Lindsay Prichard, Finger Lake Correspondent: Pappy Van Winkle 15-year-old Reserve Bourbon

I was recently in Nashville to visit my son who lives there. The city is famous for lots of things: music, food, history – and an abundance of southern bourbon. I’m not a whiskey aficionado and my normal drink of choice would be wine or beer. But I decided to take a “when in Rome” approach and sample some of the South’s finest. I had heard about “Pappy” from my whiskey-drinking friends, but had never tried it myself. When our server brought it out, he said “if heaven was a whiskey, this would be it.”

He wasn’t too far off. At 107 proof, 15-year “Pappy” has plenty of “kick.” But it’s the amazing amount of flavors and velvety smooth finish that I noticed. Notes of caramel, vanilla, leather, almond were infused in a long, enticing finish. The complexity of the flavors and aromas was more reminiscent of a good wine than that of any whiskey I had ever tasted. The only thing that was missing was the inevitable “burn” that you get from almost every other whiskey on earth. And I was okay with missing that. Whisky Advocate magazine put it at the top of their list in 2012 and gave it a 96 rating (if “Pappy” is a 96, I can wait to try a 98.) “Pappy” is not priced for the faint-of-heart. At sixty-five dollars per “nip”, I had high expectations. And “Pappy” exceeded them all.

Michael Gorton, Jr., Long Island Correspondent: Merkelbach 2011 Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling Spatlese

Lately, when looking for a wine, I look and see who the importer is.  If I know enough about the importer or I have had great experiences with prior wines from the importer then I feel comfortable.   It’s like building a relationship without ever having contact.  I knew of this importer and I know the guy who used to sling wine for Skurnik.  And to have Terry Theise put his name on the bottle, you know it’s got to be good.

This bottle from Alfred Merkelbach did not dissapoint.  Austere in a good way, it packed loads of mineral and citrus notes.  Clean, focused and balanced, it had a lot going on with it.  Lengthy finish that could have used a touch more acid, but then again, it had a little time in the bottle. If you didn’t know a thing about the producer, vintage, or region, you could rely on the importer.  And to get confirmation from Terry Theise, you don’t need to see a score, you know it’s going to be 100% solid goodness.

Paul Zorovich, Finger Lake Correspondent: Bouchard Aine & Fils 2000 Macon-Villages

My wife stopped into the wine store in town on the way home from work, and in talking to the owner heard that they had two cases of this white Burgundy that had “never seen the light of day”. They had opened a bottle to taste in the shop, and it had a fair bit of oxidation; the bottle she bought was much less oxidized and was actually in great shape. Grapefruit and older oak predominate and I’d bet this has several more years left in it. I’m on record as not particularly liking Chardonnays too much, and this isn’t really my cup of tea (if I can mix my metaphors), but how often do I get a chance to drink a 14-year-old Burgundy?

Todd Trzaskos, Contributing Editor: Celler Capçanes 2009 Mas Donis Barrica

We’ve been fans of this producer since I first was introduced to them at a trade tasting of Spanish reds, a number of years ago. That was a 2002 vintage, and and at the time, the quality to price ratio was so shockingly good, I filled half of a mixed case order with it, and have picked up some of each subsequent vintage.  The label has changed a couple of times, but the import vector has stayed the same.  It’s one of Eric Solomon’s European Cellars selections, and that’s a back label name that I have come to trust.

Old Vines grenache & syrah. Smoked meat, roasted raspberries and mocha chocolate cake complex nose. Dangerous combo of juicy fruit and earthen grip. Sweet tannin with a tense herbal sense.  Wide red flavors, with an equally wide swath of acidity that cut a long path with a vivid dark trail. It has a little bit of rustic edge, but I think that keeps it approachable and at mortal scale…and for a bottle that comes in at around $13, or less in this case, it’s a really nice experience.

The wine has been called a baby-Priorat but that’s not fair…because it comes from Montsant which surrounds the more well known and pricier region of Priorat.  On a map Montsant is the doughnut and Priorat the hole.  It’s a good metaphor, because for the daily table, the former can be relied on as a staple, the latter is a specialty item.  It looks like the 2012 is now available, and I’m going to need to cellar some.

Katie Pizzuto, Art Director:Chateau Haut-Bailly 2008

I received this bottle as a “thank you” for some pro-bono design work and though I know I should have laid it down for a couple of years, patience is simply not one of my virtues…besides, I knew it was utterly drinkable NOW. These are not words often (if ever) uttered by me so mark me: Robert Parker hit the nail on this wine’s tasting notes. Earthy, smoky, dark berries, and even some notes of espresso. It opened up quickly and gained complexity over the course of the evening, with a body and texture reminiscent of Margaux. It will surely be even more alluring in another 5, 10 or 15 years, but I have no regrets draining this incredible bottle. I only wish every pro-bono job thanked me with a Bordeaux like this.