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2005 Holiday Host Guide: Wine: Tender Grapes

Brett Anderson

The pleasures of the table are many—as are the dangers. If excessive consumption or gout poses a physical threat to the well-being of both host and guest, then improper pairings may place their well-honed palates in peril. Our annual list of wines for the holidays eliminates most hazards from the bill of fare—except, of course, the jaded sense of taste, about which Benjamin Disraeli’s character, Mr. Mountchesney, complains in Disraeli’s novel Sybil: “I rather like bad wine . . . one gets so bored with good wine.” For this malaise, alas, there is no remedy—nor any sympathy from us.

TABLE TOPS

{ Red }
CHATEAU VIGNOT SAINT-EMILION GRAND CRU 2003
This grand cru from Saint-Émilion gathers up great bunches of fresh violets into a massive bouquet that heightens the rich plum fruit when the wine is tasted. Traces of leather also emerge, as does the odd but highly appealing scent of waxed wood. An exceptionally accessible Bordeaux. ($50)

HARRSION CLARKE SYRAH SANTA YNEZ VALLEY 2003
The beautifully rendered plums that grace the still life on its label advertise truthfully the contents of this bottle of Syrah. The dark, extracted plum is richly spiced with a hint of maple, its sweetness offset by sharpness of green apple and the savory essence of smoked bacon. ($30)

JUSTIN ISOSCELES RESERVE PASO ROBLES 2002
This appealingly complex blend from the Central Californian wine country of Paso Robles speaks to a wide array of dishes in its varied vernacular of blackberry, plum, dried black cherry, cocoa, and grilled herbs. ($85)

PROVENANCE MERLOT PARAS VINEYARD MT. VEEDER 2002
The perfect pairing for a holiday turkey, this mountain-grown Merlot unleashes a riotous revel of cocoa-dusted black cherry, sweetened Turkish coffee, and sandalwood smoke. ($40)

SPRING MOUNTAIN NAPA VALLEY RED WINE 2002
A substantial wine to accompany any feast, this silky-textured Cabernet Sauvignon blends stout tannins with lusciously concentrated berry fruit edged with hints of dark chocolate and wild mint. ($50)

{ White }
GRGICH HILLS FUME BLANC NAPA VALLEY 2004

A refreshing respite for the palate, this fruit-packed white presents a bounty of tropical fruit, fig, and powerful citrus zest tempered by a long, grassy, herbaceous finish. ($24)

LEWIS CHARDONNAY NAPA VALLEY 2003
Almost a meal unto itself, this captivating white possesses a dense, honeyed texture that backs a confectioner’s cornucopia of lemon cream, caramel, hazelnut toffee, and toasted oak, followed by a surprisingly clean mineral finish, like a drink from a mountain spring. ($40)

M. CHAPOUTIER WHITE CHANTE-ALOUETTE HERMITAGE 2001
The texture and dried fruit flavors of this Rhône white lend it the elixir-like concentration of a late-harvest wine. A vibrant acidity belies this initial impression, resulting in a clean, satisfying finish. ($75)

STERLING VINEYARDS CHARDONNAY NAPA VALLEY RESERVE 2002
This white truly embodies the holiday spirit, delivering the eggnog-like creaminess of nutmeg, allspice, and hazelnut with clean pear fruit and a lively citrus accent. ($40)

SOPHISTICATED CELEBRANTS
The sole compensation for the holiday season’s strenuous and constant raising of glasses is, of course, the effervescent fluid that fills them. For those in need of a ready toast (always handy on such occasions), one may turn to that sibyl of the Algonquin, Dorothy Parker, who lamented, “Three be the things I shall never attain: Envy, content, and sufficient champagne.” (Click image to enlarge)

BOLLINGER GRANDE ANNEE 1997
A nutty brew that roils with vanilla, ginger, lemon peel, and biscuit to render a luxuriously lingering finish—affording the imbiber plenty of leisure in which to appreciate this wine’s exquisite balance. ($110)

