Wine Wednesdays With William: 8 Bottles Of Red Wine Perfect For The Holidays

This is the second in my series of holiday-themed wine columns to present recommendations for your wine-drinking needs. Below are eight red wines that offer interest, value and sheer deliciousness that can be served at Christmas Eve dinner—or even a pre-New Year’s Eve gathering. The prices correspond with wines available in my Wine Room at Putnam Market in Saratoga Springs, and below (note: the prices below include sales tax).

2012 Domaine Jaume Altitude 420, Vinsobres AC, France
Altitude 420 is a blend of 60 percent Grenache and 40 percent Syrah, grown on a windswept terrace in “Les Collines,” which towers over the medieval village. One-third of the wine matures for four months in one-year-old barriques, and the rest in stainless steel tanks. It’s glorious. The wine sings with wonderful freshness. Really good wine for less than $20. Amazing. ($19)

2016 Banshee Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles, California
Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon tends to be brighter in flavor, naturally high in acidity and with tamer but richer tannins than you’d find from Napa. And this makes that point well. Dry and medium-bodied with blackcurrant, lifted by a touch of red fruit brightness on the entry. Oak, vanilla and yeast notes underpin the fruit. The finish is long and fresh with firm, smooth tannins. ($21)

2015 Mapuche Cabernet Sauvignon, Maipo Valley, Chile
No vanilla essence, no oak staves, no oak shavings—no nothing. Just ripe grapes and meticulous, temperature-controlled fermentation. Juicy and fresh: not sweet, not syrupy, not chocolatey, in fact, not bad at all. Great party wine. ($10)

2012 Quiet Resolve, Project RL5, Syrah, Stellenbosch, South Africa
Pepper, spice, rich blackberry fruit and then rich, multi-layered and savory on the palate. Some graphite elegance here, even in such a big, powerful wine. Clearly, way out of this price bracket. ($13)

2016 The Ojai Vineyard Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir
Adam Tolmach is a legend in Santa Barbara. He knows every row in every consequential vineyard in the county. He buys his grapes, not by the ton, but by the acre. He has control of the vineyards and over the quality of the grapes grown there. The wine is all fresh red and black fruits, but there’s something else—that engrossing factor that gets you thinking. ($35)

2013 Domaine des Tourelles, Vallée de la Bekaa, Lebanon
The elevation of the vineyards at 3500 feet moderates the extreme heat of the valley. The wine is a typical Rhône blend of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault and Carignan, fermented in concrete with indigenous yeast and aged there as well. It’s a glossy, deep red, deliciously smooth, full of life and with sensational value. Nothing if not interesting. ($13)

2015 Ch. Argadens Bordeaux Supérieur, France
This is 63 percent Merlot, 32 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 5 percent Cabernet Franc, aged for 12 months in small oak barrels. When the weather delivers, even less favored properties in Bordeaux produce real quality, and 2015 was such a year. In the glass the wine is intensely aromatic and in the mouth, it’s lightly tannic, fresh, appetizing and just what you want in good claret. ($16)

2014 Smith Madrone Spring Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Smith-Madrone’s Cabernet Sauvignon is grown at the top of Spring Mountain (at an elevation of 1800 feet), west of St. Helena in the Napa Valley. The blend is 85 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 8 percent Cabernet Franc and 7 percent Merlot from 42-year-old vines, estate-grown and dry-farmed. Aged for 18 months in French oak barrels—70 percent new, 30 percent one year old. Concentrated aromas, seamless palate, velvety, silky texture, the essence of Cabernet Sauvignon. Old school and old world, full of finesse. ($60)

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