You always want to have a few bottles of wine on hand that you can drink whenever the occasion arises, whether for tonight’s dinner, when friends drop by, or for an impromptu party. On the other hand, it's also nice to have a few bottles put away to drink in future years on special occasions — usually these will be red, but many wines (especially chardonnay) can develop nicely for four or five years — and you don’t have to have an actual wine cellar to keep them. This collection is a good mix of both, with several bargains under $20, a couple of vintage Champagnes, and some complex wines to lay down in a cool closet or beneath your basement stairs to age until the right moment arises.
Wines to drink soon:
Fetzer Echo Ridge California Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ($8). A fairly simple wine at a simple price — lightly flavored, with most of the taste in the finish.
Réserve des Rochers Mâcon Chaintré ($12). Make this white Burgundy your house wine —pleasant apple flavor and a touch of spice with light acidity, at a great price.
Two Angels High Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2017 ($17). Nicely structured and slightly juicy with tropical fruits and a kiss of lime.
SideBar High Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ($22). Nice and juicy with a little tart apple, a little lime, and a little oak.
Herdado do Rocim “Olho de Mocho” Alentejano Branco Reserva 2014 ($30). Made from Portugal's anão vaz grape, this one offers firm savory flavors with notes of green apple skin; tight and a little tart, with mellow tannins.
Consumano Terre Siciliane Nero d’Avola 2016 ($11). Pleasant with typical nero d'avola cherry-tart flavors and raspy tannins.
Oyster Bay Marlborough Pinot Noir 2015 ($15). A nice middle-of-the-road pinot noir with light cherry and rooty flavors but no herbal notes.
Bonterra California Merlot 2015 ($16). From a veteran producer who uses organic grapes, this is a pleasant, well-balanced wine with light cherry flavor.
Selvapiana Chianti Rufina 2015 ($17). Not all Chianti comes from the Classico region, and this Rufina features nice texture with tart cherry flavor and warm wood notes.
Castello d’Albola Chianti Classico Riserva 2013 ($19). A nice combination of fruity and tangy flavors with light tannins and a smooth body.
Malhadinha Monte da Peceguina Alentejano 2015 ($19). Quite enjoyable, with ripe cherry flavor and a dry herbal underlay.
Caiarossa Pergolaia Toscana Red Blend 2013 ($23). A second-label wine from a noted Super-Tuscan producer, this is a very lean Bordeaux-style blend with cherries, spice, and a few green notes.
Cartuxa Évora Alentejo Tinto Colheita 2013 ($25). Mainly from native Portuguese red grapes, this one is merlot-like in its cherry flavor and its texture, finishing with firm tannins.
Wines worth holding for three to five years (or longer):
Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage Brut 2009 ($51). Bracing intensity of bubbles with flavors of mellow apples and toasty brioche.
Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage Brut Rosé 2009 ($62). Assertive yet smooth and full-bodied, with light cherry flavors.
FEL Anderson Valley Chardonnay 2016 ($32). A toasty chardonnay, but lean with crisp stone fruit flavors.
Charles Smith “Boom Boom” Washington State Syrah 2015 ($17). If you have any attraction to syrah at all, run out and buy a case of this excellent wine at a bargain-basement price. It’s Northern Rhône in style, with plums and dark chocolate and earthiness and more.
Two Angels High Valley Petit Sirah 2014 ($17). A big, savory wine with dark cherry and chocolate flavors and a hint of pencil lead.
Esporão Alentejo Reserva 2014 ($23). A lean and tart blend, somewhat in the Bordeaux mold, with tart cherry flavor.
Stags’ Leap Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 ($47). Nice fruit intensity without being fruit-forward, with flavors of cherries and toast and savory tannins.
Tommasi “Casisano” Brunello di Montalcino 2012 ($48). Not a big wine in terms of volume, but with big flavors — tart, earthy, and gamy, with lots of raspy tannins.
Kenwood Vineyards “Artist Series” Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon ($61). Very nice integration of fruit and wood with fresh blackberry flavor and just a tad of tartness in its long and lovely finish.
Flora Springs Trilogy Napa Valley Red Wine 2015 ($85). A rich and delicious blend of mainly cabernet sauvignon with a little malbec and petit verdot, offering velvety flavors of blackberry and mulberry and a light oak accent.
Etude “Heirloom” Carneros Pinot Noir 2015 ($88). Well-structured, elegant, and slightly lean with a cola flavor; rounded but not fruit forward, with a balance of flavors and structure that makes it a great food wine.
Wines for review were provided by their producers or importers at no cost to the writer.