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2008 Holiday Host Guide: 101 Fabulous Fermentations

Brett Anderson

If they are  neither conspicuously present nor particularly admired the rest of the year, Wise Men always enjoy a brief but enlightening vogue during the holiday season—reminders of the spirit of generosity that pervades these last two months of the year, and of our obligations to our fellow man. The wise host and hostess, of course, approach these responsibilities with all due seriousness, devoting themselves to the requisite procurement and distribution of gifts, attending the social functions of friends and relations, and (most onerous of all) reciprocating these hospitalities by offering invitations of their own. In an effort to ease the burden of their duties, we offer this selection of appropriate holiday wines for entertaining and gift giving. These brilliant bottles are guaranteed to please the crankiest connoisseur and supply some welcome liquid cheer to beleaguered hosts. As the English poet Alexander Pope observed in his translation of Homer’s Odyssey, "Wine can of their wits the wise beguile, / Make the sage frolic, and the serious smile."

TABLE VINES
Each holiday season, the harried host must contend with, well, a host of devilish details. These unenviable responsibilities encompass hiring caterers and musicians, selecting table settings, and—worst of all—working through the delicate calculus of seating arrangements. Pairing guests is painful enough without having to worry about which wine to pair with the beef Wellington. Although serving any of these food-friendly red wines will not ensure that your guests will get along with their tablemates, each wine will mate delectably with whatever entrée graces the menu.

Archery Summit Pinot Noir Dundee Hills Arcus Estate 2005
This particular Pinot Noir, from one of Oregon’s premier producers, has always come across as something of a Cabernet Franc manqué, given its dense texture, velvety black plum fruit, and strongly marked wood spice. ($80)

Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
This classically styled California Cabernet Sauvignon hails from the oldest continuously operating winery in the heart of Napa Valley. Concentrated flavors of ripe berry and black currant fuse with the wild, fragrant scent of chaparral to produce the perfect steak-house red. ($119)

Cardinale Napa Valley Red Wine 2005
An uncommonly pure, elegant vintage of this Bordeaux-style blend of fruit from mountain vineyards in Napa Valley, the 2005 is deeply saturated, thanks in large part to a late harvest. Flavors of black cherry, black currant, black licorice, and dark chocolate lie atop a soft, dense, velvety texture. ($200)

Chateau Reynella Cellar No. One Reserve Shiraz 2004
The inaugural vintage of this Australian red balances complexity and strength. Its sultry nose of coffee, smoked mesquite, cocoa, and tea rose prepares the senses for lush boysenberry fruit. ($65)

E&E Black Pepper Shiraz Barossa Valley 2003
This blockbuster Australian is so ripe and juicy that it almost seems freshly picked. Black cherry and dark plum burst forth on the palate, while savory and sweet essences of Asian spice, anise, and the wine’s signature black pepper serve to integrate the complex components of this massive Shiraz. ($85)

Flora Springs Rennie Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
This single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon from one of Napa Valley’s classic producers possesses a nearly bottomless depth of black cherry that draws one in. Silky and stylish, the wine also reveals essences of milk chocolate and violet and hints of sandalwood as it evolves in the glass. ($85)

Joseph Phelps Insignia 2004
Probably one of the most consistent and graceful proprietary blends from Napa Valley, Insignia combines an intricate array of varied flavors that render a seamlessly integrated palate. The 2004 is a particularly impressive vintage, characterized by dense berry fruit, dried herbes de Provence, elegant oak, and a long, dusky finish. ($225)

Merry Edwards Russian River Valley Pinot Noir Coopersmith Vineyard 2005
Because winemaker Merry Edwards is almost as passionate about food as she is about wine, her Pinot Noirs always pair beautifully at the table. This vineyard (named for Edwards’ husband, Ken Coopersmith) has produced a potent infusion of wild berries—blueberry and boysenberry—made all the more piquant by a dusting of dark chocolate and earthy hints of mace and mushroom. Edwards recommends serving this dense red with venison in a cherry reduction sauce. ($54)

Palazzo Cabernet Franc 2006
Proprietor Scott Palazzo is devoted to the wines of Bordeaux’s Right Bank, which emphasize Cabernet Franc and Merlot in their blends. His classically styled Napa Valley Red Wine, for example, uses 70 percent Merlot, only 8 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, and 22 percent Cabernet Franc. In 2006 he bottled Cabernet Franc on its own. Dark, sultry, and concentrated without being at all heavy, this brew of cassis, wild berries, earthy root flavors, and ripe red apple perfectly complements roast suckling pig. ($70)

Penfolds Grange Shiraz 2003
Despite its tremendous complexity, muscular body, and massive tannins, this legendary South Australian maintains an air of finesse in the glass—even in its youth. Blueberry and plum dominate its fruit, while chocolate, coffee, and damp tobacco add pleasantly pungent notes. ($300)

Peter Michael Les Pavots Knights Valley 2005
Dark indigo in color, this brooding and fascinating Sonoma wine has a bouquet of black currant and blackberry, lavender, licorice, and roasted coffee. The extended finish carries a pleasing and precise graphite finish. ($175)

Portfolio Limited Edition 2005
Genevieve and Luc Janssens have recently released the eighth vintage of this exquisite red blend, which consists of 80 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 20 percent Cabernet Franc. The wine’s balance is breathtakingly graceful, while its sensuous texture borders on the erotic. The wild berry fruit is concentrated yet quite gentle, accented by subtler strains of smoke, caramel, and sweet oak. ($125)

Quilceda Creek Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
This Washington Cabernet is unapologetically powerful, dark, and dense. A bold brew brimming with dried black currant and blackberry, this exceptional red also reveals strong roasted black coffee and a dense, bouillonlike meatiness. ($115)

Torbreck RunRig Barossa Valley 2004
The tannins in this tour de force from Barossa grip the palate like a vise, yet its bold flavors of blackberry, cherry, and mouthwatering mint reward patient imbibers. With a few years of aging, this fantastic, food-friendly wine will be a perfect accompaniment to wild pheasant or herb-crusted lamb. ($225)

Vérité Le Désir 2004
Of the three wines produced by Pierre Seillan for Vérité, Le Désir—blended with a large percentage of Cabernet Franc in the St.-Émilion style—remains the most seductive. Its luxurious black fruit enfolds complex essences of espresso, licorice, smoke, cinnamon, clove, and sandalwood. ($200)

ECLECTIC TOASTERS
From the moment when that clever monk Dom Pérignon first called out from the depths of the cellar ("Come, brothers, hurry, I am drinking stars!"), Champagne has captivated the imaginations and palates of the human race (or, at least, those of its drinking members). If all wines, in a sense, are the offspring of man and nature, this effervescent essence of Pinot Noir or Chardonnay is certainly the favorite child—especially on those occasions that call for a celebratory toast. And, then again, even on those that do not. As Napoléon Bonaparte wisely observed of Champagne, "In victory, one deserves it; in defeat, one needs it."

