Holidays a great time to splurge on wine

FOR THE BELLINGHAM HERALDDecember 17, 2013 

It's the holiday season, and that puts many of us in a mood to splurge.

When buying wines the definition of splurge, of course, is relative to your income level and, perhaps, your sense of adventure. But it's the holidays, and what better time to cut loose and push the boundaries of your normal wine budget. Splurge a bit.

So if you regularly spend $10 to $15 on a bottle of wine, I say, break the $20 barrier. If you usually spend $15 to $25, go for something in the $30 to $40 range. If you're a $50 a-bottle-and-up spender ... heck, if you normally spend that much you're out of my league (but please feel free to invite me over during the holidays if you'd like to share a glass of wine).

Let's open with a trio of chardonnays that might be considered splurges, depending on your normal price range.

The Robert Mondavi 2011 Napa Valley Chardonnay (about $20) displays aromas and flavors of ripe apple, toasted oak and baking spice on a creamy finish. It's an elegant choice for those looking to step up from an everyday chardonnay.

Keith Pilgrim of Terra Blanca Winery has an extensive collection of library wines and current releases, including the Signature Series 2009 Chardonnay Block 5 (about $25). Aged in 100 percent French oak, it's packed with persimmon and starfruit flavors with a finish of vanilla bean.

Another French oak-aged masterpiece is the Woodward Canyon 2012 Washington State Chardonnay (about $44). Beautifully crafted and a pleasure to taste, it displays butterscotch/almond aromas, flavors of pear and nectarine, and a rich finish with hints of lemon crème.

Innovative Spencer Sievers of El Corazon Winery represents a new generation of Washington winemakers who aren't afraid to push the envelope with creative marketing. His kitschy, laid-back Walla Walla tasting room is an oasis from stuffy, sterile alternatives.

Siever's Duct Tape-Wingman 2011 Red Wine (about $32) might be considered a bit of a splurge, but is well worth it. This Bordeaux blend of malbec, petit verdot and cabernet franc really does feature a piece of duct tape as the front label. But inside, things get serious with big, structured black fruits, coffee bean and bittersweet chocolate. I've spotted El Corazon wines locally at Bellingham's Old World Deli.

For an ethereal, ultra-splurge from one of Italy's most prestigious vineyards, try the Damilano 2008 Barolo Cannubi (about $85). Made from 100 percent nebbiolo, it opens with an aroma of freshly baked brioche and hits the tongue with a splash of red currant. Layers of red cherry and black plum follow, with a grippy finish and lingering notes of leather and cedar.

Dan Radil is a wine enthusiast who lives in Bellingham. Reach him at danthewineguy.com.

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