Wine Press – 12 Wines Worth Splurging On This Holiday Season

(Writer’s Note – This is the 3rd story in a 3-part series about holiday wines.)

Part One – Wonderful Champagnes, Sparkling Wines Perfect For The Holidays

Part Two – 6 Great Gift Ideas For Wine Lovers (Other Than Wine)

There’s no reason why you should spend more than $20 on a single bottle to drink great wine.

It’s the same with most things in life – from food to cars, vacations or clothes.

There’s many affordable, reliable alternatives – many of which are just as good or sometimes even better than many higher priced items.

But who doesn’t love a great steak or lobster (or both) once in a while?

Or maybe a nice pair of shoes or a night in a grand old hotel?

The same goes for wine.

As the quality of wine continues to improve around the world, there are so many great wines for under $20 or even $10 a bottle. (And you can read all about my favorite wines under $10 for 2020 next week.)

But every once in a while, there’s definitely something to be said about splurging on a more expensive bottle of wine.

Spending $40 or $50 or more on a bottle opens the door to a much wider world of wines to choose from.

However, I think it’s critical to point out that just because a wine costs more doesn’t automatically mean it tastes better. Trust me. I’ve tasted quite a few duds that cost $50 or $100 or even $300 a bottle. Price doesn’t equal quality.

That’s why I enjoy putting together this annual list of more expensive wines worth splurging on this holiday season. I have personally tasted all of the wines recommended below sometime in the past year. Let me add that all of these wines should still be available for purchase. When applicable, I have also included a link to previous wine columns where I have written about some of these wines.

And again, while I realize spending so much money on a single bottle of wine might be absurd to some people, everyone has their favorite things to spend a little more money on, whether it’s tickets to a professional sporting event or the opportunity to taste some of the best wines in the world. Hope you enjoy.



2018 Chateau Montelena Napa Valley Chardonnay ($54 Suggested Retail Price)

2017 Far Niente Winery Estate Chardonnay ($61 SRP)


2016 Freemark Abbey Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($50 SRP)

2018 Gerard Bertrand Cigalus ($50 SRP)

2018 EnRoute Russian River Valley Les Pommiers Pinot Noir ($51 SRP)

2016 Chateau Lassegue Saint Emilion Grand Cru ($57 SRP)

2017 Bodegas Caro Caro ($59 SRP)

2017 Aperture Bordeaux Red Blend ($59 SRP)

2016 Beaulieu Vineyard BV Tapestry ($65 SRP)

2017 Merry Edwards Russian River Valley Pinot Noir Meredith Estate ($68 SRP)

2017 Justin Vineyards Justification ($70 SRP)

2016 Pio Cesare Barolo ($80 SRP)



2018 Chateau Montelena Napa Valley Chardonnay

Location – Napa Valley, California

Grapes – Chardonnay

Tasting Notes – Many California Chardonnays hit all the wrong notes – too much oak, too much butter, too over the top. Chateau Montelena’s 2018 Chardonnay takes a complete different approach. Its flavors are soft and subtle. Its aroma is flinty yet floral. There are slight tropical notes, a hint of almonds. And yes, there’s a dash of butter flavor but nothing overwhelming. Everything’s well balanced and in harmony with each other. Everything tastes just right.

2017 Far Niente Winery Estate Chardonnay

Location – Napa Valley, California

Grapes – Chardonnay

Tasting Notes – A delightful blend of butter and citrus flavors with a dash of flintiness on the finish, this aromatic Chardonnay charmed me with its subtle, understated taste and texture. I tried this one over the summer and the memory of this wonderful wine lingers like a haunting melody drifting in the air. A truly graceful, elegant wine perfect for any special occasion.


2016 Freemark Abbey Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Location – Napa Valley, California

Grapes – Cabernet Sauvignon

Tasting Notes – I’ve long been a big fan of this venerable, older winery in California’s Napa Valley. And the 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon tasted terrific this past year. Freemark Abbey’s reds tend to be big and voluptuous and this wine was no exception. Another thing I often find about younger, Freemark Abbey reds is they tend to taste even smoother and intense the second day. So don’t worry about rushing to finish this earthy, full-bodied wine.

2018 Gerard Bertrand Cigalus

Location – Languedoc, France

Grapes – Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah, Grenache, Caladoc and Carignan

Tasting Notes – This outstanding winery makes a wide range of wines – from roses and whites to many different types of reds – in many different price ranges – from $10 a bottle to $250. This particular, powerful red blend hits all the right notes and tasted terrific over two days. Made with a blend of seven different grapes, this big, earthy wine has a dense yet smooth finish that lasts several minutes after each sip. The first day, I noticed plum-like flavors in particular. The second day, those flavors were slightly more muted but still lively and lush and delicious from start to finish. An absolute masterpiece.

