The Wine Geographic Top 100 Wines of 2016

Welcome to the Wine Geographic Top 100 Wines of 2016!

Our intrepid – and ever-thirsty – band of sommeliers has compiled a list of the 100 best wines they sip, slurped, and slugged back over the past year. We aimed to include a variety of price points, regions, varietals, and styles, and almost every entry is available for purchase online.

Think we missed one? Tell us in the comments! 

 

CHILE/ARGENTINA

Trivento Malbec Reserve, 2015 – $11 (Mendoza, Argentina) Buy Here

Maybe I’m in an inexpensive Malbec phase of my life, but WOW these wines are good. Drinking this wine is like licking a chocolate and black pepper-coated black cherry with just a hint of lavender dust. That might not sound great to you, but with big powerful foods, it’s perfect, and an incredible everyday wine. – GM

Ritual Casablanca Valley Sauvignon Blanc, 2014 – $14.99 (Casablanca Valley, Chile) Buy Here

Chile is producing some interesting versions of Sauvignon Blanc, this bottle of Ritual included. There’s plenty of tropical fruit and a bright herbaceousness plus a nice balance between body and acidity. The screwtop makes this a convenient pick for a mid-summer picnic, which is exactly when and how I had it. – AM

Bodega Norton Malbec Mendoza Reserva, 2014 – $19 (Mendoza, Argentina) Buy Here

People’s reaction to good Malbec is funny. Most want to compare it to Cabernet and look for smooth development and power. To me, great Malbec is a bit rude and blows smoke in your face – like this one from Norton. It’s rich, deep and dark, smells and tastes of tobacco, and is just a little dirty and scary – just like good Malbec should be. This is a good steak’s best friend. – GM

Casarena Jamilla’s Vineyard Malbec, 2012 – $45 (Mendoza, Argentina) Buy Here

Michel Rolland and the team at Casarena focus on limited production to produce rich, concentrated, downright inky wines. Rather than promptly release its aroma of luxury and complexity the minute it’s uncorked, the Jamilla Vineyard needs to be romanced a bit – a little air, a little time – before it sheds its stony, austere exterior to reveal layers of blackberry, licorice, and a subtle thread of delicate floral notes. It’s beautiful with a steak or fatty duck with a blackberry gastrique. – AM 

Domus Aurea Cabernet Sauvignon, 2011 – $53 (Maipo Valley, Chile) Buy Here

Cabernet from Chile can wander into green pepper territory far too often, which is why winemakers like the Peña family chose to plant on the difficult but well-suited Chilean hillsides. The Clos Quebrada De Macúl vineyard dates back to 1970, when planting Cabernet in Chile was a laughable offense, but the payoff is evident in this mint-tinged, fruit-driven wine that practically bounces with acidity. The wine is anchored by chunky tannins and smoke, two things that cry out for barbecued ribs slathered in a stick-savory balsamic and herb reduction. – AM

Sena, 2012 – $130 (Aconcagua Valley, Chile)  Buy Here

In 1995, Vina Errazuriz’s winemaker Eduardo Chadwick and Napa Valley’s Robert Mondavi searched for the perfect terroir in Aconcagua Valley, Chile to create a world-class red wine. In 2004, Sena reached international fame during the Berlin Tasting in which its 2001 vintage was rated higher than Chateau Margaux, Chateau Lafite, Chateau Latour, Tignanello, and Solaia. I would pair this rich, bold, cherried, and mineral Bordeaux blend with New York strip steak or pot roast. – ML

 

SPAIN/PORTUGAL

Bodegas y Vinedos Ilurce Rio Madre Tempranillo, 2014 – $9.99 (Rioja, Spain) Buy Here

I’ll never forget first pouring this wine for a Spanish wine class that I was teaching, blown away that it smelled like honey and green tea with flavors of marmalade and black tea! From then on, the muscatels of Navarra have always piqued my interest. It’s the perfect drink for a peach cobbler or fruit tart. – JY

Bodegas Juan Gil “Monastrell”, 2014 – $14 (Jumilla, Spain) Buy Here

Set up your pairing first: a rich melted goat cheese and grilled tomatoes on pesto-smeared bruschetta. Now let those flavors fly: Smokey black cherries with breathtaking citrus building layers for rhubarb and rosemary. This bottle of sunshine is melds high acid, mild forest fruit, and earth with finesse. – JY

Marques de Riscal Rioja Riserva, 2009 – $17 (Rioja, Spain) Buy Here

Leading the Spanish architectural renaissance with one of Frank Gehry’s titanium tides and calcareous caves, this winery has a history of updating Rioja since its birth in 1858. Abounding hot cigar embers and cool dry dust built on a tangy spice from underripe cherries and blackberries. Drying in the glass will percolate the incense, raisins, cloves and nutmeg – a perfect finish for curried potatoes and a pan-seared bone-in ribeye. – JY

 Raventos i Blanc Blanc de Nit Cava Rosé, 2014 – $23 (Penedes, Spain) Buy Here

This “first family of Cava” from Penedes, Spain, designed traditional method sparkling wines that are produced just like Champagne, but because of the warmer weather, Cavas tend to have more citrus, melon, and minerality and a warmer finish than their sparkling counterparts in Northern France. In 2006, the Raventos family decided to expand the creative direction of their winery and they became the first to leave Cava as a DO (Denominacion Origine). One of those newer creations is the Raventos Rosé, a sparkling rose that contains red wine (Monastrell), which imparts even more fruit and fuller-bodied finish. This would pair beautifully with almost anything! – ML

Casa Castillo Las Gravas, 2012 – $30 (Jumilla, Spain) Buy Here

Rhone Valley blends from Southern Spain need to get more attention. Sure, Rioja gets all the press – and for good reason – but there are great wines in Jumilla. This is a “Southern Rhone” blend of Monastrell, Garnacha and Syrah, fermented in stone containers. It’s smooth and fruity, with soft stone and tannin, and is so easy to drink it should be a crime. – GM

Quinta do Crasto Douro Red Reserva Old Vines, 2013 – $39.99 (Douro Valley, Portugal) Buy Here

Leonor and Jorge Roquette are carrying on a tradition at Quinta do Crasto that dates back more than a century. There’s a reason that the couple is so dedicated to wines that are pure Douro, through and through and this wine will lay it all it in delicious detail. First, drink in the wine’s deep ruby hue, then take a deep, intoxicating whiff of the wild and brambly blackberry and plum aromas. Finally, there’s the flavor – it’s still a little tight and could easily age for a few more years, but even now there’s a gamey leather undertone and grippy tannins. It’s ideal for sipping slowly so you can experience it as it opens up. Do so with a platter of smoked meats and hard, salty cheese. – AM

