago rested primarily on Zinfandel and a select few Bordeaux-style wines. French interest in the area has been notable: Tablas Creek is a partnership between a local grower and Château de Beaucastel, while Stephan Asseo left France to establish L’Aventure. Guillaume Fabre has introduced a sumptuous, honeyed Roussanne from the Booker Vineyard. ($60)  

Darioush 2007 Signature Chardonnay
As always, winemaker Steve Devitt has transformed the familiar into the exotic. This superbly articulated Chardonnay reveals an unusual profile of Asian pear, hazelnut, lemon zest, and candied lime. ($43)  

Diatom 2008 Chardonnay Huber Vineyard
Greg Brewer’s own label, which is focused entirely on Chardonnay, takes its name from the diatomaceous soil of the Santa Rita Hills region near Lompoc, Calif., where the vineyards are planted. This lean, luminous white exudes distinctive fresh-lemon and sea-salt aromas that prepare the palate for the wine’s crisp citrus-driven acidity and minty minerality. ($48)  

Dolce 2005 Late Harvest Wine
Outside of Tokaj or Bordeaux, no producer has produced late-harvest wine with greater consistency than Dolce. This lavishly textured, dense wine remains surprisingly light on the tongue, despite its rich flavors of lemon meringue, coconut custard, and torrone. ($85, 375ml)  

Dom Pérignon 2000 Brut Champagne
No matter how elaborately Dom Pérignon reinvents itself with each vintage, it remains undeniably Dom. Here, the wine’s golden color draws the eye, while brioche and sweet aromas caress the nose. The fine-?grained texture distributes flavors of black cherry and lemon essences, as well as steely acidity, evenly over the palate. (Estimate: $115)  

Domaine Christian Moreau Père & Fils 2007 Chablis-Vaudésir
This dramatically steep hillside vineyard in the heart of Chablis is also the source of some of the area’s most dramatic wines. Chalky minerality offsets this Chardonnay’s curvaceous fruit profile of cantaloupe and candied lemon. ($75)  

Domaine de la Romanée-Conti 2006 Montrachet
The sole white wine from Burgundy’s ruling house, this Montrachet shone brightly in a challenging vintage. Its yellow-gold hue is speckled with flashes of peridot, while the immensely generous nose expresses honeysuckle, beeswax, graham cracker, and lime lozenge. Its creamy pear palate is enriched by a touch of botrytis. ($2,300)  

Domaine Leflaive 2007 Puligny-Montrachet Premier Cru Les Folatières
One of the Côte de Beaune’s most prized vineyards, Les Folatières has soil of calcareous clay that lends to the finished wine a mineral bite. Light notes of tar tease the nose, while flavors of pineapple and lemon coax the taste buds before the long granite-and-spearmint finish. (Estimate: $175)  

Domaine Marc Kreydenweiss 2007 Kastelberg Riesling Grand Cru
This grand-cru vineyard in Alsace was named for a vineyard behind the Marc Kreydenweiss winery where a castle once stood. An exceptional effort, this Riesling is a precise rendering of caramelized pineapple, crisp green apple, and refreshing citrus acidity. ($105)  

Domaine Ramonet 2006 Bâtard-Montrachet Grand Cru
While conditions in Burgundy challenged all the vines, the Chardonnay seems to have fared better than its red sibling. This Bâtard-Montrachet, lushly scented with lime zest and macadamia nut, is supported by a firm structure. (Estimate: $240)  

Freeman 2007 Ryo-fu Chardonnay
Akiko and Ken Freeman have dedicated themselves to producing finely crafted Burgundy-style wines in the Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast appellations. While their Pinot Noir is something of a revelation, the Chardonnay made in the 2007 vintage is an epiphany. Perfectly ripe, this proprietary blend serves up mango, pineapple, and coconut fruit, which precede a long, smooth mineral finish. ($44)  

Hartford Court 2007 Chardonnay Four Hearts Vineyards Russian River Valley
This Chardonnay is white-winemaking at its most opulent. The subtle sweetness of honeysuckle greets the nose, as do aromas of candied lemon, lychee, and beeswax. The crisp, lush palate saturates the taste buds with white-peach, ripe-pear, lemon, and lime flavors that arise from the wine’s dense nectarlike depths, which gradually make way for a finish of green tea and spearmint. ($40)  

J Brut NV Russian River Valley Sparkling Rosé
This rosé rolls out with aromas of brioche and brine, and its texture is as airy as meringue. Flavors of white raspberry and cherry lozenge swirl about the mouth, then dissolve in an effervescent finale. ($35)  

J Vineyards 2007 Chardonnay Russian River Valley
This Sonoma white from J Vineyards is reminiscent of Puligny-Montrachet. Slightly apple-green in color, the wine possesses plush viscosity enhanced by flavors of nectarine, lemon-lime, and a touch of tar and hazelnut.($28)  

