Retailer Wine Selections

For this issue, we asked members of the National Retailer Wine Panel to recommend their favorite holiday wines. As always, these selections include brief tasting notes, a rating and the wine’s suggested retail price (which varies from store to store and market to market). If you’re a retail beverage professional who would like to learn more about participating in our panel, call Richard Brandes at 212-353-3832, or email him at


—– (97) Alcyone Tannat Dessert Wine (Uruguay). Perfect dessert wine for holiday dinner; honey-like texture with tastes of Madagascan vanilla bean and white coco soufflé.  ($25)

—– (96) Pierre Colin-Morey Chassagne Montrachet Les Baudines 2007 (France). This Premier Cru is sophisticated and graceful with plenty of citrus and floral notes followed by flavors of deep apples and cloves; complex and rich, making it a special wine for a special dinner. ($85)

—– (95) Fattoria dei Barbi Brunello Montalcino Riserva 2001 (Italy). Layered with licorice and blackberries, this gem is the highlight of the famous 2001 vintage and packs loads of flavor and finesse; perfect match to be enjoyed with a fine meal. ($89)

—– (95) Madrone Knoll Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 (California). A classic and complex wine that demonstrates the distinctiveness of the Stag’s Leap District; rich, deep flavors surrounded by enticing floral aromas and velvet tannins; deep garnet hues with intense black fruit and rich vanilla notes; full coating on the palate of blackberry and black cherry, with hints of smoke and a soft finish; perfect with rich dishes like grilled steak. ($60)

—– (94) ZD Reserve Caneronos Pinot Noir 2006 (California). Fruity aroma; cherry, plum with a hint of vanilla; full bodied; long finish; nice with holiday prime rib or turkey. ($50)


—– (94) Dr. Hermann Erdener Treppchen Auslese 2005 (Germany). The perfect holiday dessert wine; enticing aromas and flavors of honey, apricots, ripe white peaches; full, round and sensual; balanced sugar and acidity; the finish goes on and on and on. ($36)

—– (94) Twomey Napa Merlot 2005 (California). Great wine to impress friends from the makers of Silver Oak; an intense, concentrated wine that combines power and finesse in beautiful balance; a velvety, voluptuous mouth-feel and flavors of cherries covered in dark chocolate; delicious for current drinking and perfect with that holiday roast. ($60)

—– (94) Chanson Puligny Montrachet Côte de Beaune 2006 (France). Pale Gold in color; floral fragrances mixed with citrus fruit aromas enhanced by a beautiful minerality and a delicate oak note; on the palate, generous, well balanced and well structured; nicely integrated minerality; great on any holiday table. ($86)

—– (94) Gosset Grande Reserve Brut Champagne (France). Delicious; dry and flavorful, sporting citrus, spice, apple and pear flavors on a firm, lightweight frame, holding its focus through the long finish; lovely as an aperitif, but has the structure to pair well with light hors d’oeuvres. ($75)

—– (93) Drouhin Gevrey Chambertin 2005 (France). Ruby red to purple in color; ripe fruit aromas: raspberry, black cherry and some spice; elegant structure; long focused finish with remarkable finesse. ($74)

—– (93) Darioush Napa Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 (California). Enticing aromas of vanilla bean, blackberry and crème de cassis introduce this bold, yet harmonious wine; rich palate with layered flavors of wild black cherry, plum and espresso; an elegant finish is accented by delicate hints of cinnamon, nutmeg and spice box; big and bold; goes with the prime rib on the holiday table ($90)

—– (93) Vina Robles Paso Robles Suendero 2005 (California). This is a wonderful blend of cabernet sauvignon and petit verdot; dark garnet with notes of wild strawberry, black currant and blackberry, in addition to vanilla and coconut aromas from the oak barrels; dark fruits re-emerge on the palate with blueberry and fresh black raspberry dominating, as well as oregano and green peppercorn supported by toasted oak tannins and a balancing acidity that provides a long finish; try with dishes such as Beef Wellington or roasted duck. ($50)

