Wide selection of good holiday party wines

December 9, 2013

Well, the menorah is polished and put back in place. The kids are still spinning their dreidels, and the last of the gelt is melting on sticky fingers. I was quite surprised at the paucity of TV and print media ads for this Chanukah. Other than the grocers and mail-outs, there was a decided lack of Hanukah ads this year. Can anyone tell me the reason both those spellings pass spell check?

Willm Pinot Gris Reserve 2008 is findable. A case should run you about $106. Opens pale yellow with a faintly floral bouquet. On the palate buttery, acid-clean taste, crisp finish backed with tasty tannins through a medium-long finish. Goes well with cheese and hors d'oeuvres, very good QPR ($10-11/ bottle).

Should you wish to go upscale, Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Calcaire 2011 is a real gem that was just released in early November. Opens pale golden with a bouquet of peach, honeycomb and floral notes. Flavors follow nose with peaches and honey riding a very juicy, acid-bright, mineral frame. Long, elegant, clean finish, with just a touch of chalk, 91 points. Buy at less than $383/case or $34/bottle.

Unti Vineyard Dry Rosé 2012 is an ideal wine for those who enjoy Bandol-type rosé at a fraction of the price. Unti is a lovely blend of 83 percent Grenache and the balance Mourvedre. Opens salmon pink color with raspberry, citrus peel, verbena and spice aromas. On the palate medium body, slightly tart with raspberry, peaches, spice, some pepper, mineral and dust flavors Long, lean and fruit finish, 91 points. Buy under $22. If you wish to try a well-made Bandol for comparison, expect to pay $40 or more. I recommend Domaine Tempier Bandol Provence 2009. Tanzer gave it 92, and you know how stingy he is. WS and Cellartracker gave it a 91.

Bodegas Olarra Rioja Cerro Anon Reserva 2008 is a multiple-gold-winning Tempranillo blend you can buy for less than $220/case. This will take your wine guy some work, but it is worth a premium to get this beautifully made wine, 93 points. If you can’t locate 2008, the 2006 is 91 points and readily available priced under $15. Deep ruby-colored, pervasive cherry-vanilla, mocha and floral aromas with a vague smoky tone. On the palate ripe and full, with sweet red fruit, all undergirded with rich vanilla. Juicy, smooth, fruit-sweet finish.

Big-buck buyers and folks who want something for a very special occasion: Many of the top dogs in Champagne are saying “vintage year” in 2013. Most consistent readers of my column, those who still have some short- and long-term memory, will remember that the best Champagne makers and the Port makers in Portugal declare a vintage year rather than annually, and it is done Domaine and Quinta specific. They only produce their best cuvees when terroir permits.

Chef de Cave at Roederer is comparing 2013 to 1982 and ‘88. Demarville at Cliquot is even further out on a limb, saying ‘95 and ‘96 two most outstanding recent vintages. Taittinger is saying ‘96. BTW, I did not meet these guys, just quoting what others have written. Please keep in mind, when these are declared and if they are indeed as good as many are claiming, the prices will go through the roof. This will be the time to buy into Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blanc, the 2000, ‘02 and ‘04. The 2002 came on line at $200/bottle and rocketed to $373 when it won a bunch of gold medals and Parker laid on a 98. The price deteriorated under $100, 2011-12 and is now at $300 again.

The large drop was caused by the release of the ‘04, ‘05 and ’06. Generally speaking, the best cuvee cellar five or more years before release. I’m comparing the 2002 to the 1996,which came on line at $128 in 2007 and has risen in price to slightly over $250 today.

Folks who share my plebian taste buds would be much better served by laying in some Veuve Cliquot Ponsardin Yellow Label Brut NV. I buy a case about once per year, when I find it on sale, priced under $380. This is not price-driven for me, folks. I prefer it. My domestic favorite is Roederer Estate Anderson Valley Brut, usually under $240/case.