Majestic reds to invest in for holiday gifts to yourself
The enjoyment of fine wine demands investment in both time and currency. Combing expert winemaking, time-honored vineyards and winery space devoted to long barrel aging, the costs of labor and real estate (top expenditures for most businesses) are passed along to the buying public. Even so, many fine reds demand maturation after purchase, which benefits only those possessing pristine storage.
I recommend these majestic reds as values in their super-premium price range. They are eminently enjoyable now but will reward patience in cellaring. Local distribution (if any) is listed because they may be tricky to locate. Once tasted, though, these wines will be harder to forget.
Cabernet Sauvignon "Lazuli," Vina Aquitania (Valle del Maipo, Chile) 2017
About $40 at boutiques including Vin Chicago. Distributed by Maverick Wine Company.
While tasting this wine "blind," i.e., with its identity obscured, I should have known the wine was Chilean, from its radiant, ripe blackberry flavors and tannin plush and powerful as fine leather. I could have guessed the winemaker was an international Cabernet maestro, combining the grape's Old World aged meat and deep-forest mystery with New World vitality. The label's "Aquitania" was a hint, referencing the Acquitaine, France's historic southwest, today's Bordeaux, already famed for wine in 1 B.C.All was revealed with a trip to the website: Yes, Chile, with its high elevation, stony soils and sun-washed days (for ripeness and concentration) coupled with cold nights (preserving acidity and freshness). Yes, a production team including Bruno Prats, former owner of Bordeaux's Cos d'Estournel and pioneer of Bordeaux's techniques in Portugal, South Africa and Spain, Paul Pontallier of Bordeaux's Premier Grand Cru, Chateau Margaux and Chilean Agronomist Felipe de Solminihac. The wine is a gentle giant, massive but elegant. Hold it on the palate to evolve the complexity of mocha, tobacco, dried herb, fruit and spice.
Cabernet Sauvignon "Rutherford Reserve" Beaulieu Vineyard (Napa Valley, California) 2019
Locally available for about $80, distributed by Breakthru Beverage. It was 1900. The Wright brothers launched the first manned glider. San Francisco, California, swelled to a metropolis of 342,782 (up 30,000% since the 1849 Gold Rush). And Georges de la Tour purchased a four-acre ranch at the urging of his Mrs. -- "Quelle beau lieu!" (What a beautiful place!) -- in a tiny valley northeast of the city. It was arguably one of the most significant decisions of the new century to our country's history and economy. Beaulieu Vineyards (internationally dubbed BV) magnetized Napa Valley, attracting talent, international acclaim and investment; today, Napa's wine industry contributes $50 billion to the U.S. economy, according to the Napa Valley Vintners association. In 1938, de la Tour hired winemaker Andre Tchelistcheff, who focused BV's attention on cabernet sauvignon, aged in French oak barrels, grown in Napa's Rutherford area. You can taste American history with BV's "Rutherford Reserve" Cabernet, with richly ripe, wild berry flavor accented by baking and exotic spice and toasty oak, all framed by velvety "cocoa-powdered" tannin -- the result of the unique gravel, sand and loam soils, now famed throughout the wine-world as "Rutherford dust." (Note: This is a different wine than BV's "Georges de la Tour Private Reserve," about $150.) The wine is plush now, but -- according to BV -- will be complex for 20 years with careful storage.
"Il Fauno di Arcanum" IGT, Tenuta di Arceno (Tuscany, Italy) 2019
About $35, distributed in Illinois by Romano Brothers Beverage. Learn to love merlot again! Once America's top-selling red, the grape was pillaged by overplanting and an unfortunate rant in "Sideways," "I will not drink *#@* merlot!" This Merlot, along with the classic Bordeaux blend including cabernet sauvignon, was long-ripened to modify the grape's vegetal bitterness into pleasing mint, green tobacco and forest floor accents, enveloped by black cherry and plummy fruit. The soft entry extends on the palate to a pleasingly firm finish. The label represents the Roman Faunus (the Greek Pan), half man/ half goat, god of forests and fields, bringer of merriment and mischief. It also represents the duality of Tuscany's tradition paired with a modern "micro-cru" concept, i.e., pairing each grape with specific vineyards, which are vinified separately to express the unique expression of the land.
• Mary Ross is an Advanced Sommelier (Court of Master Sommeliers), a Certified Wine Educator (Society of Wine Educators) and recipient of the Wine Spectator's "Grand Award of Excellence." Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.