Bollinger Brut Rosé Champagne La Grande Année 1999
This nutty, engaging rosé is concentrated for a sparkling wine and long-lived on the palate. Elements of orange pekoe tea—cinnamon, nutmeg, and dried orange peel—combine with a hint of cherry lozenge and savory biscuit. ($200)

Champagne Salon Le Mesnil 1997
Established in 1920 by furrier Eugène-Aimé Salon, the House of Champagne Salon produces only a Blanc de Blancs (made of 100 percent Chardonnay)—and solely in vintages deemed exceptional. In the 20th century, only 37 vintages of Champagne Salon were created. The 1997 vintage stands in contrast to its older sibling, 1996, which was comparatively dense, forceful, and masculine in style. This gentler wine dances on the nose and palate, evoking scents of brioche and brine and flavors of candied lemon, roasted nuts, and green apple. ($300)

Krug Grande Cuvée 1998
The House of Krug, established in 1843, was from the beginning an innovator with regard to blending its wines in order to achieve the perfect balance of power and finesse. The newly released Grande Cuvée, with its creamy texture and fine minerality, is being made available in a pony hair–textured hatbox that contains either two ($300) or three ($450) 750 ml bottles. ($150)

Krug Brut Blanc de Noirs Clos d’Ambonnay 1995
This stunning Blanc de Noirs was introduced this spring as the bookend to its sister wine, Clos de Mesnil. A delicate bronze color, the wine offers a bouquet of candied lemon, anise, and a touch of brine, as well as cardamom. The texture is as light and airy as meringue, while flavors of buttery brioche, dried apricots, citron, orange zest, and preserved lemon lead to a savory finish of toasted almonds. ($3,600)

Krug Brut Blanc de Blancs Clos du Mesnil 1998
Produced purely from the Chardonnay of the renowned Clos du Mesnil vineyard, this last vintage of the 1990s exhibits the sweetness of honey and candied lemons, the earthiness of coffee with cream, and the sea-scented, misty minerality of a secluded grotto. ($1,100)

Laurent-Perrier Brut Grand Siècle
This mineral-scented Champagne is characterized by its extraordinary balance and long, stately finish. For the holidays, Laurent-Perrier is offering its prestige cuvée in a gift set, the Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle Coffret ($3,100), a black box containing a magnum and six handblown Baccarat flutes. ($110)

Moët & Chandon Brut Grand Vintage Rosé 2003
A blend of 48 percent Pinot Meunier, 30 percent Pinot Noir, and 22 percent Chardonnay, this rosé Champagne is more intensely structured and assertive than those typically released by Moët. The wine is an amber-rose color, with a lightly floral nose of mandarin orange; the palate presents a long finish of white strawberry. ($70)

Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage Collection 1990 and 1995
Moët & Chandon’s historic cellars in Epernay, France, house one of the world’s most extensive collections of rare Champagnes, spanning the vintages from 1892 to 2000. Periodically, the house releases a small number of these wines for the benefit of collectors. The 1995, disgorged in November 2007, is a ripe, classic vintage featuring toasted bread and Brie on the nose, stewed fruit and butterscotch on the palate, and an exquisite texture. The 1990, disgorged in 2004, bears suggestions of crisp pastry, coffee, and chocolate layer cake on the nose; its sea-foam texture adds an extra dimension to a long citrus finish. (1995, $120; 1990, $240)

Piper-Heidsieck Vintage 1999 Rare
In 1976, drought conditions threatened the harvest across Champagne, causing the winemaking team at Piper-Heidsieck to wonder whether they would be able to produce a wine that met their house standards. As it happened, nature’s anomaly worked in their favor: Portions of the 1976 harvest were so concentrated that the decision was made to produce a special cuvée that would be known as Rare. This cuvée has since only been made in vintages with similar weather conditions. The 1999 vintage exhibits flavors of dried tropical fruit, toffee, and café au lait. ($250)

WILD WESTERNERS
Despite the familiar claim that ours is a nation of laws, we Americans have always been fascinated by lawlessness. Something about the feral frontier appeals to the national imagination; our appetite for tales of trappers and renegades has proved insatiable since those days in the mid-19th century when Jacksonian Democrats first proclaimed the country’s Manifest Destiny (expansion to the Pacific). Though stagecoach robberies and saloon shoot-outs have been relegated to its past, California still nurtures a certain maverick spirit in its vineyards. Unlike much of the Old World, where tradition-turned-law dictates what grapes a vintner can grow and which wines can be blended together, the Golden State has long been a haven for viticultural trailblazers, whose red wines are as big and bold as the landscapes.

Alban Syrah Edna Valley Reva Vineyard 2005
A Rhône-style red from California’s Central Coast, this Syrah offers up aromas of sweet, fresh corn silk and smoked bacon before immersing the palate in a bath of blueberry, sage, spicy dried meat, and cracked black pepper. ($75)

Amuse Bouche Red Wine 2006
Winemaker extraordinaire Heidi Barrett, whose robust yet refined style of Cabernet Sauvignon has set the standard for a generation of winemakers in the Napa Valley, gives us another masterpiece. Having established Screaming Eagle as one of the preeminent luxury wines in the world, she now concentrates her efforts on her own labels, which include La Sirena and Amuse Bouche, a joint venture with vintner and restaurateur John Schwartz. As with previous vintages, the latest release of this Pomerol-influenced blend is concentrated without being overbearing or obvious; its dark berry and black-cherry fruit draw one’s senses gradually into velvety depths of cocoa and coffee. ($200)

Araujo Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Eisele Vineyard 2005
Daphne and Bart Araujo own 38 of the most blessed (and most historic) acres in Napa Valley. The Eisele Vineyard, first planted in the 1880s, is located in Calistoga, where westerly breezes from the Chalk Hill Gap create a microclimate that results in superior Cabernet Sauvignon. The 2005 vintage is a finely woven and smoothly textured tapestry of ripe black cherry and berry fruit. ($265)

