Go big wines

Scott Greenberg, special to wtop.com

WASHINGTON – I love writing about great wine values. I try very hard to find and share delicious wines that won’t break the bank. And the good news is that there are a lot of wines that deliver high QPR – Quality to Price Ratio.

But once in a while, I like to pamper my palate with something on the extravagant side. Like getting dressed up to go out for a nice dinner, splurging on a high-end wine can be a memorable experience, especially when it is paired with a special event, such as a holiday dinner or New Year’s Eve party.

So forgive me if this segment seems a bit over the top, but once in a while, you just have to Go Big!

There is simply no better way to get any special occasion started than with bubbles. And the 2002 Laurent-Perrier Brut Millésime from Reims, France is a spectacular Champagne. Made with equal amounts of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, this bubbly displays a fragrant bouquet of toasted brioche, ripe apple and honey on the nose. The palate is rewarded with pear, nectarine and apple notes, delivered by tiny, precise bubbles. The crisp finish is youthful and fresh and made distinctly memorable by the notes of candied orange rind that lingers on and on. For a Champagne of this quality, it is a relative bargain at $50

For Chardonnay lovers who are looking for something other than an over-oaked vanilla bomb, try the refined and elegant 2005 Domaine Drouhin Puligny Montrachet from the Burgundy region of France.

The minerally nose offers up scents of apple, nectarine and citrus that leads to a mouthful of ripe nectarine, pineapple and lemon flavors. The bracing acidity and mineral-laden undertones seems to hold the flavors in place on the long, bright finish. $57

One of my favorite special occasion dishes is duck ala orange – and one of my favorite wines to pair with it is pinot noir, specifically the 2009 Pener-Ash Pinot Noir from the Shea Vineyard in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. It sports a charming nose of cassis, cloves and cinnamon and a mouthful of great fruit featuring black cherry, ripe plums, Asian spices and orange peel. The elegant finish offers a touch of dark chocolate. $70

You can’t go big without a visit to the land down under where Syrah – or Shiraz as it’s known south of the equator – is the source of national pride. And the 2010 Mollydooker Carnival of Love Shiraz from the McLaren Vale region of Australia does the country proud. A beautiful bouquet of blackberries, black cherries and licorice spill onto the palate where they’re joined by flavors of plum, coffee and creamy dark chocolate – all supported by solid, precise-but-soft tannins. The classic peppery finish rounds it all out. An absolute must with rack of lamb. $89

If you’re game for game this winter, there are few wines that can match the power of the 2007 Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf du Pape from the Southern Rhone region of France. The aroma of ripe black cherries and barnyard scents fill the bouquet. Elegant, perfectly balanced flavors of sweet cherries, tobacco and cedar coat the entire palate and then linger on the finish for over a minute. Perfect with venison, goose or Cassoulet. $80

If you want to go big – and I mean really big – then break the bank with the 2008 Joseph Phelps Vineyards Insignia Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley, California. Small amounts of Petit Verdot, Malbec and Merlot are also blended in to produce a massive wine that offers up prominent aromas of cassis liqueur, roasted coffee and toasty oak. Layers of blackberry, cassis, dark plum, vanilla and espresso flavors fall over the tongue in waves and are kept in balance by sweet, chewy tannins. The ultra-long finish is marked by a hint of dark chocolate that lends a decadent impression. Make sure you decant this beauty at least two hours before enjoying it. And find a friend to share the $150 price tag with.

(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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