The late actress Elizabeth Taylor once said, “The problem with people who have no vices is that
generally you can be pretty sure they're going to have some pretty annoying virtues.”
Elizabeth Taylor was never known for her poignant observations – other than this one – but she was certainly known for her indulgences. Just look at her jewelry.
For some, indulgence is having the latest technology; for others, it is an aged scotch or rare bourbon. So, let us make a case for indulging in an expensive wine for the holiday season.
Perhaps it’s a gift for someone hard to impress or maybe it’s just a beverage to enjoy over a romantic dinner. But this is a special time of the year to celebrate and feel good.
With the holidays quickly approaching, here are several expensive wines sure to leave leave an impression. If you can’t find them at your local store, they can be ordered online.
Justin Isosceles 2015 ($72). Justin Vineyard & Winery make several top-drawer red wines ranging in price from $27 to $72. This flagship giant from the Paso Robles region is a Bordeaux blend of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, and merlot. Chewy tannins, generous aromas of cherries, spice, and licorice with layered fruit flavors of red berries, black currants, cassis, and tobacco.
Lady of the Dead Napa Valley Red Wine 2016 ($55). We always pause when confronted with a pretty label because often it’s a cover up for a flawed wine. That’s why we need to taste wines like Lady of the Dead to prove us wrong. The haunting label pays homage to the Frias Family Vinyard in Calistoga, a top-quality producer introduced to us by a friend who wanted us to taste it blind. We were stunned with its rich and fruit-extracted character. Floral, violet aromas and blackberry, plum, and jammy raspberry flavors with hints of red currants and spice. Syrah and merlot are blended with the dominant cabernet sauvignon.
Rodney Strong Symmetry Red Meritage Alexander Valley 2013 ($55). This wine is a blend of cabernet sauvignon (76%), petite verdot, cabernet franc, malbec, and merlot. This is a very smooth rich package with cherry/cassis elements and a hint of mocha. Very easy to drink and would accompany most red meat dishes.
Chateau Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 ($160). You can’t write about Napa Valley greatness without talking about this property. Its chardonnay won the “Judgment of Paris” wine competition, but Chateau Montelena’s red wines make up its legacy. There’s just an old, historic character to this iconic wine: power yet finesse, great balance, structure, and layered fruit. Raspberries and blackberries with a dash of earthiness.
Round Pond Estate Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 ($75). Black cherries abound in this delicious and sturdy cabernet from Rutherford grapes. Concentrated, long in the finish and showing tantalizing hints of licorice and mocha.
Ehlers Estate “1886” Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 ($125). Bernard Ehlers planted this estate’s first vineyard in the St. Helena AVA in 1886. That it continues to live on is a testimony to its owners. Using the best block of the vineyard, winemaker Laura Diaz has crafted a colossal, complex cabernet sauvignon with big tannins, rich texture, and layers of red berry fruit.
Mi Sueno Winery Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 ($75). This wine has a good story behind it: owner Rolando Herrera moved to Napa Valley from Mexico when he was only 15 and worked as a dishwasher at Auberge du Soleil and later as a harvest laborer at Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars. After becoming a winemaker for Paul Hobbs, he launched his own winery. This rich cabernet sauvignon is classic Napa Valley with rich red currant and plum notes with hints of leather and mineral. Tannins are round and enjoyable now but clearly the wine has longevity.
Clos du Val Hirondelle Vineyard Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 ($120). A giant of a wine that goes down easy now or can last a decade or more, this powerful wine has broad aromas of plums, mushrooms, dried herbs, and mint with flavors redolent of black cherries, raspberries, and espresso.
50 Harvests Napa Valley Meritage 2014 ($50). “Meritage” doesn’t have the buzz it once did, but its definition is still important in the blending process because the combination of these Bordeaux grapes make sense. We like this blend of cabernet sauvignon and petit verdot for its layered fruit and complexity. Classic black currant and tobacco aromas with dark berry flavors and a dash of mineral.
Fort Ross Stagecoach Road Pinot Noir 2015 ($80). Wow, where has this producer been all our life? An incredibly rich and balanced pinot noir from the cool Sonoma Coast, it has dark fruit aromas and flavors with a dash of spice and earth. Easy tannins and long in the finish, it has a burgundian feel.
Hickinbotham Brooks Road Shiraz 2015 ($75). This Australian producer is making very nice wines in the Clarendon subregion of McLaren Vale. It took a while for this shiraz to open, but finally we were enveloped by floral, violet aromas and dark fruit flavors that weren’t too ripe like so many shirazes. Balanced, complex, fine tannins, and long in the finish. Hickinbotham also makes a great Trueman Cabernet Sauvignon ($75) that is dense and complex.
Lyndenhurst Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 ($85). A byproduct of Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery, this fruit-forward, Napa Valley cabernet goes full-throttle on extracted dark berry flavors. Plush tannins and hints of tobacco and chocolate.
Marchesi di Gresy Martinenga Barbaresco DOCG 2014 ($60). Using nebbiolo grapes from the only monopole in Piedmont’s barbaresco appellation, this producer has a solid performance here. Plum and mint aromas give way to cherry and plum flavors. It can age for several decades but it would be enjoyable now if served alongside a good steak.