Blackbird Vineyards Paramour 2005
In the Blackbird Vineyards Proprietary Red, winemaker Sarah Gott and winegrower Aaron Pott have fashioned a spectacular Merlot. Its sister wine, named Paramour, transposes that wine’s bright beauty into a darker key. This blend of half Merlot and half Cabernet Franc casts up clouds of cocoa, violet, cedar, and black plum, then showers the taste buds with the juice of blackberries and strong black coffee. ($85)

Bond Melbury Napa Valley Red Wine 2004
One of four single-vineyard wines produced under the Bond label by H. William Harlan (of Harlan Estates) and winemaker Bob Levy, Melbury—which is grown northeast of Rutherford—is inky and opulent, giving off aromas of blackberry, black cherry, rosewater, and wildflowers. The palate ranges from blueberry and blackberry to plum and Asian spice. ($250)

Cliff Lede Poetry 2005
This well-poised and captivating Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from Cliff Lede’s Poetry Vineyard in the Stags Leap District. Though potent, the wine’s power lies not in an emphasis of any one particular characteristic, but rather on a sensory kaleidoscope of flavors and aromas that fold one into another to create a dynamic and constantly shifting taste experience. Boysenberry pie and light lavender essence first greet the nose and then retreat, as a chorus of leather, dried herbs, and cedar commences. A delightful ensemble of black cherry, cassis, and dark chocolate dances a well-choreographed ballet on the palate. ($150)

Colgin Tychson Hill Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
While aficionados of Colgin Cellars are probably most familiar with the label’s first wine—the Herb Lamb Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, which earned instant cult status among collectors—the Tychson Hill Cabernet Sauvignon is the true star. This gorgeous Cabernet, sourced from the small vineyard adjacent to Ann Colgin’s Victorian farmhouse in St. Helena, Calif., has classic balance and formal beauty, as well as arresting aromatics—poached plum, currants, and rose petals—and a plush palate of mouthwatering blackberry. ($275)

Coup de Foudre Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
The product of a joint venture between Danielle Price—the wine director at Wynn Las Vegas—and Napa-based vintner John Schwartz, this wine is elegant yet intensely flavored. Aromas of wild berries, bittersweet chocolate, and sweet smoke curl around a core of blackberry, chocolate, and café au lait. ($95)

Gargiulo Vineyards G Major 7 Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
It is a wonder that more enthusiasts are not yet acquainted with this family-owned winery located near the Screaming Eagle estate in Oakville, Calif. Named for owner Jeff Gargiulo’s favorite musical chord, this dense, jazzy fusion of black cherry, plum, licorice, and dried-herb notes comes together in a stunningly cool, mineral-driven finale. ($185)

Harlan Estate Proprietary Red Wine 2004
The mission of Harlan Estate has been, from the beginning, to produce not many different wines but rather a single great one. The Proprietary Red—consisting primarily of Cabernet Sauvignon blended with various quantities of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot, depending on the vintage—stands as one of California’s most artistically constructed and unimpeachably balanced wines. The 2004 vintage is particularly fine, a masterfully sculpted mélange of fragrant berry, black currant, licorice, smoky herbs, and oak. ($365)

Hundred Acre Cabernet Sauvignon Kayli Morgan Vineyard 2005
Few vintners are as passionate about their wine as Jayson Woodbridge, proprietor and winemaker at Hundred Acre, a small-production, allocation-only label from Napa Valley. Woodbridge’s style can be characterized as subtle and multilayered. Indeed, few wines undergo so many intriguing changes in the glass. These phases, which are quite consistent from bottle to bottle, are like musical variations on a single theme: In one, cherry dominates, while elements of mocha and berry preserves serve as periodic motifs; in the next, the background notes come to the fore. One is reluctant to finish a glass of this wine for fear one will miss its next movement. ($250)

Jonata El Alma de Jonata 2005
Located in Santa Barbara County, Calif., near the town of Los Olivos, this estate is among the very few producers in the region to make first-rate red wines from Bordeaux varietals. The Cabernet Franc in particular flourishes in the property’s microclimate, and for this reason owner Charles Banks and winemaker Matt Dees named the wine from these vines El Alma de Jonata—the soul of Jonata. Its dark color prepares one for its intense flavors, which play a lively fugue of dried cherry, blueberry, cinnamon, lavender, rose petal, and coffee on the palate. ($125)

Lokoya Cabernet Sauvignon Mt. Veeder 2005
Another blockbuster from winemaker Chris Carpenter, this mountain-sourced, single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon may be the most consistently dense wine of its kind in Napa Valley. With a bouquet of violets and intense spice—cardamom, nutmeg, and allspice—the 2005 vintage packs a truckload of fruit flavors that progress from blackberry to blueberry and ripe red apples. The tannins are massive, while roasted coffee and a pronounced granitelike minerality dominate the extended finish. ($200)

Pride Mountain Vintner Select Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
Only 396 cases were made of this wine in the 2005 vintage. Vinified from single-clone Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, the Vintner Select, like many single-vineyard wines, runs to extremes—exquisite extremes. Darkness prevails in this bottle: aromas and flavors of bittersweet chocolate, blackberry, black plum, clove, black pepper, and coriander. ($85)

Saxum Booker Vineyard 2005
The dense, unctuous body of this Rhône blend prepares the way for its intense, intricate flavor profile. A sip of Booker Vineyard is a sensory trip to an old-fashioned soda fountain: Succulent blackberry floods the palate, followed by a shot of espresso, a drizzle of Hershey’s syrup, and a blast of root beer. ($60)

Sea Smoke Ten 2006
In 1999, owner Bob Davids acquired the parcel of land that has become Sea Smoke Vineyard. Since then, he has concentrated his efforts on crafting Pinot Noirs that express the personality of the Santa Rita Hills region, which is situated on the western edge of California’s Santa Ynez Valley, not far from the Pacific Ocean. Dark in color and dense in body, this exceptional Pinot Noir opens with aromas of plum and black cherry that combine on the palate with delicious flavors of toffee, sweet tobacco, and mushroom. ($70)

