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With the holiday season in full swing, we thought it was time to highlight our selection of large format bottles! Once again we have a fantastic selection available from some of our favorite producers -- some that would be perfect for the 1,000 holiday parties you have to attend to this month, and others guaranteed to impress the in-laws when you head home for family celebrations. There are people who would argue that less is more, but if you peruse the picks below, we think you'll agree that more is definitely more. Happy Holidays! Tim Gagnon
From organically-farmed Chardonnay vines in Vertus, Mont Aime, Villeneuve, the current disgorgement of Arpège is a blend of 15% 2010, 50% 2009, 35% 2008 vintages bottled in 2012, recently disgorged with 5g/l dosage. Arpège (French for Arpeggio) is a great introduction to Pascal's wines. It combines the incisive chalkiness with pure fruit and a longer lees aging and is a delicious expression of his Côte des Blancs terroir. The nose offers white flowers, citrus peel, ginger and cool herb aromas. The palate is decidedly stony, with a chalky minerality leading the attack followed by notes of Meyer lemon, white peach skin, and Bosc pear flavors. The finish is long, bright, and sapid. This a perfect Champagne for an aperitif, but has the verve to pair with oysters and other seafood dishes. John McIlwain
Bérêche's Campania Remensis is a consistently fascinating rosé Champagne, in a category fraught with uninspiring wines. The 2012 base is 65% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay, and 5% still red wine from Ormes on the western side of the Montagne de Reims. This year the robe is more of a salmon pink rather than copper color of previous vintages. The nose is redolent of wild strawberry, blood orange zest, vanilla bean, raspberry, and ginger. The palate balances whip-crack acidity with layers of ripe fruit flavors and savory undertones. The balance here is impeccable and the finish textured and nuanced. This is a beautiful and deft rosé! John McIlwain
The 2013 vintage is the inaugural release of Aurelien Suenen's Grand Cru Oiry Blanc de Blancs. Wines from the village of Oiry are typically sold under the Cramant designation (we haven't been able to find another Champagne with this single village designation, as yet), so this is a fine opportunity to taste Oiry's distinctive, chalky terroir. Aurelien's parcels contain some very old Chardonnay vines which make for some pungently mineral, stony wines. The vins clairs are fermented partially in barrel, spend nine months on the lees, and are bottled with 1 g/l dosage. The 2013 is brisk, briny, and fresh on the nose with aromas of citrus peel, quinine, and chalk dominating. The palate is chiseled, taut and very dry with racy acidity and an energetic driving finish. Suenen continues to grow with each vintage and this new lineup of village designated Champagnes are particularly exciting. John McIlwain
The Dupasquier family is uniquely situated in the southernmost part of the Savoie, in the village of Aimavigne, due west of Lyon, and make classic, delicious wines year after year. This Gamay is a case in pont. Herbal (think parsley and celery leaf) with fruit seeds, a hint of funk, and tart, pure, high-toned red fruits on the nose, the palate is clear as a bell. The wine certainly has the juiciness, bright, singing acidity, and succulent red berry character of cool vintage Beaujolais, but with an Alpine freshness and sanguine, lingering minerality on the finish that's all its own. Pair with just about anything this holiday season! Tim Gagnon
A blend of 60% Carignan 30% Grenache and 10% Mourvedre. A truly versatile red, in magnum size! Eben Lillie
I can't think of anything better than delicious Beaujolais in magnum! Apparently called Mont Brulius for the Roman soldier whom the region is named after, this cuvée is made from some of Raphael and Christine’s oldest vines (averaging 90 years old) and is aged entirely in stainless steel. These vines are planted in basalt and granite soils on slopes that are so steep that they don’t allow for plowing. The nose offers a bouquet of hibiscus, licorice, pomegranate, and strawberry liqueur, before skewing more mineral and savory on the palate, with dark, damp earth, iron, citrus, and brambly blackberries. Over the course of a dinner it really plumps up showing wild strawberry, cassis, thyme, and cola nut. This wine has serious structure and a bright acidity that would make it at home next to fattier fare. Tim Gagnon
Céline and Steve Gormally farm their 5 hectares in Passenans, to the southwest of Arbois, with strictly biodynamic methods and consistently make stunning natural wines. Arco is 100% Savagnin from 20-year-old vines planted in rocky soils with a limestone base. Vinified and aged in neutral barrels for 9 months, it is a beautiful example of how much care the Gormallys put into all of their wines. Gorgeous tropical fruit aromas abound with delicate hints of walnut, lime blossom, and wildflower. The palate is gently saline with pure fruit, a piercing minerality, and a wonderful texture that leads into a crystalline finish dotted with hints of tangy pineapple stalk. It is absolutely delicious. Tim Gagnon
