Maybe you got a gift card or some cash over the holidays and want to treat yourself to an exceptional wine, for a special occasion or maybe just a bottle you've always wanted but couldn't afford. These are the best wines I tasted this year that I haven't already reviewed.
You first impulse may be to pick up a highly coveted Napa Valley "cult cabernet." I suggest instead a classic Napa Valley cab: 2013 Chateau Montelena "The Montelena Estate" ($160). Montelena's Calistoga estate vineyard has been the source of premier Napa cab for 45 years. This one continues the tradition with intense aromas, deep fruit, savory notes and the ability to age at least 15 years.
For another typical expression of Napa cabernet, at one-third the price, buy a 2014 Frank Family Napa Valley ($53). Blended from several vineyards, it offers precocious, ripe fruit, rich texture, some earth and soft tannins that drink well now but will allow years of development.
Or venture vicariously to Chile and find Concha y Toro's icon wine, the 2014 Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon "Puente Alto Vineyard" ($125). From a vineyard at the foot of the Andes mountains, it is balanced and fresh, mouth filling and sophisticated. Complexity is at the center, with aromas and flavors beautifully integrated.
For merlot lovers, your search should begin with Duckhorn Vineyards, considered California's premier merlot producer. The 2014 Three Palms Vineyard ($98), from the storied vineyard on the Napa Valley floor, offers layers of luscious red fruit with hints of toast and spice. Impressive now, it will develop more character and complexity with time. This wine was named The Wine Spectator's Wine of the Year, which means it may be hard to find. In that case, don't hesitate to pick up its sibling, the enticing, minerally, 2014 Atlas Peak ($75).
For those of you who prefer the purity and elegance of pinot noir, seek out these three wines from the Cobb family, one of the pioneers of the Sonoma coast: 2014 Coastlands Vineyard 1906 Block Pommard Clone ($80) features mineral, herbs and earth; 2014 Emmaline Ann Vineyard ($75) emphasizes high-toned fruit and spice; 2014 Rice-Spivak Vineyard ($75) proffers succulent, savory fruit.
Two more pinot noirs (both biodynamically farmed) worth a search: complex, yet seamless 2014 Sea Smoke Ten ($82), a selection of 10 clones from their Santa Rita Hills estate vineyard, and 2014 de Coelo Quintus ($75), which melds marine qualities of the Sonoma coast with a silky texture.
You Chardonnay lovers can't do much better than these three wines by Sonoma-Loeb, each a different expression of the Sangiacomo Vineyard in Sonoma's Carneros region: 2015 El Novillero ($42) - fine depth and complexity, 2015 Envoy ($38) - richly layered tropical and spice, 2015 Envoy ($38) - brisk citrus and tropical fruit.
Finally, from Fontanafredda, two fantastic Barolo values (two words that don't often go together). From one of the oldest wineries in the Piedmont, the single vineyard 2013 Serralunga d'Alba ($45) shows powerful, intense fruit with firm structure and ageability. The regional 2013 Barolo ($30) is not as intense but is packed with lovely fruit and earthy notes.