 

DOM PERIOGNON 1998
A veritable breakfast on the nose, this latest vintage from Dom exudes freshly squeezed citrus and buttered pastry. The palate is pure rosewater and silky texture punctuated by the pinprick of its bubbles. ($150)

GLORIA FERRER BRUT CARNEROS CUVEE 1995
An elegant melange of lime, pear, and green apple that gradually escalates on the palate to a crisp crescendo lightly laced with lemon cream. ($50)

 

NICHOLAS FEUILLATTE BRUT CHAMPAGNE
CUVEE PALM D'OR 1996

This is the perfect Champagne to accompany oysters: A nose of baked apple, red berry, and shortbread turns to lemon zest, orange, and a hint of sweet grapefruit on the palate. The finish swirls with minerality—almost a briny yet cleansing seawater dip that leaves one’s taste buds clamoring for more. ($120)

PERRIER-JOUET BRUT CHAMPAGNE
FLEUR DE CHAMPAGNE BELLE EPOQUE 1998

A stylized statement, like its famous bottle, this sparkling wine weaves together peach, citrus, a touch of ginger spice, and vanilla into a gloriously textured fabric. ($120)

PIPER-HEIDSIECK BRUT CHAMPAGNE CUVEE RARE
A more masculine Champagne (if such a thing exists), this cuvée combines a clean lime essence with piquant minerality, while its even texture contributes to a long, stately finish. ($120)

POL ROGER BRUT 1998
An ideally accessible bubbly for receptions or cocktails, the 1998 vintage exhibits the dry, delicate flavor of a lemon scone and a savory, nutty finish. ($80)

SCHRAMSBERG J SCHRAM 1999
This creamy sparkling wine favors the fruit side of its nature, which derives from its Chardonnay component—full of pear and spice that resolves to a lingering, biscuit-like finish. ($80)

LADIES IN WHITE
Since English author Wilkie Collins first published his suspense-thriller The Woman in White in 1860, the title phrase has accumulated all manner of enigmatic yet gripping connotations and associations—mystery, allure, seduction, and obsession. So, too, is the susceptible imagination vulnerable to the charms of these tempting white sirens.

HARTFORD COURT SEASCAPE VINEYARD
CHARDONNAY SONOMA 2003

From the fog-chilled coast of Sonoma, this mesmerizing Chardonnay has an atmosphere as thick as a Collins novel: seductive hints of citrus blossom that waft like a lady’s perfume, a bite of lemon, and brooding granite mineral wrapped in a texture as smooth as a silk stocking. ($50)

LEEUWIN ESTATE ART SERIES
CHARDONNAY MARGARET RIVER 2002

Among a gathering of ladies in white, this Australian would certainly be one of the grandes dames. A fascinating tropical effusion of pineapple, passion fruit, peaches, and Asian spice, this white’s flavors flow forth in an almost unending stream. ($65)

NIGI RIESLING QUALITATSWEIN
TROCKEN KREMSTAL PRIVART 2003

A curvaceous and sumptuously ripe Riesling, this wine marries depth and breadth of flavor to a breathtakingly ample finish. ($70)

PRAGER RIESLING SMARAGD TROCKEN
WACHAU WEISSENKIRCHEN KLAUS 2003

Another Austrian aristocrat, this white combines a delicate peach-pie and apricot fruit with savory smoke. ($50)

STAGLIN CHARDONNAY RUTHERFORD 2003
True to its type as an all-American femme fatale, this bold Chardonnay exhibits a complex profile of spicy poached pear, honeyed apple, lemon curd, hazelnut, and soft sandalwood. ($55)

MAVERICKS
Not all of us beasts of burden are destined for the common fate: Every once in while, one of us breaks away from the monotony of the herd to pursue some greater, unrealized providence. As it is in life, so it is in the vineyard. These winemakers have parted with convention in their own ways, yielding wines of stunning originality that should appeal to the non-bovine mavericks on all of our holiday lists.