Leirana Luisa Lazaro Albarino, 2005 – $48 (Rias Baixas, Spain) Buy Here

If you are able to find this precious Albarino, you’re lucky – this is the rarest of wine creations by Spanish winemaker Raul Perez. Normally, this grape is very aromatic with lemon, honeysuckle, mineral, and peach with a long, light-bodied, and dry finish, but Raul wanted to do something different. He set aside only one barrel called “Luisa Lazaro” and aged the wine for nine years. Once a year, Raul would sample the Albarino until he decided it was ready to be bottled in 2014. It tastes more like Chardonnay than Albarino, so I would pair it accordingly. – ML

Blandy’s Madeira Colheita Malmsey Single Harvest, 1996 – $55.99 (Madeira, Portugal) Buy Here

I’ve made a bit of a tradition out of picking a post-Christmas dinner something-something to sip on and this year’s addition was this tasty Colheita. Grapes are planted on skillfully terraced cliffs, harvested by hand, then slowly heated at a steady temp. The result is a snifter-worthy tipple redolent with caramel, honey, milk chocolate, dried fruit, and chestnuts – otherwise known as all the things on your holiday dessert table. Coincidence? I think not. – AM

Senorio de San Vicente Rioja, 2012 – $60 (Rioja, Spain) Buy Here

Most Rioja wines from 2012 are just now mellowing out enough to become really drinkable because of the heavy oak usage. The Senorio de San Vicente is no different, but is coming out and showing some amazing qualities of dark berries, cherries, smoke, dust, and a little ash. It’s really interesting now, and will be a rock star in another few years, so buy it and hold on to some. – GM

Toro Albala 1986 Gran Reserva Pedro Ximenez Montilla-Moreles, 1986 – $62 (Montilla-Moreles, Spain) Buy Here

Just north of Jerez in Southern Spain is a place called Montilla-Moreles. There, Toro Albala uses Pedro Ximenez grapes to create the most syrupy, sweet, chocolatey, raisinated wine in the world. The wine is barrel-aged for a minimum of 25 years with limited exposure to oxygen (the rancio method). Although this Pedro Ximenez pairs perfect with vanilla ice cream and any type of chocolate, you can also have it just by itself. This is the true “dessert in the glass”! – ML

 Conde de Hervias Tempranillo, 2008 – $63 (Rioja, Spain) Buy Here

This project headed by Inigo Manso de Zuniga Ugartechea in Rioja Alta is only made in great vintages. The vines used are 80-140 years old, which gives this Tempranillo a much rounder and juicier feel. The vineyard only allows one bunch of grapes per vine, which results in the deeper fruit and mineral flavor along with a softer finish. Enjoy this wine with trout (trucha) with tomato and jamon and paella. – ML

 

ITALY

Sella & Mosca Terre Rare Riserva Carignano, 2010 – $13.99 (Sardinia, Italy) Buy Here

 In the scenic corner of northwest Sardinia, Sella & Mosca’s sprawling I Piani vineyard holds court just miles from the blue-tinged waters of the Mediterranean Sea. The Terre Rare Riserva is juicy, rich mess of jumbled berries and herbs, so silky smooth but with a hint of wild earth to keep things interesting. Easy drinking (but not too much), this saucy little Carignan would be lovey with a Ras El Hanout-dusted roast chicken or charred vegetables topped with aged parmesan and a fresh herb vinaigrette. – AM

Masseria Supreno Primitivo, 2015 – $15 (Salento, Italy)

Drinking a good Primitivo should make you feel like you’re drinking the blood, sweat, and tears of the Southern Italian land. It should be fruity, chewy, powerful, and just a little dirty. For generations, Primitivo has been a peasant wine made for the masses. I’d like to thank them for that. Great wine doesn’t have to be expensive. – GM

 Mionetto Valdobbiadene Prosecco Luxury Superiore DOCG, NV – $19 (Veneto, Italy) Buy Here

When it comes to Prosecco, there is a rather wide range of styles and quality levels that you’ll find on restaurant menus and retail shelves.  Mionetto is a historic Prosecco producer known to balance both tradition and innovation.  Their Luxury Superiore presents fresh perfumes of green apple, lime zest and jasmine flower.  On the palate, it has an effervescent grip softened by a creamy texture and nice weight.  The lively acidity is met with flavors of apples, pears and even a hint of marmite on the finish.  This bubbly is full of ripe fruit and complexity to be readily enjoyable on its own. – JA

 Castello di Monsanto Chianti Classico Riserva, 2013 – $25 (Tuscany, Italy) Buy Here

2013 was an okay year in Chianti, with production qualities varying. However, if you find a good wine, chances are it’s really good – like this one. This Reserva Chianti is almost light-bodied enough to be confused with a Pinot Noir – at least visually. It’s subtle, spicy, dry and acidic, just like a great Chianti should be. – GM

 Tenuta di Nozzole Chianti Classico Riserva, 2013 – $25 (Tuscany, Italy) Buy Here

Winemaking since the 18th century and currently led by father-and-son duo Ambrogio and Giovanni Folonari, Tenuta di Nozzole has a wonderful reputation of reinventing themselves to accommodate for any trend. With their Chianti Classico Riserva the attack from the fruit lunges with tart black currants and the earth of an iron gate wet from the rain, opening into ripe cranberry-black cherry skins and strawberry compote. A puckering finish of framboise, topsoil and parmigiano that, when allowed to decant, will unleash its innate basil and rich prunes. This will be ideal for dark chocolate, porterhouse steak, or a rich Chinese pork stir fry. – JY

Sella & Mosca Tanca Farrá Alghero DOC, 2011 – $27 (Sardinia, Italy) Buy Here

A 50/50 blend of Cannonau (aka Grenache) and Cabernet Sauvignon, after tank fermentation the wine is blended and then aged for three years – one year in barrique followed by two years in Slavonian oak casks.  The result is wonderful intensity with scents of red cherry, blackcurrant, sage, saddle leather and dark chocolate.  The tannins are still youthful and a bit chewy, but the wine’s brawny structure and bright acidity play well with its saline undertones and licorice finish.  This pairs well with virtually anything tomato based as well any form of braised meat.  – JA     

Pieropan Soave Classico La Rocca, 2014 – $35 (Veneto, Italy) Buy Here

La Rocca simply makes great wines, and this is a perfect example. It’s floral and minerally, with heavy stone fruit and just the right amount of acid. It would go great with a spit-roasted chicken, but as your registered vegetarian of the group, we prefer serving this with a Caesar salad made with fire-roasted romaine and lots of garlic. – GM

 La Spinetta Pin Monferrato Rosso, 2011 – $59 (Piedmont, Italy) Buy Here

I love the raspberry, cranberry, mushrooms, rose petals, leather aromas, and rugged tannins of Barolos, but not all my friends and family feel the same. To best satisfy all parties, I look for classic Piedmont Nebbiolo/Barbera blends. These wines are softer, with similar aromas, flavors, and dryness but tamed. This and nuggets of parmesan cheese would be great for your next get-together. – ML

San Filippo Brunello di Montalcino, 2010 – $60 (Tuscany, Italy) Buy Here

The Sangiovese that grows around Montalcino is unmistakable in its quality and complexity. A good Brunello is able to blend the musty dirt and rock of the hills with powerful fruit and spice and make it all mellow into one complete wine, not allowing one to overtake another. They can be overwhelming, at times, but the 2010 San Filippo. Does it perfectly. This wine pairs best with sitting at a café and overlooking the Tuscan hillside. – GM

