1998 Château Climens Sauternes

1998 Château Climens Sauternes (Bordeaux, France)

Botrytis is a mold that affects grapes in humid conditions. Sometimes, it has nasty results that we call grey rot. But sometimes, if the stars align, it gives us utterly gorgeous results that we call noble rot. Noble rot shrivels the grapes, turning them almost into raisins and concentrating their sugars while mysteriously imbuing them with these exotic spice, saffron and honey notes. The results are like grown up, special go-go juice, and it'll definitely help you win come dessert time. As for Sauternes, that's the region within Bordeaux, France, where two rivers come together to create humid conditions that are perfect for botrytis. They grow Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Muscadelle grapes in Sauternes, though Château Climens rocks 100% Semillon. Oh and check it—1998?? This little honey-cougar should be drinking go-go-gorgeously right now.

Drink with friends and: stinky cheese laced with honey

Average retail price: $39 (for 375ml bottle)

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2010 Oro Puro Late Harvest Blend

2010 Oro Puro Late Harvest Blend (Napa Valley, California)

Just like the Queen of all botrytised wines, Sauternes, Oro Puro uses the Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon grapes that are shriveled into glorious sweetness to craft a softly spicy, honey-licious dessert wine. The grapes are grown near the Napa River, where the same humid conditions create the weird but awesome kind of botrytis mold: noble rot. The grapes are made into wine by our friend (and Napa Valley's 10th member of the Wu-Tang Clan) Abe Schoener of the Scholium Project fame. Snap this up like a honey badger with desserts, cheese or foie gras if you're feeling feisty. 

Drink with friends and: honey panna cotta with fresh berries

Average retail price: $38 (for 375ml bottle)

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2010 Moccagatta Dolcetto d'Alba

2010 Moccagatta Dolcetto d'Alba (Piedmont, Italy)

Dolcetto technically means "little sweet one," but this PYT is totally dry, with a deep purple color and flavors of purple plums and violets. It doesn't have any oaky/spicy notes, and the tannins are mmmellllowww, the same way your attitude should be when you're spending a beautiful day at a bocce game. Northern Italians love their bocce, and they love their Dolcetto, too. Put a bottle on ice (not ice in the wine) and bring it with your game-face. 

Drink with friends and: portobello mushroom sandwiches

Average retail price: $16

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2011 Domaine des Escaravailles Côtes du Rhône Les Sablières

2011 Domaine des Escaravailles Côtes du Rhône Les Sablières (Côtes du Rhône, France)

Word on the southern Rhône street is that Escaravailles is the local dialect for beetles... hence the beautiful black beetle label. But the vineyard isn't overrun with these critters—instead, the black-cape-wearing monks that used to work these vineyards looked like escaravailles, all hunched over the vines. We can guarantee no beetles (or monks) were harmed in the making of this wine. It's a spot-on example from a top-notch producer of the type of red wine a French bocce baller would want to drink with a slight chill on a warm afternoon by the court: full of juicy, ripe strawberry, raspberry and lavender notes... and a winning streak. 

Drink with friends and: chicken tikka masala

Average retail price: $14

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2012 Matthiasson Rosé

2012 Matthiasson Rosé (Napa, California)

Would you like to experience the best rosé we here at A Drink with Friends have ever tasted? (Ever??!) Go hunt down this wine. Steve Matthiasson is a viticultural whiz kid and a cultural icon representing the new wave of California wine. He is wicked-smart, soulful, sensitive and really damn hardworking. His mantra is "Do No Harm," which means that his bottom-line focus is on sustainably farming his vineyards to make quality wine that you can feel good about and that future generations will be able to enjoy from those very same vineyards. What you won't see is a USDA-approved stamp of organic approval on the label (that kind of thing is expensive, and Steve isn't the dogmatic type). What you will see is Steve, his wife Jill, and their two sons and pup out in the vineyards day in and day out, tending everything by hand before sitting down to a fabulous family dinner that will very likely be graced by the literal fruits of their labor. This rosé is vivacious and graceful, salty and ripe, impassioned and understated all at once. 

Drink with friends and: a picnic blanket

Average retail price: $22

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2009 Robert Sinskey Pinot Noir

2009 Robert Sinskey Pinot Noir (Carneros, California)

Robert Sinskey is one of the leading biodynamic winemakers in California... which means all sorts of exciting things: They take into consideration the lunar calendar when they're planting/picking/pruning/bottling, etc. (Think about how dramatically the moon influences the ocean tides, which are obviously made of water... then think about how grapes and wine are also made of mostly water...) They also treat their vineyards without any chemicals, instead applying natural, balancing elements like chamomile tea. And they create special, strategically placed vineyard "preparations" of things like manure buried in cow horns. Does it really work?? Hey, you can taste the wine and be the judge, but our own feeling is that this kind of intense attention and care in the vineyard can't help but translate to better, more delicious wines. This Pinot Noir is juicy, plush, seductively spicy... and damn if we wouldn't be thrilled to see this show up at our party. 