Mostly from Petite Serine planted in the 1950s on Chavaroche, a superb parcel of granite and schist soils with clay and sand (just west of Cote Brune) a very warm terraced plot sheltered from the north wind. Whole-bunch fermentation, aged one year in old barrels, one year in 15% new, 85% old casks. The 2009 Chavaroche is a magnificent Côte-Rôtie with surprising structure and acidity for the vintage - in fact Nicole Levet suggests drinking the 2010 before the 2009. Superb, elegant nose of deep black fruits, stone and game with hints of cocoa. (Albert Dervieux-Thaise once told me that a good Côte-Rôtie should smell like "le ventre d'un lièvre chaud" - the gut of a warm hare.) This is not that rustic, but definitely has distinctive aromas. The palate is bursting with stony blackberry fruit, with brown spice, citrus, smoke and licorice. This seems softer than the 2010 to me but there is ample lifting acidity and freshness to carry the wine into old age. This is a big, gorgeous Côte-Rôtie that will be a joy to drink over the next 15 to 20 years! David Lillie
Larger size = more fun. Les Gaudrettes is also made from Pinot Noir; however the grapes are vinified using carbonic maceration. The result is an invigorating wine rife with sappy red berries, white pepper, blood orange, cherry pit, and a hint of underbrush on the nose. More pretty red fruits and citrus shine through on the palate with a touch of salty minerals. Meatier tannins offer the wine a fair amount of structure, and more high-toned red fruits abound on the finish. This is an excellent vintage for this cuvee, and it is downright delicious. Tim Gagnon
This belongs in your cellar! Always one of the greatest of Beaujolais. From 4.75 hectares near Le Clachet, from vines averaging 70 years of age, with some planted before World War One. About 2,000 cases are produced. Vineyard work is biodynamic, fermentation is with wild yeasts at a moderately low temperature (10 - 13 degrees C). Aging is mostly in old barrels from DRC with minimal extraction. 2014 was a classic vintage for Beaujolais, as poor early weather gave way to sunshine from mid-August, producing well-balanced wines with good ripeness and firm acidity. The 2014 Thevenet shows reduction, then complex aromas of red currant, strawberry, earth, violet, blood orange, spice and licorice. The palate shows bright red currant and berry liqueur with mineral, citrus, rose and spice. The finish is firm with fruit and mineral flavors with good density and length. Decant if drinking now, this superb Morgon will be best from 2020 to 2025 and beyond.
This is a superb, subtle and very mineral Chardonnay from a replanted parcel at the very top of the Clos, abandoned since 1896, with thin clay soils rich in iron over limestone. A great terroir, never chemically treated and worked in biodynamic farming by Alain and Julien Guillot. The 2014 "les Chassagnes" is a beautiful wine! Yields of 18 hl/ha, giving a racy, stony wine with hints of white fruits, spice and honey, the palate is silky and crystalline - all mineral with subtle citrus and white fruits, very long and elegant. Highly recommended! David Lillie
This is a charming and comforting red from our friends Luc and Marie Michel of Zélige-Caravent, in the Pic-St-Loup appellation of the Languedoc. Primarily old-vines Grenache, with a touch of Syrah and Cinsault, it's full-bodied and silky, with crushed dark berry fruit and subtle grip. This is truly a satisfying red, and the perfect remedy for a cold winter night. Smooth enough to be enjoyed without food, this will shine with roasted meats, stews, spicy foods, or any hearty meal. Eben Lillie
This is serious Rioja: no new oak, extended pre-release bottle aging, and exquisite vineyard sites (for the Tondonia, vines dig deep through fine-grained alluvial soils overlooking the Ebro River that were first planted almost 140 years ago). Don Rafael López de Heredia y Landeta founded Lopez de Heredia in 1877, and the wines continue to serve as a benchmark for the region (the family business is now led mainly by his grandson Pedro, and great-granddaughter Maria Jose). The bodega comprises four distinct vineyard areas and extends to a total of 170 hectares, with Tondonia being the largest and most famous of the holdings. Jancis Robinson considers 2004 "a very good year, with wines that should last well," and the Tondonia Reserva is certainly that: powerful, lean, and layered with gorgeous, generous fruit and all the cigar box, cedar, and leather notes a lover of classic Rioja could wish for.
Partida Creus' Xarello always stands out among their lineup of natural wines, farmed organically and vinified with no added SO2 in the Massis de Bonastre in the Baix Penedes. Ungrafted old vines from a single parcel give this Xarello a particular energy and clarity. Pure and peppery, with broad, juicy fruit flavors of apricots, white grapefruit, crunchy pineapple, and sweet, refreshing swirls of orange, anchored by tingly acidity, low alcohol, gentle tannin (from a few hours of skin contact), with flecks of resinous herbs, fragrant lemon balm, and gritty mineral soil. Delicious and unique take on this important grape. Ariana Rolich
This Reserva is a fine example of what a great vintage Peciña had in 2001, showing aromas and flavors of strawberry, cedar, flowers, and baking spices. There is an almost luxurious quality to the palate with plush fruit, mushroom, soft silky tannins, as well as beautiful acidity and a floral lift to the finish. This Reserva speaks of the singularity quality of Rioja Alta and in particular of Peciña's village, San Vicente, where most of their best holdings are located. Let this bottle breathe for a couple of hours and it will reward you with subtle, precise Rioja spice and perfume.