{ Red }
ALBAN VINEYARDS GRENACHE EDNA VALLEY 2002
Grenache is a grape that only the most daring vintner will bottle on its own. This powerfully concentrated red is redolent with boysenberry, dried meat, and an abundance of tongue-tickling herbs, such as sage, curry, and pepper. ($56)

CA' MARCANDA CAMARCANDA BOLGHERI 2001
This Bordeaux-style wine is big and brash enough to have come riding out of the Wild West. It does not, however, come from where the buffalo roam, but from Bolgheri, which lends to the usual rich plum and berry a peppery Italian bite. ($105)

CASA LAPOSTOLLE CLOS APALTA COLCHAGUA 2002
An incomparably fun blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Carmenère from Chile, this intensely red wine combines blackberry with vanilla and roasted herbs. ($65)

CRAGGY RANGE LE SOL SYRAH
GIMBLETT GRAVELS VINEYARD 2002

Beneath the dark, blackberry surface of this New Zealand Syrah brews strains of smoke, black licorice, and pepper. ($60)

LEONETTI RESERVE WALLA WALLA VALLEY 2001
This is one towering lumberjack of a blend from Washington state—busting with juicy blackberry and plum over a foundation of strong black coffee. ($95)

MAS D'EN GIL CLOS FONTA PRIORAT 2000
From the first bodega in Priorat to bottle its own wine, this dusky Iberian blends blackberry with exotic spice and sweet, smoky oak. ($100)

QUINTA DO FOJO DOURO 2000
This Portuguese giant has colossal tannins that support a brawny, beefy structure of black plum and bitter mocha that holds nothing back. ($85)

SENA ACONCAGUA VALLEY 2001
A sinewy, tannic Chilean blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Carmenère, this offering from Chile’s esteemed Viña Errázuriz packs a punch of poached plum, clay, mint, coffee, cocoa, and cardamom. ($70)

SOKOL BLOSSER WATERSHED BLOCK PINTO NOIR
WILLAMETTE VALLEY 2001

A highly individual Pinot Noir from Oregon, this single-block red wraps wildflowers, a medley of Provençal herbs, and unsweetened chocolate in a velvet blanket of red fruit. ($50)

VINA COBOS MALBEC MENDIZA MARCHIORI VINEYARD 2002
None of the five Bordeaux varietals can be more accurately described as a maverick than Malbec, which is only sparingly blended, if at all, in Europe and California. In this Argentine red, however, the grape blossoms: a black blend of berry, plum, and soy sauce, as well as coffee and a touch of pencil lead. ($75)

{ White }
DIDIER DAGUENEAU POUILLY-FUME SILEX 2003

No wallflower, this Loire white flashes with bold flavors—citrus peel, rich smoke, and a profusion of spring flowers. This robust potpourri rests atop a granite-solid mineral structure that heightens the wine’s complexity, prolonging its already gradual finish. ($80)

ITALIAN MASTERS
Italian genius has always resided in the uniting of an acute appreciation of parts to a finely tuned sense of the whole. This talent for bridging the divide between the infinitesimal and the infinite reveals itself in the Mona Lisa as well as the Maserati MC12. It is no less manifest in this assortment of red wines, whose charms derive as much from their subtle nuances as from their grand statements.

ANTINORI TENUTA GUADO AL TASSO BOLGHERI 2000
This bold Tuscan cries out for the blood of a lamb—and the meat of one. Unsparing and meaty, this complex cocktail infuses its rich berry and plum fruit with tantalizing traces of mint and rosemary. ($105)

ANTINORI TIGNELLO TUSCANY 2001
This darkly rich, satisfying, and near-perfect extract from the Sangiovese grape is all that we will see of this, the first Super Tuscan, until the 2003 vintage. None was made in 2002. ($75)

BARONE RICASOLI CHINTI CLASSICO
CASTELLO DI BRILIO 2000

Significant in its simplicity, this full-bodied Chianti Classico bears an abundance of rich berry flavor undercut by anise, holiday spice, dried meat, and smoke. ($45)

