Developing a wine collection is a little like assembling a wardrobe. You need a stash of comfortable favorites, plus a few knock-outs that’ll let you feel well-dressed for any foreseeable occasion.
Similarly, it makes practical sense to keep a stash of your favorite wines on hand. Why run to the local liquor store every time a friend drops by for a drink? But a well-stocked cellar also has a few stellar bottles that let you transform an ordinary evening into an instant celebration.
Given the wealth of top-quality wine produced worldwide, it’s easy to put together a wine cellar that gives you breadth of choice. If you’re unsure of how to start, find a trustworthy wine merchant who can provide assistance. There’s a virtually unlimited supply of taste experiences awaiting you at a well-sourced wine shop or auction house.
Your merchant will guide you to assembling mixed cases at different price points. Avoid the labels you commonly drink—the point of the exercise is to discover and diversify. Consider this an opportunity to experiment, to finesse your personal tastes, and to learn about different wine regions. By carefully assembling a broad selection of wines, you’ll eventually determine which ones you like best and which ones you want to acquire.
Here’s a sampler of diverse wines at different price points—just to get you thinking:
White Wines Under $25
- Au Bon Climat Chardonnay Santa Barbara County 2011 ($20). Lively and fresh tasting with a nice finish. Drink or hold.
- Guy Roulot Aligoté Bourgogne 2010 ($23). A crisp and vibrant alternative to the Chardonnay grape from one of Burgundy’s best white wine producers. Drink now.
- Matanzas Creek Chardonnay Sonoma County 2011 ($23). Rich and fruity with a lively finish. Drink now.
- Les Héritiers Du Comte Lafon Mâcon-Villages 2012 ($23). Ripe fruit flavors, well-balanced, with a nice finish. From one of Burgundy’s most celebrated white wine producers. Drink now.
White Wines $30 to $75
- Chalone Chardonnay California 2010 ($30). Elegant and well-structured with good balance. Drink or hold.
- Ridge Chardonnay Santa Cruz Mountains 2011 ($48). Well-balanced with good depth of flavor and considerable finesse. Drink or hold.
- Kistler Chardonnay Sonoma Valley “Kistler Vineyard” 2010 ($75). Rich and well-balanced. Drink or hold.
Red Wines Under $25
- Moris Farms Morellino di Scansano 2011 ($15). A sleeper among Tuscan wines. Medium-bodied, balanced, good value. Drink now.
- Château de Villambis Haut-Médoc 2010 ($17). Medium-bodied with a lively finish. Very good value. Drink or hold.
- Marchesi De’ Frescobaldi Chianti Rufina “Nipozzano Riserva” 2009 ($20). Despite commercial quantity production, this wine delivers with good finesse and a nice finish. Drink now.
- Bodega Catena Zapata Malbec Mendoza 2011 ($24). A pioneering Malbec, this is a big wine with lots of fruit on the palate. Drink or hold.
- Adelsheim Vineyard Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 2011 ($25). Nicely balanced with delicate candied fruit flavors. Drink or hold.
- Turley Zinfandel California “Old Vines” 2011 ($25). A vibrant high-alcohol red with lovely balance and considerable finesse. Drink now.
- Château Puygueraud Côtes de Francs 2009 ($25). A most attractive Côtes de Francs that is drinking well right now but should age nicely for another six years. Good value.
Red Wines $30 to $70
- Beringer Cabernet Sauvignon Knights Valley 2011 ($30). A complex and intensely flavorful Cabernet Sauvignon. Drink or hold.
- Coudelet de Beaucastel Rouge 2010 ($30). A fine Côte du Rhône red from the celebrated producers of Château de Beaucastel in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Drink or hold.
- Morgan Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands “Twelve Clones” 2010 ($32). Dark fruit flavors, nicely balanced and food-versatile. Drink now.
- Clos Manou Médoc 2009 ($39). Spicy bouquet, balanced with ripe fruit flavors. Drink or hold.
- Paolo Scavino Barolo 2007 ($42). Good fruit flavors, ripe and complex. Lengthy finish. Drink or hold.
- Chappellet Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2009 ($50). Full-bodied and rich with layers of ripe fruit flavors. Drink or hold.
- Grgich Hills Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2010 ($60). Full-bodied with aromas of black fruit and a lengthy finish. Organic/biodynamic production.
- Château Calon-Ségur Saint-Estephe 2006 ($69). Full-bodied and quite elegant with complex fruit and spice flavors. Drink or hold.