This month's top picks

Winter, Félines — Minervois
Winter, Félines — Minervois
Photo by Murielle Claudel

The Taste of the Seasons

Up early this morning, I found myself wishing I could stop time at that cold, dark, damp instant. Freeze frame. Pause the world spinning, turn it over and over, look at it, sniff it, swirl it and savor that fleeting second in space and time. Impossible, of course — except in a glass of well-raised wine. Think about it. What’s a great wine, if not a taste of a unique place in a never-to-be-repeated season? Which makes that lovely beverage all the better for celebrating the last days of an old year and the dawn of a new one. Life is short. Make every glass count! Happy holidays!

A Dozen (Special) Drinks for the Solstice

Neyers "Sage Canyon Cuvée" — $23

A fabulous rendering of a southern Rhône red, this wine is a blend of carignan from 135 year-old, own-rooted vines, a big splash of Sierra Foothill grenache, a dollop of Carneros syrah and mourvèdre from 125 year-old, own-rooted vines. It all adds up to a ridiculously delicious, amazingly balanced, lip-smacking bottle of wine. Old world style and sensibilities meet California verve and terroir.

Neyers Chardonnay "304" — $26

Bruce Neyers speaks of his love of the "light, elegant bottlings of chardonnay from the Chablis area of Burgundy" and notes how these wines express the soil. This wine does a lovely job of singing in that style. Bright, fresh, crisp and elegantly generous, it’s has a texture of fine silk, aromas and flavors of just - ripe fruits, ballet dancer balance -- and is perfect with everything from roast chicken to fresh oysters.

Cadence "Coda" — $25

We think that Cadence wines show how truly elegant Washington-grown, Bordelais-styled blends can be. Forsaking the heavy-handed, monolithic style that is in currently in vogue, this is a study in character, complexity, elegance and balance, displaying its considerable power with the amazing grace of a ballerina. Think in terms of right-bank Bordeaux with classic Washington notes of gravelly minerals and sage-tinged brush.

Division Winemaking Company Chardonnay Eola-Amity Hills — $27.50

The word "Burgundian" is often tossed around (loosely) to describe wines that aren't overblown and obvious. I like to think of it as a descriptor for chardonnay at its most structured, elegant, expressive best -- wines like this. Scrupulous triage, long, slow fermentation with native yeasts and über-judicious use of oak render a complex weave of pear, apple, sweet cream, modest new oak imbued with a terrific sense of place. Fremont, Issaquah, Redmond, Edmonds, Greenlake Village only. Very limited.

Division Winemaking Company Pinot Noir "Un" — $30

We think that Division wines are among Oregon's most inspired and energetic, showing tremendous depth, complexity, character and expression of terroir. This is a fabulous example, fermented with native yeasts, partial carbonic maceration and just a kiss of new oak. It's a study in freshness and vibrant structure -- a firm, muscular fruit core of raspberry, cranberry and cherry fruit with hints of dried flowers and herbs that greet the nose and deepen in complexity through the finish. Fremont, Issaquah, Redmond, Edmonds, Greenlake Village only. Very limited.

Domaine La Madura St. Chinian "Grand Vin" — $29.50

Assertive, but elegant. Powerful but fresh. The wild, untamable essence of St. Chinian sings boldy, yet eloquently in this remarkably complex wine. A broad palette of aromas and flavors is woven around chords of red fruits and dark berries, with accents of cacao, garrigues and dark roast coffee bean in a voluptuous, but finely balanced, agile texture. Superb wine!

Château Ollieux — Romanis Corbières — Boutenac "Atal Sia" — $32

"Atal Sia" means "so be it" in Occitan. It expresses, in just three words, the philosophy of this cuvee, a pure, authentic expression of its terroir. A blend of carignan, mourvedre, syrah and grenache delivers a profound texture of wild berries, streaked with notes of spices and cacao. Despite its considerable boldness, it's fresh and elegant, with firm acidity making it a match for even the most audacious dishes.

Clos Figueras Serras del Priorat — $32

Priorat's superb climate and unique soils have made it a haven for growing opulent, extracted, over-the-top wines -- that often don't express the region's amazing sense of place. This wine is a departure from that style paints rugged, garrigue-y, savory terroir and minerality of the region in a boldly structured, but elegant wine that's based on a core of dark, wild berries, notes of dark chocolate and highlights of savory herb. Amazing!