Shafer Stags Leap District Hillside Select 2004
The Shafers, who founded their estate in the Stags Leap District of Napa Valley in the mid-1970s (a time when, thanks to the famous Paris tasting of 1976, excitement had returned to the vineyards of California), have played an instrumental role in defining the Napa Valley style of Cabernet Sauvignon that the world has since come to know and appreciate. Hillside Select, whose first vintage John Shafer himself made in 1978, is a single-vineyard expression renowned for its boundless fruit, lively herbal accents, and profound structure. ($215)

Sine Qua Non Pinot Noir Over & Out 2005
This producer’s wines are almost as eccentric as their names and labels (designed by owner Manfred Krankl). This pugnacious Pinot Noir borrows some of the black-fruit characteristics of a Syrah (stewed black plum, blackberry, and black cherry) and combines them with flavors of root beer, Turkish coffee, and smoky oak. ($75)

GREAT WHITES
Too often we place our emphasis at the table on the red wines, which, with their theatrics of flavor and textural effects, are natural crowd-pleasers. The white wines we regard as warm-up acts to ease our guests through the fish course and to awaken their palates for the main event. But, as the true connoisseur will avow, greatness is color-blind. Indeed, few reds from any region can match the seductive spell cast by a superb white Hermitage or, better still, a magnificent Montrachet. Your guests will give any of these white divas a standing ovation—and, likely, demand of them an encore.

Aubert Chardonnay Sonoma Coast Ritchie Vineyard 2006
Although he used to be best known for the marquee red Bordeaux-style wines he made for the likes of Peter Michael, Colgin, and Sloan, Mark Aubert has come into his own as the master of Chardonnay. Made with fruit from the Sonoma Coast’s Ritchie Vineyard, this unctuous California white delivers a liberal array of aromas and flavors, including jasmine, honey, hazelnut, and candied lemon. The wine’s creamy texture belies its mineral finish, which recedes only gradually to a fine, precise point. ($80)

Bouchard Père et Fils Chevalier-Montrachet 2005
During its substantial history, Bouchard Père et Fils has demonstrated a consistency that is quite remarkable in a wine-producing region as inconsistent as Burgundy. This outstanding négociant has released a nearly perfect expression of the Chevalier-Montrachet vineyard with its 2005 vintage—a wine that perhaps only its sibling, the just-released 2006 vintage, can match. Creamy as crème brûlée, this phenomenal Chardonnay conjures up vanilla-bean, lemon-lime, and cool coconut flavors before dissolving on the tongue into a clean mineral finish. ($400)

Château Haut-Brion Pessac-Léognan Blanc 2005
Although Bordeaux is almost inextricably wedded to the concept of red wine in the minds of most, the region nevertheless grows some of the world’s most spectacular—and most collectible—whites, most of them emphasizing Sauvignon Blanc. The white from Château Haut-Brion has no rival in terms of its complexity and ability to age. Honeyed and luscious, this vintage combines flavors of stewed rhubarb, pineapple, lemon, vanilla bean, and creamy hazelnut. ($500)

Diatom Chardonnay Babcock Vineyard 2007
Greg Brewer, a cofounder of Brewer-Clifton and a devotee of Japanese art and culture, has applied Japan’s minimalist aesthetic to the production of the single-vineyard Chardonnays he makes for his own label, Diatom. The name derives from the soil composition in the Santa Rita Hills of Santa Barbara County’s Santa Ynez Valley. Diatomaceous earth is composed of the fossilized remains of microscopic sea organisms, which, Brewer believes, account for his wines’ uncommon mineral flavors. This streamlined white, sourced from Babcock—where Brewer is also the winemaker—has a faintly herbal nose, with hints of candied lemon, grapefruit, and white peach on the palate and a green-tea finish punctuated by a briny mineral taste. ($36)

Domaine Olivier Leflaive Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru 2006
Domaine Leflaive has filled our glasses with some of the world’s best-balanced white Burgundies. Joseph Leflaive, one of two sons of the domaine’s 19th-century founder, expanded its holdings to include plots in important vineyards like Le Bâtard and Le Chevalier. Thanks to his foresight, his granddaughter, Anne Claude Leflaive, today crafts white wines that are sought by the most sophisticated collectors. While the Bâtard-Montrachet exhibits a fatter, richer flavor profile, Chevalier-Montrachet, with its leaner soil, tends to produce lighter, more structured wines. Aromas of lemongrass and white peach lace the nose of the 2006, while citrus flavors enliven the palate. ($430)

DuMol Chardonnay Isobel Sonoma Green Valley 2005
Founded in 1996 by Kerry Murphy and Michael Verlander, DuMol produces a modest 4,000 cases of wine each year; fortunately, while quantity may be lacking, quality exists in abundance. This exceptional Chardonnay makes one’s mouth water with its sensuous mélange of summer peaches, crisp citrus-driven acidity, and creamy custard flavors. ($60)

F.X. Pichler Grüner Veltliner Smaragd Trocken Wachau Dürnsteiner Kellerberg 2006
One of Austria’s most outstanding producers, F.X. Pichler has only one shortcoming: the small quantity of his wines that are available for purchase. His vineyards are located in the Wachau, a lushly forested region northwest of Vienna, where the Grüner Veltliner grape thrives. Although certain expressions of this varietal can be austere, this Grüner yields a cornucopia of fruit—pear, apricot, and peach, as well as pineapple—and is gorgeously structured. ($90)

Fritz Haag Riesling Trockenbeeren-auslese Gold Cap Mosel-Saar-Ruwer Brauneberger Juffer-Sonnenuhr 2006
Another white wine produced in discouragingly small quantities (only 25 cases), this dynamic German Riesling is bountiful on the palate. The 2006 vintage’s acid is crisp, enlivening seductive flavors of candied lime, orange, honey, and peach. ($300, 375 ml)

J Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2006
The creation of Judy Jordan, daughter of Jordan Winery founder Tom Jordan, J focuses its efforts on Burgundian red and white wines, as well as exceptional sparkling wines, from the Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast. Winemaker George Bursick has achieved something quite extraordinary with this 2006 Russian River Valley Chardonnay, a cool-climate white that, in its aromatics and precision, may be the closest a California Chardonnay can get to Corton-Charlemagne. A lovely shade of pale yellow with just a suggestion of spring green, this crisp, clean wine offers up aromas of lime blossom and flavors of lemon-lime that overlay a long, gratifying mineral finish. ($40)

