Choosing the right drink for the holidays is made easy with select reviews from the past year Whether you are looking for something for yourself or a gift for someone else, the following selections can serve as a guide to some of the best bottles of the year. Just click on the price tags following the reviews to find out how to purchase.

 

Red Wine

 

Cabernet Sauvignon


2017 Tierra Roja Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville – 97 Points

Rich garnet color, smooth plum and vanilla nose, silky texture, ripe plum and vanilla oak flavors, lush, rich and showing chocolate, mocha and licorice, another amazing wine from this underappreciated winery. $165.

 

Zinfandel


2018 Gamba Vineyards and Winery Zinfandel Messana Fountain Grove District – 96 Points

Deeply colored, blackberry nose, intense and luscious with stunning texture and richness, exceptional and superb; with a finish that just won’t quit. $61.

 

Pinot Noir


2018 Three Stick Pinot Noit Cuvée Eva Maria Sonoma Mountain – 97 Points

Deep ruby color, smooth, lush, rich cherry fruit; stunning depth and layers of flavor, a great achievement, rich and yet crisp and bright. $95.

 

Barolo


2015 Michele Chiarlo Cannubi Barolo DOCG – 98 Points

Bright ruby color; lush and deep with smooth texture and incredible finesse; from what is arguably Barolo’s greatest vineyard, a stunning wine of enormous power as well as subtlety; this is what this magnificent appellation is all about. $125.

 

Merlot


2017 La Jota Vineyard Merlot Howell Mountain – 97 Points

Vibrant garnet color, rich plum and vanilla, velvety texture, lush, deep and showing plum and toasted vanilla oak, all subtly combined; I guess Chris Carpenter can make Merlot too; elegant, stunning and superb, long and memorable. $85.

 

Syrah


2018 Stephane Ogier Syrah Côte-Rôtie – 96 Points

Deeply colored, spiced nose, silky texture, smooth, rich toasted flavors; deep blackberry and spice flavors, this is Syrah as it was meant to be, rich and long, complex and superb. $82.

 

Red Blend


2016 Isoceles Reserve Justin Vineyards & Winery Premium Red Blend

Opaque garnet color, rich spiced nose, velvety texture, toasted new oak, ripe plum and boysenberry, rich chocolate, mocha and warm spices; complex and intense with years left to go. $115.

 

White Wine

 

Chardonnay


2016 Attack Chardonnay Checkmate Artisanal Winery – 96 Points

Rich and juicy with spice, minerals and glorious tropical fruits; this is a beautiful summary of all their other wines; long and luscious. $90.

 

Sauvignon Blanc


2019 Ram’s Gate Sauvignon Blanc Carneros Estate – 94 Points

Fresh citrus nose, silky and crisp with juicy, pure summer fruit flavors; elegant, fresh and tangy, balanced and long. $38.

 

Pinot Grigio


2019 Gradis’ciutta Pinot Grigio Robert Princic – 91 Points

Fresh, golden color, lively fruit nose, lush and bright with depth and a touch of sweetness on the finish; smooth and ripe, long and rich. $22.

 

Riesling


2018 Weingut Robert Weil Riesling Spatlese – 94 Points

Bright, elegant and juicy with sweet candied peach and racy acidity; crisp and bracing, long and lovely. $40.

 

White Blend


Flora Springs 2019 Soliloquy White Wine – 93 Points

A smooth and aromatic wine crafted from an unusual blend – Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Malvasia; rich, dense and tangy with creamy elements, juicy fruit and spice; lush and long. $50.

 

Other

 

Sparkling Wine


NV Champagne Delamotte Brut – 95 Points

A luscious and balanced effort with depth and fine acid structure; elegant, generous and anything but austere, fresh, stylish and long. $66.

 

Rosé


2015 Frank Family Vineyards Brut Rosé Sparkling Carneros – 94 Points

A remarkable rosé sparkler from a prestige Napa producer; pale salmon color, bright, tangy nose, dry, crisp and elegant with depth and finesse; a wine that should be taken seriously; long, lush and lovely. $55.

 

Dessert Wine


2019 Inniskillin Niagara Cabernet Franc Icewine – 96 Points

Bright ruby color, racy apple fruit, with crisp acidity and lush candy sweet berry fruit vanilla and sleek texture; long and creamy. $100.

