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Merlot Coaster these last few years
Merlot brings out emotion in collective conscience like the latest scandalous pop star (Lady Gaga meat collection anyone?). “Love it” screamed the teenie boppers when it’s smooth, fruity taste first hit the international market, throwing California into a tizzy over whether Cabernet still reigned supreme (spoiler alert: it does). “Hate it” screamed the slightly more matured cognescenti in a moment that happened to coincide with the release of a certain Sideways movie seven years ago that dropped Merlot into the bargain bin. And now, quietly, without much fuss or notice, Merlot is once again regaining a certain “F.U.” cachet.

Merlot, it’s back to the starting rotation
Merlot is back to the big leagues and its time in Triple A has done it well. People who know about wines tell me the best values for American wines are in Merlot. People have hated on it so much, it’s become trendy to hate the haters. Is it too much to call Merlot the PBR of wine? Is PBR even the PBR of beer anymore?

Regardless, Merlot is headed back to its rightful place on the team. Sure, Merlot won’t be the Roy Halladay that will lead the Mets to win on opening day – that just doesn’t happen in Queens. But Merlot is back on the starting rotation, sandwiched in between Cab, Shiraz and Pinot.

Black fruit fruit with some plum marching in next. Nothing too heavy from the tannins but some weight and smoke that makes it seem deeper than it is. Pizza, movie and this wine.

Detail Up!
Bogle Vineyards, California – 2009 Merlot

Random Googles
* Washington, Long Island and Hawke’s Bay – those are the 3 locations to find great value.
* Merlot – etymologists trace it to French for “blackbird,” as in 4 and 20 blackbirds baked in a pie. Never understood how that song didn’t become the stoner mantra.
* In Bordeaux, more Merlot is planted than Cab but somehow Merlot manages to stay in the shadow. Ask Zeno to explain that one.

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The Best Grape
There, I’ve said it. Riesling is just the best grape that exists. Maybe it’s my love for bone-crushing acidity. Maybe it’s that favorite jacket you have that pairs well with everything and manages to be classy without trying. Maybe it’s that thrill of walking to the airport to buy your ticket to somewhere you haven’t decided yet. Because it’s only Riesling that can bring you suck-your-teeth dry and rot-your teeth sweet. All grapes have a range in which they sing and you start to recognize their voices among the Sopranos, Altos, Tenors, and that Cabernet Bass.

Opera Star
Riesling though is a category unto itself. It’s SATB performed by a love child of Pavarotti and Joan Sutherland. The wine soars in the right hands and has a range unmatched by any other wine. It can age for over a decade (crazy rare for a white), makes dessert wines equal to any of the greatest dessert wines in the world (Auslese) and CAN command prices into the thousands of dollars. Of course, Riesling can also command prices of $10 and it’s easy to find great bottles at $10 and really excellent bottles for $15.

Remember the Riesling!
Personally, Riesling has always been a food and friends wine. Eat one and devour the other – it’s a simple recipe but Remember the Riesling. It’s easy to find too since Germany and Austria no longer have a stranglehold on the grape. Australia, New Zealand and the US (especially Finger Lakes, NY!) all produce wines that melt in your mouth or stab you with lime – up to you to figure out which is which. South Africa too seems to be entering the fray, and South America has started late to the game but has started its experimenting. Rather than just carpeting the world too, Riesling producers have managed to produce wines that smack you across the face with their true gravel. If you enjoy S&M diversity in your wine, you just found your grape.

This wine is one of many styles that Chateau Ste Michelle makes (one of which is called Eroica – sweet and worth the search; it’s two of the world’s best producers teaming up on Riesling). This particular Riesling shown above is the regular “everyday” Riesling that Chateau Ste Michelle make and I think it cost about $10 (which is what it costs at Jericho Wines, who get the h/t for the photo). Here’s what my tongue dictated to my fingers: Kinda fizzy, tart like green apples but with peach taste. Light wine. Very green apples and something fizzy extra.

Detail Up!
Chateau Ste Michelle Columbia Valley Riesling 2009

Random Googles
* Famed Riesling Maker Leo Buring (correctly) stated: “Winemaking isn’t a matter of life or death – it’s much more important than that!” The one wine I tried by him convinced me that my mid-life crisis will occur in Adelaide, Australia.
* Riesling regions to seek out: Clare, Eden and West Australia (Australia); Mosel, Alsace, and Wachau (Europe); Finger Lakes, Michigan and Washington (US); and Nelson (NZ)
* There’s a Red Riesling in Germany. Nobody’s quite sure if it’s the father or the son of Riesling Riesling.

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New Year’s Eve could be the most overhyped day in the year (yes, i’m a curmudgeon), and if there’s one thing that’s even more overhyped than NYE it’s Champagne on NYE. Bubbly, festive, champagne. Either it’s ridiculously overpriced or it’s dreadfully wretched (wow, that sounded very British, even in the hating on France).

Better Bubbly

Fortunately however, there’s plenty of other bubbly that still tastes good and leaves you without a debt the size of the US deficit. Cava’s been my standby since the muni government days of yore, and Prosecco’s another that I found during the grad school days later on. Champagne though has just been awful.

Still, it was Chardonnay (the principal grape in Champagne) that I bought after the wine tasting at my local LIC haunt – Vine Wine – a neighborhood wine treasure. True to the NYE joy, their free tasting the Wednesday before the ball drop had bubbles. Really excellent bubbles too. So I bought my fave and busted it open (without my saber) that night. Truth be told, it was three days before NYE but totally worth the celebratory splurge.

Gruet: Ugly Name, Excellent Rose

Strawberries galore and a bit of raspberry. Unfortunately, no name of grapes on the label but thanks to winegeeks, there’s an answer. Gruet (from New Mexico – seriously?!?) only puts Chardonnay and Pinot Noir into their roses it’s easy money that this one has Chardonnay. From somebody who really detests the grape, this bottle is changing minds. Nice work New Mexico!

In sum
Rose bubbly for a night in with your special ballerina.

Detail Up!
Gruet Rose

Google Randoms
* Chardonnay is the most over-planted grape in the world. Didn’t even have to google that one. It’s just true.
* Apparently, because it grows everywhere, like dandelions.
* Champagne grapes are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, pretty much in that order.
* Spread the Champagne myth of Marie Antoinette’s breasts. Better hype than NYE.

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