Joseph Drouhin Montrachet Marquis de Laguiche 2005
Joseph Drouhin creates this tremendous white Burgundy in partnership with the de Laguiche family, who for generations have owned the seven blocks of the fabled Montrachet vineyard from which it is sourced. Not quite so rich as Bâtard-Montrachet, this grandest of all white Burgundies is the most elegantly structured and complex, featuring notes of honeysuckle and jasmine on the nose and vibrant citrus on its creamy palate. ($700)

Josmeyer Alsace Grand Cru Hengst-Samain 2005
Although their Austrian and German counterparts typically garner greater attention, Alsatian Rieslings are lively and accessible whites that complement a wide variety of foods, from quiche Lorraine at brunch to stuffed Cornish game hens for dinner. This example has a lovely texture and a palate of apricot and orange marmalade that finishes with bright mineral essences. ($75)

Kracher Scheurebe Trockenbeeren-auslese Burgenland zwischen den Seen Nr. 4 2005
Three generations of the Kracher family have made some of Austria’s finest wines in Illmitz, located near Neusiedler Lake at the easternmost point of Austria’s border with Hungary. Here, before his death late last year, Alois Kracher Jr. created gorgeous, silky and dense, Sauterne-like wines with Scheurebe. This wonderfully structured expression shows in the glass like a Viennese fruit tart: Fragrant baking spice notes on the nose lead into a buttery palate of spiced peach and apricot. ($75, 375 ml)

Louis Jadot Bâtard-Montrachet 2006
Jadot, one of the most prolific négociants in Burgundy, produces a startling number of wines, from simple village blends to Grand Crus. This deliciously buttery white is a fine example of the latter. Beautiful ripe apricot melds with acidic pineapple, candied orange peel, baked brioche, and nutmeg. ($250)

M. Chapoutier Ermitage L’Ermite Blanc 2006
Lovers of mineral flavors will embrace this brawny white Rhône. The nose is exhilaratingly dense, swirling with aromas of brine, linseed oil, roasted chestnuts, and sweet jasmine perfume. In the mouth, the wine’s essences veer toward the tropics: Mango, cantaloupe, and peach flavors linger on the
tongue. ($260)

Paul Jaboulet Aîné Hermitage White La Chapelle 2006
This exceptional white Rhône from one of the region’s top producers captures in a bottle all of the scents of that countryside: Spiced white plum, lemon blossom, lavender, white tea, and almond unfold on the nose, while the palate culminates in a monumental finish of wet granite. ($350)

Prager Riesling Smaragd Trocken Wachau Klaus 2006
Winemaker Toni Bodenstein has rendered a concentrated and intense Riesling from this superb Austrian region. Fresh grapefruit braces the taste buds, while more concentrated citrus flavors (such as orange and lemon peel), as well as candied ginger, dominate the lengthy finish. ($60)

Selbach-Oster Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese Mosel-Saar-Ruwer Zeltinger Sonnenuhr 2006
With only 25 acres of vineyards, this exquisite winery, currently under management by Johannes Selbach, brings in grapes to achieve its nearly 7,000-case output. This superb Riesling concentrates favorite German holiday flavors into a single glass: Allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, marmalade, candied lemon, and citron abound. ($150, 375 ml)

Tor Chardonnay Hudson Vineyard Cuvée Molly 2006
Tor Kenward makes a host of superb single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignons, so it is easy to overlook this fantastic Chardonnay. Supple and understated, this elegant Napa white has an intoxicating nose of jasmine, nectarine, and Asian pear; the palate unfolds with honeydew melon, peach, and a touch of toffee. ($60)

Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Alsace Turckheim Heimbourg 2005
Since 1620, the Humbrecht family has produced Grand Cru whites of great complexity and character. This multifaceted Pinot Gris has a dense, honeylike quality and flavors of apricot jam, dried tropical fruit, and concentrated citrus. ($150, 375 ml)

IBERIA AND BEYOND
The adventures of Spain and Portugal in the New World brought little happiness, at least in the short term, to Central and South America. However, the inhabitants of this conquered territory contributed much to the comfort and well-being of Europeans: In addition to the vast estates that many Spanish and Portuguese families carved from the landscapes of the New World, and the gold that the two countries seized, the Old World received the benefits of the tomato, the potato, and the squash. The advantages, however, were not entirely one-sided. The natives of the Americas got in exchange the sugar beet, the printing press (the first from Europe arrived in Mexico in 1539), and the grape. In recent years, Spanish wines have enjoyed a renaissance among serious collectors, as a number of innovative producers have set new standards of quality and style. Similarly, Spain’s onetime colonies in South America have begun to realize their vineyards’ considerable potential, crafting superior wines that stand up to the most pedigreed European pours. Following is a list of incomparable bottlings from both worlds, Old and New.

Achaval-Ferrer Malbec Finca Altamira Mendoza 2006
Established in 1998, this partnership between a group of Argentine businessmen—led by Santiago Achával Becu—and Italian winemaker Roberto Cipresso has become something of a legend among wine aficionados. Achaval-Ferrer’s Finca Altamira vineyard contains Malbec vines up to 80 years old, which yield concentrated aromas and flavors of wildflowers, rusty minerality, and deep
blueberry. ($115)

Álvaro Palacios Priorat L’Ermita 2005
Álvaro Palacios is one of the innovative young winemakers who have put Spain’s Priorat region on the oenological map. This rich red roils with dense, liquorlike flavors of blackberry, raspberry, cigar, and smoked wood. ($700)

Catena Zapata Malbec Mendoza 2004
Nicola Catena established his first vineyard in the higher altitudes of Mendoza in 1902. Now, his grandson Nicolás Catena oversees the estates of Bodega Catena, which boasts a state-of-the-art winery. This marvelous Argentine Malbec tastes of reduced raspberry puree, spiced plum, and bittersweet chocolate. ($120)

Emilio Moro Malleolus de Sanchomartin Ribera del Duero 2005
An enormous red, this release from Emilio Moro bridges the drier, more traditional style of Tempranillo-based wines from Spain’s Ribera del Duero with the more extracted and opulent international style. Exactingly balanced, the 2005 vintage is dense and velvety with blueberry and plum, the sweetness of which is offset by savory smoked-meat flavors, as well as bay leaf and dried tarragon. ($210)

