One of the things I love about wine is my palate is ever changing. As I discover new varietals, producers and regions, I continue to sharpen my pencil and keep score of homeruns and strikeouts. A Chardonnay I once adored may now fall flat, while a new Chenin Blanc overly impresses. Each bottle of wine is a living, breathing entity- everchanging, but the one constant I do look forward to is my need for fuller-bodied, more complicated wines this time of year. I've enjoyed my high acid, linear, focused white wines of summer. Winter calls for more depth, intrigue, and complexity. Think of watching a Lifetime Movie while wrapped in layers on the couch! Here's "it's complicated"... in a good way.
1. Pol Roger, "Reserve," Brut
Champagne, France NV- $75.99
Say what you may about white wines are for summer, and red wines are for winter. Champagne is for every day! Ask Winston Churchill! Well, you can't. He's dead, but it is reported that he consumed over 40,000 bottles of this exact Champagne in his lifetime. Funny thing is, he didn't begin buying Pol Roger until his fifties. Over his lifespan that tallies his daily intake to roughly 3 bottles a day! He became so close with the vintner's family that they attended his funeral and named their tete du cuvee after him.
This reserve bottling from Pol Roger is a perfect patchwork- equal parts of the three varietals allowed in Champagne- Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay. After bottling, it is aged for four years in their cellar, 100 feet below ground to ensure cool temperatures, before release. The nose is complex and aromatic. The palate expresses notes of pear, quince and honeysuckle, while the finish is surprisingly lifting with components of orange peel and tangerine- truly, a Champagne everyone would love.
2. Selbach Oster, "Zeltinger Sonnenuhr," Riesling Kabinett
Mosel, Germany 2019- $39.99
Speaking of easy to love, this German Riesling may become your new best friend. The Mosel region in Germany is home to perhaps the finest soil and climate conditions to produce world class Riesling. Selbach Oster has farmed this land for over 400 years fine tuning their methods. This 2019 Kabinett is a standout in both quality and vintage- some producers called it the vintage of their lifetime! It offers both of the necessities of a superb Riesling- It has bright, intense tropical fruit on the forward and a racy, almost chewy acidity on the finish. Not only is this bottle drinking great now, but it will also age beautifully for decades. The layers in this wine extend to not only immediate satisfaction but also reward those who are patient.
3. Masi, "Costasera," Amarone della Valpolicella Classico,
Veneto, Italy 2017- $65.99
Layers in wine can be a result of terroir, varietal, or a specific winemaking technique. The wine style "Amarone" is an example of all three and dates back to the ancient Romans. Founded in 1772, the Masi vineyard, still owned today by the Boscaini family in their seventh generation, has been the benchmark in the Valpolicella Classico region. The "Amarone" technique combines three varietals- Corvina, Rondinella, and Molinara- and requires the grapes to dehydrate over the winter months. This intensifies the remaining sugars in each grape, leading to a concentrated juice. Once pressed and fermented dry, this red wine is spectacular in its depth of flavors- plum, fig, tobacco, and cherry balsamic. It is both condense and bright with balancing acidity and a long finish. As it ages in bottle, it reveals even more characteristics of the soil from which it came. This is why it was named Wine Enthusiasts #48 Best Wine to Cellar 2022 at 95 pts. It is simply unique in the wine world.
4. Merry Edwards, "Russian River Valley," Pinot Noir
Sonoma County, California 2019- $68.99
I had the distinct pleasure to meet Merry Edwards 15 years ago while attending Pinot Forum in California. She was everything I wanted her to be- gracious, brilliant, funny, and a great dancer! She has been a trailblazer for women in the wine business since the 1970's and I cannot think of a better role model for anyone coming up in the business, male or female. She cut her teeth working as winemaker at wineries like Mount Eden and Matanzas Creek. She was a pioneer in the wine world, preaching the importance of clonal selection and site specification, even discovering her own clone of Pinot Noir- the UCD Clone 37 known as the Merry Edwards Selection.
After purchasing and planting the Meredith Estate in 1998, there was no looking back. Once winemaker and consultant, now owner, vintner, creator, boss! I like to think of her path as not only courageous but layers of perseverance... and it shows in her wines. Grip, depth, power are a few words to describe this Pinot Noir. Dark blue fruits mix with wild forest floor and a caress of oak. It is a trailblazer, just like Merry.
5. Spottswoode, "Estate," Cabernet Sauvignon
St. Helena/Napa Valley 2019- $249.99
The Spottswoode story is also very reliant upon the strength of women. The property was purchased in 1972 by Dr. Jack and Mary Novak. They were looking for an acreage to raise their five kids, quiet from the city life. After Jack's sudden death a few years later, Mary was awestruck to decide the property's future. With the help of neighboring wineries, she decided to dig in her heels and continue her journey into the wine business. She continued farming and sold fruit to wineries such as Duckhorn and Shafer before making her first vintage in 1982. Acclaim quickly followed with Spottswoode Cabernet Sauvignon's three consecutive Wine Spectator's Top 100 Wines List appearances in the mid 1980's.
What is extraordinary about her story was her attention to details most would convert to years later. She farmed organically since 1985, becoming certified organic in 1992. Next came biodynamics, and the introduction of the next generation. Daughter Beth, now at the helm as President and protector of Mary's principles, Spottswoode drinks like her mother predicted. Rich, dark, worthy of "First-Growth" accolades. Cellar for years, this wine will continue to speak... all things empowering and iconic.
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