Splurges Within Reach - Wine & Spirits Magazine

Splurges Within Reach

Up your game with any one of these 12 wines—none are cheap, but all of them overdeliver for their price, offering peak drinking that’s likely to turn some heads and spark conversation at your next holiday feast. Buy one…or all 12. It’s a case worth investigating—twelve highlights from our December 2021 Edition.


Champagne Grand Cru Face Nord Brut

94 | $54

Weighted toward pinot noir (70 percent), this Champagne is powerfully structured with red fruit that pours out of the glass. With air, the wine’s mineral acidity turns frisky, the layered intensity of cèpes and chalk mellows toward generosity. —J.G.

Imported by Skurnik Wines, NY

Pierre Péters
Champagne Grand Cru Cuvée de Réserve Brut Blanc de Blancs

96 | $63

Mostly from Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, all grown on chalk, this wine seems to layer that chalk’s seabed heritage into beautiful richness, as it combines different parcels aged in stainless steel, oak barrels or concrete. This offers a soft impression of fruit from ancient fossilized soil, one that made me smile at the glory of Champagne. —J.G.

Imported by Skurnik Wines, NY


2017 Barbaresco

94 | $38

This richly textured wine’s fleshy black-cherry flavors are framed by chalky tannins, its ripe fruit tones lifted by fresh floral scents even as it finishes on lingering notes of licorice and warm spices. —S.J.
Imported by North Berkeley Imports, Berkeley, CA

2017 Barolo

94 | $53

One of the best Barolo classico wines we tasted from the vintage, this wine, like Franco Massolino’s other 2017 releases, seems unaffected by the heat and drought of the growing season. Mouthwatering acidity infuses well-defined red-cherry and berry flavors framed by cool, ferrous tannins. Balanced, fresh and firm, it has plenty of stuffing for the long haul.

Imported by Vineyard Brands, Birmingham, AL

Fratelli Alessandria
2017 Barolo del Comune di Verduno

94 | $54

This Barolo captures the fresh floral scents, lively red fruit and peppery spice so characteristic of Verduno. A model of restraint and balance, this is showing beautifully now, and will continue to develop well over the next decade. —S.J.

Imported by North Berkeley Imports, Berkeley, CA


Viñedos Sierra Cantabria
2011 Rioja Gran Reserva

95 | $40

This grows at the Eguren family’s estate vineyards in San Vicente de la Sonsierra, where the vines and then the long aging took this wine into a realm of pure deliciousness. It starts from a tight focus on black fruit and tobacco smoke, then builds to a crescendo as that fruit expands into violets, red apples and fresh blackberries, completely saturated and yet not at all heavy, with a refinement that makes the wine feel welcoming and open. Decant it now for a wine that’s hard to resist. —J.G.

Imported by Jorge Ordóñez Selections, Dedham, MA


Red Mountain Fortuna II

94 | $45

A multi-vintage blend of three varieties: old-block cabernet from 2019, carmenere from 2017, and malbec from 2018. It was an inspired choice to go with multiple vintages: The wine is spicy, burnished, and exotically savory, with scents of woodsmoke, toffee and plum, cocoa, cinnamon, anise, and mace. The carmenere spice is tethered to cabernet fruit, the black-plummy malbec rounded out by the older components, all exceptionally suave and balanced. —P.J.C.

Ambassador Wines of Washington
2018 Red Mountain Diplomat

94 | $48

A blend of mostly cabernet, with syrah and malbec. The latter varieties lead, with violets and black-plum scents. Savory in the extreme, this is fleshy and generous with black fig, olive and cedar notes. A tannic wine, but the tannins are sleek, quite a feat for Red Mountain. —P.J.C.

Gramercy Cellars
2018 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

94 | $50

This is, in a sense, the opposite of a showstopper: It leads with plum and tobacco scents only to have a sunny richness creep into the wine on cat feet, elegant and a bit elusive. Then the precise tannins on the finish feel uplifting and fresh. —P.J.C.


W. & J. Grahams
Porto Aged 20 Years-Tawny

93 | $69

Earthy rather than fruity, this is all about umami, its cool cellar tones layering dark mushroom and savory black bean flavors over papaya. It lasts with intriguing complexity that would work with a range of umami-rich foods, like seafood in an XO sauce. —J.G.

Imported by Premium Port Wines, San Francisco, CA


2019 Tokaji Dry Inspiration

95 | $25

This takes furmint’s fiery acidity and deep savor and counters them with hárslevelü’s floral delicacy—then delivers it all in a texture as indulgent as crème anglaise. A barrel-fermented selection of fruit from Disznókő’s top vineyards, it’s savory and opulent, with honeysuckle scents and a spicy, salty edge that keeps the plump flavors mouthwatering. —T.Q.T.

2019 Tokaji Late Harvest

94 | $42/500ml

This is made from amply ripe fruit, nearly half of it botrytized, fermented and aged in new Hungarian oak barrels. It’s so concentrated that it feels creamy, with fruit flavors that span citrus to cherimoya and strawberry. It’s refreshing, with a clarity and acidity that could cut through the richness of a pound cake. —T.Q.T.
Imported by Europvin, Van Nuys, CA

The wines on this page were chosen by our editors, from our tastings for the December 2021 edition. After our editors made their selections, we offered wineries the opportunity to promote their award with a bottle image and brand links.

Joshua Greene is the editor and publisher of Wine & Spirits magazine.

is the Italian wine editor at Wine & Spirits magazine.

Patrick J. Comiskey covers US wines for Wine & Spirits magazine, focusing on the Pacific Northwest, California’s Central Coast and New York’s Finger Lakes.

is W&S’s editor at large and covers the wines of the Mediterranean and Central and Eastern Europe for the magazine.

This story appears in the print issue of December 2021.
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