GAJA LANGHE SORI TILDIN 2001
A tour de force of complexity from Angelo Gaja, certainly one of Italy’s most brilliant vintners, this Barbaresco sends out plumes of strawberry and plum in intoxicating concentration. ($340)

MASI AMARONE DELL VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO MAZZANO 1999
Unlike its Tuscan and Piedmontese counterparts, this red from the Veneto relies less on power than finesse to achieve its end: a graceful balance of black fruit, light mineral, and well-structured tannins. ($140)

MICHELE CHIARLO BAROLO CEREQUIO 2001
Made from 35-year-old vines, this magnificent Barolo is hearty, vibrant, sophisticated, and bursting with bright, bloodred fruit. ($90)

PIO CESARE BARBARESCO IL BRICCO 2000
A richly rendered Barbaresco, this Piedmont red makes the most of a perfect vintage, folding plenty of smoky oak and grilled herbs into its powerful red fruit. ($140)

TENUTA DI ARCENO ARCANUM II TOSCANA 2002
The second of two sister wines, this Super Tuscan blends 85 percent Merlot with small amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Sangiovese. The effect is of mocha-dusted black cherry pouring through a delicate tracery of lightly charred oak. ($96)

TENUTA IL POGGIONE BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO RISERVA 1999
A brash Brunello that displays ruby red color, forest-like wild berry fruit, lavender, dusky cinnamon, and cedar and delivers an exquisitely long finish. ($85)

UNTAMED PLEASURES
There comes a point in each of our lives—not to mention in each of our days—when, for reasons of sanity, we must throw off the yoke of civilization and throw ourselves into a therapeutically hedonistic revel. This selection of wines will indulge our animal sides, enabling us to uncork briefly our thwarted ids.

{ Red }
ARNALDO CAPRAI SAGRANTINO DI MONTEFALCO 25 ANNI 2001

Created to commemorate the winery’s 25th anniversary, this Umbrian red exhibits intensity across the spectrum, from its potent acidity to its extreme dark chocolate, black coffee, biting orange peel, and mint. ($100)

BAROSSA VALLEY ESTATE E & E BLACK PEPPER SHIRAZ 2001
The black cherry fruit of this Australian red detonates on the palate, carrying storm clouds of piquant black pepper in the explosion’s resounding wake. ($85)

BETTS & SCHOLL BAROSSA VALLEY GRENACHE 2001
This Australian Grenache riots with red fruit—raspberry and strawberry—while retaining more subtle scents, such as violet. The harshness that sometimes characterizes this varietal is all but absent, and the finish is seductively long. ($24)

FREEMAN VINEYARD AKIKO'S CUVEE PINOT NOIR 2003
This superbly stylish Sonoma Pinot Noir from Akiko and Ken Freeman feasts the senses with orange-spice and rose aromas and a luscious, juicy mouthful of sinfully rich black cherry fruit, the intensity of which is slightly softened by a damp earthiness reminiscent of a fog-laden autumn morning. ($45)

LOUIS JADOT GEVREY-CHAMBERTIN CLOS ST. JACQUES 2002
The black cherry and lavender of this red Burgundy coat the palate in unctuous and lively layers of flavor that linger like dew. ($85)

M. CHAPOUTIER ERMITAGE L'ERMITAGE 2002
Like a great cut of meat, this powerful Rhône will need to cure, enabling its complex assortment of flavors—briny olive, tobacco, espresso, and dried black cherry—to meld into a harmonious, if somewhat gamy, whole. ($210) (Click image to enlarge)

SPRING MOUNTAIN SYRAH 2003
Prepare to wade slowly through the thick flavors of this Napa-grown Rhône varietal. Super-concentrated, this red is flooded with blackberry, coffee, and liquid tobacco smoke, yet maintains an elegant balance. ($50)

