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Deck the Halls with Red and White

Photo by Ramona D'Viola
BACCHUS, THE ROMAN GOD OF WINE, must surely be smiling this holiday season. Rarely have so many great wines been available from so many vintages at the same time, giving wine lovers the pleasure of taking gift-giving to a new level with the best of 1996 Champagnes, 1997 Ports, 2000 Bordeaux, 2001 California Cabernet Sauvignon and super Tuscans and 2002 California Chardonnay and red and white Burgundy.

The prices might trigger a few bolts of lightning from Snotra, the goddess of self-discipline. But values do exist if you delve into each vintage. The regional qualities, the vines and vintages provided the wherewithal for producers of all sizes and pricing to succeed. And succeed they did, all the way down to $12 white Burgundies from 2002 with the regional appellation of Bourgogne and $15 Beaujolais from the same vintage.

If you are fortunate enough to be on the receiving end of one of these current and future treasures, make it a gift with even more meaning. Write the name of the donor and date on the label and serve it several years—or decades—later on some special occasion.

As always, the prices listed here are approximate and vary widely among merchants. Some of the wines may not be available locally. The Grand Cru Burgundies and other rarities, such as Colgin Cabernet Sauvignon and the Toscana de Alceo, are produced in limited numbers. Now, for your gift-giving pleasures:


CALIFORNIA CHARDONNAY, 2002


A bountiful harvest, particularly in Sonoma. Just about any wine from the Russian River Valley is worth sipping, including wines from Paul Hobbs, Martinelli, Gary Farrell and Lewis. A few specific recommendations:

Beringer, Napa Valley, Sbargia Limited Release, $45
Acacia, Carneros, Sangiacomo Vineyard, $30
Arrowood, Sonoma County, $30
Souverain, Russian River, Winemaker’s Reserve, $25

BURGUNDY (WHITE), 2002


The best vintage since 1996. Some of the Grand Cru wines— listed here by domain, then the producer—are just starting to arrive, so shop early and often before they are gone. All are Grand Crus; prices hadn’t been set when this was written.

Batard Montrachet: Louis Jadot or Vincent Leflaive
Chablis: Bouchard, Les Clos; Vincent Dauvissat, Les Clos;
Louis Jadot, either the Les Preuses or Valmur
Corton Charlamagne: Vincent Girardin or Joseph Drouhin
Meursault: Louis Jadot or Dom. Comtes Lafon, Les Perrieres
Montrachet: Dom. Comtes Lafon, Louis Jadot, Vincent Leflaive


CHAMPAGNE, 1996


These beautiful wines are in full blossom, with a nose full of impressions of good fruit, special yeasts, long aging and the terroir (soil). The structures are sound, so you can toast this and some future New Year’s Eves if someone is kind enough to give more than one bottle. If you haven’t tried a classic Brut Rose from Champagne, make the Taittinger first on your list.

Taittinger, Brut Rose, Champagne Comtes de Champagne, $200
Roederer Cristal, $150-$175
Dom Perignon, $125-$150


CALIFORNIA CABERNET, 2001


The 2001 vintage rivals the 1985, 1994 and 1997 vintages in depth and breadth of quality, particularly in the Napa Valley andStag’s Leap area. The regular bottles of Caymus and Shafer are worth comparing to their high-priced brethren. A few for the stocking:

Shafer, Stag’s Leap District, Sunspot, $400
Colgin, 2001, Napa Valley, Tyschon Hill, $200
Caymus Special Selection, $150
Caymus Napa Valley, $70
Shafer, Napa Valley, $50


BORDEAUX, 2000


This is a collector’s vintage, and you can still find wines at better merchants throughout Southern California. Do some on-line shopping, since prices can vary considerably.

Petrus, Pomerol, $1,500-$1,800
Lafite Rothschild, Pauillac, $450-$500
Latour, Pauillac, $450-$500
Chateau Palmer, Margaux, $120
Ducru Beaucaillou or Gruaud-Larose, St. Julien, $100
Lynch Bages, Pauillac, $100
Cos d’Estournel, St. Estephe, $100


BURGUNDY (RED), 2002


The best of Romanee Conti and other Grand Cru vineyards have yet to arrive. On the value side of the ledger, test the quality of the vintage by sampling early-arriving wines from the Volnay area. Also, Beaujolais enjoyed a great vintage. Experiment with any of the Georges Deboeuf wines, particularly those from Fleurie. Prices: $12 to $20.


TUSCANY, 2001


The great Brunellos and wines from the Piedmont are still a year or two from shipment. To sample the vintage, here are two super Tuscans worth adding to your list:

Antinori, Toscana Solaia, $200
Castello de’ Rampolla, Toscana de Alceo, $200

PORT, 1997


A wonderful vintage, leaning toward balanced styles found in the 1970 vintage and good for another two decades. Chose from:

Croft, Fonseca, Taylor Fladgate, Quinta do Noval, about $85 each
Dow and Warre, about $60

GERMANY, 2001


Check with your wine merchant for recommendations on Riesling wines from both the Mosel and Rhine areas. This is one of the best vintages there in the past three decades.
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