Wine Spotlight - Great Value Wines This Holiday Season

The global winemaking landscape is in the midst of a bright, shining era. Historical winemaking practices are going head-to-head with new, innovative ideas, resulting in an abundance of complex, age-worthy wines. These unfamiliar picks offer a snapshot of some of the most impressive wines that will cost you less than $50 to have yourself or give as a gift.

Donna Fugata 2012 Anthìlia Sicilia Bianco ($15)

Taste: Round but not weighty, fresh, pithy melon, white flowers and wild spice notes, a lingering, stony finish.
Drink It With: Smoked fish, anything with anchovies, eggplant and stuffed mussels.
Factoid: The main grape in this white blend is Catarratto, grown on hilly, clay-and-limestone-rich soils in South-western Sicily. And although Catarratto is one of the country’s most widely planted varieties, its expression in this wine more than delivers.


Jean-Jacques Vincent 2011 Morgon Charmes, Beaujolais, France ($22)

Taste: Bright cherry notes, dried purple flowers and herbs are buoyed by a solid mineral-driven base.
Drink It With: Charcuterie, cheeses and pâtés.
Factoid: Beaujolais Nouveau season is on hand, and retail store shelves will overflow with bottles of vibrant, young, fresh and fruity Gamay wines from this year’s harvest. Why not use the moment to dig into and discover the magnificence of Cru Beaujolais. They’re wines a cut above those Nouveau: complex with the ability to age.


Robert Foley Vineyards 2012 The Griffin Red Wine, California ($35)

Taste: Plush dark, red, black and blue fruit character, subtly integrated oak, gripping tannins, dark unsweetened chocolate notes on the finish.
Drink It With: Grass-fed, aged beef and anything covered in mole.
Factoid: Foley’s dad was a rocket scientist. Growing up around a father who built rockets that sent people into space meant picking up some of those skills. Foley has put those skills to use building wineries and caves, such as Markham, Pride and his own Robert Foley Vineyards on Howell Mountain in Napa Valley.


Damilano 2010 ‘Lecinquevigne’ Barolo DOCG ($35)

Taste: Young gripping tannins, dark cherry, plums, a bit of tobacco and subtle marzipan notes under a spicy finish.
Drink It With: Grilled chicken with a Parmesan crust or pork roast—both served with a rich, creamy and salty sauce.
Factoid: Quality Barolo at this price? It’s like finding a $50 bill in last year’s party pants. Doesn’t always happen but when it does: score. “Lecinquevigne” means “the five vineyards,” a nod to the reputable sources of this delectable, entry-level Nebbiolo from Damilano.


Bouchaine 2010 Pinot Noir, Carneros ($38)

Taste: Deep garnet in color, juicy black raspberry and dark cherry fruit, black licorice and toffee, mushrooms and cedar and clove, racy acidity and crushed lilacs on a long finish.
Drink It With: Herbed and roasted foul, duck and lamb dishes.
Factoid: Michael Richmond, the winemaker, co-founded Acacia in 1979, and then Bouchaine in 1981. He’s been making Pinots and Chardonnays in the Los Carneros AVA ever since. It’s an area heavily influenced by @KarlTheFog, boasting a cooler climate and soils ideal for Pinot and Chard grapes.


The Tribe 2013 Proprietary Red ($40)

Taste: Native-yeast fermented, the wine serves up an elegant array of raspberry, black cherry, plum and spice flavors, all couched in nuanced, silky tannins.
Drink It With: With red meats—from burgers to brisket. Or go vegetarian with a mushroom risotto or frittata.
Factoid: Made by Covenant Winery winemaker Jeff Morgan, who along with his partner Leslie Rudd, just opened the first-ever Kosher Urban Winery in Berkeley, California. Tastings are by appointment, and you’ll learn about “flash-détant” a new method of making mevushal wines without compromising quality.


Venge 2012 Scout’s Honor Proprietary Red, Napa Valley ($40)

Taste: Intensely full-bodied, offering rich dark fruit, liquid graphite notes, cedar and tobacco spice on a lingering, lovely mocha finish.
Drink It With: Short ribs or beef bourguignon.
Factoid: Venge Vineyards is now under the direction of Kirk Venge, son of Nils Venge, a longtime Napa Valley winemaker and the first person who received a 100-point score from Robert M. Parker Jr.—back in 1985.


Trombetta 2012 Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast ($45)

Taste: Ripe cherry and gorgeously integrated toasted oak notes, underscored by graphite and red licorice, sublimely juicy and smooth.
Drink It With: Nothing. Pop it open at cellar temp and sip while you cook.
Factoid: This super-small production Pinot (500 cases) comes from mother-and-daughter duo Ricket Trombetta Stancliff and Erica Stancliff, who work with consulting winemaker Paul Hobbs.


Bruno Paillard NV Premiere Cuvee Brut Champagne ($46)

Taste: Toasty nose, finely beaded bubbles bursting with apples, pears, citrus notes and a chalkiness on the finish.
Drink It With: With high-spirited conversation before dinner and Oysters Rockefeller.
Factoid: Paillard takes credit for being one of the early adopters of putting the “disgorgement” date on its label. This lets the consumer know exactly when the final dosage (topping off with a mixture of wine and sugar) occurs, which marks the beginning of bottle aging.


Torbreck 2012 “The Struie” Shiraz, Barossa Valley, Australia ($49)

Taste: A full-bodied, round and smooth wine, redolent of sweet red and black fruit, licorice, roasted meats and hints of smoke spice character.
Drink It With: Barbecued or smoked meats and balsamic charred vegetables.
Factoid: The owner and winemaker used to be a lumberjack, and the name “Torbreck” was one of the owner’s favorite Scottish forest chopping grounds—when he wasn’t soaking in the views from the Struie hill.