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Seller input is vital for new collectors

Seller input is vital for new collectors

It is not uncommon to hear of wine being sold for thousands or even hundreds of thousands. In 2011, a bottle of 1947 Cheval Blanc was bought for an astounding $304,000. It is believed to be the most expensive bottle ever sold.

The average wine drinker and collector is not concerned with profit or antique additions to a collection. Most are simply looking to add value and quality to their collections, whether large or small.

Before starting a collection, it is crucial to remember that most wines are not intended to age. As much as 95 percent of the wine produced is intended to be consumed within 2 to 5 years after bottling. The 5 percent or so of wines that do age well are produced in very limited quantities. For example, if you consider that only 450 cases of Burgundy’s Romanee-Conti are produced each year, and there are millions of wine drinkers spanning the globe, you are faced with minuscule amounts available.

The first step to a fulfilling collection is to find a local wine retailer who understands your intentions. This is crucial so that you are kept informed of premier wines entering the market and when they become available.

What type of collection do you want to create? A good place to start is with a few bottles from your favorite regions and of your favorite styles. Buy two or more of the wines you plan to collect. (I recommend six bottles to a case.) When you are ready to explore the wine, drink one, take notes and then open another in a few years and see the changes. Buying more than one bottle is very important because the joy of collecting is noting how the wines change over time.

All wines are different and will change — for better or worse. The only control you have over this process is how you store your bottles. The most important things to remember are no direct light, low humidity, constant low temperature, bottles on their sides and minimal movement. You needn’t invest in a wine cellar or wine fridge to maintain these conditions, although they are helpful. These conditions can be achieved in a dark corner of a closet floor.

Therefore, seller input is vital for new collectors.

Tips for ensuring libations will flow

Tips for ensuring libations will flow

If you are reading this column today you are in one of two stages of your Christmas celebration. You are drinking port while watching your favorite Christmas movies or you are scurrying around with a checklist of last minute gifts and entertaining items to find. For those taking the high road of enjoying the day in slumber and relaxation, I commend you. For those in panic mode, here are a few quick tips for ensuring libations will flow. 

Stocking the bar. If you are trying to calculate how much wine to buy, don’t be afraid to overbuy. A safe rule of thumb is one 750-milliliter bottle (an average wine bottle) will equal about five (5-ounce) glasses. Most guests will consume two drinks during the first hour of the event and one drink during each subsequent hour. If your celebration includes wine, beer and spirits, a general rule is 50 percent of people will prefer wine, 30 percent beer and 20 percent mixed drinks. You can never buy too much, just save the excess for your next gathering. And remember, running out of drinks, just as with food, can swiftly change a festive mood.

Be a gracious guest. When I give the host or hostess a bottle of wine, my intention is that they will wait to open it on another occasion to enjoy. The best wine to give is one they normally wouldn’t buy themselves. I like to give Champagne, sparkling wine or Cava and persuade them to open it with pizza, popcorn, or when they have time to relax after the holidays.

It’s never too late to save. If a caterer or food retailer offers a 10 percent to 20 percent discount if you buy the foods on a certain day, it seems an obvious choice. So keep in mind most wine stores already offer those savings when you buy by the case or on “wine day.” Check weekly ads, online and in-store savings because these can sometimes be up to 50 percent off during the last few days of shopping.

Don’t be turned off by the box. You can’t deny it is a brilliant invention, yet image issues and the myth that boxed wines are inferior have prevented people from embracing the wine for celebrations. Large parties or family gatherings are the perfect time to consider the box. If you are concerned with the image, decant the wine into glass carafes and no one will be the wiser. And the bonus of the box is when the gathering ends you will be able to save the wine left in the box for up to 3 weeks.

Buy now to enjoy later. While some items like produce and flowers need to be last minute purchases, wine can be bought well before the celebration. New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, anniversaries and birthday celebrations are all good reasons to buy a case now to enjoy later. Remember, wine will wait humbly in the corner until the next celebration.

Crowd pleasers work for Thanksgiving feast

Crowd pleasers work for Thanksgiving feast

It’s that time of year when questions from my friends and readers shift from general queries regarding storing, buying and serving tips to requests for specific wines to buy. With Thanksgiving just a week away and Christmas around the corner, most people are looking for direction on the best wines for the occasion.

Thanksgiving, as with most holidays, brings specific challenges when it comes to selecting the right wine.

The first is the pressure to accommodate all guests’ beverage preferences, from the soda and tea drinkers to the beer and liquor fans who are likely to toast the holiday with a glass of wine.

My best advice:

Keep it simple. We sometimes enjoy adventure in our wine selections for a traditional holiday and menu such as Thanksgiving, but it’s best to stick to reliable white and red wines that are known as crowd pleasers. Choose wines that are food friendly and generally familiar. This is no time to serve something that calls for a pronunciation guide and geography lesson.

Save that treasured bottle for another time. This is not the time to delve into your wine cellar for your prized bottle of wine. Thanksgiving is generally the only time of year entire families get together, intermingling a gamut of tastes and preferences. Save your special bottles for times when you know each and every guest will truly appreciate them, and they won’t be overpowered by the seemingly limitless array of food offerings.

Wine doesn’t need to be stressful. While your culinary creations for the holiday may demand hours or even days of preparation, the wine will simply be ready when your guests arrive. Many retail stores have started offering specials, so there’s no need to wait until the last minute. Buy early so you can check this off your “to do” list and have one less errand nearing the Thanksgiving celebration.