Marengo Barolo Bricco delle Viole, 2012 – $60 (Piedmont, Italy) Buy Here

This is simply the best wine I had this year. It’s perfect – well, for me at least. It’s like listening to the greatest hits of your favorite band. Ripe cherries and strawberries, anise seed and healthy minerality. Medium body with elegantly soft tannins and a bright finish. It’s balanced, polished, and was gone way too soon. – GM

 Casanova di Neri Brunello di Montalcino Tenuta Nuova, 2010 – $200  (Tuscany, Italy) Buy Here

Casanova di Neri wines are different from any other Sangiovese I’ve tasted. Normally, I get cherries with a touch of sage, thyme, and white flowers and a long, mouth-watering finish, but not here. Everything is more intense, more elegant, more pronounced. What makes this winery different is their unique production method: they do not use pumps to transfer wine, which helps retain the impressive amount of fruit and floral aromas. – ML

 

FRANCE

Chateau d’Esclans Cotes de Provence Whispering Angel Rosé, 2015 – $12 (Provence, France) Buy Here

For me, the lighter the Rosé, the better, and this one the best one I had this year. Given, that could have been because I drank it on a hot day in the South of France, but whatever. There is no reason to overpay for Rosé. Whispering Angel is delightfully strawberry-y and peachy, dry and acidic, and paired perfectly with another bottle of it. – GM

Barton & Guestier Vouvray Chenin Blanc, 2014 – $14 (Loire Valley, France) Buy Here

When I blind taste this wine, I get aromas of white flowers, peach, pear, and Skittles! This soft, inviting Chenin Blanc from Vouvray is from a winery celebrating their 300th anniversary. This inexpensive wine is one of the few that can pair nicely with tangy salad dressing, barbecue, or any white fish dishes. – ML

La Cuvee Mythique, 2014 – $15 (Languedoc, France) Buy Here

One of my favorite wines year-round, this wine is a conglomeration of fellow Languedoc winemakers exploiting some of the finest GSM blends. Dedicated to the Owl of Minerva, who taught man about nature, this wonderful wine has a wealth of earth and fruit, best decanted and sipped upon every hour or two as it changes. Unravelling like a campsite, it begins light and floral, balanced raspberries, blueberries, jam and cranberries; the next movement unveiling the smoky oak and charred savory meat thus finishing with a sweet ash, damp mulch and charred mushroom. After many hours of decanting, synthesize this with a charred lamb and mushroom risotto. – JY

Domaine Laroche Chablis Saint Martin, 2015 – $20 (Chablis, France) Buy Here

From the historic Domaine Laroche comes this iconic cuvée, a blend of Chardonnay sourced from the domaine’s very best sites throughout the Chablis appellation.  It has an approachable austerity to it that highlights the blend of brisk acidity and full body while offering concentrated notes of pear, lime blossom and flinty minerality.  If you need a delicious white wine to serve at your next dinner party, this one is total crowd pleaser and will pair well with a wide range of dishes.  – JA

Cave de Rasteau “Ortas Prestige”, 2011 – $24 (Rasteau, France) Buy Here

This winery got its start in 1925, but with their humble new tasting room and trend-setting wines, they are part of the new face of Rhone and received a much-deserved status elevation in 2010. With amazing earth and basil, iron and luscious plums, rendered blueberries and gravel-like tannins, this bold wine fooled me for a Brunello with a respectable price! Like a cross between Rioja and Tuscany, Rasteau is producing eye-opening wines ideal for a rustic stewed beef sauce with carrots, potatoes, and thyme. – JY

Camille Braun Crémant D’Alsace Brut Rosé, NV – $26 (Alsace, France) Buy Here

It’s no secret that there are some fantastic Alsatian sparkling wines and this limited production crémant from the Braun family sets the bar high.  Made of 100% Pinot Noir from their organically-farmed vineyards, it is directly pressed then produced in the traditional method and spends a total of 12 months on the lees.  Undoubtedly charismatic, its tiny beads and zippy acidity unveil hints of creamy raspberry, strawberry and honeysuckle.  Sip a glass of this as an aperitif, have it with your meal, enjoy it with dessert, or sip it just because. – JA

 Château de Chamirey “Grand Vin de Bourgogne”, 2013 – $29 (Mercurey/Burgundy, France) Buy Here

First tasted during a long night of blind tasting and palate training, Chamirey shone like Antares in the midnight sky: bold, fiery, crimson rim to its scorching amber center. Mercurey never tasted better with its intrinsic smoky aura, emboldened piquant fruit, and velvet tannins like the softest looms of a fresh carpet. Enjoy it with sliced Speck, melted provolone and a lathering of garlicky mushrooms tucked into a toasty baguette. – JY

Guigal Gigondas Rouge, 2011 – $30 (Rhone, France) Buy Here

Guigal is one of the great producers in the Rhone Valley. They do old-school blends, not just for the traditional blend of Grenache, Mourvèdre, and Syrah, but for the finished products as well. This one drinks older than it is, with a perfect balance of earth and fruit. It is easily one of the best bargains around and simply goes with just about anything. – GM

Chateau La Croix Lartigue Rouge, 2010 – $32 (Bordeaux, France) Buy Here

From the underrated, yet overperforming, Côtes de Castillon appellation, this blend of 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Franc certainly delivers with an aromatic medley of pomegranate, black plum, rose, cocoa nibs and a mix of the vineyard’s limestone and gravel minerality.  With a seamless balance of elegance and heartiness, its juicy fruit characters are supplemented by flavors of mint leaf, bay laurel and green pepper.  It has a muscular tannic structure that’s softened by its polished texture.  This one still has many years to go, but is drinking brilliantly right now.  Enjoy it with your hearty holiday dishes. – JA

Domaine d’E Croce (Yves Leccia) Patrimonio Rouge, 2013 – $36 (Corsica, France) Buy Here

From the northeast tip of Corsica comes this red blend of 90% Nielluccio (Sangiovese) and 10% Grenache that are farmed lutte raisonnée.  With an extensive family history in winemaking, Yves broke off in 2004 to launch his own project that focused on what he considered to be the finest single terroir in Patrimonio. ‘E Croce’ is comprised of a layer of chalk soils over a sturdy bedrock of schist.  And the proof is in the pudding, as scents of black cherry, bramble, bay laurel and gamey qualities unfold over a backbone of minerality.  Its tannins are big, yet supple, as the wine proves it can have both precision and a wild side with a long smoky finish.  This is the perfect match for your meaty entrée.  – JA

