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What To Drink Now: Wine That Is Guaranteed To Impress

Whether you are shopping for your in-laws, your boss, your sweetie, or giving yourself a great holiday prize, these will pack an impressive punch and please any palate.  Here are a few of my favorite wines ideal for pairing with everything from the holiday ham to crown roast to a gorgeous beef tenderloin.  A few selections were sent for editorial consideration.

Raise a hat to winemakers who hail from our great state, though may not make their delicious juice with in Texas.  Like Dallasites Craig and Ambassador Kathryn Hall of Hall Wines in Napa Valley.  Year in and Year out their Cabernet Sauvignon consistently delivers great taste, style and elegance with just the right balance of fruit with leather and cedar notes.  Another winery from Dallas residents Dr. Clay and Brenda Cockerell continues to grow their portfolio, creating interesting, balanced and beautiful wines from Calistoga, CA in their Coquerel Family Wines portfolio.  They recently introduced a plum and spice filled Merlot and steely Chardonnay into the portfolio, already containing Bordeaux style Sauvignon Blanc, Petite Sirah and Verdelho.  Texas natives Adam and Dianna Lee, owners and winemakers for Siduri in Sonoma Valley continue to rake in the ratings as each bottle of their varietally correct Pinot Noir from fruit sourced throughout California and Oregon packs an incredible punch of fruit forward and balanced flavor.  On a recent visit to Willamette Valley a visit to Alexana, the sister winery to Napa Valley’s Revana and owned by Houston based cardiologist Dr. Revana proved to be one of the high points of the trip, tasting earthy, layered and mineral rich Pinot Noir from Oregon’s Dundee Hills.  I expected nothing less as Dr. Revana’s Napa Cabs are also some of the best around.

You can also chose a true statement wine that will impress without completely breaking the bank, like CJ Melka from the much famed Phillipe Melka.  Melka has become one of the most respected and sought after winemakers in the Napa Valley, and this, his own Cabernet based wine with a touch of Merlot and Petit Verdot was created in honor of his two children, Chloe and Jeremy and is meant to be enjoyed young, while toasting friends and family over a celebratory meal.  Filled with intense cherry, currant and licorice flavors a beautiful wine to enjoy with everything from pot roast to rack of lamb.

Perhaps one of the best Napa Valley finds I had in the past year is from Merus Winery.  Intricate, detailed, quality driven and always striving to create perfection from fruit grown in the recently named Coombsville AVA at the base of Napa, this wine is a perfect marriage of masculine strength balanced with a delicate finesse; bold fruit with soft, silky tannins; freshness now yet displays the beautiful ability to age for many years.  A great wine, especially if you are gifting yourself.

Though many phases of the iconic Robert Mondavi Winery have come to pass since the winery started, there is no doubt that Robert Mondavi Reserve wines are always some of the best from the Oakville AVA of Napa Valley.  The 2009 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon adds just a touch of robust Petit Verdot and earthy, green Cabernet Franc to the blend, giving richness to the wine that completely represents the vision that Mondavi had when he started the winery in the 1960’s.  There are many Napa wineries celebrating 40th anniversaries this year and next; never forget Robert Mondavi was one of the first to really put Napa on the map.

Though rather unexpected if you are unfamiliar with the area, Livermore, CA has incredible wines produced from fruit grown in their soils.  The wines of Steven Kent Winery fulfill the goal of owner/winemaker Steven Kent Mirassou, to simply produce Cabernet Sauvignon in Livermore of the same quality as any others in the world.  Steven’s Home Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon produced from grapes grown right around his tasting room first planted in 1996 create a classic flavor profile of cherry and currant with layers of spice, leather and licorice, exactly what I look for in a great Cabernet.

Another one that will make a statement, while pairing nicely with everything from truffle risotto to crown roast, Cheval Sauvage from Wild Horse winery.  This Pinot Noir from Santa Maria Valley in California’s Central Coast blends balanced fruit forward flavors with floral notes of violets and lavender with leather and cedar on the finish.  Big, well rounded and luscious.

Or go Old World with a selections from Italy, France, Spain, Portugal or Greece.  The other evening I hosted a holiday wine tasting for an Italian family that wanted all Italian wine.  We poured two reds that were just incredible, Giovanni Rosso Barbera d’Alba, 100% Barbera from the Piedmonte region in North Western Italy. Fermented in cement tanks, adding an extra layer of minerality to the wine, aged 12 months in French oak casks and bottled unfined and unfiltered, creating an intense varietally correct flavor. Filled with layers of black cherries and blackberry with dried herbs and a hint of tobacco, pairing nicely with pasta with tomato sauce, grilled fish and cured meat; and Firriato – Santagostino Baglio Soria Rosso, grown in clay soils at a 180m above sea level in Trapani, Sicily this intense yet elegant blend of 50% Nero d’ Avola/50% Syrah is aged 8 months in French and America oak before bottling. Filled with rich, luscious and dominant notes of ripe cherry, berry, spic and intense herbal notes, ideally paired with grilled beef or game, stewed meats and aged cheese.  If your idea of Italian wine has to include Sangiovese, try a stunning blend from Banfi called SummuS.  Meaning “highest” in Italian, this Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah blend designed to highlight the best in each variety, creating a wine filled with smoke, spice, fruit and incredible flavor with balance, elegance and beauty.

Ribera del Duero in Spain was named wine region of the year by Wine Enthusiast a few weeks ago, and each time I taste one of their dusty, earthy and very bold Tempranillo variants it is easy to see why, especially those from Valdubon or Valduero, however the Toro region of Spain continues to prove that intense Tempranillo, Tinto de Toro to the region, can also be finnessed into a delicate, luscious and rich wine filled with the terroir of the land.  The wines of Numanthia symbolize the region and how the delicate touch of their skilled wine maker, Manuel Louzada, can transform grapes from decades old vines into gorgeous wine.  To really impress, give his Termanthia, the top end of the Numanthia line made from 120+ year old vines, hand picked and hand crushed.

An impressive wine doesn’t have to cost a fortune either, it just has to taste good.  2009 was an exceptional year for Bordeaux, and though you can always go after some of the best from the big boys of the area, you can also find a few great deals that will still give the impression of greatness because they taste so good.  A few to consider include Chateau Julian Bordeaux Superieur from the Gironde overlooking the Garonne River.  A blend of 50% Cabernet with 40% Merlot and 10% Cab Franc, this Bordeaux balances bold, leathery Cab with refined Merlot to create a luscious, lingering wine that will pair beautifully with your beef tenderloin for Christmas dinner.  For those that like a Bordeaux heavier on the Merlot, try Chateau Sainte Antoine Bordeaux Superieur Rouge from St. Emilion.  65% Merlot and 35% Cabernet Franc, resulting in a plum and cherry filled wine with herbal notes and a long finish.