Wine Reviews: Holiday Selections

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 12-12-2021

It’s been a long year. Whatever holidays you may be celebrating, I wish you and yours safety, joy, and good food and wine.

So, this week I have some selections that are all over the map. I tried to curate some samples that would please crowds, provide joy and pair well with celebrations and wintry foods.

Like many of you, I’m sure, I love bubbles year-round. But, of course, from Thanksgiving through New Year’s, bubbles are huge, and I have a nice mix in here. From inexpensive tank method bubbles through some delightful Champagnes.

Domaine Bousquet brings its Charmat method bubbles, which are the best-selling bubbles from Argentina and are inexpensive, accessible and fun. Lanson delivers three different Champagne options that offer a nice view of their approach, while Bruno Paillard delivers, as always. And California’s Frank Family brings two different Champagne method sparklers to the table.

There are some also deep, juicy, warm reds, too, from California’s Smith Madrone, Sullivan and Tooth & Nail.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

Sparkling wines

N.V. Domaine Bousquet Brut Argentina, Mendoza
SRP: $13
Light yellow color. The nose shows a bright mix of lemon and kiwi with sugarcane, white flowers, and some crushed chalk and sweet tarts. The palate is bright and light with zippy acidity and integrated sugar, light bubbles, and flavors of lemons, green apple, kiwi, floral perfume, talc. Fresh, fun, light and steely, crowd-pleasing bubbles. 75/25 Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, 11 g/l residual sugar. (86 points IJB)

N.V. Domaine Bousquet Brut Rosé Argentina, Mendoza
SRP: $13
Pale salmon color. This has a crunchy and lively aromatic appeal with raspberry, tart strawberry and notes of rose petals and talc. Has a fresh and vibrant feel on the palate, with soft bubbles and a crisp, steely vibe. Strawberry and white cherry fruit mix with notes of honeysuckle, rose petals, and some crushed sweet tarts and chalk tones. Fresh, fun and zippy. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, 12 g/l residual sugar. (87 points IJB)

N.V. Lucien Albrecht Crémant d’Alsace Brut France, Alsace, Crémant d’Alsace
SRP: $23
Light gold color. Beautiful nose of lemons and pears, topped with honey, sea salt, bread dough and white flowers – a whole lot going on for a wine at this price point. Zesty and chalky on the palate with yellow apples and lemon fruit, mixed with some nuanced biscuit and dough notes. Nice verve and floral/salty kick. A classic value Cremant that would please a wide spectrum of palates. Pinot Blanc and Auxerrois with a 10 g/l dosage. (89 points IJB)

N.V. Lucien Albrecht Crémant d’Alsace Brut Rosé France, Alsace, Crémant d’Alsace
SRP: $23
Pale salmon color. The nose is crisp and floral with raspberry and red apples peel, along with chalk dust, wildflowers and perfume. Crisp and zesty on the palate with tight bubbles and flavors of raspberry, red apple peel and orange zest. Nervy and fresh, a light feel but not shy, and has some complex floral perfume, chalk and talc notes. This is reliable and delicious stuff and so reasonably priced. All Pinot Noir aged 12-18 months on the lees, 12 g/l dosage. (89 points IJB)

N.V. Lanson Champagne Le Black Réserve Brut France, Champagne
SRP: $50
Light gold color. Smells of lemons, kiwi and quince, along with lovely floral and mountain stream elements. The palate is crisp and light with lemons, green apples and limes, along with flinty, limestone and mineral elements. Zippy but nice fresh, crunchy bread elements. Light but fun. 50% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay, 15% Pinot Meunier, aged four years on the lees, 8 g/l dosage. (88 points IJB)

N.V. Lanson Champagne 1760 Le Rosé France, Champagne
SRP: $70
Gorgeous salmon color with a nose of red apples and wild raspberry mixed with dried rose petals, tomato leaf, white pepper, talc and honey. The palate is tart and tart with dusty, salty, brightness and tones of raspberries white cherry and McIntosh apple. Salty, floral, honeyed and mint elements add complexity. Fresh and floral but shows a lot of depth as well. 53% Pinot Noir, 32% Chardonnay, 15% Pinot Meunier. (90 points IJB)