—– (93) Sonoma Loeb Reserve Chardonnay 2007 (California).  Resembling a Grand Cru White Burgundy, this voluptuous chardonnay is ripe and creamy with complex spicy pear, tropical fruit, vanilla, anise and smoky fig flavors; turns long and silky on the opulent, generously elegant finish; serve with lobster, crab cakes or shrimp scampi. ($35)

—– (93) Rodney Strong Alden Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 (California). From the highest vineyard on the Rodney Strong estate comes this utterly delicious cabernet; fruit-forward dark berry flavors with a chocolate accent; powerful, yet balanced finish. ($30)

—– (93) Schweiger Napa Valley Merlot 2004 (California). From high atop Spring Mountain, comes this amazing merlot; big, full, rich fruit, with an elegant, creamy finish; great now; can’t wait to taste it again after 3-5 years of cellaring. ($40)

—– (93) Domaine Pavelot Pernand-Vergelesses Premier Cru 2005 (France). A pinot noir for cabernet lovers; ripe aromas, rich, full and delicious flavors and a serious, penetrating finish. ($30)

—– (93) Montes Alpha Colchagua Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 (Chile). The bouquet is initially sweet and savory, with a strong whiff of espresso and caramel overlying ripe bush fruits and aromas of blackberry and black cherry; with time, some lightly spicy notes of oak and vanilla emerge; coffee and spice notes on the palate with ripe, black fruit flavors move to center stage; full, ripe and rich and well balanced; a nice note of acidity on the palate; pairs well with roast beef with all the trimmings. ($22)

—– (93) Tyrus Evan Walla Walla Syrah 2006 (Washington). The amazing bouquet truly speaks to its terroir, with earthy notes of truffle and mineral slowly melding into a slightly spicy mélange of rich black fruits; ripe black cherry, black raspberry and oak spice flavors are delicious; structure is smooth and lush; the finish is quite long, with plenty of tannin to keep it dry and give it firm grip;  classic red meat dishes will partner beautifully here. ($40)

—– (92) Brown Choas Theory Napa Valley 2005 (California). A cabernet-zinfandel blend; spicey flowery nose; blackberry, pepper, cherry and spice flavors; big tannins; long finish; a wine to go with New York strip steak. ($50)

—– (92) Churchill Crusted Port (Portugal). Lots of the same kind of fruit of a vintage Port, but just a little bit spicier and not quite as tannic; an alternative to a 20-year-old tawny. ($30)
—– (92) Whitehall Lane Merlot Napa 2005 (California). Another winner from this great winery, this Merlot shows plenty of balanced wild berries, cola and oak all coming together in the back end leaving it supple and enjoyable with rack of lamb, veal and prime rib. ($31)

—– (92) Adler Fels Russian River Valley Eagle Rock Red 2006 (California). The wine is a beautiful blend of syrah and petite sirah, named after a craggy range feature above the Mayacamas mountains; an ideal, versatile food wine for entertaining; the palate shows ripe berry fruit and cassis flavors that lead to meaty and earthy tones; pairs wonderfully with roast pork or ham. ($25)
—– (92) River Road Hopkins’s Vineyard Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2007 (California). This single-vineyard offering from the Mills brothers competes with top flight chardonnays at twice the price; hand-crafted, rich and full-bodied dominated by apple, peach and vanilla, with hints of toasty oak and a lush, elegant, creamy finish; enjoy with richer fish dishes like lobster or grilled salmon. ($25)
—– (92) David Bruce Central Coast Petite Sirah 2005 (California). Bursting with rich ripe flavor and aroma; big black fruit flavor and smooth finish; a pleasant mouthful; complements short ribs or even a standing rib roast. ($17)

—– (92) Gloria Ferrer Blanc De Noirs NV (California). Small bubbles with hints of cherry and raspberry; smooth and creamy; very elegant finish that lingers. ($19)