Domaine Weinbach Gewurztraminer Altenbourg, 2013 – $40 (Alsace, France) Buy Here

One of the most treasured estates in all of France, Domaine Weinbach is nestled at the foot of the majestic Schlossberg hill in Alsace.  The Altenbourg Gewurztraminer exemplifies a luscious purity with its voluptuous body, zesty acidity and creamy feel.  As far as the flavor profile, this wine is like a dream with intense yet refined notes of kumquat, candied ginger, pink rose, tarragon and smoky minerality.  Enjoy this one as a charming aperitif or pair with either rich or spicy foods, foie gras, or soft cheeses like Comté and Époisses. But don’t be surprised if you end up sipping this bottle all by its lonesome – this one is well worth the guilt. – JA   

Albert Boxler Pinot Blanc Reserve, 2014 – $40 (Alsace, France) Buy Here

A small family domaine that dates back to 1673, Albert Boxler is currently under the regime of Jean Boxler and utilizes organic farming.  And while Pinot Blanc is often overshadowed by the more aromatic Alsatian varietals, this underdog certainly proves itself once you give it a taste.  On the nose, it is pleasingly fragrant with hints of tart pear, lemon squeeze, sweet pea and stony minerality from the vineyard’s granitic soils.  Furthermore, it masters the balance of being dry, round bodied and simply pristine.  Pair this one with fish, poultry or any egg-based dish. – JA

 Duval-Leroy Brut, NV – $40 (Champagne, France) Buy Here

Madame Carol Duval-Leroy, chairwoman and matriarch, guides her three sons (the sixth generation her) who stem from a marriage between vignerons Duval and negociants Leroy in 1859. Tangling the salient brightness of Chardonnay and floral sensuousness of Pinot Noir, this wine is full of almonds and bread knots, star fruit and Fuji apples. Finish off your first sip with a warm welcomed bite of fresh-baked pastry with lemon curd or blueberry jam. – JY

 Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve, NV – $45 (Champagne, France)  Buy Here

I always hear fond comments about the Salmon Rosé, but never have I been so surprised as I was to encounter the Brut Reserve. The Reserve opens like nutty toast and a meringue-like mousse, distinctively refined and beautifully expressing its age. The decadence of sun-soaked yellow pears, racy Meyer lemons and a bouquet of acacias and honeysuckle allows for great replay value. This is the type of Champagne you save for your favorite people. Serve it with a roasted butternut squash with tomato, walnut and jasmine rice stuffing. – JY

 Alfred Gratien Brut Classique, NV – $46 (Champagne, France) Buy Here

This is an incredible Champagne with rich apricots, lemon, pear, brioche, and hazelnuts and a long, creamy finish. It’s also the only other barrel-fermented Champagne besides Krug and it’s just $46. You could easily spend hundreds or thousands of dollars trying to mimic this quality, but why would you? Now that you have more money, pair this Alfred Gratien with shucked oysters, aged jamon bellota, or fried egg and caviar on toast to create a mind-blowing pairing. – ML

Founded in 1864, these folks produce exclusively tête de cuvée Champagnes – or “head of cuvée” –meaning they are sourced from their finest Premier Cru and Grand Cru vineyards and only use the first juice off the press.   The Brut Classique is a blend of 46% Chardonnay, 24% Pinot Noir and 30% Pinot Meunier.  It is crisp and aromatic with fruity characters of tart apple, quince, and apricot followed by notes of pink rose, salted biscuit, and minerals.  Start the night off with this or pair it with oysters and any other seafood. – JA

Margain Brut Rosé, NV – $49 (Champagne, France) Buy Here

A blend of 72% Chardonnay and 28% Pinot Noir from the Montagne de Reims region, its beautiful salmon color preludes the multifaceted nature of this brut rosé.  While having gamey qualities and rusticity, it also shows graceful fragrances of ripe strawberry, raspberry and violet.  Its mineral foundation on the palate plays nicely with its fine mousse, brisk acidity, hints of toasted brioche and lime squeeze finish.  This bottle of bubbles can go to use as an aperitif or as a food-friendly pairing with just about everything. – JA  

Domaine Marc Morey Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru “En Virondot”, 2013 – $60 (Burgundy, France) Buy Here

The En Virondot is racy and bold, with a laser-focused acidity that zooms across the palate leaving waves of butter, white flowers, and oily lemon pith in its wake. It’s a beautiful expression of the chalky, Burgundian soil in which its grown. Serve with a pan-seared arctic char finished with grape tomatoes, a splash of the wine, a handful of herbs (thyme and tarragon work beautifully), and a generous knob (or three) of butter. – AM

 Ruinart Brut Rose, NV – $75 (Champagne, France) Buy Here

Whenever I think of Ruinart, I think of the standards that they have set. For one, they were the first Champagne house established way back in 1729. They also host the annual The Ruinart Challenge in partnership with The Court of Master Sommeliers, which helps future sommeliers learn more about the traditions of Champagne, While I am currently studying to one day qualify for that program, for now I’ll settle for ripe cherries, tart strawberries, floral, and a touch of spice with a creamy bubbly finish. – ML

Domaine Christian Moreau Père & Fils Grand Cru “Les Clos – Clos des Hospices”, 2014 – $110 (Chablis, France) Buy Here

From the family’s one-acre monopole at the foot of the illustrious Grand Cru Les Clos vineyard, their ‘Clos des Hospices’ is one of the best examples of top tier Chablis you’ll ever have the pleasure of tasting.  The average vine age is over 30 years old and they are sustainably grown in the Kimmeridgian marl-calcium carbonate soils unique to the region.  This wine exudes sheer depth with its intensity, richness and finesse.  Elements of golden apple, nectarine, white flowers and minerality embrace the palate as acidity keeps its lively with a long bergamot finish.  Enjoy this with seafood, white meats and truffle. – JA

 Joseph Drouhin Gevrey-Chambertin Cazetiers, 2014 – $140 (Burgundy, France) Buy Here

A Pinot Noir with tannins? Yup! What intrigues me about this wine is the anticipation. I know the dryness is coming following the ripe cherry, strawberry, apple, smoke, and baking spice aromas and flavors, but I am never prepared for it. That dryness also alters the food pairings that normally go with Pinot Noir. For example, filet mignon wouldn’t pair with this wine, but New York strips will. – ML

Guigal “La Turque” Côte-Rôtie, 2012 – $300 (Northern Rhone, France) Buy Here

One of the most prestigious wines on the market, it comes from one hectare of vines in the Côte Brune, or “brown slope”, which is noted for its iron-rich schist soils.  A blend of 93% Syrah and 7% Viognier, the average vine age is 25 years and after fermentation the wine spends 42 months in new oak.  One of the most dynamic wines you’ll ever taste, its expressive nature is met with big velvety tannins, vibrant acidity and an undeniable sense of terroir.  Morello cherry, black plum, sage, anise and earthy undertones are among the many flavor characteristics of this wine with lingering traces of dark chocolate on the finish.  Sip this with short ribs, steak, or even French onion soup.  – JA      

Domaine Perrot-Minot Mazoyeres-Chambertin Grand Cru, 2011 – $300 (Burgundy, France) Buy Here