{ White }
ANTINORI CERVARO DELLA SALA UMBRIA 2002

A twist on white Burgundy from the heart of Italy, this wildly different Chardonnay drinks more like a cross between a Pinot Blanc and a Marsanne. Loaded with dried tropical fruit flavors that culminate in a nutty finish. ($42)

JOSEMEYER RIESLING ALSACE LES PIERRETS 2001
This perhaps represents a white wine at its leanest: The ethereally faint stone fruit haunts the cool minerality that looms over the palate. ($47) (Click image to enlarge)

EXECUTIVE PERKS
It may be counted among the chief misfortunes of life that the world of commerce depends for its existence upon the armies of Bartlebys and Babbitts whom we are compelled to employ. Yet, though these inhuman professionals—balding CFOs who forecast and reforecast their budgets with Sisyphean regularity, grumpy attorneys whose contractual prose ossifies the brain—gray our days and darken our nights, they, too, thirst after a cup of human cheer during the holiday season. The following bottles should perk up even the dreariest executive.

{ Red }
ANAKOTA HELENA MONTANA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2002

An indigo-dark, velvet-soft red, this Cabernet Sauvignon broods with dark chocolate and espresso that bespeak its mountain terroir. ($80)

BOND VECINA NAP VALLEY 2001
As concentrated as blackberry syrup, this luxurious single-vineyard Cabernet will soothe the single-minded and overworked executive with its invigorating and earthy tannins. ($175)

FLORA SPRINGS ANNIVERSARU CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2002
This single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon bursts with black cherry on the nose and palate, sending out bright streamers of crème de cassis. ($150)

KULETO ESTATE FAMILY VINEYARDS CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2002
The sum of this exquisite Cabernet is greater than its parts, which include rich black fruit against a bed of spice—nutmeg, licorice, cinnamon, and clove. ($60)

LASSEHUE 2003
Predominantly composed of Cabernet Franc with a touch of Cabernet Sauvignon, this Saint-Émilion layers voluptuous plum fruit against a sweet, sultry smoke. ($70) (Click image to enlarge)

PIO CESARE BAROLO 2000
Roiling with red raspberry and ripe spring strawberries, this exceptional Barolo tames its exuberance with more delicate notes of game meat, sweet chocolate, and sturdy tannins. ($80)

VERITE LA MUSE 2002
Essentially a Merlot cut with Cabernet Franc, this Pomerol-style red fumes with blackberry, perfumed rose, and fresh-brewed coffee. ($150)

WINSTON HILL CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2001
A rich, traditional California Bordeaux-style red, this dark wine blends blackberry and cassis flavors, resulting in an earthy chocolate undercurrent. Intense tannins ensure a long, healthy life in the cellar. ($100)

{ White }
CRAGGY RANGE CHARDONNAY LES BEAUX CAILLOUX GIMBLETT GRAVELS HAWKE'S BAY 2002

This New Zealand white (whose name, in French, means “the beautiful pebbles”) has a creamy texture, crisp peach fruit, and an astonishing finish. ($50) (Click image to enlarge)

 

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTIES
While the physical pleasures of fine wine are readily apparent to all who sip it, the accompanying intellectual joys can only be derived by a calculus more demanding than the raising of a goblet. These sensual and cerebral bottles should slake the thirsty minds and palates of academically inclined acquaintances, while at the same time stimulating them to debate the relative merits of Merlot versus Malbec— preferably in your absence.

{ Red }
ARCHERY SUMMIT OREGON PINOT NOIR
ARCHERY SUMMIT ESTATE 2002

As lushly complex and bold as a Van Gogh nightscape, this Pinot swirls with clouds of currant, burnished plum, and audacious splashes of spice that, together, render a truly impressionistic flavor profile. ($150)

BEAULIEU VINEYARD CLONE 6
CABERNAT SAUVIGNON 2001

This rara avis, a single-clone Cabernet Sauvignon, comes as close as a red wine can to being truly black, as the intensity of its flavor confirms. Jam-like blackberry pairs with toasted herbs, oak, and black olive to produce a striking effect on the senses. ($130)