Muga Torre Muga Rioja 2004
Composed predominantly of Tempranillo, this deep red features tannins that imbue it with a soft, suedelike texture. Currant and chocolate predominate, while the extended finish summons smoky notes and sweet, moist tobacco. ($90)

Numanthia-Termes Toro Termanthia 2004
This Tempranillo-based wine from the Castilla y León region of Spain has all the density of a powerfully brewed black tea. Black coffee and bittersweet dark chocolate set the tone, while the blackberry fruit coyly delays its appearance until the finish. ($250)

Quinta do Crasto Douro Doña Maria Teresa 2005
Made from Touriga Nacional, this Portuguese red table wine from the Douro region falls only slightly short of the power and mass of its fortified port cousins, coating the palate with chocolate-covered cherries, as well as cocoa and roasted espresso beans. This wine should age indefinitely. ($150)

FRENCH LESSONS
Here, we separate les hommes from les garçons, les femmes from les filles. The Roman Empire may have spread knowledge of the science of viticulture throughout Europe, but the French elevated this rather practical pursuit to the level of art. And why not? After all, one could argue that no people on earth take the production of wine—and its consumption—more seriously than the French, whose senses of taste and smell are so finely tuned that, even while enduring great privation, they cannot bring themselves to lower their standards. During the Franco-Prussian War, for instance, when Paris was blockaded and supplies to the city were entirely cut off, the city’s inhabitants—forced to survive on the meat of horses, dogs, and rats— could not resist transforming these grisly repasts into degustations by experimenting with various methods of preparation and the application of sundry sauces. No doubt great consideration was also given to the wines served with these atypical viands; this attention to the minutest details of any gustatory experience has, over the centuries, set the wines of Bordeaux, Burgundy, and the Rhône apart from all others. The following selection of recent releases will transform even the humblest table d’hôte into the grandest of fetes.

Camille Giroud Chambertin Grand Cru 2005
This venerable négociant in Burgundy is owned and managed by Ann Colgin, proprietor of Colgin Cellars, and her husband, Joe Wender. Along with a consortium of partners, they purchased the firm, in large part, for love of its history. The label has thrived under their management—a fact to which this classic Côte de Nuits bears witness. Medium-bodied, this Chambertin exudes bright strawberry and raspberry perfumes, as well as piquant notes of wild mushrooms. The palate is red and velvety, and ripe with red berries—cranberry and red currant—that are sweetened on the finish by brown sugar. ($280)

Château Ausone St.-Émilion 2005
Located on the rocky and ancient outcropping of a hill just outside the medieval town of St.-Émilion, Château Ausone, along with Château Cheval Blanc, received a Premier Cru Classé A designation when the St.-Émilion region was finally classified in 1955. The wines are among the biggest and longest-lived in Bordeaux. The 2005 vintage is a towering sensory edifice: Sturdy, persistent tannins provide the structural reinforcement that enables multiple flavors layered like bricks—berry, earth, mushroom, tobacco, vanilla bean, and oak—to rise to the pinnacle of vinous perfection. ($2,000)

Château Cos d’Estournel St. Estèphe 2005
This second-growth estate in Bordeaux, established in 1811 by Louis-Gaspard d’Estournel, has a long and varied history. The château’s architecture, which features carved elephants and Indian motifs, was the contribution of English banker Charles Cecil Martyns, whose investments in India enabled him to purchase the property in 1852. The Eastern exoticism to which the château alludes is reflected in this wine’s complex sensory arabesques. Coffee-black, this Bordeaux gives off an incense of concentrated orange peel, cinnamon, patchouli, and leather. The palate is dense and, in the wine’s youth, almost impenetrable—a treasure to be cellared away for the future. ($210)

Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2005
The Southern Rhône estate Château de Beaucastel co-owns a winery with Vineyard Brands founder Robert Haas: Tablas Creek Vineyard, in California’s Central Coast region. Beaucastel’s Châteauneuf-du-Pape blends a wide array of varietals to achieve a complex, layered wine that mellows exceptionally with age. The 2005 vintage unleashes a tropical burst of fruit balanced by a long finish of mineral brine. ($165)

Château Haut-Brion Pessac-Léognan 2005
The only château in the Graves region to be included among the first growths in the 1855 classification, Haut-Brion benefits from a location that has slightly warmer temperatures than Pauillac to the north and Médoc to the southeast, imbuing the wines with an enlivening ripeness and refined texture. The 2005 vintage is densely packed—a meal of blackberry, coffee, yellow butter cake, ginger, clove, and even a hint of curry. This elaborate spread is supported by fine, sturdy tannins. ($1,000)

Château Lafleur Pomerol 2005
Château Pétrus may be, for many, the trophy wine of Pomerol, but Château Lafleur is its flower. This exceptional Merlot-based Bordeaux presents a decadent pageant of pureed boysenberry, violet perfume, dark chocolate, and velvety texture. ($2,000)

Château Latour Pauillac 2005
Perhaps the most coveted of the first growths of Pauillac—despite a production of more than 12,000 cases—Château Latour is known for its power, density, and fine detail. The 2005 vintage furnishes these qualities in the extreme. One of the biggest, boldest Latours in recent decades, this dark red concentrates black currant and blackberry in a thick brew spiced with saffron and clove. ($1,200)

Château Léoville-Las-Cases St.-Julien 2005
Prior to the French Revolution, Château Léoville-Las-Cases comprised the estates now known as Château Léoville-Poyferré and Château Léoville-Barton. While Las-Cases’ acreage has been diminished over the last couple of centuries, the potency of its wines has not. One almost hesitates to refer to this Bordeaux as a red wine, considering its color, which is black as espresso. In its youth, the wine’s black fruit is submerged in flavors of coffee, licorice, and graphite. A prize for any cellar. ($350)

Château Margaux Margaux 2005
Some 200 acres of vineyard planted by the Lestonnac family prior to 1700 have remained unchanged since. One of the most aromatic wines from Bordeaux, Château Margaux is redolent of fresh violets, wild berries, and sweet earth. As poised and regally composed as a grand duchess. ($1,100)

Domaine Armand Rousseau Chambertin Grand Cru 2005
This 2005 Chambertin balances the untamed extravagance of assorted forest berries (raspberries, boysenberries, black currants), smoked game meat, and mushrooms with the more domesticated pleasures of roses, cherry blossoms, and freshly mowed grass. ($1,700)

Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Romanée-Conti 2005
From the greatest producer of red wines in Burgundy, this monopole red exudes a dark, dense, complex medley of aromatics that range from plum and black cherry to dried meat, fennel, rosemary, white pepper, and buttered popcorn. On the palate, this velvety wine is full of red cherries and red currants, with hints of bay leaf and espresso. ($12,500)

Domaine Faiveley Corton Clos des Cortons Faiveley 2006
While a new generation of the Faiveley family has taken over the firm (the seventh, in fact, to do so), the commitment to exacting quality remains the same, as evidenced by the Corton Clos des Cortons Faiveley. Ripe cherry abounds, as do flavors of strawberry and rhubarb, which precede a lengthy finish of mint tea. ($175)

Domaine Georges Roumier Chambolle-Musigny Les Cras 2005
The luminous ruby color of this superb Pinot Noir from Les Cras provides a visual prelude to the wine’s heady nose of wild raspberries and cream. Savory aromas of bouillon and mushroom follow. The raspberries reappear on the palate, along with red cherry and a ferrous minerality. The 2005 is medium-bodied,
delicately textured, and perfectly balanced. ($325)

Jean-Louis Chave Hermitage 2004
This dark and oily red from the Rhône region will seem to some a bit ponderous in its youth. Blue-black in color, the wine presents aromas that conjure spicy stewed plums, black pepper, licorice, and tar. Its dense blackberry fruit shares the palate with gamy flavors of dried meat, molasses, and soy. The acids and tannins are beautifully balanced. ($250)

Joseph Drouhin Clos des Mouches Rouge 2005
This monopole vineyard in Burgundy, which is located between the Montrachet and Corton-Charlemagne vineyards, has been in the Drouhin family since at least 1921. It produces Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Noir. While requiring aging, the 2005 Clos des Mouches Rouge is even now a gorgeously complex treat for the senses. The nose alternates aromas of grilled bread, boysenberry, licorice, and cinnamon. Flavors of raspberry and black cherry coat the palate. ($75)

Nicolas Potel Latricières-Chambertin 2005
Nicolas Potel founded his eponymous maison, which boasts almost 30 acres of vineyards, the same year this Latricières-Chambertin came into the winery. Concentrated and redolent of black cherry and rose essences, this superb Burgundian red has a thickly layered palate of blackberry, mushroom, mineral, and oak. ($280)

ITALIAN BEAUTIES
If the French have the most tutored pal tes and sensitive noses, the Italians possess the finest eye for beauty. This sophisticated aesthetic, honed over the course of millennia, finds expression in Italy’s works of architecture, art, and music: St. Peter’s Basilica, Michelangelo’s frescos in the Sistine Chapel, and Vivaldi’s concerti all in their own ways unite an acute appreciation of finer details with a grand, overarching vision. This national talent for bridging the divide between the infinitesimal and the infinite reveals itself in winemaking as well. Whether one’s tastes run to the Brunello di Montalcinos or Super Tuscans of Tuscany, the Nebbiolo-based Barbarescos and Barolos of Piedmont, or the profoundly concentrated Amarone di Valpolicellas of the Veneto region, these Italian red wines will charm the senses and divert the intellect with their subtle nuances as much as with their grand designs.

Antinori Solaia Toscana 2004
The Antinori family has for hundreds of years produced wines with pedigrees as distinguished as their own. With this single-vineyard Super Tuscan blend, they have once again coaxed a darkly rich, satisfying, and near-perfect profile of black cherries, black plum, coffee, cocoa, and clay from the Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Sangiovese varietals. ($175)

Bruno Giacosa Barolo Le Rocche del Falletto di Serralunga 2004
Now 108 years old, this phenomenal producer of Barolo owns fewer than 40 acres of vineyards in Piedmont, roughly half of them in the Serralunga area of Barolo. This single-vineyard Barolo conveys all that is best in the Nebbiolo grape: Bright ruby red in color, the wine offers up aromas of red currant, cherry, and cranberry, as well as pine sap, chocolate, and brown sugar. ($280)

Gaja Langhe Sperss 2004
In Italy (as well as in the community of international collectors), vintner Angelo Gaja enjoys superstar status. Though the Gaja winery was founded in 1859, it has thrived under his stewardship, releasing one beautifully articulated vintage after another of Barbaresco, Barolo, and Langhe. White-truffle and red-berry aromas waft upward from this lovely, garnet-colored Langhe, which darkens in the mouth, expressing flavors of blackberry, licorice, and vanilla bean. ($250)

Le Macchiole Bolgheri Messorio 2004
Owned by the Campolmi family, Le Macchiole vinifies three particularly delicious wines in its state-of-the-art winery: Scrio, made from Syrah; Paleo Rosso, produced from Cabernet Franc; and Messorio, a gorgeously rendered Merlot. The 2004 vintage of the latter is a complex arrangement of sweet and savory elements that range from ripe wild berries, figs, and coffee ice cream to fleur de sel, olives, and fresh herbs. ($450)

Luce della Vite Brunello di Montalcino 2003
Established under a joint venture between the Frescobaldi family of Florence and the Mondavi family of Napa Valley, the Luce della Vite label has focused on producing Super Tuscan wines characterized by their international style. With this debut vintage, however, the Sangiovese grape gives a solo performance. This full-bodied Brunello is opulent and immense yet inviting. Black cherry swirls about the nose, as do black pepper and saddle leather; in the mouth, the wine is velvety and thick, with flavors of smoky oak and baked chocolate. ($75)

Masi Vaio Amaron Serego Alighieri 2001
Like Vin Santo, the signature dessert wine of Tuscany to the southwest, Amarone—the most sumptuous red wine from the Veneto region—is made by allowing the Corvina, Molinara, and Rondinella grapes to dry on bamboo mats for three months or more before they are pressed and their juice is fermented. Although the technique (called appassimento) dates back to ancient Rome, Masi was the first to produce a vineyard-designate Amarone. The Vaio Amaron Serego Alighieri, aged in cherrywood, is somewhat feminine in style, soft and amber at its edges when held to the light. Its nose suggests brandied cherries, fennel, vanilla, and brown sugar. Red-apple flavors flood the palate, followed by spiced orange, spiced plum, and a touch of sherry on the finish. ($140)