One of my Rock Star wines from this year, and definitely something I’ll remember. 2011 Gevrey-Chambertin Grand Crus are some of the best to come along in a decade, so splurge once in a while. This wine is subtle, seductive and sweet, floral and peppery. No matter how many wines you drink, you’ll remember this one – especially if you accompany it with some traditional Boeuf Bourguignon. – GM

Domaine Bruno Clair Bonnes Mares Grand Cru, 2014 – $344 (Burgundy, France) Buy Here

From one of the most revered grand cru vineyard sites in the Côte de Nuits, this Bonnes Mares will make a Pinot Noir lover out of you and anyone who tastes it.  Bruno Clair is renowned for his rigorous vineyard selection process using minimal treatments and without the use of chemical fertilizers.  His immaculate attention to detail shines through in this magnificent wine. It’s sophisticated, complex and has some muscle to the tannic structure while elements of red berries, rose and cinnamon offer further poise.  Enjoy this with pork roast or grilled salmon with shiitake mushrooms. – JA

Domaine Méo-Camuzet Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru, 2014 – $358 (Burgundy, France) Buy Here

Located in the heart of the highly esteemed Vosne-Romanée, Méo-Camuzet is easily one of Burgundy’s most celebrated domaines.  This rendition of Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru is comprised of Pinot Noir vines that were planted as far back as 1920.  Layers of depth showcase the wine’s precision, powdery tannins and overall charm as it expresses aromas of black raspberry, rose, white mushroom and toasted almonds.  On the palate, refreshing acidity keeps this regal wine going with lingering flavors of pine and redcurrant.  This is a perfect pairing for mushroom dishes. – JA  

Olivier Leflaive Bâtard-Montrachet Grand Cru, 2011 – $365 (Burgundy, France) Buy Here

Produced from vines located within the villages of Puligny and Chassagne, this grand cru wine comes from Olivier Leflaive of the widely respected Leflaive family.  When you take an average vine age of 45 years and combine that with calcareous soils and 12 months aging in oak, you get this grandiose wine that will continue to age marvelously.  Multifaceted with its lush texture and bright acidity, essences of tangerine, kiwi and white pepper unravel on the palate over a distinct mineral base.  Pair this with duck, white meats or any creamed based pasta. – JA

Chateau Angelus St. Emilion, 2006 – $370 (Bordeaux, France) Buy Here

What I don’t like about most Bordeaux wines is that these wines are beautifully elegant but the finish can be too soft or too short for my taste. It’s almost like I am missing something! I prefer a Bordeaux blend that finishes full, dense, elegant, and silky all in one. This is why Chateau Angelus, a Premiere Grand Cru Classe “A” right-bank Merlot and Cabernet Franc dominant blend, is perfect for my palate. This with lamb, rich stews, and game dishes will make me a very happy man. – ML

 Domaine Jamet Côte Rôtie, 1999 – $385 (Northern Rhone, France) Buy Here

As one of Rhone Valley’s most beloved vignerons, the Jamet family is recognized for their emphasis on accentuating terroir and vintage, having some of the most reputable lieux-dits on the hilltops overlooking the village of Ampuis.  This vintage has such an attractive rusticity along with classic grace as both the satiny tannins and acidity are still holding strong.  At this stage, it still displays notes of black cherry, lavender, spearmint and licorice with meaty components – almost bloody – and a long finish of black pepper.  Enjoy this with lamb, venison, or just sit there and relish its beauty by itself. – JA    

  

 

GERMANY

Dr. Loosen Sparkling Riesling, NV – $13.99 (Germany) Buy Here

Champagne is delicious, but bubbly from outside the go-to region for sparkling wine can be interesting, too. Enter this bottle from one of – if not the – premier Riesling producers in Germany. Dr. Loosen is known for acid-driven wine that delivers a sense of place and a luscious, obsession-making mouthfeel, and this delivers on all counts. Crisp yet luscious, fruity yet ringed with a stony undertow that grounds the peach and honey top notes. Drink with everything from New Year’s pork and sauerkraut to summer grilled peach and mascarpone pizzas. – AM

 J.J. Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Kabinett Riesling, 2014 – $34 (Mosel, Germany) Buy Here

Every time I dine in my favorite Thai restaurant in Las Vegas, this is my “go-to” wine to pair with every dish, including dessert. The grapefruit, lime, orange, pear, slate, and petrol aromas and slightly sweet flavors balance the Thai food’s varying spice levels and inherent tanginess to keep you yearning for more. In order to understand the wine pairing, you have to go to Mosel’s Wehlener Sonnenuhr hillsides where J.J. Prum wines are grown. This hill offers intense sunlight and increased levels of slate in the soil to make this Riesling perfect. – ML

 St. Urbans-Hof Zickelgarten Spatlese, 2011 – $61.99 (Mosel, Germany) Buy Here

 I’m a sucker for wines that play with hard and soft and winemaker Nik Weis, who took over his grandfather’s estate in 1997, is a master at that kind of intricate dance of aroma and flavor. Weiss has the responsibility of carrying on family tradition while also honoring his own passion for innovation and a hefty respect for the Mosel terroir. There’s the intoxicating perfume of lilac and elderflower folded into smoke and dusty, a sprinkling of tropical fruit and slate on top. Snag yourself a double order of Thai curry and jasmine rice and lock yourself inside for a day or two. It’ll be worth it. – AM

Weingut Robert Weil Kiedricher Gräfenberg Spätlese, 2015 – $70 (Rheingau, Germany) Buy Here

A historic estate that dates all the way back to 1875, it is still considered one of the region’s youngest by Rheingau standards.  The vineyard’s stony loess and loam soils shine through this ripe and juicy Riesling with pleasant perfumes of orange blossom, papaya and spearmint.  Offering a zesty dryness with just a touch of sweetness, its vibrant acidity balances the baby fat on the palate and shows its flavor intensity by way of mango, lemon drop and a long finish of acacia.  Whether you drink it as an aperitif, pair it with duck confit, or sip it after dinner, you’ll instantly fall in love with this one. – JA

 

PACIFIC NORTHWEST

Tranche Cellars “Slice of Pape” Blanc, 2012 – $33.99 (Columbia Valley, Washington) Buy Here

 Rhone Valley varietals are popping up in some pretty unexpected places these days, including on Tranche Cellars, where winemaking is an exercise in exploration. “Slice of Pape” isn’t about recreating a Rhone white, so don’t expect a duplicate. Instead, let the whiffs of gardenia and honeysuckle wash over you and revel in the zippy kiwi and softly sweet flavor of white peach. The long, minerally finish cries out for briny seafood – try oysters tossed on the grill and topped with a mango salsa. – AM

 Domaine Drouhin Oregon Pinot Noir 2014 – $45 (Willamette Valley, Oregon) Buy Here

Drouhin has done it with this one. Finally, an Oregon Pinot Noir that blends the intrigue and character of Oregon with the depth, earthiness, and rusticness of Burgundy. Fitting, as they call both places home. That makes this, quite possibly, the best Pinot Noir of the year. – GM

 Canvasback Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, 2013 – $50 (Columbia Valley, Washington) Buy Here

