Five wines for the next big occasion: The Wine Find

These bottles aren’t cheap, but they’ll deliver for that upcoming anniversary, birthday or hot date.

By: Carolyn Evans Hammond Published Tues May 29 2017 on Star Touch and Sat June 3 2017 in The Toronto Star, syndicated

Maybe it’s an upcoming anniversary, birthday or hot date. Or maybe it’s a gift for the boss, the newlyweds or your darling self. But there are times in every wine lover’s life when only a deeply impressive bottle will do—one that’s such an exhilarating expression of its style it’s impossible not to love. 

Here is a list of five such wines for the next big occasion. These bottles aren’t cheap, but they deliver.

NV Pol Roger Brut Reserve Champagne, France (LCBO 217158 $66.80 in stores and online) 

When it comes to wine, it’s hard to get more blue chip than Champagne from one of the better houses. And this fine bottle is a no-brainer. Expect arresting aromas of ripe pear, lemon zest and white flowers that lead to a brisk, generous attack of lemon curd, honeyed pastry and apricot—all tightly-wound and shot through with tiny bubbles and electric zeal that lift the fruit. Love how the long finish calls to mind bitter orange zest and spice. Pol Roger by the way holds a Royal Warrant as a purveyor of Champagne to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

Score: 92

2014 Pahlmeyer Chardonnay, Napa Valley, California (Vintages 147454 $123.95 in stores only)

Pronounced aromas of butterscotch, struck match and lime zest lead to smooth, almost oily flavours of grilled pineapple, bitter lime and wet stones—balanced with bright, grapefruit-squirt acidity. The weight of this wine is immense with 14.9 per cent alcohol and the concentration intense but every element is in perfect proportion—creating a powerful yet poised expression of toasty, barrel-aged Californian Chardonnay. By the way, the 1991 vintage of this wine was the bottle Demi Moore seduces Michael Douglas in the 1994 American erotic thriller, Disclosure

Score: 90

2014 Chateauneuf-du-Pape Chapoutier Les Grands Merisiers, Rhone, France (LCBO 421073 $35.85 in stores and online) 

Offering outstanding value for money, this juicy red exudes aromas of raspberry jam, sun-warmed blackberries, and ground herbs before seducing the palate with suave yet potent flavours of black and red raspberries. The vibrant fruit is edged with smoked meat, dried herbs, cola and gingerbread while powdery tannins tug gently at the tongue. Made from Grenache seasoned with Mourvedre and Syrah, this classic expression of Chateauneuf-du-Pape by a reputable producer offers very good value. 

Score: 91

2015 The Prisoner, Napa Valley, California (Vintages 104299 $49.95 in stores only)

A small winery called Orin Swift launched this blend of Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petite Sirah and Charbono in 2000 for $35 a bottle and it instantly soared in popularity after garnering critical acclaim. Since then, the wine has appeared on Wine Spectator magazine’s annual Top 100 three times and remains a hot commodity among wine drinkers who like massive Californian reds. This bottle, which hits shelves June 10, starts with aromas of melting dark chocolate and macerated black cherries before blasting taste buds with almost spoonable flavours of berries, dried plum, chargrilled steak, cocoa powder, dried fig, toasted oak, espresso, and black pepper. 

Score: 90

2014 Tignanello, Marchesi Antinori, Tuscany IGT, Italy (Vintages Essential 986786 $105.95 in stores and online)

Bottled only in favourable vintages, this wine (affectionately called “Tig”) is a single-vineyard charmer that blends Sangiovese with Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon to stunning effect. Bright yet brooding fruit, shy scents of roses and violet, and almost feral notes of peppery spice, underbrush, red meat and truffle offer an enticing tapestry of flavour while ripe, finely grained tannins frame the fruit. The 2014 vintage of Tig now hitting shelves is complex and concentrated, age worthy yet drinking well now, and achingly hedonistic. 

Score: 94

Carolyn Evans Hammond is a Toronto-based wine writer. She is also a London-trained sommelier and two-time bestselling wine book author. Reach her at .