BODEGAS MUGA RIOJA 2001
A baritone among Riojas, this forest-dark wine conveys the sweetness of fresh-cut oak under its round, luscious play of wild blueberry. ($120)

CAYUSE SYRAH WLLA WALLA VALLEY CAILLOUX VINEYARD 2002
Stark contrasts of flavor define the structure of this extraordinary Syrah, whose components include red berry, cherry, the slight briny bite of virgin olive oil, and sweetened coffee. ($45)

LORING WINE CO. PINOT NOIR 2002
A fragrant fusion of plum blossom, rose, black cherry, toast, coffee, and custard, this resplendent red will inspire all whose lips touch it. ($48)

PRIDER MOUNTAIN CABERNET SAUVIGNON RESERVE 2002
Dark, polished, and finely cut as ruby, this medley of black cherry, blackberry, and smoked oak is as powerful and concentrated a Cabernet as one is likely to have the pleasure to drink. ($62)

VERITE LE DESIR 2002
In a sultry Saint-Émilion style, this Cabernet Franc–based wine from Sonoma resonates with boysenberry, chocolate, and loamy earth. Definitely the ideal accompaniment to tenderloin of beef. ($150)

{ White }
ARAUJO ESTATE SAUVIGNON BLANC EISELE VINEYARD 2002

The ne plus ultra of American Bordeaux-style white wines, this blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Musque, and a small amount of Viognier sparkles with orange peel, honey, lemon wax, and a trace of rhubarb. ($32)

BENJAMIN ROMEO RIOJA WHITE EL CONTADOR DE GALLOCANTA 2003
A Spanish Baroque exercise in excess, this vigorous Rioja white merges seemingly discordant notes of spiced fruit, licorice, and a hint of molasses into a fluid melody. ($75)

GEORG BREUER RIESLINF AUSLESE GOLD CAP RHEINGAU RUDESHEIM BERG SCHOSSBERGF 2003
This German offering is as tightly packed with power and flavor as a white wine can be; yet at the same time its flavors—marmalade, candied lemon—dance as lightly as afternoon sunlight on a mountain lake. ($90)

FOR THE PRINCELY PALATE
All persons may, theoretically, be born equal, but not all palates are. The gustatory realm, like that of politics, has its monarchs—women and men whose tongues, as it were, have been born to the purple: Nothing may wet their patrician lips that was not harvested from the noblest and purest of vines. For such august individuals, we recommend this selection of regal reds and majestic whites, over which any sovereign of sense surely will lose his or her head.

{ Red }
ACHAVAL-FERRER FINCA ALTAMIRA MALBEC 2002

This megalithic Malbec possesses an ethereal duskiness sprinkled over vibrant boysenberry, toasted oak, and pungent traces of mushroom and earth. ($85)

BEAUX FRERES PINOT MOIR WILLAMETTE VALLEY THE BEAUX VINEYARD 2003
Strikingly pronounced tannins should prolong this Pinot’s graceful character for at least another decade. The wine is layered like a wedding cake—cherry first, then raspberry, violets, and a soft creamy layer of custard to top off this beautifully tiered vintage. ($75)

Accessories: decanter courtesy Tableart, 323.653.8278, wwwtartontheweb.com.

CARDINALE RED WINE NAPA VALLEY 2002
This Bordeaux-style red is cloaked in a royal robe of dark purple fruit—blackberry, black cherry, dark plum—that enfolds a treasure of flavors: lavender, vanilla, coffee, toasted oak. ($125)

 

CHATEAU AUSONE SAINT-EMILION 2001
This wine, one of the reigning kings of Bordeaux, may be without peer in that region: Captivating black fruit melds with a creamy vanilla and delicate soft smoke in a highly refined blend emphasizing Cabernet Franc. ($215)

CHATEAU HAUT-BRION PESSAC-LEOGNAN 2001
A Merlot-based Bordeaux, this wine takes its high notes from Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc—black cherry and currant atop a firm tannic structure that will allow this masterpiece to last for ages. ($180)