Anybody who thinks world-class Cabernet has to come from France or Napa has got some drinking to do. Washington is killing it lately, which is probably why Napa Valley Cabernet legend, Duckhorn, set up shop there. Red Mountain is home to great Cabernet grapes, making this wine complex, balanced, and drinkable now, and probably incredible in a couple years. – GM

 L’Ecole No. 41 Seven Hills Vineyard “Perigree”, 2013 – $54.99 (Walla Walla/Columbia Valley, Washington) Buy Here

The family-run L’Ecole may only date back to 1983 (practically an eon in Washington wine years) but their winemaking team has the same philosophy as the French in terms of the importance of tradition and terroir. This Bordeaux blend is still young but you can drink it now – the rough-hewn tannins already play nicely with notes of dark chocolate, anise, and juicy black fruit, and there’s an intriguing salinity there, too. It’ll only get better with time and decanting. Drink with oven-roasted mushrooms tossed with fresh herbs and sun-dried tomatoes and piled on a load of buttery, crusty bread. – AM

Domaine Serene Chardonnay Dundee Hills Evenstad Reserve, 2014 – $55 (Willamette Valley, Oregon) Buy Here

This is the wine that sets, and often exceeds, the standard for Oregon Chardonnay, and lets the world know that excellent White Burgundy doesn’t have to come from France. This is definitely a full-bodied Chardonnay, rich and buttery, and went so perfectly with our Butternut and Roasted Apple soup. – GM

Domaine Drouhin Laurene Pinot Noir Dundee Hills, 2012 – $63 (Willamette Valley, Oregon) Buy Here

“Laurene” is named after Veronique Drouhin’s daughter and is considered Domaine Drouhin’s flagship wine. After each Pinot Noir grape is handpicked, fermented, and then aged in old French oak, individual barrels will be set aside, deemed best of the vintage, and labeled “Laurene”. When I taste the red and black fruit, touch of oak, smoke, and subtle spice in the wine, all I want is to pair this with a tub of brie cheese and crackers while thanking Laurene for being such an inspiration. – ML

Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon, 2006 – $229 (Columbia Valley, Washington) Buy Here

 You can have your California cult wines. I’ll always reach for the undeniably sexy Quilceda Creek Cab as one of my favorite budget-busting wines. The expense is justified the second you sip and discover one of the best balanced wines you’ve ever tasted. It’s a Pandora’s Box of beauty, with black cherries and currants, five spice, Sambuca, sandalwood, and the warm, teasing scent of a tobacco-infused cigar box. Pour some alongside spice lamb or shanks braised with red wine and prunes. – AM

 

CALIFORNIA

Pine Ridge “Chenin Blanc-Viognier”, 2015 – $13 (California) Buy Here

Winemaker Gary Andrus devised this wine by balancing early harvest citrus with soft floral sugars, uncharacteristic of his typical Bordelais style. Supple honey coats the canvas while white flowers, ripe starfruit and tanned peaches splash around like a Pollock painting. The gentle viscosity will surely match any baked cod or boiled buttery lobster for your perfect Cape Cod style brunch. – JY

Byron Chardonnay, 2013 – $15 (Santa Barbara, California) Buy Here

There are a couple of “firsts” when it comes to this tropical fruit, coconut, baking spice, and apple aromas and flavor with a round yet soft finish. 1. Byron’s Nielson Vineyard is the first commercial vineyard in Santa Barbara over 80 years ago. 2. This is the first white wine that I liked (way back in the day), so drinking it always makes me nostalgic. It’s beautiful with an Oscar-style filet mignon Filet Mignon (crab, hollandaise, and asparagus on top of the steak). – ML

Silver Palm “Pinot Noir”, 2014 – $16 (Monterey & Santa Maria Valley, California) Buy Here

Through innovation due to the Californian drought, these Central Coast Pinots are gaining more rustic character from the paltry rain and moderate temperatures. Lavishly dark fruit curls the tongue alongside cranberries and cherries, raspberries and baking spices. Cater your next meal with this delight: dry rubbed pork brisket and coleslaw sandwiches or a tuna tartare with aioli and avocados. – JY

Four Vines Biker Paso Robles Zinfandel, 2012 – $18 (Paso Robles, California) Buy Here

This has always been a bit of a cult-wine, and for good reason. Four Vines has a few really good Zinfandels, but this one is the best for the year. It’s big and bold, the way Central Coast California Zin should be. Powerful fruit and spice are all over it, but it is amazingly drinkable, and perfect with fresh pasta. – GM

Klinker Brick “Old Vine Zinfandel”, 2013 – $19 ((Lodi, California) Buy Here or Buy Here

Designed by Craftsmen architects in the 1920’s, “Klinker Bricks” are a Lodi phenomenon named for the particular sound when they strike each other. First encountered at a fetching little bistro in Boulder City, Nevada, this wine was a powerhouse of flavors that was an ideal winter warmer: bramble berries and sun baked plums rush the palate with heat and zeal before saturated fruit quench your thirst as the earth and dust settle on the finish. Take the biggest beef patty, add pungent bleu cheese and sweet grilled onions, and ride off into the sunset happily. – JY

Groundwork Syrah, 2014 – $20 (Santa Barbara, California) Buy Here

We’re in the beginning stages of a total Rhone revolution in California. The Syrah and Grenache vines that were planted in the Central Coast and north over the last 20 years or so are starting to produce some seriously good wines – by some seriously good winemakers. This limited production wine is an exploration of the senses, with everything from raspberry and strawberry, to mocha, tobacco, and cola. Every glass is a bit different as it opens up and your tastes develop. Pour a witness wine and find out. – GM

Eberle Winery “Full Boar Red” – $22 (Paso Robles, California) Buy Here

Eberle, meaning “small boar”, is not only the winery’s emblem but the epitome of the spirit of Paso Robles. This amazing winery is a Beach Boys-esque, dog friendly, cultural icon that not only is sanctuary for adventurous wine lovers but also for consumers of luscious red blends. Like the finest rubies in a crown, this wine glimmers in concentration, percolating with cranberries, apples, and cherries; wafting of moist forest floor and grilled meat. Bundling of juicy plums, blueberries, cherries and boysenberries, pair this with Gary Eberle’s famous tri-tip sandwiches, a cape cod sun chair, bright sunshine with a live band. – JY

Lieu Dit Winery Chenin Blanc, 2014 – $27 (Santa Ynez Valley, CA) Buy Here

A wine partnership of longtime friends Eric Railsback and Justin Willett, the Lieu Dit Chenin Blanc is nothing short of delightful.  Tank fermented and aged in neutral oak, the vineyard’s sandy soils show through in the wine’s round structure.  This wine is fruity, savory, and refreshing while expressing hints of Asian pear, almond, celery salt and an underlying hint of umami.  It’s no surprise that Chenin Blanc is a favorite around the world and this California take on it performs beautifully on its own or with dishes like persimmon salad. – JA

