Go big or go bargain with these 5 holiday wines


Special To The Washington Post

This week's list includes two splurge-worthy wines for the holidays: Inglenook's "back to the future" cabernet sauvignon, the first vintage from Philippe Bascaules as he steers the winery toward a more classic Napa style, and a beautiful rosé champagne from Ayala, the sister winery to the Bollinger champagne house. To balance the effects on our wallets, we have two budget sparklers: a lovely blanc de blancs from Burgundy and a stunner from Long Island, N.Y., as well as a delicious Oregon pinot gris.

Inglenook Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Three stars

Napa Valley, Calif., $85

This stylish cabernet offers dark blackberry fruit and hints of earth, with subtle tannins that keep the wine in balance. It's deep without being heavy, and it shows a winemaker's deft hand in treating the grapes to give their most without beating it out of them. I recommend decanting it at least two hours before dinner to give it time to stretch a bit. Also recommended: the 2012 Rubicon, Inglenook's flagship wine, and the 2013 Edizione Pennino Zinfandel. Alcohol by volume: 14.5 percent.

Ayala Rosé Champagne No. 8 Brut

Three stars

Champagne, France, $90

Silky and elegant, this lovely rosé champagne tastes at once floral, exhilarating and comforting. ABV: 12 percent.

GREAT VALUE

Lieb Cellars Reserve Blanc de Blancs 2011

Three stars

North Fork of Long Island, N.Y., $32

Wow: This wine focuses a laser beam of fruit right on the tickle-spot of your palate. I'm talking apples, pears, even red fruits. The bubbles are a bonus. This is a reminder of why we need more New York wines, especially the bubblies, in our market. ABV: 12.5 percent.

GREAT VALUE

Jean-Marc Lafont Blanc de Blancs Crémant de Bourgogne

Two stars

Burgundy, France, $20

From an excellent Beaujolais producer, this crémant tastes less like a sparkling wine than like a really nice chardonnay that sparkles. That's not an insult, just a reminder that these are wines, not just something to raise in a celebratory toast or spray around a championship locker room. ABV: 12 percent.

Duck Pond Fries Family Cellars Pinot Gris 2015

Two stars

Willamette Valley, Ore., $15

Pinot gris from Oregon is one of my favorite pairings with salmon. This delicious example is fresh and racy, with apple and quince flavors. Duck Pond's pinot noir is also quite good. ABV: 13.9 percent.

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Three stars Exceptional, two stars Excellent, one star Very Good

Prices are approximate. Check Winesearcher.com to verify availability, or ask a favorite wine store to order through a distributor.


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