Why not ring in the new year with a bottle of full-blooded Chateauneuf-du-Pape from one of the appellation's top-tier estates? That would be the 2006 Clos Saint Jean "Vieilles Vignes," which has everything a good Chateauneuf should have: seductive notes of licorice, dark plums and spices; soft, ripe tannins; and a finespun elegance. Full of character, the deep ruby 2006 is made up of 75% old-vine Grenache and 15% Syrah, with the balance made up of Mourvedre, Cinsault and a few other grapes in minuscule quantities. That's oenologist Philippe Cambie working his magic with grapes from some of Chateauneuf's finest vineyards.
If you miss out on this one, keep an eye out for the 2007 vintage due in stores soon.
-- S. Irene Virbila
Region: Southern Rhone
Price: About $40
Style: Rich and full-bodied
What it goes with: Roasts, braised meats, stews.
Where to find it: John & Pete's Fine Wines & Spirits in West Hollywood, (310) 657-3080, www.johnandpetes .com; Vins Rare in Thousand Oaks, (818) 500-8840, www.vinsrare.com; and Wine Exchange in Orange, (714) 974-1454, www .winex.com.