Sans Liege “Long Way Home” Syrah, 2013 – $29 (Santa Barbara County, CA) Buy Here

Part of their Journeyman Edition, this opulent Syrah is sourced from some of Santa Barbara County’s premium sites – including Bien Nacido, Larner, White Hawk and Watch Hill Vineyards.   This wine is far from shy with its intense aromas of blackberry, black fig, lavender, clove, fennel and chocolatey undertones.  The fruit is a bit more subtle on the palate with notes of tobacco leaf and black pepper taking the stage alongside supple tannins and a long smoky finish.  It is full of personality and would pair well with any savory dish you’re enjoying this winter season. – JA

Seghesio Cortina Zinfandel, 2013 – $30 (Sonoma, California) Buy Here

Seghesio is a staple on many of these lists, simply because they simply make exquisite California Zinfandel. The 2013 Cortina is no different, except maybe better. This wine comes from grapes that struggle, is full-bodied and smoky, fruity and spicy. If there is a perfect Zinfandel, this might just be it, and at a price that merits purchase by the case. – GM

J Lohr “Gesture Mourvedre”, 2014 – $30 (Paso Robles, California) Buy Here

Greeted by the seven oak trees in the vista as you roll up to this quaint tasting room, you feel the same sense of ease and relaxation Jerry Lohr found when he came to Paso Robles. With its incredible use of sustainability and solar power, J Lohr maintains incredible tenacity for each wine. Their Gesture Mourvedre exudes mild meat and leather, chunky berry juice with hot plums, cassis and blueberries, lingering tannins and chalk. Accompany this adventure with rosemary roasted chicken or your friend’s neighborhood barbeque. – JY

Tablas Creek “Cotes de Tablas”, 2012 – $35 (Paso Robles, California) Buy Here

Tablas Creek is located far in the picturesque, winding woods of west Paso, where it’s watched over by the commanding presence of their tasting room pooch. With its robust aromatics, concentrated violet purple hue, brisk pepper notes, and rich Counoise driven spiced juiciness this wine demands similar attention. Pair this wine with a juicy roast and a sidekick of braised potatoes with rosemary and turmeric. – JY

Ramey Chardonnay, 2013 – $35 (Sonoma Coast, California) Buy Here

I love and hate this wine at the same time. It’s a Chardonnay that I always fail in a blind tasting. Sure, this wine offers ripe pear, lime, green apple, minerals, and baking spice while finishing medium to full-bodied – everything you expect from a California Chard, really. But thanks to David Ramey’s tendency to create a balance of terroir and ripest fruit possible, I tend to get lost in the incredible flavors and trip up on the country of origin every time. – ML

Lone Madrone “Points West Red”, 2012 – $35 (Paso Robles, California) Buy Here

Regional pioneer Neil Collins (winemaker for Tablas Creek) and sister Jackie Meisinger nestled their down-to-earth winery in the deep west of Paso’s enchanted forest. Truly the earthiest intensity of fruit one can experience from Paso Robles, this wine is teaming with bramble fruit and sweet tree bark, leather and confectioners’ sugar, raspberries, cassis and blackberries, all topped with a chalky calcareous finish. During a holiday party, this star paired amazingly with the rustic meatballs in marinara, prosciutto, and dill havarti. – JY

Oak Mountain Winery “Oak Mountain” Pinotage, 2013 – $45 (Paso Robles, California) Buy Here

Located on the edge of the Temecula Hills with a brand new cellar room buried in the hillside, this quaint village-like winery has helped some wonderful varietals flourish in Temeculan landscape. Out of Pinotage, Mourvedre, sparkling Sauvignon Blanc and Cinsault, their most captivating wine for me was their Pinotage. Earthy moist topsoil lathered in funky macerated cherries and tart cranberries makes this probably the most intriguing Pinot product I’ve had from California. Pair this with a rhubarb, pecan or cherry pie and good friends. – JY

Robert Craig Cellars “Affinity” Cabernet Sauvignon, 2012 – $60 (Napa Valley, California) Buy Here

This is the best wine that owner Bob Craig has to offer. The La Londe “Affinity” vineyard is just south of Stag’s Leap District in Napa Valley, which has given the deep concentration (thanks to 30-year-old vines) to Cabernet Sauvignon and other Bordeaux varietals since 1993. The winery’s philosophy is to produce less to create better quality. After tasting the blueberry, blackberry, cherry, mint, mocha, and a touch of minerality in the Affinity, I totally understand Bob Craig’s vision. – ML

Leoness Cellars “VS Merlot”, 2011 – $60 (Temecula, California) Buy Here

Farmers first, Gary Winder and Mike Rennie honed in their 80 collective years of citrus and avocado agriculture to help create Leoness, “village of dreams”. This earthy animal is a well-crafted composition of deep herbal star anise, voluptuous raspberries and plums, tangy cranberries and sweet charred oak. Indicative of a cozy day spent in the woods, this merlot finishes with cigar smoke and sweet tannic tree bark – charismatic enough to pair with smoked salmon and braised brussel sprouts in almond cream. – JY

Kosta Browne Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, 2014 – $125 (Sonoma Coast, California) Buy Here

Dan Kosta and Michael Browne first teamed up in 1997 while working in a restaurant in Santa Rosa, California. Dan was the general manager while Michael ran the wine program as the sommelier. They shared a vision to create a Pinot Noir that no one had ever seen or tasted before. With only $1400 combined, they bought their first half-ton of grapes and the rest became history. With bold cherry, raspberry, barnyard, and spiced aromas and a juicy, soft, and smooth finish, this Pinot Noir is not only one of the best in the world, it’s also one of the best “rags-to-riches” story in wine. – ML

Lakoya Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, 2013 – $380 (Napa Valley, California) Buy Here

Howell Mountain remains to me the class-act AVA of Napa Valley. I enjoy the deep, bold, cooked dark fruit that Cabernet Sauvignons from the area offer and the round, dry finish makes me salivate for ages after each sip. The winery that best express this style is Lakoya. This incredible wine pairs best with bone-in ribeyes as well as cheese-based pasta dishes. – ML

 

NORTH AMERICA – OTHER

Hermann J. Wiemer Dry Riesling, 2014 – $21.99 (Seneca Lake/Finger Lakes, New York) Buy Here

Hermann Wiemer was born in the Mosel Valley, where his family has been making wine for more than three centuries. He came to the United States in 1968 and brought both Old World winemaking techniques and vinifera vines with him. This, his signature Riesling, is a revelation. No flabby New World wine here – only crisp acidity, bright citrus, a touch of amber honey, and a truckload of Mosel-esque minerality. This should be your entry point to the Finger Lakes – you’ll like what you find. – AM

Forge Cellars “Les Alliers” Riesling, 2013 – $25.99 (Finger Lakes, New York) Buy Here

The trio behind Forge Cellars takes the winery’s “artisanal” label seriously. The vineyards are carefully chosen, the grapes harvested, sorted, and pressed by hand. Fermentation is done in tiny batches so the character of a particular lot of vintage is never lost. As for the wine itself, its fantastically quirky. There’s spicy ginger and nutty almonds, stone fruit and clove, acacia and a cool saline-edged minerality that speaks to the Finger Lakes terroir. Try it with a fennel-rubbed pork tenderloin and rustic homemade applesauce with cinnamon. – AM