—– (92) Five H White Riesling 2006 (Washington). Aromas of apricot and tangerine burst from the glass; elegant and well balanced; slight sweetness that leads to a crisp, clean and long finish. ($14)

—– (92) Les Moulin Du Pont Bourgogne-Rouge Pinot Noir 2007 (France). This pinot noir sets the bar high for Burgundies in this price point; deep, richly textured and full of flavor, this complex beauty will compliment lamb, pork, beef or salmon; the generous fruit lingers on the palate for some time. ($13)


—- (91) Olabisi Green Valley Napa Zinfandel 2005 (California). Spicey nose; blackberry, pepper and spice flavors; substantial tannins; long finish. ($37)

—- (91) Louis Jadot Santenay Clos De Malte 2005 (France). Cherry color with hints of cherries, currants and raspberries with nuance of spice; full and complex with soft tannins and ripe fruit. ($45)

—- (91) Sokol Blosser Evolution #9 12the Edition (Oregon). This dynamic nine-grape blend features bright acidity, vibrant fruit, supple sweetness and a savory finish; a great welcome wine or fun turkey accompaniment. ($18)

—- (91) Melville Estate Verna’s Vineyard Santa Barbara Pinot Noir 2007 (California). Vibrant ruby red colors coupled with attractive aromas of dried fruits such as cherry, plum and strawberry; hints of peppermint, pistachio and pink-shaved ice; on the palate, the wine shows a driven cranberry-like feel balanced by richness from its density. ($30)

—- (90) Silverado Napa Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 (California). Rich with plums, exotic spices, black and red fruits all intertwined and developing in the glass with a strong and sturdy finish; nicely done and can be served with confidence during your big holiday dinners. ($55)

—- (90) Boisset Santenay 2005 (France). Brillant ruby red hues; fresh red fruit with raspberry tones; medium body; flavors are full and well balanced; finish is lovely with warm earth notes. ($38)

—- (90) Sonoma Cuvee Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2006 (California). Classic Russian River in the bouquet with the lightest apple and pear notes leading into a softly buttery fan that unfolds over subtle melon aromas; crisp and tart, with good acidity starting things off very dry; the palate reveals a mélange of fruit cocktail, with citrus and melon flavors dominating, but it never turns sweet; moderate finish; very well balanced. ($19)

—- (90) Kali Hart Chardonnay 2007 (California). From Talbott Vineyards in California; smooth, easy; light on the oak with hints of ripe pear and balanced acidity. ($13)

—- (90) Chateau Ste Michelle Nellie’s Garden Dry Rose 2006 (Washington). This wine is the perfect food-pairing wine; with bright acidity, cranberry fruit and a crisp finish, it will complete the most challenging pasta, pork or Thanksgiving turkey recipes. ($13)

—- (90) Primarius Pinot Noir 2006 (Oregon). Very light in color and Burgundian in style; earthy aromas with subtle flavors of blackberries and cherries; silky feel on the tongue; a true pinot noir from Oregon. ($24)

—- (90) Penfold’s Koonunga Hill Shiraz Cabernet 2006 (Australia). Intense black currant, blackberry and blueberry aromas; full mouthfeel with a long lingering finish. ($12)

—- (90) Domaine Chandon Riche NV (California). Soft bubbles; peaches and apricots make this a great match with a turkey sandwich. ($32)   

—- (89) Chateau de Segries Cotes du Rhone 2006 (France). The slightly smoky bouquet shows off Provencal herbs overlying rich black fruit aromas and a touch of oak spice; medium full, the palate displays nice richness, with the black fruit flavors turning over to some more tart red cherry and raspberry flavors; good, firm tannins and a long, dry finish wrap things up tastefully; weight and structure to serve with heartier dishes. ($13)