CHATEAU LATOUR PAUILLAC 2002
This enormously juicy Pauillac pours forth black fruit laced with anise and oak. But even these flavors are dwarfed by its tannins, which ensure this wine a very ripe old age indeed. ($190)

COLOGIN SYRAH IX ESTATE 2003
From one of the New World’s most prestigious producers, this Syrah is absolutely unstoppable. Inky, alluring, luscious, filled to its brim with black cherry, black pepper, black olive, and salty dried meat, its gorgeous succession of flavors keeps coming at you. ($125)

LOKOYA MOUNT VEEDER CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2002
This Napa Cabernet’s tannins tower as high as the mountain from which it is sourced, yet they are pleasingly coated in black cherry, blackberry, Christmas-cake spices, and a twist of mint. ($170)

MARCHESI DE' FRESCOBALDI BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO CASTEL GIOCONDO RIPE AL CONCENTO RISERCA 2000
An exotic incense of violets and blueberries coated in milk chocolate greets the nose of this powerful yet protean Brunello. The flavor profile shifts like the tide as one sips, from mocha and dark fruit to a blood-sweetness spiked with a pine pitch. ($100)

MORAGA RED WINE 2001
An anomaly in the world of wine, this red, which combines the strength of a Paulliac with the delicacy of a Pomerol, blends dark, sultry cassis and herbs with blueberry, black cherry, cedar, and cinnamon. Rare and wonderful. ($125)

PETER MICHAEL LES PAVOTS 2002
Deep indigo and full-bodied, this Sonoma red has a bouquet of brooding blueberry, lavender, and roasted coffee. The extended finish brings a hint of smoked ham, tobacco, and pencil lead. ($135)

PIO CESARE BAROLO ORNATO 2000
A summer’s harvest of red berries burgeons as this single-vineyard Barolo is uncorked. A medley of violets, lilac, and licorice follows, atop a satin-smooth tannic structure. One for the cellar. ($150)

STAGLIN FAMILY VINYARD ESTATE CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2002
A stellar vintage from one of the Rutherford region’s finest producers, this beefy red is gorged with the juice of blackberries and plums, yet its sanguine fruit leaves plenty of room still on the palate for a second course of mushroom and black olive and a finale of crème brûlée. ($120)

VERITE LA JOIE 2002
Enormous yet supple, this Cabernet Sauvignon–based blend features vivid blue and black fruit accented by chocolate truffle and oak. A Sonoma meritage that should achieve Bordeaux-like longevity. ($150)

{ White }
DOMAINE BOUCHARD PERE & FILS CORTON-CHARLEMAGNE 2003

This extraordinarily concentrated Chardonnay from a legendary vineyard immerses the taste buds in sensual peach, tantalizing acidity, and mineral layers to achieve remarkable complexity. ($116)

JOSEPH DROUHIN MONTRACHET MARQUIS DE LAGUICHE 2002
From one of the great Burgundian producers, a great white presenting an unctuous feel in the mouth with cool summer fruit—crisp white peach—and orange blossom cascading over hard granite minerality toward a marathon finish. ($315)

KONGSGAARD CHARDONNAY 2000
This fantastic Chardonnay achieves enormous scope and strength while retaining a delicacy that enables one to savor its component parts of lemon, jasmine, summer smoke, and orange blossom. ($75)

MARCASSIN CHARDONNAY SONOMA CAOST MARCASSIN VINEYARD 2000 Elegant citrus tones provide a canvas for splashes of hazelnut, allspice, and pear. This Chardonnay has exceptional staying power. ($90)

MORAGA SAUVINGNON BLANC 2003
This Bel Air–grown blend of two Sauvignon Blanc clones is breathtakingly fine, offering a minty nose and a refreshing gush of peach and grapefruit on the palate, finishing in a complex minerality. ($65)

RAMONET MONTRACHET 2002
A white that has the complexity and depth of a red—a dense, heady broth of lush white fruit that lingers beneath a supple, elegantly textured surface and lasts endlessly. ($350)

THREE MAGI
The fabled journey of Melchior, Gaspar, and Balthasar—whether, indeed, the stuff of fable or fact—has furnished the quintessential archetype for the divinely inspired quest. The search for the following three earthly-yet-dazzling grails may not have been prompted by any deity (save perhaps Bacchus), but it has sent many a collector off in the direction of distant stars. These wines—if one can find them—are more than fit to lay before a king.