The Grapes of Roth Merlot, 2012 – $44 (Long Island, New York) Buy Here

Roman Roth’s goal was to create wine with impeccable character. He sought guidance and built relationships with other winemakers in the Long Island area and learned how to picked grapes at their ripest point for wines that feel robust yet elegant at the same time. Roman wanted the best wine possible and he achieved it. When I tasted this wine back in May at a wine tasting event, the rich cherry, blueberry, vanilla, mocha, and cassis flavor with a velvety yet dry finish made it clear (even then) that this would be one of the best of 2016. – ML

Gruet Grand Rosé, 2010 – $49.99 (New Mexico) Buy Here

Yeah, I know – New Mexico, right? But this wine is far from a novelty addition to the Top 100. Gruet is the namesake winery of a French-born innovator who believed he could make something special on the land 170 miles south of Albuquerque. He was right. This rosé is mostly Chardonnay, with the round, supple, marzipan notes to prove it, but the 10% Pinot Noir is surprisingly prominent with lots of cherry and much-needed structure. This is a wine for celebrating, in more ways than one. – AM

 

AUSTRALIA/NEW ZEALAND

Pewsey Vale Eden Valley Riesling, 2015 – $15 (Barossa, Australia) Buy Here

Australia is making some really good Rieslings – and other wines too – and at really good prices. This one is a lemon-lime explosion, showing a lot of citrus, limestone, and herb. It’s more acidic and refreshing than many other inexpensive Rieslings and could easily be stored a few years to develop, but was perfect with a roasted corn and chipotle chowder (sorry – ChowDah). – GM

The Chook Sparkling Shiraz, NV – $19 (South Australia, Australia) Buy Here

If you’ve never tasted a sparking Shiraz, don’t be alarmed by how “Shiraz” it really is.  This non-vintage wine is sourced from vineyards in McLaren Vale and Langhorne Creek and after fermentation it is aged in old French oak barrels for up to five years before undergoing its second fermentation in bottle.  The resulting wine has a striking magenta color and lovely perfumes of black cherry, loganberry, violet and coriander.  The palate is balanced with juicy acidity, silky tannins, creamy froth and notes of almond and clove on the finish.  Having both the girth of a red wine and crisp bubbly structure, this wine is easily paired with most savory dishes. – JA

Seresin Sauvignon Blanc, 2014 – $21.99 (Marlborough, New Zealand) Buy Here

Michael Seresin is a noted cinematographer who used the proceeds from movies like Angeles Ashes and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban to buy up land in Marlborough in 1992. The winery is organic and biodynamic which is in line with Seresin’s devotion to natural, fuss-free winemaking. The wine is sophisticated and well-structured (that’s partly thanks to the splash of Semillon in the mix), with dried flowers, bright citrus, and a fine dusting of chalk. Halve a bunch of crab legs, throw them on the grill, brush them with tarragon/lemon butter, and smile. – AM

Jim Barry McRae Wood Shiraz, 2013 – $40 (Clare Valley, Australia) Buy Here

I like just about everything Jim Barry does, so consider this my futures bet. It’s got a ton of dark fruit and heavy tannic quality to it. This is already great Clare Valley Shiraz, but will be incredible in about 5 years. They say beef and lamb are the best with these wines, but pair it with a BBQ potato, roasted corn, red onion and cilantro pizza with cheddar and gouda and I’m in heaven. – GM

Giesen “Clayvin” Single Vineyard Pinot Noir, 2012 – $69.99 (Marlborough, New Zealand) Buy Here

New Zealand is full of microterroirs, which is why single vineyard wines are so important. This offering from Giesin must use grapes from a pretty stellar piece of land, because the bottle is bursting with succulent cherries and juicy, sun-soaked strawberries with lashings of oak and orange peel bringing up the rear. It’s what Pinot tastes like when someone’s smart enough to plant it in a special place and then let it do its thing. Drink it with fresh pappardelle tossed with wild mushrooms, baby arugula, and burrata cheese. – AM

Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay, 2013 – $74.99 (Margaret River, Australia) Buy Here

Few wines are as consistent in quality year-to-year as Leeuwin Chardonnay. It’s hard not to be impressed by the vibrant, zesty splash of lemon merengue pie and Bartlett pear, but it’s the warmth of toasted spices, sultry cedar, and fatty hazelnuts that arouses curiosity and sears this wine into memory. I served mine alongside chicken piccata with an extra sprinkling of capers and finely chopped parsley. – AM


SOUTH AFRICA

Neethlingshof Pinotage, 2015 – $15 (Stellenbosch, South Africa) Buy Here or http://shop.wine.co.za/wine?WINEID=37521

The brainchild of Abraham Izak Perold in 1925, Pinotage is a funky cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault. Derived from one of the oldest wineries in Stellenbosch and reacquired in 1788, this charismatic wine is like a fox in a hole – gracefully musty and ready to surprise with indulgently rich plums, mulchy bananas, and dashes of smoky cinnamon and clove. Grace your next batch of pork chops or baked ham with this festive winter pairing. – JY

Raats Cabernet Franc, 2013 – $39.99 (Stellenbosch, South Africa) Buy Here

The Raats brothers only produce Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc, a narrow focus that has led to some stellar wines and earned them a hefty and loyal following in the process. There is all the dark cherry, red berries, and dried herbs you’d expect from a good Cab Franc, plus subtle notes of black peppers and tobacco that reveal themselves more and more as the wine opens in the glass. Pair it with lamb meatballs topped with crumbled feta and green olives. The second bottle will be fine all on its own. – AM

 

EUROPE – OTHER

Sigalas “Aa” Assyrtiko-Athiri, 2015 – $18.99 (Santorini, Greece) Buy Here

Some wines are just made for summer. This is one of them. Bright, buoyant, the same shade of pale yellow as the sun that streams through your kitchen curtains in the morning, the wine is smile-inducing and it responds to warmth, but the slowly spreading fingers of acidity keep it from getting too fat and flabby. It’d be delicious with a calamari salad or just a good book and a hammock. – AM

Loimer Kamptal Gruner Veltliner, 2014 – $19.99 (Kamptal, Austria) Buy Here

Fred Loimer seems like the kind of guy you’d want to hang out with. His wine is just approachable and has just has much personality. Tart apple, peppery spice, and so much acidity the first sip is like snapping your tongue with a rubber band. I love it. Gruner is a versatile wine but I keep finding myself using it to wash down sandwiches – a tabbouleh and chickpea wrap with mint and parsley one time and a grilled vegetable and ciabatta stack the next. – AM

 

Authors:

AM – Alana Mussleman

ML – Mario Luna

JA – Julie Albin

JY – Jon Yu

GM – Greg Masinton

 

 Think we missed one? Tell us in the comments!