 

Port


2018 Quinta do Vallado Porto Vintage Douro – 96 Points

Dark, cherry color, lush blackberry nose, smooth, sweet, elegant and generous; deep blackberry fruit, spice and concentrated fruit, lovely and luscious. long and balanced. $110.

 

Vermouth


NV Regal Rogue Vermouth Daring Dry – 93 Points

Smooth, softly off-dry with a hint of anise and other exotic spices; rich orange peel flavors. $27.

 

Kosher


2016 Shiloh Winery Premium Red Blend – 94 Points

Deep garnet color, smooth textured and rich with plum, earth, spice and dust; complex, layered and showing licorice and chocolate, long and charming. Kosher. $99.

 

Spirits

 

Bourbon


Rickhouse Bourbon USA – 94 Points

This deep and delicious San Francisco spirit is 80% corn and 20% rye; it is intensely colored and toasty with rich, sweet style; there is pronounced vanilla, spice and intense toasted oak; although it adheres to the legal definition of bourbon, it is another animal altogether. $35.

 

Single Malt Scotch Whiskey


Bowmore Islay Single Malt Scotch Whiskey – 96 Points

Pale amber color, honey and orange peel nose; smooth, silky, smoky with sweet orange peel and toasty malt; silky and long, elegant and mellow with lovely style and finesse, gorgeous. $110.

 

Irish Whiskey


The Dublin Liberties Irish Whiskey 10 Years Aged – 96 Points

Soft amber color, rich and toasty, sweet and complex, smooth and showing vanilla and toasted oak; nutty, creamy and rich, stunning depth and irresistible. $85.

 

Rye Whiskey


Michter’s Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey – 95 Points

Smooth, lush, cereal flavors with sweet, toasted oak; spicy and rich with caramel, treacle and honey, rich and balanced with generous, elegant flavors and a long, smooth finish. $44.

 

Vodka


Crystal Head Onxy Agave Vodka – 95 Points

Deep, rich nose, smooth, lush with rich texture, clean, intense with an obvious note of agave; silky, smooth and lush, seamless and concentrated, elegant and long, clearly another triumph for this brand. $55.

 

Blanco Tequila


El Sativo Blanco Tequila – 94 Points

Fragrant with agave, smooth and creamy with agave spice, earth and a touch of sweetness; rich, complex and layered, long and exceptional. $42.

 

Añejo Tequila


Tequila Corazon Expresiones -94 Points

Pale amber color, smooth agave nose, silky texture, rich toasted agave flavors with white pepper notes; lush with a touch of sweetness; long, smooth and showing vanilla and depth. $84.

 

Mezcal


Bozal Mezcal Artesanal Cenizo Mezcal – 97 Points

Elegant aromatic nose; orange peel, smooth floral notes. rich and refined with hints of chocolate and brown sugar; creamy texture and a long, memorable finish. $80.

 

Rum


Ableforth’s Rumbullion Flavored Rum – 93 Points

Bright amber color; sweet orange peel and apricot; sweet, creamy and rich with caramelized orange and smooth brown sugar; silky, long and intense, with a smashing finish. $40.

 

Armagnac


Cardinal Du Four Armagnac – 97 Points

Soft amber color and smooth, rich, toasty nose; rich, elegant and floral with sweet caramel and vanilla oak; toasty, complex and deep, elegant; perhaps the most refined Armagnac I’ve ever tasted. $355.

 

Gin


Conniption Navy Strength Dry Gin – 97 Points

Exceptionally silky and intense with caraway, juniper and citrus leading the way and coriander, cardamon and ginger right behind; lush, mellow and complex with a bracing style and assertive flavors; a masterful gin. $40.

 

Dessert Liqueur


Bouvery CV Chocolate Liqueur – 93 Points

This is amazing, think thick dark chocolate sauce that is 16% alcohol supplied by pure, fine Connecticut vodka made at historic Westford Hill Distillery; this stuff is so delicious I have consumed the entire sample bottle; pour it over ice cream or just drink it straight. $30.

 

 

 

 


There you have it. The best of the best. Of course, this is just a small portion of all the bottles we review every year. Make sure you visit our wine and spirits reviews pages to see the full picture.

By Aldo Moreno