GAJA LANGHE COSTA RUSSI 2001
Though the spectacular 2000 vintage presents an oenological summit nearly impossible to surmount, the 2001 vintage manages to approach this Parnassian peak. Angelo Gaja’s genius for handling Nebbiolo shines through in bright cherry and rose aromas, deep earthy spice, the sweet saltiness of cured red meat—all these flavors resonate again and again in intensely gratifying waves. ($350)

HARLAN ESTATE NAPA VALLEY PROPRIETARY RED 2001
A king among Cabernet-based blends, Old World or New, this red leads one down a cool shadowy forest path, where scents of wild blackberry, fragrant woods, and cool rock-filled pools give way to bright meadows of sweet grass, violets, mocha, and spice. Each glass is a summer afternoon in the mountains that fades as gradually as a sunset. ($325)

PENFOLDS GRANGE 2000
Another unimpeachable performance from Australia’s winemaking master, this formidable Syrah shines a deep, darkly faceted ruby red—a mere suggestion of the sensory riches to come. With the super-extracted plum and red berry come sweet tobacco, black pepper, and billows of soft smoke. ($240)

GRAND FINALES
A multiple course dinner without a dessert wine is like a subject without a predicate, an exclamation without an exclamation point, a Shakespearean sonnet without its closing couplet. The conscientious host will never leave the final touches off his or her masterpiece of a meal. Among the following wines, right-thinking hosts will find the perfect coups de maître.

{ Red }
TAYLOR FLADGATE VINTAGE PORT 1992

A cornucopia of holiday flavors, this port ranges the gamut from blackberry brandy to rum raisin, presenting an intense and delightful draft with which to top a fine dinner. ($40)

FRANK FAMILY VINEYARDS PORT NAPA VALLEY NV
This fortified wine is produced a vast distance from Portugal, but it remains every bit as sumptuous as its Old World cousins. Aromas of prune and raisin float over one’s glass, which, when sipped from, releases a flood of tropical fruit and fig, followed by rich tobacco, honey, and marmalade. ($65)

{ White }
CHATEAU DOISY-DAENE SAUTERNES L'EXTRAVAGANT 2001
From this Sauterne’s luxurious honey texture bloom dried apricots, candied orange, and nutmeg spice. The finish will outlast dinner at the French Laundry. ($220)

CHATEAU STE. MICHELLE WHITE RIESLING COLUMBIA
VALLEY ICE WINE RESERVE 2003

This favorite from Washington state offers a mesmerizing mélange of fresh pineapple, apricot, sweet lemon oil, and refreshing acid. ($50)

CHATEAU SUDUIRAUT SAUTERNES 2001
One of the very best Sauternes to emerge in decades, this white gold nectar flows forth in waves of tropical fruit, citrus, spice, and rich oak. ($125)

DOLCE ST. NICHOLAS 1999
Aficionados of Dolce’s renowned dessert wines will not want to miss this special release of 1,000 bottles of St. Nicholas wine—the name given by German vintners to wines that last on the vine until early December. This liquid-amber wine is rich with candied orange, toasted almonds, lemon custard, and crème caramel. ($500)

FEILER-ARTINGER RUSTER AUSBRUCH
PINOT CUVEE BURGENLAND 2001

One of the world’s most revered sweet wines, this botrytized wine is unctuous and rich, full of intense apricot, yet surprisingly light and clean on the finish. ($42)

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