All I ever wanted for Christmas was my own chateau. That's not in the cards this year, so I just opted for the next best thing. I went to the Chateau Souverain website and designed a custom Chateau Whitley label to place on my bottle of Chateau Souverain Chardonnay.
I chose the chardonnay ($13.99 a bottle) because it's my idea of a good white wine for winter and I know winemaker Ed Killian, who's been there two and a half decades and is a master of the balance between fruit and oak.
I plan to use my Chateau Whitley wines as gifts this holiday season. The concept of a customized label is hardly new. Many restaurants, for example, contract with their favorite winery to craft private-label wines with the restaurant's name on the bottle.
Souverain is now delivering the same service to consumers with one difference: When a restaurant orders a private-label wine, the wine typically arrives with the label on the bottle. The Souverain model requires the consumer to purchase the Souverain wine independently and manually affix the label, which will be shipped to the consumer free of charge.
I asked Souverain spokesman Lon Gallagher how easy it would be for me to apply the Chateau Whitley Chardonnay label myself.
"It's as easy as putting a stamp on an envelope," Gallagher said.
Even I can do that. So I can spread plenty of good cheer with my own Chateau Whitley Chardonnay now through the end of the holidays! Note that if you can't find the Souverain wines at your local wine shop, they are available on Amazon.
Wines are rated on a 100-point scale. Wines are chosen for review because they represent outstanding quality or value, and the scores are simply a measure of this reviewer's enthusiasm for the recommended wine.
Cantina Bolzano 2016 Kerner, Alto Adige, Italy ($20) -- Kerner is a grape variety that's rarely seen outside of northern Italy and is a bit of a mystery because it makes very interesting, delicious white wine. Planted on the slopes of Mount Renon in the Isarco Valley, the Cantina Bolzano Kerner expresses stony minerality, luscious notes of peach, tangerine and honeysuckle, bright acidity and impressive length. Clean and refreshing, it can be served with light appetizers of simply as an aperitif. Rating: 93.
Bila-Haut 2016 Cotes-du-Roussillon, France ($15) -- Michel Chapoutier's value lineup of wines from the Languedoc region tells you all you need to know about him. Even at the lower price rungs (compared with his coveted but expensive red wines from the northern Rhone), he just can't help himself; he is as committed to quality at $15 as he is at $150. The Cotes-du-Roussillon blanc is an impressive wine for its complexity, simplicity, and appealing balance and freshness. A blend of grenache blanc, grenache gris and macabeu, it shows luscious notes of pear, crisp apple and citrus. It's clean and refreshing and utterly delightful. Rating: 91.
Olianas 2016 Cannonau di Sardegna DOC, Italy ($19.99) -- Fresh and fruity with a floral note, this wine is the Beaujolais of Sardinia. Tannins are modest and soft, making it enjoyable when young and perfect for serving chilled on a warm summer day. Red berries and violets come to mind. Serve it with light appetizers, grilled chicken or light pasta dishes. Rating: 87.
Black Kite 2015 chardonnay, Soberanes Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands ($48) -- This cool enclave in Monterey County has a long history of scintillating, complex chardonnays that seem to magically retain acidity and freshness while reaching exceptional levels of ripeness and flavor. The Soberanes chardonnay from Black Kite exhibits notes of wood spice, lemon oil, ripe pear and delicious golden apple. It won't be easy to find: Only 135 cases (about five barrels) were made. Rating: 95.
Tinto Figuero 2014 Vinas Viejas, Ribera del Duero DO, Spain ($67.99) -- Sourced from 60-year-old vines in the town of La Horra, this is Figuero's most elegant wine. Concentrated and intense with impressive palate weight and depth, it dances across the palate with silky tannins that are the direct result of vine age. Showing inviting aromas of blackberry and cassis, and hints of vanilla and wood spice, it's a showstopper than can be enjoyed now or cellared for another 15 to 20 years. Rating: 95.
Attilio Ghisolfi 2015 Nebbiolo, Langhe DOC, Italy ($34.99) -- Ghisolfi's langhe nebbiolo could use an additional four to five years in the cellar, but with the right dish (say, osso bucco) it's ready now. It's beautifully scented and shows notes of earth, black cherry and wood spice. The gorgeous nose leads to a palate that exhibits impressive black-cherry fruit that is hiding behind a wall of tannin waiting to be liberated. Only time can do that, or a savory meat dish. Rating: 93.
Robert Whitley's weekly column, "Wine Talk," can be found at www.creators.com.