2018 EnRoute Russian River Valley Les Pommiers Pinot Noir

Location – Russian River Valley, California

Grapes – Pinot Noir

Tasting Notes – EnRoute was built around the Les Pommiers wine, according to Andrew Delos, Director of Winemaking for the Far Niente Family of Wineries and Vineyards, which makes this wine. This wonderful wine is a blended Pinot Noir. The result is a beautiful, subtle, luxurious wine with earthy, round flavors that linger after each taste.

2016 Chateau Lassegue Saint Emilion Grand Cru

Location – Bordeaux, France

Grapes – 60 percent Merlot, 33 percent Cabernet Franc, 7 percent Cabernet Sauvignon.

Tasting Notes – 2016 was an outstanding vintage for many wine regions in France. That was certainly true for the right bank in France’s Bordeaux region, where St. Emilion is located. Chateau Lassegue might not be as well known as some other famous Bordeaux wineries, but this elegant, refined wine with rich, earthy flavors more than holds its own in the crowded field of outstanding wines from this legendary wine growing region.

2017 Bodegas Caro Caro

Location – Mendoza, Argentina

Grapes – 74 percent Malbec, 26 percent Cabernet Sauvignon

Tasting Notes – The most elegant, refined wine I tasted among a series of wines from this outstanding producer, which is a partnership between Chateau Lafite Rothschild in France and Catena Zapata in Argentina. This Caro wine combines earthy, robust flavors with a smooth, silky finish. The soft fruit flavors last nearly a minute after each taste. Let me that this wine tastes phenomenal now but has the potential to age and develop over the next 5 to 8 years – if you can wait that long.

2017 Aperture Bordeaux Red Blend

Location – Sonoma County, California

Grapes – 39 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 33 percent Merlot, 22 percent Malbec, 3 percent Cabernet Franc, 3 percent Petit Verdot

Tasting Notes – An up-in-coming winery in California founded by Jesse Katz, this austere, dry, flinty wine has a soft yet intense finish with peppery notes combined with a wonderful, velvet-like richness. I was throughly impressed by this wine and others made by the same winery, which you can read about more in the coming weeks. Until then, find this wine, give it an hour or so to breathe and sit back and enjoy.

2016 Beaulieu Vineyard BV Tapestry

Location – Napa Valley, California

Grapes – 78 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 11 percent Merlot, 4 percent Malbec, 4 percent Petit Verdot, 3 percent Cabernet Franc

Tasting Notes – Another well-established winery in California’s Napa Valley (the winery was founded in 1900) Beaulieu Vineyard consistently produces delicious, classic wines with a smooth, rounded finish. This delightful gem is no exception. This wine is slightly austere and flinty at first, but quickly gives way to silky, voluptuous flavors. Dark and supple with an intense, complex finish, this wine smooths out beautifully in the glass.

2017 Merry Edwards Russian River Valley Pinot Noir Meredith Estate

Location – Russian River Valley, California

Grapes – Pinot Noir

This magnificent, complex Pinot Noir vividly brings to life the wonderful fruit flavors found in the grapes grown in winery’s original vineyard, Meredith Estate. This intense red wine pulsates with life without being overpowering. Its fragrant, ripe flavors range from dried plums to roasted blackberries and dark chocolate. One of the favorite wines so far for 2020 and which will get even better over the next 5 to 8 years.

2017 Justin Vineyards Justification

Location – Paso Robles, California

Grapes – 65 percent Cabernet Franc, 35 percent Merlot

Tasting Notes – Like a great, indie rock band adored by a small, devoted following, Justin Vineyards has been making great wines in small quantities for decades. This delightful, understated, elegant wine was one of my favorite surprises of the year. I’ve had other great wines before from Justin Vineyards, including their rose wine and their famous Isosceles wine. But this one was the one I have thought about for months. Ripe fruit flavors that last for several minutes after each sip. No cloying oak notes. Just silky smooth and intense from start to finish. A real showstopper.

2016 Pio Cesare Barolo

Location – Barolo, Piedmont, Italy

Grapes – Nebbiolo

This Pio Cesare Barolo is especially impressive. Its powerful yet understated flavors last for minutes after each taste. And its elegance and complexity will take your breath away. Tasting this wine was like listening to a great piece of music for the first time. Remember the first time you heard the opening guitar chord of The Beatles’ A Hard Days Night” or the strings in Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” or whatever songs happen to stop you in your tracks? That’s how I felt the first time I tasted this Barolo. Hope you enjoy this wine just as much.


Wine Press by Ken Ross appears on every Monday and in The Republican’s weekend section every Thursday.

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