Pecina's 2006 Rioja Crianza in magnum was starting to drink really nicely last year at this time. And now it is positively singing! Supple, elegant, and mature, this is an affordable luxury at $44.99. Vibrant aromas of orange oil, florals, and leather mingle with creamy, savory, evolved flavors of rosy red raspberry, sour cherry and cranberry fruit, with soft gritty tannins, bergamot, spicy cedar, sweet smoke, and spice. Ariana Rolich
This old-vine cuvée of Caiño, Brancellao, and Ferrol comes from beautiful steeply terraced vineyards that are a mixture of sand and granite soils. The result is a gorgeous mix of broad dark fruits, country aromas of wild flowers and herbs, complemented by tangy minerals. There is good structure here with impeccably balanced acidity and fine yet layered tannins making this both age-worthy and immediately enjoyable - a novel and deep expression of Galician terroir.
I cannot think of a California winemaker working today whom we admire and celebrate as enthusiastically as Steve Edmunds of Edmunds St. John. What greater pleasure can there be, then, to open this great big bottle of Rocks and Gravel from a great American winemaker? Displaying a greater resemblance to L'Anglore Tavel than to the typical California GSM blend, 2015 Rocks and Gravel is juicy and generous with invigorating acidity and lots of life ahead. Perfumed and mouth-watering aromas of wild rose, black currant, tea leaves, and wild cherry with a terrifically spicy, bright and balanced palate of black raspberry, cherries and cherry skins, sweet tobacco, juicy young tannins and vibrant acidity. Medium bodied and crystal clear at 13.2% alcohol, this wine opens up beautifully and will reward cellaring. Ariana Rolich
Swick’s Pinot Noir rosé is one of the most complex rosés I’ve tasted from the Willamette Valley (let alone the rest of the United States). The rosé is a blend of organically farmed grapes from the Cancilla and Roots vineyards, which are cooler, higher altitude sites. With a light cherry robe, this wine has a kaleidoscopic range of flavors: blood orange, wild cherry, umeboshi plum, dried tarragon, and cured meats. A sumptuous rosé to have with Christmas dinner and to brighten even the darkest winter months! Jonas Mendoza
Here is a prime example of the importance of AP numbers. This is a wine from a totally different Fuder (Nr. 15) than the 750 mL bottling, which means it is sourced from a different parcel of vines in the Herrenberg. This is from Fuder “Großwald,” which Lars Carlberg writes is from a plot “nearby Falkenstein in the place name of Großwald; very small, loose grape bunches; well balanced.” Crisp minerality, notes of lemon zest with fresh and candied peaches, there's something even more energetic about Falkenstein when it comes from a magnum! Cari Bernard
For Christmas this year I would like to be given the Giuseppe Rinaldi 2002 Barolo, in magnum. Please. In Piedmont the summer of ’02 saw unprecedented quantities of rain, cool temps, landslides, hail, and downpours of frogs – just about every bad wet weather thing that can happen, and many producers didn’t even make wine. By way of contrast, Giacomo Conterno bottled only Monfortino; I haven’t tasted it for a while but it was pretty spectacular then (it would be very interesting to taste the 2002 Monfortino blind… does anyone with a bottle want to join the experiment?). And G Rinaldi made really good Barolo, which I was first wowed by in 2007, and then again last May. So I’d like that mag, please. Jamie Wolff
This is a luminous, almost ethereal blend of indigenous Sicilian varieties from the volcanic slopes of Mount Etna. A Palmento is the traditional wine cellar of the region, with stone troughs for crushing grapes by foot. Winemakers Anna Martens and Eric Narioo honor the old methods with a blend of organically farmed Nerello Mascalese, Nerello Cappuccio, and Alicante as well as the native white grapes of the island that are beginning to gain familiarity with American drinkers for their smoky minerality: Minella, Catarratto, and Insolia. Everything is crushed by foot from old bush vines with no fining or filtration and minimal sulfur at bottling. The result is pure, unadulterated fruit and a crisp snap of acidity: raspberries, cranberries, hints of juicy meyer lemon and the barest whiff of tannin to remind you that it is still a red wine. Perfect in a large format for natural wine lovers to open while friends gather and cooking gets under way. Drink slightly chilled. Karina Mackow