Damilano Barolo "Lecinquevigne" 2010 — $38

Two words, brooding and balanced, sum it up. But the details, the truly seductive parts are what make it sing. Dark, intense, bright dry cherry fruit packs a savory edge with highlights of roses, leather, tobacco and violets. All that loveliness comes in an ample, embracing texture that unfolds in gorgeous complexity and a long, persistent finish. But who are we kidding? words can't possibly sum it up. A glass is worth a novel's worth of prose!

Anchor Holiday Ale Magnums (1.5 liter) — $17

While the beer in the bottle changes a little every year, as does the tree on the label (California Giant Sequoia this time around); what stays the same is Anchor’s old-fangled quality and character, and this always delicious winter ales’ salute to joy, celebration and the newness of life. Amen!

Snowdrift Reserve Cider 750 ml. — $20

Featuring the traditional method, used to craft the finest sparkling wines, this cider pours like a Champagne: alluring pale gold, a fine mousse, a bouquet of fresh apples, a whiff of oven-warmed brioche. On the palate, it is dry and elegant, with a refreshing acidity and a silky finish. This may just be the most delicious, most rare thing on your holiday table. Cidermaker's Reserve is a limited release - savor now and buy another for a rainy day!

Brasserie Dupont "Avec les Bons Vœux" 750 ml. — $12

Stupendous. One truly needs to drink this beer to grasp the amazing depth, complexity and elegant balance it possesses. It offers an array of seeming paradoxes--delicate richness, understated assertiveness, overwhelming nuance. I'm not kidding. By no means a quaffer, this is a beer that needs to be poured and savored to be fully appreciated. Get it while it lasts.

Fill Your Grail – For a Song!

Château Mirausse Minervois "l’Azerolles" rouge — $11

Enchanting, untamed and deliciously honest, this is a fabulous portrait of one of the Languedoc's most fascinating regions. Juicy, perfectly ripe cherry and raspberry fruit sing a prelude to still more ripe berry fruit, seasoned with heady notes of wild herbs and spices.

Pulignano "Treggaia" Rosso Toscano — $12.50

A river of ripe cherry, blackberry and cassis fruit throw a party in your glass, with medium tannins and firm acidity jumping in to round out the picture. Perfect with simple fare, from antipasti to pizza.

Palama Negroamaro Salento Rosso "Arcangelo" — $11.50

This sturdy but agile wine is true to its Puglian roots with robust, bursting-with ripeness black and berry fruit. A note of spice, seemingly blown on the Sirocco from Algeria or Morocco, lend an enchanting note.

Way Out West "VRM" — $12.50

Here’s the newest addition to our the WOW family. Roussanne is often described as "red wine drinker's" white wine, for its firm, generous texture and bold, hazelnut-tinged flavors. Add viognier's bright notes of fresh peach and nectarine and finish with marsanne's notes of lemon and beeswax and you have this lush, but crisp, lively wine.

Way Out West "Roll On" Columbia Valley Chardonnay — $12.50

Picking up where last year's model left off, this wine walks a fine line, dances on point and surfs the edge at the luscious intersection of generosity and taut, edgy brilliance.

Way Out West "Roosevelt Red" — $12.50

A ringer for the previous vintage, with brilliant red fruit making a vibrant canvas for bold strokes of spice, with suggestions of cinnamon and cedar. A warm note of late-summer blackberry vine provides counterpoint to notes of dark fruit that develop on the palate.

David Hill Winery "Farmhouse" Red — $12

We've always thought of a farmhouse as a place of sustenance, warmth, relaxation and good company. All of which nicely describe this mélange of diverse red grapes, united in offering an easy drinking, go-to red.

Ste. Marie des Crozes cabernet franc — $13.75

If you love the edgy brilliance and focused red fruit of cabernet franc, this is right up your alley. This delicious wine has all the energy and verve of its Loire or Bordeaux cousins, delivered with a silky harmony and firm tannins.

Ste. Marie des Crozes sauvignon blanc "le Clandestin" — $11.75

Luscious fruit vibrates with the energy of white grapefruit and pomelos, weaving dry tanginess with sweet citrus and a kiss of orange blossom honey. Irresistible!

