Ahhhh, the holiday season, is, without question, the busiest time of the year for so many of us. Family, friends, shopping, cooking, entertaining and, of course, the dreaded wrapping. So, with that in mind I shall stay off my soap box and keep it simple and to the point. Walking through the store the other day and realizing what has suddenly been thrust upon us, I thought I would write about wines that I would either love to receive as a gift (hint, hint family and friends who read this) or wines that would help me get through these hectic times. I think I found a few that will fit the bill. 2002 Weingut Smelz Riesling “Stein am Rain” Federspiel ($17.99) A refreshing little bugger that is structurally packed full of minerality and zippy acidity, racing across your palate. You will be treated to the bright essence of citrus fruits spiked with exotic spices that melt into the back of your palate and a finish that is as crisp and bright as the cold winter air just outside your window. 2002 Emmerich Knoll Riesling Smaragd Loibenberg ($34.99) This is a powerhouse that is surrounded by grace and beauty. A wine that is full of ripe melons dusted with white pepper leading you into a ripe, juicy, forgiving palate of delicate minerality and intensity. This is one of those gems that you can drink tonight or rediscover in ten years’ time and truly understand why this is a wine of legend (plus maybe really understand the power behind the label on this beauty). Yes, I am purposely not describing the label; you have to see it to believe it! 2003 Nigl Riesling “Privat” ($49.99) Don’t let the 2003 vintage fool you; this is something special. While having 2003 characteristics, the wine-making skills and the old vines that help create this wine ensure a quality that shines, and I promise, you will not be disappointed. Ripe fruit, teaming with fleshy white peaches, (I'm not just saying this), Christmas spices, a subtle tinge of minerality and a balance that is focused and pure. —Eric Story
2001 Vina Izadi Rioja Crianza ($14.99) 2001 Vina Izadi Rioja Reserva ($23.99) I love the wines from Vina Izadi! The winery is located in the heart of the Basque section of the Rioja known as the Rioja Alavesa. Grown on calcareous clay soils, tempranillo achieves great richness and delicacy. Both the Crianza and the Reserva wines are from the fabulous 2001 vintage, which is the greatest vintage in Rioja since 1964. The wines are made from a blend of 90% tempranillo, 5% graciano and 5% mazuelo. Aged for 14 months in American oak, the Crianza is full of ripe black cherry fruit with a solid core of structure and tannin. Enjoy this wine now with braised pork shoulder, or it has plenty of stuffing to age for several years. The Reserva wine, made only in the best of years, is aged for 25 months in a mix of French and American oak. Big and bold, this red has plenty of rich, ripe fruit intermingled with aromas of spice cake and vanilla. The power and depth of this wine make it a great cellar candidate of 5 to 10 years. 2001 Arzuaga Crianza, Ribera del Duero ($26.99) 2003 Pago Florentino, Arzuaga, La Mancha ($15.99) Founded in 1990, Bodegas Arzuaga-Navarro is located right next door to the venerable Vega Sicilia. Florentino Arzuaga makes Riberas of great depth and elegance. Made from a blend of tinto fino (aka tempranillo) with a bit of cabernet sauvignon and merlot, their 2001 Crianza shows all the hallmarks of this top vintage. Round, ripe blackberry/cherry fruit is balanced with a long elegant finish. This wine would do well with 3-7 years time in your cellar. The Pago Florentino is their new project in La Mancha. Made from 100% cencibel, the local name for tempranillo, the wine is aged for 8 months in a mixture of French and American oak. The big flashy, ripe fuit and long spicy finish make this wine a great choice for the local specialty, Manchego cheese! Buen Provecho! —Anne Pickett, email@example.com
2002 Stony Hill Chardonnay ($26.99) This chardonnay has always been my favorite in California. This chardonnay is beautifully balanced with tropical fruit, melon and apple. Good acidity with now oak showing in the mouth or nose. Perfect! 2002 Darioush Cabernet Sauvignon ($59.99) This cabernet was in my top 5 in 2001. The 2002 was a bit unbalanced when I tried it 6 months ago but it has definitely found itself now. A fruit-forward style of cab with great structure and finesse. This wine is great now but will hold for another 10 years. 1999 Whitethorn “Hyde” Pinot Noir ($34.99) My favorite pinot in the store and a favorite for all the staff in San Francisco. This wine is almost perfect. Cherry fruit, balance, spice and earthiness all rolled up with a seamless finish. If you love pinot, this wine is a must. Perfect for any holiday dinner or party. 2003 Woodenhead “Buena Tierra” Pinot ($44.99) I wrote up the 2002 in October, and the 2003 definetly deserves to get your attention. A more forward style of pinot, with raspberry, cassis and hints of white pepper and earth. Made by William Selyem veteran Nikolai Stez. 86 cases produced. Happy Holidays, and see you in the City... —Mike Jordan
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