Our master sommelier shares his favorite indulgences

If heaven stocks certain beverages, great Cognac is one of them. And there is a place on earth that Cognac lovers would call heaven. That place is The Founder’s Warehouse at Hennessey where since 1774 Richard Hennessey and his descendants, eight generations worth, have stored their most treasured eaux de vie. These rarest of stocks are occasionally breached for the sole purpose of producing some of the most superb Cognac available. Hennessey Paradis Extra ($450) is such a Cognac. This limited release is the result of hundreds of eaux de vie from different growing districts and ages, artistically blended by Master Blender Yann Fillioux, who is the seventh generation master blender working for Hennessey. Paradis contains mature Cognac between 30 and 130 years old. Rutherford B. Hayes was president in 1878, if you were wondering. The Cognac is mesmerizing with fragrances of flowers, a spice cabinet, vanilla and so much more. It is as smooth as Cognac gets with powerful flavors of blossoms, caramel, custard and ginger. As penetrating as it is, it never loses any elegance and refinement that the hallmark of Hennessey.

Few wines can match the power and masculinity of Shiraz. And even fewer winemakers can match the talent and success of Sarah and Sparky Marquis. Owners/winemakers of Mollydooker Wines, this loveable and charismatic pair have once again produced one of the most powerful and palate-boggling Shiraz that winedom has ever seen. The 2006 Mollydooker “Velvet Glove” Shiraz ($200) is a potent drink that explodes out of the glass with black and blueberry jam, sweet vanilla and mulberries. There is a distinct note of spice and juiciness that is simply thirst-inspiring. When you taste it, hold on to your tongue, because the next word out of your mouth is usually “WOW!” A tsunami of flavors washes over your palate with a phenomenal aftertaste. Its viscosity belies the elevated alcohol level, but it somehow retains balance with heaps of perfectly ripe fruit and velvety tannins (pun intended). It stamps its flavor on the palate like a chef tenderizing a piece of meat. This is the ultimate for lovers of HUGE, monstrous red wines that demand your attention.

I have been a longtime fan of Padron Cigars, so when the Padron Serie 1926 No. 9 (5.5 x 56, $25) was released, I could not wait. Made to commemorate the birth of founder Jose Orlando in 1926, it was scheduled to be released on his 75th birthday, but in true Padron fashion to never rush quality, the cigar was released a year later. The Nicaraguan beauty sports a natural wrapper and tobacco aged a minimum of five years. It smokes like a jazz trio led by deep and rich bass notes of leather and cocoa, the spiciness of a vigorous guitar and high-toned black cherry of the horn. Impressively seamless and profoundly complex, this is not a good smoke, it is a GREAT one!

From the Columbus Salame Company in San Francisco comes one of the most ingenious creations of Salame anywhere – Cacciatore with Black Truffles ($18/a pound)! This small but decadent salame is liberally peppered with imported black summer truffles, and no MSG, gluten or trans fat. Serve it thickly sliced and let the heavenly aromas fill the room as each morsel disappears from the plate. Cacciatore is “hunter” in Italian. You will want to hunt this one down.

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