Fine Festive Fizz (fa-la-la).

Cantina Coviolo Lambrusco Rosso Secco — $12.75

Why do we love Lambrusco? Because of wines like this. Think black cherries and red fruits, bearing earthy traces of their pits and skins, a wine that kisses the palate with the lusciousness of ripe fruit, than adds intrigue with a savory accent.

Giro Ribot Cava Brut — $12.50

Lovely! Alluring aromas of lemon blossom and citrus fruit offer an invitation to luscious sips of dry, but generous white peach and lemon fruit. Fine bubbles marry with perfectly ripe fruit in a sleek, stylish texture that keeps on singing through the elegant finish.

Antech Blanquette de Limoux — $13.50

The traditional blend of mauzac and chenin blanc renders a lovely alliance of fruit and focus, with aromas of spring flowers that segue to a palate of ripe, but crisp fruits with a hint of green apple and fruit blossoms. Persistent, fine bubbles round out an elegantly satisfying bottle of fizz.

Avinyo — $17.50

This 100% free run, méthode champenoise, Catalan sparkler is an elegant, expressive beauty that drinks well beyond its modest price. A tautly balanced blend of traditional macabeu, parellada and xarel-lo, it serves up aromas and flavors of perfectly ripe white fruits, with a kiss of lemon and a waft of salt-tinged sea breeze.

Castello di Luzzano "Sommossa" Oltrepo Pavese — $19.50

Gocce in Tumulto — "Bubbles in Revolution"! Here's a deep, dark red wine veiled in lively effervescence, with intense black raspberry fruit and nice hints of earth and savory herbs.

Gratien & Meyer Saumur Brut Rosé — $21

Cabernet franc is especially delicious expressed in bubbles, where its bright red fruit character sings with an amazingly appealing raciness. Add the uniquely local character of grolleau and you get this beauty, with fruit reminiscent of tiny wild berries and notes of spice and fresh pepper tinting a creamy veil of fine bubbles.

Delahaie Brut Premier NV (Quite the Find!) — $27.50

Crisp, fresh aromas of perfectly ripe, green apple marry with notes of lemon curd and a note of yeasty, freshly-baked brioche. That theme is repeated on the crisp, finely balanced palate, where a veil of fine bubbles and crisp acidity bring all the voices into an easy-to-love harmony.

"Grower" Champagne a.k.a "Farmer Fizz" (Fabulous!)

Florence Duchêne Brut "Tradition" (Quite the Find!) — $36.50

This is enchanting wine, perfectly mature, offering notes of honey and beeswax woven into fruit aromas of citrus, apple, pear and apricot pit. On the palate those flavors are accented by nuances of red fruits and cool minerality, perfectly harmonized and ending a fine, subtle finish.

Gaston Chiquet Brut "Tradition" — $42.50

"Classical, not romantic, thoughtful, but not aloof." A generous portion of pinot meunier in the blend provides a whisper of savory herbs on a texture woven of brioche, green apple, pear, lemon rind and walnuts. A graceful, enchanting wine, as pure as rain, that "perfectly threads the needle between silken precision and forward fruit."

Chartogne – Taillet "Cuvée Ste. Anne" — $39.50

To describe this wine calls for a deeper lexicon and perhaps more panache and grace than we presently possess. Nonetheless: think of sweet citrus honey, sprinkled with a confectioner’s dusting of dry cherry essence. Then, lemon drops, more cherry and chalky mineral dust, incredibly pure, bone-dry fruit that both teases and satisfies the palate. Enchanting.

R. Dumont & Fils Brut "Tradition" NV — $36.50

The Dumont family have owned vineyards in the pastoral, reflective southern Champagne region of Aube for over 200 years. Today, three Dumont brothers work together to produce Champagne exclusively from the family's vineyards. The house style of soft elegance is readily evident in this lovely, pinot noir-dominated wine. Perfectly ripe fruits and warm autumnal notes mark the beguiling, lacy texture.

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The fine print:
All tasting notes are written by the PCC wine team, except where attributed otherwise — and in those cases, we wholeheartedly agree, and simply couldn't say it any better ourselves.

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