I appreciate that the first newsletter of 2014 should probably start on a more affordable, approachable note—but let’s save that for next week. This week I want to brag about great bottles enjoyed over the holidays. Like vintage Italian sports cars, aged Champagne is one of those things that’s equally enchanting and generally unattainable. And while there’s no denying the charm of a bottle of the recent release from one of the prestige houses, it’s also true that Cremant from France or Cava from Spain offer a pretty excellent facsimile of the experience at a fraction of the cost. There’s no replicating the taste of aged champagne—the yeasty, toasty, soul warming yellow-hued glow that replace the zip and freshness after a few years simply doesn’t exist anywhere outside of Champagne. The downside: You can imagine the costs of buying a bottle of Dom Perignon—which hovers around $200+ on release— that’s been aged. Crazy. Expensive. But for New Year’s my brother-in-law Clarke showed up with the above bottle. Small producer, great pedigree, 12 years of bottle age. It was amazing with a gorgeous deep golden hue and a long rich finish. I wasn’t familiar with the bottle, so I had the good grace to wait until Clarke left to look up the price, which at $79 isn’t cheap, but it’s a bargain for all these elements coming together in one bottle.