This holiday season I have decided that my gift giving will fall under two categories. Not because this will make my life easier (admittedly, it will), but because books and wine are two things that have enriched my life exponentially. I can honestly say that I have never, ever regretted buying a book. Each time I recall some memorable literary fact or experience I am so grateful that I invested in myself by taking the time to read a book. For me, this same sentiment goes for wine, as I have never regretted pulling a bottle of wine from my modest cellar to enjoy with family or friends. Opening a bottle of wine that I purchased, let’s say 10 years ago, is like reconnecting with an old friend, or re-reading one of my favorite books. Great wines grow more deep, complex and beautiful as they age. Each time I drink a great wine, I thank myself for investing in this life lesson and only hope that I will age half as gracefully. One such wine that I will not regret keeping in my cellar is the 2003 Côte Rotie Bernard Burgaud ($49.99). This northern Rhône syrah is simply superb, exhibiting wonderful ripe cherry, kirsch and rich, meaty flavors. On the finish, notes of sous bois, black olives and smoke provide additional complexity and dimension. And despite the atypically warm 2003 vintage, this Côte Rotie displays a substantial amount of acidity (this is a good thing!). I have purchased several bottles of this vinous beauty for myself and for gifts this holiday season, and am looking forward to reconnecting with this old friend in 5 or 10 years. —Mulan Chan
I adore a glass of bubbles! Champagne or sparkling, traditional or methode ancestale, a glass of bubbles is often my go-to wine, my “energy drink” for when I am in need of a bit of sophistication and verve in my life. This month I have two sparkling wines that fit the this description. They are also, for different reasons, delicious! NV Cerdon du Bugey Methode Ancestrale Domaine Renardat-Fache ($16.99) Mon Dieu, this wine is good! A sip of this demi-sec sparkling rosé (located near Savoie in eastern France) is like caressing a soft cheek or getting licked on the nose by the cutest puppy in the world. Rose petals, crushed sweet strawberries and vibrant cranberry twang make this sparkling wine a perfect option as an aperitif, or with spicier Thai, Vietnamese or Indian fare. My good customer Jay Denao has also reported that a glass of Cerdon de Bugey with fresh strawberries and rose water-infused whipped crème is sublime. YOWZAH!! Feeling overworked, or under-appreciated? Just pour yourself a glass of Cerdon de Bugey, look in the mirror at your beautiful, smart sexy self and say, “I love me!” A second offering is once again from the man, the master, Jean-Louis Denois. I remain in awe of this vintner, who crafts wines of seamless beauty and elegance time and time again. Our most recent arrival is the 2002 Jean-Louis Denois Tradition Brut ($14.99), which is composed of 50% chardonnay and 50% pinot noir from vineyard sites located at the foothill of the Pyrenees near the town of Roquetaillade. The climate in the western Languedoc is cool and sunny, which provides ideal growing conditions for the slow maturation of the grapes and ultimately a perfect balance between fruit and acidity. Jean-Louis first ferments the Tradition in old oak barrels. A second fermentation takes place in bottle where it then spends 18 months sur lees before being disgorged. The wine is simply gorgeous with hues of golden honey and an astonishingly long bead. On the palate hazelnuts, marzipan and a touch of sandalwood lend an element of elegance and richness to the wine which belie this bubbly’s modest price. A glass of this will be much appreciated at both festive occasions as well as the end of a hard day when you want to treat yourself right! —Mulan Chan
2004 Griffin Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough New Zealand ($10.99) Many of you enjoyed our Kirkham Peak sauvignon blanc from New Zealand until we ran out. Well, mourn no longer my friends, it’s back with a “new suit.” It’s a new name, but make no mistake, it still has lovely notes of pear, grapefruit, white melon, snap pea, red bell pepper and a dash of minerals. All these components are supported by juicy, refreshing acidity with excellent balance and length. 2004 Nautilus Pinot Gris Marlborough New Zealand ($15.99) This wine is a big favorite of mine. The bouquet offers floral notes with elements of pear and nectarine with a touch of spice. On the palate the wine is rich and round with good acidity and a long finish. One of the best Pinot Gris you will find from New Zealand. 2004 Majella “The Musician” Cabernet-Shiraz Coonawarra South Australia ($15.99) A blend of 70% cabernet sauvignon and 30% shiraz that has a perfumed nose of red current, blackberry, mulberry, a Grave-like tobacco leaf note and a hint of mineral. On the palate the wine has a whisper of oak, but is integrated along with fine-grained tannins. The emphasis is on a fruit forward wine at a fair price to showcase the unique character of Coonawarra. 2004 Excelsior Cabernet Sauvignon Robertson South Africa ($7.99) This is the third vintage we have brought in of this wine, and I think it is the most focused and balanced of the bunch. The nose is full of plum, black current, dark cherry, cassis and a hint of licorice. On the palate there is good balancing acidity with fine dusty tannins and a note of cocoa that lead to a fine refreshing finish. Buy a case to have around the house this holiday season. Happy Holidays! —Jimmy C
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