Drink with friends and: sweet-tangy-spicy barbecued chicken

Average retail price: $33

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2010 Roulot Bourgogne Blanc

2010 Roulot Bourgogne Blanc (Burgundy, France)

If Stevie had to choose one single wine to drink for the rest of her life, this would be it. Jean-Marc Roulot is like an indie rockstar of the winemaking world: just barely under the mainstream radar because he doesn't have any Grand Cru vineyards. In fact, this is just a "simple" Bourgogne Blanc — meaning it doesn't technically come from any prestigious, named vineyards; just the Burgundy region in general. The insider's secret? Though the label doesn't say so, this is actually from GREAT vineyards in Burgundy's BEST villages... and Jean-Marc treats them that way: like precious, amazing, beautiful babies. The result is banging wine with a price tag that simply doesn't correlate. It is delicious and extraordinary and definitely makes a lasting impression.

Drink with friends and: roast chicken.

Average retail price: $35

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2007 Niellon Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Champgains

2007 Niellon Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Champgains (Burgundy, France)

Chassagne-Montrachet is a village in the Burgundy region in France. It is elite: home of world-class, stunning wines from the Chardonnay grape that set the standard for the rest of the world's infinite imitations. Great wine villages like Chassagne-Montrachet get divvied up into specific vineyards with rankings like Premier Cru (aka 1er Cru, aka amazing) or Grand Cru (aka top dog, aka extraordinary). And it's here, within the Premier Cru called Les Champgains, that Domaine Michel Niellon makes this wildly pure, electric and devastatingly delicious white Burgundy. It is a game-changer that will change your mind about Chardonnay.

Drink with friends and: butter-poached lobster, yo!

Average retail price: $57

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2007 Val di Suga Brunello di Montalcino

2007 Tenimenti Angelini Val di Suga Brunello di Montalcino (Tuscany, Italy)

Brunello is code for Sangiovese. It's what the locals in this part of Tuscany call their special clone of this grape. Why so special? Because here, the Sangiovese grape tends to have thicker skins that give way to a darker, bolder wine. Suitably, they call it either Sangiovese Grosso or Brunello. Due to the wine's grosso or "big" body, producers are required to let their Brunello babies age for at least a couple of years in their cellars before they release it. All you need to remember is that if it says "Brunello" on the label, you're going to be drinking a big, beautiful wine made from 100% Sangiovese. And with all the wine's flavors of black cherry, roasted herbs and balsamic, you're probably going to want to be sitting down to a big, sturdy dinner with it. Mangia, Mama!

Drink with friends and: grilled ribeye with a balsamic reduction

Average retail price: $45

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2009 Fèlsina Berardenga Chianti Classico

2009 Fèlsina Berardenga Chianti Classico (Tuscany, Italy)

This isn't the cheeky, straw-covered bottle of Chianti your grandma uses as a candle-holder. This is the real deal: Chianti Classico from the heart of the original Chianti area in Tuscany. Anytime you see Chianti on a label, it tells you that the wine came from this specific area and is made from mostly the Sangiovese grape. In Fèlsina's case, it's 100% Sangiovese, a grape that's tangy and packs a punch, with sour cherry and oregano flavors and big acid and big tannins — begging for bold dishes, like spaghetti with meatballs, bella!

Drink with friends and: spaghetti with meatballs

Average retail price: $22

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2010 Scarpetta Barbera del Monferrato

2010 Scarpetta Barbera del Monferrato (Piedmont, Italy)

We all want to be like Bobby Stuckey when we grow up. He's smart, funny, talks about wine with passion and conviction, owns a ridiculously good restaurant called Frasca... and he makes some damn good wines, too. Scarpetta is a team effort between Bobby and his chef, Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson. The wines are made for food—no, literally: They make the wines specifically with your dinner table in mind... or your party buffet table, filled with salty, delicious snacks. This Barbera is party-pairing-ready: bright, lively, juicy, snappy with tangy red fruits, easy down the hatch and a silly value. 

Drink with friends and: Totino's Pizza Rolls

Average retail price: $15

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Broadbent Vinho Verde

Broadbent Vinho Verde (Vinho Verde, Portugal)

Vinho Verde literally means "green wine"—but the green here refers to the freshness rather than the color of the wine, which can actually be white, rosé or even red. Vinho Verde is made from local grapes that grow within reach of the salty, cool Atlantic ocean. And there's a tiny spritz of bubbles! Lots of Vinho Verde is bottled with just a dash of carbonation, so it's like a party in your mouth. Broadbent is named for Bartholomew Broadbent, one of the nicest and funniest guys you'll meet in the wine industry. He loved drinking these fun, delicious wines in Portugal, and he figured he'd bring a killer version our way. Say it with us, "Thank you, Bartholomew!"