Michele Chiarlo Barolo Cannubi 2005
Michele Chiarlo has long been an innovator in Piedmont, allowing his wines to age longer in the barrel and then in the bottle than most of his fellow producers in the region. Despite the fact that he did not begin making Barolo until the late 1960s, his single-vineyard offerings stand among the best. This magnificent Barolo comes from the famed Cannubi vineyard. Its nose is leathery and spicy, while the palate evokes red cherry, cedar, cigar tobacco, and licorice. ($100)

Sette Ponti Oreno 2006
This superb Tuscan blend is often noted for its dark black-red color and tremendous concentration of flavors. Black licorice spices the nice bouquet, while crushed blackberry provides a pleasing sweetness. In the mouth, black fruit, cedar, earth, and tobacco swirl about the wine’s huge, chewy tannins. ($90)

Tenuta dell’Ornellaia Bolgheri Superiore Ornellaia 2005
This prestigious estate has deep ties to Tuscany’s past. Established in 1981 by Marchese Lodovico Antinori, a scion of one of Tuscany’s oldest winemaking families, the estate later passed into the hands of the Frescobaldis—another ancient Florentine clan, who have been engaged in winemaking for nearly 700 years. The 2005 vintage of this quintessential Super Tuscan from the Bolgheri region is a polished composition, incorporating black currant, plum, tobacco, and sweet pine essences. ($185)

Tenuta di Biserno Il Pino di Biserno 2005
Brothers Marchese Lodovico Antinori, who established Tenuta dell’Ornellaia, and Marchese Piero Antinori, who supervises the family’s extensive wine estates, recently established a new portfolio of wines known collectively as M.L.A. These wines are sourced from Tenuta di Biserno, a property on the northen border of Bolgheri that Lodovico acquired in 1994. Il Pino di Biserno is a suave blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petit Verdot that gives off aromas of black raspberry and eucalyptus. The palate is refined, earthy, and gentle, with finishing notes of coffee and graphite. ($80)

Tenuta San Guido Bolgheri Sassicaia 2005
Although Marchese Mario Incisa della Rocchetta had been intrigued by the prospect of producing a Bordeaux-style wine in Italy, it was not until his marriage to Clarice della Gherardesca that he acquired the land to make this fancy a reality. Della Gherardesca’s dowry included Tenuta San Guido, a 6,200-acre estate in Bolgheri that furnished the fruit for Sassicaia, the first vintage of which della Rochetta released in 1968. The 2005 vintage of this prototypical Super Tuscan is a velvety melding of blackberry, chocolate cream, and currant. Secondary flavors of mesquite smoke, sweet oregano, and earth precede a gentle finish.($175)

Tua Rita Redigaffi Toscana 2005
Another celebrated Super Tuscan winery, Tua Rita was established in 1984 by Virgilio Bisti and Rita Tua, who converted the property’s vineyards to the production of Bordelaise grapes. The Redigaffi, like Tenuta dell’Ornellaia’s Masseto, is an intensely beautiful wine produced from 100 percent Merlot. The 2005 vintage swells with ripe blueberry, baked dark chocolate, black cherry, and toasted oak. The finish is long and stylish, sustained by well-balanced acid and tannins. ($280)

FINAL FLOURISHES
In The Picture of dorian gray, Oscar Wilde writes, "The cigarette is the perfect type of a perfect pleasure. It is exquisite, and it leaves one unsatisfied. What more can one want?" While the nicotine addict naturally wants another cigarette, the discriminating dinner guest (Wilde’s witticism notwithstanding) wants satisfaction in the perfect and pleasurable form of a late-harvest wine to complement the meal’s confectionary climax, or an after-dinner port to enhance the earthy flavors of a fine cigar. The discriminating host will always oblige.

Avignonesi Vin Santo di Montepulciano Occhio di Pernice 1995
Named for a family of French emigrants who followed the papacy back to Italy from Avignon at the end of the Great Schism, this historic estate in ontepulciano came under the stewardship of Ettore Falvo in 1974, when he married a daughter of the house. Since then, the Falvo family has modernized the estate, though tradition remains an important influence—particularly in making the winery’s Vin Santo, which is without question the very best in Italy. Avignonesi releases two versions of this sweet Tuscan dessert wine: one made in the customary manner with white grapes and another with a Sangiovese clone. The latter, known as Occhio di Pernice ("partridge’s eye") because of its dark amber-red color, is unctuous and luxurious, clinging like light syrup to the glass. Yet its flavors are neither cloying nor overly sweet: The intense essences of apricot, dried pineapple, coffee, and caramel evaporate pleasantly on the palate, leaving a dry, savory finish of toasted walnuts. ($210, 375 ml)

Dolce Napa Valley Late Harvest 2004
Through their three distinct labels, the Nickel family has blessed Napa Valley with several decades of superb wines. Far Niente’s Chardonnays have become California classics, and the single-vineyard releases of Far Niente’s sister winery, Nickel & Nickel, offer enthusiasts a virtual tour of this wine region’s diverse terroirs. But Dolce, the third label in the portfolio, stands out in particular. This Sauterne-style dessert wine is liquid autumn sunlight: Buttery smooth, it caresses the palate with flavors of candied apricot, pineapple, and sticky toffee pudding. ($70)

Donnafugata Ben Ryé 2005
Giacomo Rallo, who founded Donnafugata with his wife, Gabriella, is a fourth-generation vintner. The Rallos focus on indigenous Sicilian varietals, including Nero d’Avola, Ansonica, Catarratto, and Zibibbo. The latter grape, cultivated on the volcanic island of Pantelleria, is used to make Passito, an aromatic dessert wine resembling Tuscany’s Vin Santo. Fermented from fresh grapes and those that have been allowed to dry over the course of three to four weeks, this dark-amber wine has an unctuous texture from which flavors of orange peel, dried apricot, peach, and wild honey unfold. ($40, 375 ml)

Graham’s Vintage Port 1997
If the finishing touches to a meal include the passing of cigars, no better accompaniment can be found than a richly bodied vintage port. One of the premier houses, Graham is known for its long-lived, relatively dry wines. The 1997 vintage is steep in plum and blackberry with lighter notes of violet, white pepper, and cherry lozenge. ($80)

Quinta do Noval Vintage Port Nacional 1997Another notable 1997, this condensed and potent fortified wine lives up to its impenetrable black color. Each sip is saturated with licorice, black fruit, and coffee flavors that linger pleasantly on the taste buds. ($1,150)

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