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‘Tis the season and here are suggestions for wines and wine-related items to delight family, friends and yourself. Suggestions range from bargains to once-in-a-lifetime wines and include a vertical tasting of different vintages of the same wine.


North by Northwest 2015 red blend “Columbia Valley” ($15): This blend of Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon impresses with a strong personality that features full-body, well-balanced fruit and tannins that call for serving with beef.

Fleurs de Prairie 2017 Rosé “Côtes de Provence, France” ($18): Attractive in the glass and on nose and palate. Good strength, yet stylish with delightful fruit, balance, integration, refinement and finish.

Erath 2016 Pinot Noir “Oregon” ($19): This pleasing value has a robust personality that includes an attention-grabbing attack with forward fruit, strength and tannins. Very good balance and complexity carry through an extended finish.

Castello Pomino (by Frescobaldi) 2017 white blend “Pomino Bianco, Tuscany, Italy” ($20): I loved the stylish personality of this well-made blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Bianco. An exceptional food wine, it is strong on the palate with somewhat lean, well-balanced fruit and prolonged length.

Imagery 2016 Chardonnay “California” ($20): This superb buy surpasses many in its price range by being wonderfully well-balanced and having beautiful integration, forward personality and a long, full-flavored finish.

Trivento 2015 Malbec “Golden Reserve, Lujan de Cuyo, Argentina” ($21): Deeply hued, this strong Malbec also entertains with rich fruit quickly joined by tannins that yield impressive complexity through a lengthy finish.


Meiomi non-vintage sparkling wine “North Coast” ($27): Ideal for sparkling wine lovers who prefer a bit more fruit than typical. Plus, there is pleasing fizz, as well as strength on the attack with delightful balance and an extended finish.

Passion for Wine: The French Ideal and the American Dream ($29 hardcopy; $15 Kindle): This intriguing book offers an interesting, enjoyable pathway to greater understanding of wine “with confidence, enlightenment, humility and a great sense of fun”. Hardcopy from and Kindle version from

Blandy’s non-vintage “Sercial, 10-year Dry Madeira, Portugal” ($30; 500 ml): This dry-style Madeira makes a memorable holiday gift with its gold-brown color, powerfully complex nose, expressive strength, fine texture and long life.

Saldo (by Prisoner) 2016 Zinfandel “California” ($32): Captivates the senses being beautifully purple-hued in the glass and bold on the palate featuring heavy body, huge fruit, large personality and highly pleasing finish.


Galil Mountain 2014 red blend “Yiron, Galilee, Israel” ($35): This fine blend of mostly Cabernet and Merlot has wonderful color depth and hue. The first sip reveals strength and complexity, but also refinement. Available online.

Landmark 2016 Pinot Noir “Grand Detour, Sonoma Coast” ($35): This luminescent Pinot Noir has powerful complexity on the nose and rich, well-balanced fruit and long-lasting finish on the palate. A very good value.

Penner-Ash 2015 Syrah “Oregon” ($40): Wonderful Syrah that is strong all-around, but especially forward on the palate with beautiful fruit, exceptional balance and an extended finish featuring lingering fruit and complexity.


Collet non-vintage “Brut, Art Deco, Champagne” ($45): Impressive all-around with forward strength and complexity, voluminous fine fizz and attractive integration and refinement. A very good buy for Champagne.

Riedel Performance wine glasses ($59 per pair): Elegant and functional, Riedel’s Performance glasses use cleverly increased surface area within the bowl to facilitate aeration, thereby enhancing the character of wines. Available online.

Beaulieu Vineyard 2014 red blend “Tapestry, Napa Valley” ($65): This Cabernet Sauvignon dominated blend has strength on nose and palate accompanied by dusky tannins, pleasing complexity, very good to excellent balance and impressive length.

Ramey 2015 Chardonnay “Westside Farms, Russian River Valley” ($65): Beautifully crafted with strength on palate featuring fruit accompanied by well-integrated oak. Forward, yet refined with an extended finish dominated by fruit and complexity.

And higher

Moraga 2016 Sauvignon Blanc “Bel Air” ($115): This unique, excellently crafted Sauvignon Blanc is off the charts with deep color and great strength on the palate expressing decadent texture, unusually full body, strong fruit and superb balance. Available from

Fonseca 2016 Vintage Port “Porto, Portugal” ($120; 750 ml): 2016 is an exceptional vintage for Port, and the Fonseca tops those I’ve tasted with beautiful, refined, wonderfully balanced fruit and a forward, very pleasing personality that is engagingly complex and lengthy. Also available online in 375 ml bottles for $50-60.

Don Melchor 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon “Puente Alto Vineyard, Puente Alto, Chile” ($125): Among the best wines I tasted this year. Highly impressive on the nose and earth-movingly powerful on the palate with thick texture, great fruit, excellent balance, medium tannins and a long-persisting finish.

Joseph Faiveley 2014 Chardonnay “Chassagne-Montrachet, 1er Cru Morgeot, Burgundy, France” ($138): Memorable all-around, but especially on the palate with strong fruit, honed balance, medium but exceedingly well-integrated oak and a seemingly unending finish.

Youngberg Hill 2013, 2014 and 2015 Pinot Noir “Jordan, Willamette Valley” ($150 for all three vintages): A wonderful opportunity to taste and compare three vintages of the same wine. One vintage is a bit lean, another has rich fruit and a third… Well, that’s the point, to taste and compare different vintages for deeper insight into wine. Available for $1 shipping from

John Vankat’s Pine Wine appears every month and his Wine Pick of the Week is published every Wednesday. Wines can be ordered from local wine stores, unless indicated otherwise. Prices may vary. John can be reached at