  • 2014 Matchbook Chardonnay, California (about $13 retail)
  • 2013 Wild Horse Pinot Grigio, California (about $15 retail)
  • 2014 Force of Nature Red Blend, California (about $16 retail)
  • 2014 Hess Cabernet Sauvignon, California (about $17 retail)
  • 2014 Bogle Essential Red, California (about $12 retail)


  • 2012 Alta Maria Santa Maria Pinot Noir, California (about $31 retail)
  • 2013 Keenan Merlot, California (about $33 retail)
  • 2013 Presqu’ile Chardonnay, California (about $34 retail)
All-purpose wineglass a personal choice

All-purpose wineglass a personal choice

It seems every day more and more styles of wineglasses are available. The choices can be dizzying and confusing.

I do believe different bowl sizes change the taste and enjoyment of wine. And I love setting the table for special occasions, when I bring out the glasses — white, red, dessert and cordial — for each course. But I also know many of us are simply looking for an everyday, all-purpose wineglass. Most of us rarely need numerous size glasses to relax and enjoy dinner at home.

Here are few tips for finding your ideal home wineglass.

  • Clear versus color. Call me old-fashioned, but I still believe a wineglass should be clear. I know there are many trendy, fun designs and colors lining the retail shelves, but I like to see the wine in the glass. Sometimes the designs and colors of the glass take away from the experience of seeing and appreciating the wine.
  • Stemmed versus stemless. In our house we do have a stemless glass, but it’s the delicate European style, very similar to a dainty water glass. The purpose of stemless glassware is debatable only because the reason you hold a glass by the stem is to prevent your hands from warming the wine and smudging the glass with fingerprints. For my ideal glass I do want a stem. There’s something about holding a traditional wineglass by the stem when you are savoring the experience.
  • A dainty glass versus a thick, strong glass. Oddly, this is possibly one of the most asked questions about glassware. Many years ago I bought a set of very expensive (expensive for my budget), delightfully delicate, thin-rimmed glasses. I enjoyed my glass of wine with dinner, but the bliss was very short-lived. Even hand-washing them, they are so fragile that even a small tap on the side of the sink breaks the glass. If your dinner routine is like ours, we rarely have time to hand-wash and polish wineglasses immediately after use. Wineglasses often end up next to the Tupperware in the dishwasher. My ideal glass is less delicate and more durable. I’m not suggesting you attempt to enjoy wine out of the thick-rimmed banquet-style glassware, but try to find something in the middle.
  • The curve. Most wineglass features come down to personal preference and lifestyle. But there may be one slight design feature that enhances wine in the glass no matter what the wine or price of the glass … a slight curve. There are many wineglasses available, but look for those with a slight curve at the top of the bowl. This tiny design point enhances the aromas of your wine, thus increasing enjoyment in the experience.
Party’s over: Creative uses for leftover wine

Party’s over: Creative uses for leftover wine

For many of us the concept of leftover wine is unfamiliar. But just as there are often leftover foods when the party is over, the same is true with wine. If you find yourself with more than you want to enjoy with dinner the next day, there are a variety of ways to save it for future use.

I’ve spent the past few weeks researching and doing hands-on experiments putting these tips for using every last drop to the test.

Ice cubes

It may be the simplest, but I have found it to be the most useful. Save leftover wine or freezing it in standard ice cube trays. The cubes are especially useful in recipes for sauces and stews. Ten to 12 cubes equals one cup.

Homemade vinegar

It isn’t as easy as pouring leftover wine into a container — you’ll need to do a few things to ensure the best quality — but you can make vinegar at home with leftover wine. Pour the wine into an open container and cover with cheesecloth or even a dish towel (anything to keep insects out). Some instructions say to leave the wine to gain its own bacterial culture, known as the “mother,” but it’s best to add vinegar bacteria called Mycoderma aceti. Take one part unpasteurized store-bought vinegar (such as Bragg’s) and combine with three parts leftover wine. Over the next couple of weeks the mixture will get a bit murky, with a film developing on the surface and then sinking to the bottom. When it begins to smell vinegary, start tasting. Over time it will start becoming very acidic. When you like the taste, strain it off, put into a bottle and store in the refrigerator.

Adult popsicles

Yes, it is possible. This recipe calls for blackberries and pinot noir. But you could use any combination of fruit and wine that you like.

Pinot Noir Blackberry Pops

  • 1/2 cup organic brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 5 cups blackberries
  • 6 ounces pinot noir

Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and cool.

Puree the berries in a food processor or blender. You should have about 2 cups puree.

Combine the simple syrup, pureed berries and the wine. Pour into molds; insert sticks and freeze until solid, at least 4 to 6 hours.

Makes 10 pops.

Ice cream topping

Combine 2 cups white wine, ¼ cup honey and ½ vanilla bean (split) in a saucepan. Add 4 cups diced dried fruit (apricots, cherries, raisins, medjool dates) and bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Let stand for about 10 to 15 minutes. Use warm or chill.

Mulled wine

Keeping separate containers for white and red wine, pour leftover wine into a 1-quart freezer-safe container. Keep adding other leftover wine over time. (Be sure to keep your white and red wines separate.) When the container is full, you have your base for a great classic. Empty the frozen wine into a large pot; add spices such as cinnamon sticks, whole cloves or a few whole star anise. Melt wine over medium heat; sweeten to taste with honey, sugar or apple juice. Simmer for 10 minutes and then serve with a twist of citrus peel.

Salad dressing

Take a teaspoon of red or white leftover wine and combine with 2 tablespoons wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon finely chopped shallots. Let the shallots soften and flavors infuse for about 10 minutes. Whisk in ½ tablespoon of honey, ¼ teaspoon salt and 3 tablespoons of olive oil.