Joseph Drouhin 2006 Chassagne-Montrachet Marquis de Laguiche
Like its richer cousin from Montrachet, this expressive white demonstrates the Drouhin family’s unsparing attention to detail. Aromas of lemon blossom, zesty pineapple, and grapefruit translate to flavors on the palate, where they are joined by notes of marzipan and vanilla bean. ($115)  

Joseph Faiveley 2007 Meursault Premier Cru Blagny
Beginning in 2006, the Faiveley family differentiated its estate wines from its négociantreleases (i.e., those made with grapes purchased from other growers) by bottling the latter under the Joseph Faiveley label, named for the son of the house’s founder. This exquisitely rich Meursault tantalizes the palate with flavors of ripe summer peach, clover, and nutmeg. ($105)  

Krug 1998 Brut Champagne Blanc de Blancs Clos du Mesnil
A complex sparkling wine, this single-vineyard blanc de blancs merely suggests its candied citrus fruit, which gives center stage to earthier essences of beeswax, saffron, mushroom, and green tea. ($1,400)  

Kunin 2006 Viognier Stolpman Vineyards
This white Rhône from Santa Barbara County has the bouquet of a dessert wine: Scents of peach jam, honey, dried apricots, and coconut milk vie for the imbiber’s attention. In the mouth, however, this aromatic sweetness vanishes, giving the wine a surprisingly dry, precise finish. ($30)  

Louis Jadot 2006 Corton-Charlemagne
Louis Jadot has always had a way with whites, as this august Chardonnay amply demonstrates. The orchardlike nose is a breezy bouquet of intoxicating lemon blossom and apricot nectar. ($135)  

M. Chapoutier 2006 L’Ermite Blanc
An air of exoticism wafts up from a glass of this masterful white, whose only shortcoming is its limited production of less than 250 cases. Robust aromas of sweet corn silk, jasmine, and pineapple greet the nose, while the taste buds are washed in a shower of tropical fruit. (Estimate: $380)  

Merry Edwards 2007 Sauvignon Blanc Russian River Valley
This mouthwatering white, like the two preceding vintages, exhibits refreshing honeydew melon and pear fruit—though, in this case, spiked with hints of limoncello and mace that carry on through the finish. (Estimate: $55)  

Peter Michael 2007 Ma Belle-Fille Estate Chardonnay Knights Valley
This single-vineyard diva changes costume from vintage to vintage, but her voice never loses its perfect pitch. This season’s performance shows citrus blossom, juicy peach, and a sustained mineral note on the finish. ($85)  

Pfendler 2007 Chardonnay
Proprietor Kimberly Pfendler has carried on the dream of her late husband, Peter, pursuing perfection in the vineyards the couple began planting on their ranch in Sonoma County in 1992. This Chardonnay, grown during the spectacular 2007 vintage, is like liquid sunlight. Lemon cream coats fresh, tart apple fruit and spiced pear, before the wine’s zesty acids rinse the palate clean. ($38)  

Piper-Heidsieck Rare 1999 Champagne
In 1976, drought threatened the vineyards of Champagne. But this anomaly proved beneficial: Portions of that harvest were so concentrated and rich that the decision was made to produce a special cuvée that would be known as Rare. This cuvée has since only been made in meteorologically similar vintages. The wine exhibits flavors of dried tropical fruit, toffee, and café au lait. ($250)  

Staglin Family Vineyard 2007 Estate Chardonnay
Admirers of Staglin Family Vineyard’s redoubtable reds should not deny themselves the pleasures of the estate’s Chardonnay, which combines lemon-blossom and peony aromas with white-peach fruit and a finish of wet stone. ($75)  

Taittinger 1998 Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs
This blanc de blancs progresses from crisp, fleshy apricot to candied lemon, butter, and smoky brine. The texture is creamy, the body full, the structure elegant. ($200)  

Tardieu-Laurent 2007 ChÂteauneuf-du-Pape Vieilles Vignes Blanc
This southern Rhône blend of Roussanne and Grenache Blanc spent 20 months in new and used French oak barrels. A massive mineral character coexists with an ebullient fruit profile of banana, mango, kiwi, and strawberry. The long finish displays tannins reminiscent of white tea. ($60)  

Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin La Grande Dame Brut 1998
This grande dame makes an even grander gift in the recently introduced box designed by the Italian boatmaker Riva. The 1998’s profile is as sleek as a cigarette boat, cruising from crisp Gravenstein apple fruit to lemon-custard, puff-pastry, and dusty mineral flavors. ($140)  

Read Next Article >>
Copyright by Packshot factory
Photo by Jason Tinacci
DustinDowning.com