—- (89) Graham Beck Western Cape Chardonnay/Viognier 2008 (South Africa). Pale yellow, this young wine has a juicy bouquet of fresh grapefruit aromas with some peach and lime lingering in the background; very juicy palate, like biting into fresh fruit, with the grapefruit and lime notes from the bouquet continuing; round and rich, but there is plenty of acidity to keep it crisp and dry, and the finish is quite long; a natural poultry partner and also works well with classic fish with lemon dishes. ($10)

—- (89) Domaine Chandon Brut (California). One of the most underrated bubblies today; high-class juice; the fruit is there, the bubbles are small, the bubbly is elegant. ($20)
—- (89) Robert Hall   Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 (California). Fruity aroma; cherry, black currant, plum flavors; moderate tannins; nice, moderately long finish. ($18)

—- (89) Il Torchio Prosecco (Italy). The fruit simply jumps from the glass; gorgeous floral bouquet, but the taste on the palate is dry and crisp; marvelous with all kinds of cheese or for a festive toast. ($13)
—- (89) The Show Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 (California). Rich and luscious fruit and a persistent velvety mouthfeel; the tannins are present, but at bay, giving way to balanced acidity and overripe fruit; a sensational holiday prime rib wine or the perfect red wine for that holiday party. ($13)

—- (89) Adler Fels Russian River Valley Gerwurtstraminer 2007 (California). Zesty lemon, pineapple and tangerine on the nose; on the palate, balanced citrus flavors lead to a crisp, slightly mineral finish; always a staple at Thanksgiving dinner, as it pairs well with traditional turkey dinners. ($15)

—- (88) Castello Banfi Brachetto d’Acqui Rosa Regale 2007 (Italy). Beautiful red sparkling wine with aromas of rose petals. The bubbles dance across the palate with flavors of fresh strawberries and blueberries; perfect for toasting the hostess with a truly unique, low alcohol sweetener; beautiful and festive for the holiday season. ($20)

—- (88) Wolfberger Edelzwicker 2007 (1 Liter, Alsace, France). Absolutely wonderful with turkey; crisp and clean white blend with just a touch of spice; lots of fruit; a spectacular accompaniment food. ($13)
—- (88) 1+1=3 Cava Brut (Spain). This is a high-class bubbly; the bubbles are tiny and the yeast is apparent; an elegant alternative to much more expensive French Champagne. ($16)

—- (88) McManis Family Pinot Noir 2007 (California). The bouquet is moderately rich, showing off a bit more heft than is typical for California appellation pinot; ripe cherry, rhubarb and licorice notes drift beneath a skein of light earth and smoke aromas; tart red cherry opens up the palate, turning richer toward the finish, where it shifts into darker and sweeter bush berries; good balance and light acidity contribute to a very well done wine. ($12)

—- (88) Oak Grove Sauvignon Blanc 2007 (California). The crisp bouquet displays fresh grapefruit aromas along with some whiffs of lemon and pine needle; palate is soft and round and the flavors turn more toward ripe citrus with a touch of pear; crisp acidity on the finish keeps everything nicely light and clean; good as a cocktail wine or with hors d’oeuvres. ($9)

—- (88) El Hada Verdejo 2007 (Spain). Clean and delicate with citrus and pear flavors throughout; rather long finish for a lighter style wine, which makes it a good match with turkey and ham dishes. ($15)

—- (88) Sartori Pinot Noir 2006 (Italy). Value-priced pinot from Italy; smooth, easy, medium body with a touch of easy spice and tannin on the finish. ($9)

—- (88) La Serra Red Malvasia NV (Portugal). Refreshing, effervesence; dessert or aperitif, this strawberry/grape fizz will complement any food. ($18)

—- (87) Cristolino Extra Dry Cava NV (Spain). Affordable cava for the holidays; bright and easy; great for cocktail parties with lots of appetizers. ($8)

—- (86) Old Shandon Port Works Syrah Port NV (California).  Nice coating mouthfeel; smooth finish; flavors of hazelnut, mocha, big berry and cigar box; dessert in a glass. ($20)


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