I have spent a lot of time focusing on value wines this year. In these economic times, that is what the people want.
Nonetheless, a lot of you might want to give the oenophile in your life something very special this holiday season, so here are a few suggestions:
Paul Pernot Grand Cru Bienvenues Batard-Montrachet, 2006 (Burgundy, France): I have never heard anyone say anything negative about Paul Pernot’s wines — ever. The reason for this can be summed up in a word: purity. Pernot has not been afraid to use new wood, but his grapes emit such immense clean, vibrant minerality and unfettered fruit that it seems as if all the labor (that largely takes place in the vineyards) is almost effortless.
His sons, Paul and Michel, have been part of the fabric for some time, yet papa, who is close to 80, is still actively involved. The Grand Cru Bienvenues is a prized site, and its reverence is not always apparent right away because the wines need bottle age. That said, this 4-year-old immaculate conception of chardonnay — with its searing acidity, apples, almonds and a long, Champagne-like finish — already tastes terrific. Still, I recommend giving it at least another five or six years. Suggested retail: $125
Montevertine Le Pergole Torte, 2006 (Tuscany, Italy): In its early days, Montevertine was a renegade. Though nestled in the heart of Chianti Classico, owner Sergio Manetti thumbed his nose at the denominazione di origine controllata (DOC) in 1981 — which was questionably rewarded DOCG, garantita, status a year later — and decided to make great wines that did not follow the Chianti Classico consortium’s recipe. Even though the rules have changed and now all Montevertine wines can be anointed with the Chianti Classico label, the estate has decided to just keep things as they have been and forgo the famed rooster neck.
The flagship wine, Le Pergole Torte, is made only when Mother Nature is in a great mood. Such a year came in 2006, and this 100 percent sangiovese is a pure, intricate expression of both fruit and terroir. Layered with tobacco, red fruits, licorice, an array of spices and dried mushrooms, it marvels now and will continue on a fine path for at least another 15 years. Suggested retail: $110
Heitz Wine Cellars cabernet sauvignon, Martha’s Vineyard, 2001 (Napa Valley): Heitz’s Martha’s Vineyard is a legendary wine, even if it does not seem to receive as much press today as it once did. I still remember tasting the 1968 when it was just 24 years old and thinking, “Wow! Now I know why people get so excited about cabernet sauvignon.” To this day, that bottle is of the most memorable wines I have ever tried.
Since 1965, the Heitz and Mays families, who own this sacred vineyard, have been churning out many monumental vintages. If there is any California wine that is worth its high price tag, Martha’s Vineyard — along with Ridge Montebello — is it. Several vintages can be found pretty easily, but for the long, long term, I would go with the 2001.
Packed with plush black fruit and tannin in its infancy, it has flourished as a toddler with mint, sage, underbrush, chocolate and a hint of tobacco. Drink now through 2031. Suggested retail: $150
Pamela S. Busch is the owner of Skrewcap.com, founder of CAV Wine Bar and a Bay Area wine consultant.