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Some wines age well, but most don’t

The new year always comes with the inspiration to organize and plan my wine cellar — what I want to drink, what I want to buy and what I want to give away.

When considering what wines to drink right away, it’s important to remember that not all wines are meant to age. Most are meant to be consumed within one to two years after bottling. For these youngsters, time is the enemy.

Keeping track of what you have is also important. Nothing is more distressing than having a wine go bad because it was saved for a special occasion that never came. Some occasions are worthy of a special wine, but a good bottle of wine is perfect any day of the year.

Staying organized is the best way to get the most out of your wine collection. A computer program is a good way to keep track of wines in your cellar, but you can do the same job with a pad and pencil.


Many think cellaring is only for wines that will receive long term aging, but even everyday drinking wines need proper storage conditions to retain their quality. For wines to purchase, I recommend retail store specials, promotional wines and any exceptional value to add to your cellar collection. Keep in mind, however, that the following should be consumed within months rather than years.

  • 2006 Mark West Pinot Noir, California (about $12, retail)
  • 2007 Bogle Vineyards Chardonnay, California (about $10, retail)
  • 2006Concha y Toro Casillero Del Diablo Carmenere, Chile (about $10, retail)
  • 2006 Honig Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, California (about $16, retail)
  • 2007 Brancott Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand (about $15, retail)


Wines intended to age will change over time; some will mellow and others will evolve into perfection. The following are possible additions to your cellar created for aging.

  • 2003 Quintessa Cabernet Sauvignon, California (about $140, retail)
  • 2004 Twomey Cellars Merlot, California (about $84, retail)
  • 1997 Taylor Fladgate Vintage Port, Portugal (about $98, retail)
  • 2006 Inniskillin Ice Wine, Canada (about $59 for a 375 ml, retail)
  • NV Jackson-Triggs Vidal Icewine, Canada (about $24 for a 187 ml, retail)
  • Fonseca Aged Tawny Port (20 Year), Portugal (about $62, retail)

The right wine gift adds glow to Christmas

Finding the perfect Christmas gift can be a challenge, but if you’re buying for a wine lover you need look only for a bottle that suits their taste. These tips could help:

Don’t be hesitant to discuss your ideas and price range with your wine retailer. This is key, considering that a “nice bottle of cabernet sauvignon” can range from $10 to $600. Tell the retailer the price range you would like to spend. Higher price does not always equal a better quality wine.

Many stores offer special prices during the Christmas holidays, which makes finding a wine bargain easy.

Look for in-store wine sets — wine glasses, books and even cheeses — that are specially priced during the season.

If you are not sure of the person’s wine preference, go with a wine that is easy to drink and has a crowd-pleasing taste. Mouth-puckering reds or ultra-sweet whites are not the best choices. Consider a chardonnay, pinot grigio, pinot noir or merlot.

Wine-pairing with special gifts always offers an individual touch. You might want to consider the following.


  • Value — Chevre goat cheese with 2007 Mud House Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand (about $14, retail)
  • Splurge — Stilton cheese with NV Taylor Fladgate 20 Year Tawny Port, Portugal (about $62, retail)


  • Value — NV Brut Roederer Estate Sparkling Wine, California (about $22, retail)
  • Splurge — NV Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin, France, (about $62, retail)


  • Value — 2006 Cavit Vineyards Pinot Grigio, Italy (about $10, retail)
  • Splurge — 2006 Santa Margherita Valdadige Pinot Grigio, Italy (about $28, retail)


  • Value — 2006 Penfolds Koonunga Hill Shiraz/ Cabernet Sauvignon, Australia (about $12, retail)
  • Splurge — 2005 Hall Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley (about $30, retail)

Wines deserve as much thought as dinner

Choosing the perfect wine for the Christmas festivities can be a hit-or-miss affair. The foods might be meticulously prepared, but sometimes the wine selection is a last-minute thought. If you have gone to great lengths for the perfect foods, it would be a shame to serve wine that doesn’t enhance the taste.


Christmas starters are the perfect excuse to pop open a bottle of bubbly. It pairs perfectly with a wide range of flavors and textures and can handle anything from light and airy sweets to baked, grilled or even deepfried appetizers.

  • A Value — NV Gruet Brut, New Mexico (about $22, retail)
  • A Splurge — NV Gloria Ferrer Carneros Cuvee, California (about $54, retail)


Ham can be tricky to match with wine. Adding ingredients such as a honey or sugar glaze to a salty ham can accentuate the bitterness of tannins. Look for red wines without overpowering tannins or for moderately acidic white wines.

