Every month is a battle among the staff to choose 10 of our best picks for the month. There are some real standouts for this month that are exceptional values. Philip Togni, formerly the wine maker at Chappellet who departed in 1981 to start Philip Togni Winery, has produced wines that have been some of our favorites and they over deliver every time. Switchback Merlot is a breathtaking wine that contains more of a cabernet profile rather than a merlot. When we talk about California chardonnay, very few producers can make a classic and well-rated chardonnay like the Varner brothers. One of the surprises in the line up is the Ch. Pesquie Quitessence with such vibrant fruit and depth, the wine will age beautifully. 

2008 Santa Ema Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Maipo Valley ($9.99)

90 Points Robert Parker: "Fragrant aromas of /Asian spices, incense, pencil lead, blackcurrant; some complexity, lengthy."

Color is deep violet-ruby-red. Aromas are elegant, sophisticated, and complex, with fruity notes that blend cherries, prunes, tobacco, and roasted coffee. On the palate Well-rounded and very well structured, with ripe tannins and plenty of texture. Long finish.

2010 Evodia Garnacha Calatayud ($8.99)

90 Points Robert Parker: "Altovinum’s 2010 Evodia is 100% Garnacha sourced from the highest elevation vineyards of Garnacha of any DO in Spain. It offers up a slightly exotic nose of earthy minerality, mocha, black cherry, and black raspberry. Savory, concentrated, and with a forward personality, this great value will deliver pleasure over the next 3-4 years."

2010 Les Vignerons d'Estezargues Domain de Fees ($12.99)

90 Points Robert Parker: "The newest cuvee is from a single estate, located just to the west of Lirac, called Domaine des Fees. Bottled separately, there are 1,000 cases for the US market and this blend of equal parts Grenache and Syrah, aged completely in concrete tanks, is stunning. Gorgeous notes of roasted meats, Provencal herbs, sweet black cherry liqueur, and licorice as well as spice jump from the glass of this dense, ruby/purple-tinged wine. Fresh, full-bodied and juicy, with a velvety texture, it is a beauty that would be best drunk over the next 3-4 years. Think of it as a Chateauneuf du Pape wearing a Cotes du Rhone mask."

2009 Château Pesquié Quintessence Côtes du Ventoux ($21.99)

93 Points Robert Parker: "The 2010 Terrasses actually eclipses their top cuvee, the 2009 Quintessence, which has just been released. This is a serious wine on its own, and certainly capable of lasting a decade or more, but the vintage quality of 2010 has produced remarkable fruit, with the best concentration and purity of fruit that I have seen in the southern Rhone since 2007, which remains the single greatest vintage I have ever tasted from that region. This blend of 80% Syrah and 20% Grenache, aged in barrels for 12 months (40% new and 60% two years old) and bottled unfined and unfiltered, has a dense purple color and deep licorice, graphite, black currant and black cherry notes with hints of earth and spice as well as some pepper and meat juice in a dense, medium to full-bodied, slightly more tannic style than the 2010 Terrasses. To reiterate, it should last for at least a decade."

2007 MacRostie Wildcat Mountain Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($28.99)

95 Points Wine Enthusiast: "MacRostie’s Pinots from this vineyard on the edge of the Sonoma side of Carneros always are big, ripe, powerful and ageable. This ’07 shows the fat, ripe character of the vintage, offering luscious raspberry, cherry, cola, red currant liqueur, bacon, anise, spice and sandalwood flavors. But it’s balanced enough to change in interesting ways over the next 5–7 years. Really a glamorous wine for your best meals. Editors’ Choice."

2009 Walter Hansel Cuvee Alyce Russian River Chardonnay ($38.99)

95+ Points Robert Parker: "A selection of the finest barrels, the 2009 Chardonnay Cuvee Alyce (named for Stephen Hansel’s mother) is fashioned from both the old Wente clone and the newer Dijon Clone 95. This Chardonnay possesses all the same characteristics as are found in The North Slope, but more structure, restraint and possibly more aging potential. This intense 2009 reveals that overwhelming elegance that is a hallmark of this vintage. The most backward of these estate Chardonnays, it should last for a decade."

2009 Varner Home Block Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay ($42.99)

95 Points Robert Parker: "The 2009 Chardonnay Home Block is fabulous. It is rather inward and reticent, but the wine’s personality is impossible to miss. Ash, minerals, earthiness are some of the notes that add complexity to the intense fruit. This is another sweeping, totally elegant wine from Varner. I find the Home Block a little less mineral than the Amphitheater. Anticipated maturity: 2013-2019."

2009 Philip Togni Tanbark Hill Spring Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon ($38.95)

93 Points Robert Parker: "The 2009 Tanbark Hill is a rich, voluptuous wine graced with layers of expressive fruit, smoke and tobacco. It shows quite a bit of depth for this bottling. Licorice, crushed flowers, spices and mint wrap around the plush, inviting finish. This is all elegance and class. In 2009 one-third of the production was bottled as Tanbark Hill. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2019." -Antonio Galloni

2009 Switchback Ridge Peterson Family Vineyard Napa Valley Merlot ($54.99)

A Wine Stop Favorite!!! This wine is brought to you by the talents of Robert Foley (Paloma, Pride Mountain, Hourglass, etc.)! Delicious raspberry and blackberry fruit. Sweet, rich mid-palate, with ripe fruit and espresso, leads to even, mouth-coating tannin. Densely packed and good grip in the finish. Very Cabernet-like.

2009 Achával Ferrer Finca Bella Vista Malbec Mendoza ($89.99)

98 Points Robert Parker: "The 2009 Finca Bella Vista was sourced from a vineyard planted in 1910 giving a miserly yield of 0.75 tons per acre. It displays slightly blacker fruit, a bit more depth and opulence, and a finish that seems endless. Give it 5-6 years of cellaring and enjoy it from 2016 to 2029+."