Drink with friends and: crudité or cheesy poofs

Average retail price: $8

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NV Macle Crémant du Jura

NV Macle Crémant du Jura (Jura, France)

France’s Jura region pushes right up against Switzerland. They make some crazy pale reds and wild, oxidative whites, but they also make a killer “traditional-method sparkling wine”… better known as crémant. Macle is a winemaker that wine-loving kids go crazy for, because the quality is HIGH and the price—at least for now—not so much. This is made from the Chardonnay and Savagnin grapes in a creamy and minerally style that says, “Hey girl, I’ve got class.”

Drink with friends and: cheesy popcorn

Average retail price: $25

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NV Domaine J. Laurens Crémant de Limoux

NV Domaine J. Laurens Crémant de Limoux (Languedoc, France)

C-R-E-M-A-N-T spells value! The value comes from the fact that this is made in the same exact way as Champagne except it’s from an area called Limoux in France’s Languedoc region down south. The bubbles are created by secondary fermentation occurring in the bottle; not carbonation-by-injection like any old soda-pop. This is mostly Chardonnay, all perky and punched up with lemony, green-appley notes, serious finesse and things that make you go, “mmmm.”

Drink with friends and: pizza with prosciutto

Average retail price: $14

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2010 Valle delle Acate Frappato

2010 Valle delle Acate Frappato (Vittoria, Sicily)

Frapper means “to hit” in French, and even though this wine is Italian, that’s how we remember it, because Frappato has a tendency to smack you with fresh, lively deliciousness. Seriously, Valle delle Acate’s website even says so: the tasting note says, “fragrant, fresh and bursting out.” You could think of Frappato kind of like Pinot Noir but often even lighter in body, and it smells like a flower shop that also—amazingly—sells really good strawberries. 

Drink with friends and: fish with onions, herbs and capers

Average retail price: $17

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2011 La Caña Albariño

2011 La Caña Albariño (Rías Baixas, Spain)

Rías Baixas is right next to the ocean. What would you taste like if you were basked in salty sea breezes every day? Right. Salty, cool and minerally; perfectly refreshed and refreshing, darling! That’s what you get when you drink Albariño from this area of Spain. The people over there know from plenty of experience that this stuff is prime with all their fresh seafood. Take your cue from them.

Drink with friends and: grilled shrimp

Average retail price: $12

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2001 & 2009 Corison Cabernet Sauvignon

2001 & 2009 Corison Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley, California)

Cathy Corison is one of the nicest, most down-to-earth women you’ll ever meet. She’s been making the “usual suspect” Cabernet in the Napa Valley for years, but she’s been making it the way SHE likes it, which is classy as all get-out. This isn’t promiscuous, riper-than-raisins, knock-your-socks-off Cab; but it’s not wimpy either. It’s got the acid and tannins to give it both bones and guts, and it will age about as long as you dare. Go and visit her; she’ll pour you back-vintages that will set your heart a-flutter.

Drink with friends and: grilled rib-eye and charred kale

Average retail price: $70

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2010 Gramenon Côtes du Rhône La Sagesse

2010 Gramenon Côtes du Rhône La Sagesse (Côtes du Rhône, France)

Michèle Aubèry-Laurent is a [super]heroine. She makes [super]natural wine in the southern Rhône in France; wine that’s made with almost zero sulfur; wine that’s not fined or filtered; wine that busts out with confidence and dark, funky yet gorgeous earth notes—it’s a little “hurts so good.” This is 100% Grenache and a case study in the way that Greanche from the southern Rhône can show off black fruit, bramble and “barnyard” aromas in the most delightful way.

Drink with friends and: salami

Average retail price: $30

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2011 Evening Land Pinot Noir

2011 Evening Land Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley, Oregon)

You’re down with Pinot. You know it’s light and pretty and always welcome at the dinner table. Now it’s time to up your game. Pinot Noir from Burgundy (in France) is earthier; Pinot Noir from California is fruitier. Then there’s this beautiful area called the Willamette Valley in Oregon: Its Pinot Noirs are like the love-children of Mama Cali and Papa Burgundy—they’ve got Mama’s good looks (soft, attractive berry fruit) with Papa’s wit (subtle yet certain damp earth and crushed leaf notes). Evening Land is, no holds barred, one of Willamette’s best producers.

Drink with friends and: a crusty baguette and chicken liver pâté

Average retail price: $25

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