  • A Value — 2006 La Playa Claret, Chile (about $12, retail)
  • A Splurge — 2004 Reynolds Family Vineyards Persistence, California (about $60, retail)

With beef, nothing is better than a glass of excellent red wine. But, as with other meats, it’s the added sauces or cooking methods that guide a perfect match. If the meat is cooked rare, the tannins are softened — a perfect time to serve a high-tannin or youthful wine. If you plan to serve an older, fragile wine, consider cooking the meat longer.

  • A Value — 2005 Avalon Cabernet Sauvignon, California (about $15, retail)
  • A Splurge — 2003 Chateau Las Combes, Bordeaux France (about $78, retail)

Goose offers a unique texture and taste compared to traditional turkey. It is richer and generally has a distinct gamy flavor. When matching with wine, consider rich reds with a touch of spice such as Burgundies, Barolos or Southern Rhone syrahs. For the more adventurous cook, goose is perfect with mature Champagne.

  • A Value — 2005 Tiziano Chianti, Italy (about $12, retail)
  • A Splurge — 2006 Angeline Pinot Noir, California (about $22, retail)

Turkey might be the easiest meat to match with wine. Because of its fairly simple texture and taste, it offers many wines the ability to show off. Prepare the turkey by roasting rather than smoking or grilling and pair one of your cellared red wine favorites. If your cellar is not overflowing with choices, consider Bordeaux, pinot noir, Spanish rioja or a California, Australian or New Zealand chardonnay.

  • A Value — 2006 Rosemont Estates Diamond Label Chardonnay, Australia (about $12, retail)
  • A Splurge — 2006 La Crema Winery Chardonnay, California (about $24, retail)


Something sweet will most likely be a part of your celebratory planning. Keep it simple and remember the cardinal rule — the wine should be sweeter than the dessert.

  • A Value — Wiederkehr Wine Cellars Tawny Port, Altus, Ark. (about $15, retail)
  • A Splurge — 2006 Renwood Winery Zinfandel Amador Ice, California (about $37, retail, 375ml)

Wine is a welcome Christmas offering

This week marks the start of the Christmas rush, and the demanding party and dinner schedule that comes with it. In response to the many requests from readers for a one-stop wine-shopping checklist, this week’s column will do just that. These are just a few wines I will be using for gift-giving and entertaining during this memorable time of year.

Wines for giving:


  • 2006 Cline Vineyards Zinfandel, California (about $12, retail)
  • 2006 Wolf Blass Yellow Label Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon, Australia (about $11, retail)
  • 2006 Parallele 45 Cotes du Rhone, France (about $15, retail)
  • 2006 Root: 1 Cabernet Sauvignon, Chile (about $14, retail)
  • 2005 Vina Robles Red, California (about $16, retail)
  • 2006 Les Garrigues Cotes du Rhone, France (about $14, retail)
  • 2005 Trapiche Oak Cask Cabernet Sauvignon, Chile (about $12, retail)


  • 2005 Duckhorn Vineyards Merlot, Napa Valley, Calif. (about $60, retail)
  • 2002 Nonno Zito Giovanna–Jeanette Nebbiolo, California (about $85, retail)
  • 2003 E. Guigal Chateauneuf du Pape, Rhone, France (about $58, retail)
  • 2006 Louis Jadot Chassagne Montrachet, Burgundy, France (about $62, retail)
  • 1998 Spottswoode Estate, Napa Valley, Calif. (about $104, retail)
  • 2001 Falcor Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Calif. (about $45, retail)
  • 2003 Bell Winery Clone 6, Napa Valley, Calif. (about $95, retail)
  • 2006 Newton Vineyards Unfiltered Chardonnay, Napa Valley, Calif. (about $72, retail)
  • 2005 Martin Ray Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Calif. (about $28, retail)

Wines for entertaining:


  • 2004 Gravity Hills Base Camp Syrah, California (about $12, retail)
  • 2006 Concannon Vineyard Merlot, California (about $12, retail)
  • 2006 Ravenswood Winery Vintners Blend Merlot, California (about $12, retail)
  • 2006 Chateau Bonnet Blanc, France (about $15, retail)
  • 2007 Kendall Jackson Vineyard Estate Sauvignon Blanc, California (about $12, retail)
  • 2006 Oroya White Wine, Spain (about $10, retail)
  • 2005 Le Grand Noir Pinot Noir, France (about $10, retail)
  • 2006 Jacob Creek Shiraz, Australia (about $10, retail)
  • 2007 Penfolds Koonunga Hill Cabernet Sauvignon, Australia (about $13, retail)


  • 2006 Jacuzzi Family Vineyards Arneis, California (about $18, retail)
  • 2005 Bennett Family Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, California (about $32, retail)
  • 2005 Trimbach Pinot Blanc, Alsace, France (about $18, retail)
  • 2006 Daniel Schuster Waipara Pinot Noir, New Zealand (about $32, retail)
  • NV Gruet Brut, New Mexico (about $19, retail)
  • NV Gloria Ferrer Carneros Cuvee, California (about $55 retail)

Thanksgiving feast calls for versatile wine

Most Thanksgiving tables are filled with an array of textures and tastes. From appetizers to turkey, yams, mashed potatoes, cranberries and stuffing all the way to desserts like pumpkin pie. It’s a lot to ask of a wine to match each of these traditional favorites. The answer is discovering a versatile wine and not trying to match each dish to a bottle.

