Everyone feels a bit overwhelmed during the holiday season. There are parties to attend, families to visit, kids to shop for and presents to secretly wrap. By the time January rolls around, I know I am exhausted! I get that itch, a craving for something special. Some people call it self-care, but I see it as much-needed indulgence, and in my world, that means only one thing- a gorgeous bottle of wine. By the first week of January, I refuse, and I mean refuse to drink anything other than a wine that is varietally specific, showing beautifully, and a stellar example of the inventory I have collected here at SOMM Wines. These are my Top 5 wines for January 2023.
1. Philippe Fontaine, "Tradition," Brut NV
Champagne, France- $49.99
This Champagne is one of my hidden gems at SOMM Wines. Having only recently acquired this selection, many guests have not yet had a chance to pop a bottle and experience its delicious juice. Also, it is a Blanc de Noir that does not list that specific information on the front label! Comprised of 70 percent Pinot Noir and 30 percent Pinot Meunier, only red grapes are used to produce this very unique Champagne that brilliantly displays the classic characteristics of a Blanc de Noir- intense blue fruits and depth only the red varietals can portray. It is a juicy, instant pleasure, but surprisingly opens up even more in the glass. Substitute that flute for a Burgundy bowl. You are going to want to play with this for a minute in your glass.
2. Jean et Sebastien Dauvissat, "Vaillons,"
Chablis Premier Cru, Burgundy, France 2019- $59.99
Because it is produced in so many different ways, Chardonnay can be a very polarizing varietal. Clonal selection, malolactic fermentation, and oak regiment are just a few ways winemakers dictate their own style of the grape. So how will you know if you will enjoy a particular Chardonnay? I'll let you in on a little secret. The French, and their very specific AOC laws, offer a bit of a cheat sheet for Chardonnay.
Burgundy, France is home to some of the most delicious, opulent expressions of Chardonnay; however, in Chablis, the name of the game is restraint. As the coolest and most Northern tip of Burgundy, the grape does not require, nor want, much manipulation. The use of oak for aging is reserved for Grand Cru wines mostly, and the preference for stainless-steel during production allows the varietal to sing!
This bottling from Dauvissat, now in their fourth generation of winemaking, cuts with racing salinity. One would think the ocean was nearby! Its Bosch pear and red delicious apple tones beg for shrimp scampi or escargot. It is undeniably French and without a doubt Chablis- no fuss, no window-dressing.
3. Domaine Drouhin Oregon, Roserock Pinot Noir,
Eola-Amity Hills, Oregon 2021- $47.99
With over a century of winemaking experience in France, the Drouhin family decided to head West and join the Oregon experiment in the 1980's. Only a handful of producers were planting Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in the hopes that the similarity to Burgundy, in soil and weather conditions, would prove Willamette Valley a sustainable winegrowing area. Founding fathers, like David Adelsheim and David Lett, had created such a strong communal bond amongst growers and happily welcomed the Drouhin family. If they believed in Oregon soil, they must be on to something!
Potential grew into prosperity, and now innovation paves the way for second generation Oregon winemakers. Veronique Drouhin, known as the "protector of the palate," combines an Old World focus on terroir with a New World fruit-forward intensity.
This Pinot Noir is luscious. Silky in texture, floral, and focused, it begs for another sip. I love the balance between the more feminine characteristics, the perfumed nose and purple flavors in the glass, against the masculine structure of dark soil, fine tannins and a long finish. It may be surprising in its complexity, but it is unmistakably Drouhin.
4. Fulldraw Vineyard, "Hard Point," Grenache
Paso Robles, California 2017 - $85.99
Fairfield native Connor McMahon delivers an arrow straight through my heart with his 100% Grenache bottling. Laser focused, this wine drinks like a racecar making a tight curve- turning just fast enough to stay ahead but dangerously close to the edge. It is compact, full of dark red fruits, deep and mysterious, but the bright acidity he has captured allows time to reveal the layers slowly. It is a pure joy to open every few months to discover how similar or different the experience can be. Drink now AND hold for later. This bottle, like Connor's future in wine, has many years to go.
5. Lionel Faury, Saint Joseph,
Rhone Valley, France 2020- $47.99
This wine, from father and son team Philippe and Lionel Faury, delivers exactly what I need during the month of January. It is more than varietally correct, it is a declaration of what a truly beautiful Syrah can be. It's demonstrative, with a sense of place and history oozing from the glass. The nose shows slightly smoky, with a hint of olive and pitted fruit. The palate bursts with dark bramble fruit, black pepper spice, and a structure that only begins to come around by hour three in the decanter. This wine is not for the impatient. This wine wants to be discovered, uncovered like a great buried treasure.
Thank you for reading my latest installment of TOP 5 Wines.
Click on the blog above to read past months. Enjoy!