hese are the times of the year that make memories.

Special times with friends and family where our wondrous, labor intensive, culinary creations of the past inspire us to raise the bar even higher this year. Equally important is finding that special libation to accompany these occasions, be it sharing our finest vintages from the wine cellar or that extraordinary discovery of last month. What follows is a capricious compilation of recommendations guaranteed to elevate any gathering to a memorable moment.

2014 Hamilton Russell Chardonnay

Hamilton-Russell-Chardonnay

(Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, Walker Bay, South Africa) Sometimes the best doesn’t have to be expensive. Widely regarded as the best Chardonnay of South Africa, the Hamilton Russell (especially with bottle age) is a dead ringer for a Premier Cru Meursault. This was driven home to me when conducting blind tastings for an entire year of an advanced class. The tasters were at such a high level that at least one of the group identified every wine correctly every time with one exception. Everyone in the class mistook the Hamilton Russell for, you guessed it, a Premier Cru Meursault. The Wine Spectator enjoyed it as well, saying … ‘Very alluring, with creamed Jonagold apple, heather, brioche and elderflower honey notes that all glide seamlessly, picking up an enticing hazelnut hint on the finish. Shows lovely mouthfeel and length…” Stunning with Chicken in a Tarragon Cream Sauce. Rating: 92 $30.

2012 Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon Special Selection

(Napa Valley, California) This one might be a bit controversial in terms of ‘the best’ since there are so many fabulous Cabs from Napa, but the Special Selection is the only wine (not just Cabernet) to be named the Wine of the Year by the Wine Spectator twice! The aforementioned Wine Spectator loved the 2012, proclaiming… “Exhibits a delicious, up-front core of juicy dark berry, blackberry, black licorice and creamy, toasty, vanilla-scented oak. Appropriately tannic and structured, this is made in a style you can drink now or cellar for up to a decade. Drink now through 2026.” Grilled T-Bone Steak. Rating: 94 $180.

2014 Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc

(Marlborough, New Zealand) This was the iconic wine that started it all and it’s still considered the gold standard of New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs. The Wine Spectator concurs, bestowing upon it a 93 point score (the top score ever awarded a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc by them was a 94 also given to Cloudy Bay), exclaiming … “Stylish and generous, exhibiting a complex array of flavors, from white grapefruit and lemon curd to candied ginger, lemon verbena, honeysuckle and lime zest. Achieves elegance, power and refreshment in lovely harmony. Drink now.” Pair with a Caesar Salad or Goat Cheese based appetizers. Rating: 93 $37.

2012 Chateau Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape Hommage a Jacques Perrin

(Rhone Valley, France) It’s quite a statement to proclaim a certain bottling of Chateauneuf-du-Pape to be the greatest, but that task becomes easier when an august publication such as Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate bequeaths it four perfect 100 point scores since its inception in 1989. The 2012 vintage (currently available) was presented a 99 point score with the promise of an upgrade! They said of it… “The wine of the vintage is the Perrin’s 2012 Châteauneuf du Pape Hommage A Jacques Perrin, and it will most likely merit a perfect rating in another couple of years. Full-bodied, massive and layered on the palate, with awesome purity and freshness, it delivers incredible aromatics of beef blood, truffle, graphite, iron and black and blue fruits. Given all of the fruit and texture, you almost have to hunt for the structure here, but trust me, it’s there. The tasting at Beaucastel took place a 9 a.m., and even then, this is one wine I found impossible to spit. It’s a tour de force that will have 3-4 decades of life.” Great with Leg of Lamb Rubbed with Rosemary and Studded with Garlic. Rating: 99 $625.