There are many wines suitable for the Thanksgiving table. In the white category, Riesling is always a favorite with its dry, light refreshing style. This grape produces many different styles and levels of sweetness, so be sure to choose a dry version such as German “Kabinett” or Australia’s dry versions.

Gewurztraminer’s light-bodied texture and spicy taste is perfect for the variety of flavors found on buffet tables. A triedand-true expression of this grape is produced in France’s Alsace region, with an aromatic, clean, light-bodied style.

Pinot noir’s subtle elegance can complement any meal. This grape’s best expression can be found in its classic home of Burgundy and in California’s Carneros region and Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

And don’t forget syrah with its spicy-peppery flavors, merlot’s crowd-pleasing, low-tannin structure and sauvignon blanc’s zippy, refreshing taste, all excellent accompaniments for the meal.

If you find yourself still laboring over what wine to serve, consider one of my favorites for any occasion — bubbly. Traditional sparkling wine, either a white or a rose blanc de noir, is easy to find and offers an elegant touch to Thanksgiving festivities.


  • 2006 Piesporter Michelsberg Kabinett Riesling, Germany (about $13, retail)
  • 2006 Mark West Pinot Noir, California (about $12, retail)
  • 2006 Clean Slate Riesling, Germany (about $12, retail)
  • NV Domaine Ste. Michelle Blanc de Blanc Sparkling Wine, Washington (about $15, retail)
  • 2006 Yalumba Y Series Merlot, Australia (about $9, retail)
  • 2006 Wolf Blass Red Label Merlot, Australia (about $10, retail)


  • 2005 Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Noir, Oregon (about $22, retail)
  • 2005 King Estate Winery Pinot Noir, Oregon (about $38, retail)
  • NV Gruet Estate Brut Sparkling Wine, New Mexico (about $22, retail)
  • Gewurztraminer, Alsace, France (about $30, retail)
  • 2006 Anne Amie Cuvee “A” Pinot Noir, Oregon (about $32, retail)

Malolactic fermentation? Think smooth

Recently a friend described a style of wine she had enjoyed, saying it was chardonnay but different from others she had tasted.

“It wasn’t sweet, tangy or oaky. It was almost creamy and buttery,” she said.

What she described, perfectly, is a wine that had undergone malolactic fermentation.

To understand malolactic fermentation, first remember that wine is made by converting sugar to alcohol with the help of yeast. Eventually, the process ends because there is no more sugar for the yeast to feed on. That’s when malolactic fermentation begins.

For centuries, it was regarded as one of wine’s most intriguing mysteries. Cellar masters noticed that their wines changed after fermentation into smoother, more full-bodied, supple styles. Because it was a mystery, there was no way to control the process.

In the mid-20th century, however, Frenchman Pascal Ribereau-Gayon discovered that lactic acid bacteria was responsible for the conversion. Basically, during this mysterious time, the wines were naturally converting their harsher lactic acid to softer malic acid.

Red wines will almost always undergo the second fermentation, producing added smoothness and complexity. However, a sauvignon blanc with its natural fresh, zippy taste would suffer if turned into a soft, full-bodied wine.

Chardonnay, however, is a different grape that loves the added complexity of “malo.” These are the wines often described as having aromas of butter, butterscotch, milky, caramel, nutty and vanilla.

For those who enjoy these styles of wine, here are a few Value and Splurge finds.


  • 2007 Bogle Vineyards Chardonnay, California (about $10, retail)
  • 2007 Guenoc Lake County Chardonnay, California (about $16, retail)
  • 2006 Irony Wines Napa Chardonnay, California (about $12, retail)


  • 2006 Martin Ray Russian River Chardonnay, California (about $20, retail)
  • 2007 Chalk Hill Estate Chardonnay, California (about $45, retail)
  • 2005 Dierberg Estate Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay, California (about $38, retail)
  • 2006 Chateau Potelle VGS Chardonnay, California (about $38, retail)
  • 2006 Casa Lapostolle Cuvee Alexandre Chardonnay, Chile (about $26, retail)
  • 2006 Geyser Peak Estate Reserve Chardonnay, California (about $20, retail)