A new year means new goals. New goals mean more reasons to celebrate, and more reasons to celebrate means more wine, of course. Luckily, in the world of wine, there are always good things to drink that haven’t passed your lips before.
There are so many, though, that it could be a daunting challenge to know precisely what to set your sights on. With that in mind, I did the heavy lifting for you.
Here are 10 selections that you should make an extra effort to drink in 2016. Some of them are steals and a few are pricey, the rest in between. They all have two incredibly important things in common: They are all well-made and delicious. What better way to start the New Year than with a tasty bottle that is sure to please palates of all kinds?
This offering is both 100 percent merlot and entirely from Alexander Valley. A host of spices explode from the nose alongside deep aromas of cherry and blackberry. The palate shows off continued cherry, raspberry, and plum flavors along with more spice and bits of dark chocolate. The above average finish has hints of chicory, blueberry, and black pepper spice. In a world where too much merlot tastes nothing like it should, here’s a well-priced example that shows tons of true character.
None of us drink enough sparkling wine, and that’s a shame because sparklers are often remarkably food-friendly. This example made from traditional Champagne grapes chardonnay and pinot noir, as well as non-traditional chenin blanc, is delicious. It has a floral nose laced with bits of yellow melon and golden delicious apple. Lemon curd, bits of pear, and hints of strawberry do the firm, well-structured palate. The finish is crisp, refreshing, and above average in length with bits of biscuit and brioche. It’ll pair well with all but the richest of foods.
This wine is made up of syrah, zinfandel, and petite sirah from Mendocino County. This is a brand new addition to the portfolio from the county's oldest winery. The nose is dark, brooding and intense with black plum and cherry aromas in strong evidence. Bits of Mexican vanilla bean are present as well. The palate is firm and dense with continued cherry, along with blueberry, and bits of blackberry. A copious array of spices light up the finish along with chicory and a hint of cigar. It’s delicious the moment you open it, but really blossoms with some air, so decant it if you have time. The price says $30; the quality in the bottle tastes like $55.
This fascinating little winery in Yountville is doing some interesting things. Its tasting room is also a Ralph Lauren Home store. You can walk in taste wine and buy any of the Ralph Lauren items you see, or maybe even the chair you happen to be sitting on. Interesting concept that wouldn’t matter if the wines weren’t delicious, but they are. This Napa Valley blend combines cabernet sauvignon (40 percent), malbec (40 percent), and syrah (20 percent). The deep, rich color is dark red. The nose shows of dark fruit, leather, and a bit of spice. The palate is simply stuffed with blackberry, blueberry, black raspberry, and more. It all leads to an impressive, spice-laden finish.
Paraduxx is largely known for its blends. Oftentimes, it makes wines with two grapes that don’t get blended together very often. In the case of this offering, though, it’s a very traditional blend of syrah (86 percent) and grenache (14 percent). The nose here is simply stunning, with red fruits such as strawberry laced with hints of black fruit, black pepper, and a touch of smoked meats such as pastrami. The palate is rich, dense, layered, and full of cherry, blueberry, and plum flavors. Chicory, dusty baker’s chocolate, and a host of spices emerge on the long, somewhat lusty finish. There’s not nearly enough good syrah in Napa Valley; this, it happens, is on the short list of the very best.
This small Dry Creek Valley producer sells its wine through its charming tasting room and to a wine club that loves what it does. Producing small lots of precise, sometimes site specific wines, is its stock in trade. There aren’t a ton of wineries producing a varietal malbec in Sonoma County, but Lambert Bridge does, so you should get your hands on this wine if you love malbec. Red rose aromas emerge from the nose along with copious plum characteristics of various stripes. The palate here is stuffed with juicy red fruit flavors, spice, and a touch of red earth. Bits of boysenberry and chocolate sauce dot the persistent finish which demands you come back to the glass for sip after sip.
Rodney Strong Wines
Rodney Strong’s impressive portfolio includes wines that represent fair or better values in many price tiers. At the top of the heap, so to speak, sit three distinct single-vineyard cabernet sauvignons. Rockaway Cabernet is the one it has been producing the longest. The 2012 vintage is one of the best in its history. Red fruit aromas inform the expressive nose along with gentle but present bits of savory herb. The palate is opulently layered with tons of fruit flavors such as cherry, red plum, and bits of raspberry. The well above average finish shows off bits of black tea, minerals, and a touch of leather. This is a big, beefy cabernet sauvignon that is also proportionate.
Willamette Valley Wines
This pinot noir was created exclusively for the David Burke Group. Based out of New York City, the group has restaurants there and in several other key American cities. The restaurants are acclaimed and this wine gives you even more reason to dine at them. It’s an excellent example of the great things that are being done in Oregon’s Willamette Valley with pinot noir. Dark fruit aromas, such as black cherry and a hint of raspberry, fill the nose. The palate is fruity, but restrained with a firm edge and lots of mineral and earth characteristics playing a strong role. The dark fruit flavors continue on the finish alongside a dusting of cocoa. Well-made pinot noir is a stunningly good partner for all sorts of food; this one hits all those marks.
This new Super Tuscan wine in the Cecchi portfolio is a blend of sangiovese (60 percent), cabernet sauvignon (10 percent), petit verdot (20 percent), and merlot (10 percent). Each variety was fermented separately. It underwent 18 months of barrel aging and a year of bottle aging prior to release. From the word go, this is an impressive offering. The nose is gently layered with red fruit, leather, and savory herb aromas. The complex palate is stuffed with wave after wave of dried red fruits including cherries, cranberries, and more. Earth, black tea, a horn-o-plenty of spices, and bits of toasty oak are all in evidence on the prodigiously long finish. Some Super Tuscan wines are dominated by the international varieties to the point that the sangiovese character gets lost. That’s not the case here. Everything comes together to create a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. A mere 200 cases were produced, so grab it before it’s gone.
This wine is largely cabernet sauvignon (81 percent), with smaller amounts of merlot (seven percent), malbec (six percent), cabernet franc (three percent), and petit verdot (three percent). Hints of smoke and toast play along with tons of red and black cherry aromas. The palate is studded with tons of lip smacking fruit flavors as well as oodles of spice. Minerals, earth, and hints of chocolate sauce are all part of the prodigiously long finish. Firm acid and sweet, giving tannins provide terrific structure. This wine is delicious and hard to resist now, but patience will be rewarded. It has the stuffing to age well for the next 15 years.