N.V. Lanson Champagne Green Label France, Champagne
SRP: $75
Rich yellow color. The nose pops with green apples and lemons, chalk dust, honeysuckle along with limestone and sea salt. Crisp and fresh with green apples, lemons, along with graham cracker, honey and some chalky, flinty elements. Delightful, accessible, a fun, fresh, quite complex mix of  Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier. (90 points IJB)

N.V. Bruno Paillard Champagne Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Extra Brut France, Champagne
SRP: $80
Light yellow color. An invigorating nose of saline, limestone and chalk mixed with yellow apples, lemons, biscuits and croissants. The palate is racy and crisp but shows a lovely depth of texture as well. Lemons, yellow apples and orange peel mix so well with chalky, salty, briny tones, and these deeper tones of bread dough and shaved ginger. Precise, beautiful stuff – there’s a lot of clarity and depth here. Aged four years sur lie, 5 g/l dosage. (92 points IJB)

2015 Frank Family Vineyards Blanc de Blancs USA, California, Napa Valley
SRP: $55
Medium yellow color. Lovely nose of lemon curd and yellow apples with chalk dust, nougat, bread dough, some flinty tones. Creamy yet zesty on the palate with a chalky, flinty vibe that supports lemons, yellow apple and kiwi fruit. Pure, focused, dry and bright with a lot of complexity. An impressive iteration of Chardonnay sparkling wine from Frank Family. (91 points IJB)

2016 Frank Family Vineyards Brut Rosé – USA, California, Napa Valley
SRP: $55
Medium copper color. The nose shows a crunchy, focused appeal with lemons, red apple and white cherry, along with notes of fresh baguette, honeysuckle and white flowers. On the palate this is zesty and bright with lemons, raspberry and white cherries, along with a host of doughy, white flowers, chalk dust. So good, focused, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, a delight of a sparkler. (90 points IJB)

Red Wines

2020 Tooth & Nail “Stasis” Carbonic Zinfandel USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles Willow Creek District
SRP: $46
Vibrant ruby color. So fresh and fun on the nose with cherries and plums, mixed with sweet violets, rose petals, pepper and cocoa. Zesty acid, dusty tannins and a juicy core of cherries and raspberries. I love the farmer’s market mix of herbs and flowers, along with notes of clay, tobacco, pepper. It’s lively as heck but has solid textural depth as well. Fun and crushable but memorable and complex, too – loving this style. From Tooth and Nail’s estate vineyard in Paso’s Willow Creek AVA. (90 points IJB)

2020 Tooth & Nail Wines Syrah “Destinata” USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County
SRP: $29
Pretty violet color. The nose is airy and open with wild raspberries and juicy blueberries along with roses, violets and cola. The palate has this plush feel with smooth tannins and zesty acidity. Gorgeous blueberry, raspberry and cherry, crunchy yet deep fruit. Notes of violet petals, warm black tea, pepper and leather add complexity. That carbonic goodness is so fun but the fruit and complexity underneath are legit. A crushable, Beaujolais-inspired Syrah that just rocks. (91 points IJB)

2018 Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon USA, California, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District
SRP: $62
Deep purple color. A warm, inviting mix of currants and black cherries with dusty earth, clay tobacco, leather, graphite, just a ton going on as it opens up. Full but suave with such vibrant acidity and structured tannins. The fruit is a deep but crunchy mix of tart currants and juicy cherries, and the fruit is mixed with delightful mix of earth and graphite, leather and charcoal, roasted red pepper and nuanced cedar. Complex, fresh, beautiful stuff, this will age wonderfully for who-knows-how-long. Includes some Merlot and Cabernet Franc, aged 21 months in 50% new French oak. (94 points IJB)

2018 Sullivan Vineyards Coeur de Vigne USA, California, Napa Valley, Rutherford
SRP: $110
Bright purple color. Exciting yet classic nose of black cherries and currants, laced with savory and spicy tones of leather, black tea, smoked meat, tilled soil – a lot to unpack here. Crisp acidity frames the wine well against solid, grippy tannins and a core of deep currants, plums and blackberries. The complexities are really impressive: black tea, light roast coffee, tar, violets, tobacco and roasted bell pepper. There’s also this flinty, graphite and iron mystique that underlines the whole thing. Deep yet vibrant, this deserves age, time and your attention. Includes 20% Merlot and 2% Petit Verdot, aged 21 months in 65% new French oak. (94 points IJB)

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