Every mixed case of wine should begin with a fun, versatile bottle of bubbly. For me that means Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noirs ($18). You should have this stuff for Valentine’s Day. Imagine if you could create your own soda pop with flavors of strawberry, cola, vanilla, cherry, cream, plus alcohol! Yes, you want this with foie gras … you really do.
Riesling is essential. And Mönchhof Robert Eymael Mosel Slate Riesling-Spätslese 2004 ($18.85) is a crisp, low-alcohol (9.5 percent) minerally (slate) Riesling with green apple and peach notes, elegant and delicate with a beautifully long finish. Hook it up with rahmschnitzel mit spaetzle. Another nice pairing for rahmschnitzel, or plain old bratwurst for that matter, would be Concannon Central Coast Pinot Gris 2005 ($10). This limited release PG is a steal at $10 with its appealing apple and almond flavors and citrus/melon aromas. Nice stuff. Although not as nice as a half-bottle of 2005 Domaine Matrot Meursault. It’s delicious, but why do I recommend the 375ml size? The half-bottle is priced at $11; the 750ml is $28. Do the math. Here’s another Chardonnay I’m liking a lot: Cartlidge & Browne 2005 California Chardonnay ($10). It’s a creamy, clean, fruit-forward Chardonnay with just a touch of oak. Buy it by the case: Sorry though, no per-case discount.
Don’t hurry. Be patient. Open a bottle of 2004 Partners’ Reserve from Lockwood Vineyards ($20) and give it a few hours to breathe. Better yet, decant this 95 percent/5 percent proprietary Cabernet/Malbec blend, wait for it to aerate a bit and enjoy the black-cherry bomb within. Nice structure here with firm but not too freaky tannins. Fire up the barbie and grill a rib-eye. Or for a few dollars less, why not uncork a good-value Bordeaux? In this case, I’m referring to Château Recougne Bordeaux Superieur 2003 ($13.20). This economical Bordeaux won’t change your life, and it might not get you laid. But the smoky, earthy, sensuous, almost dirty flavors reek of Medoc terroir. And Recougne’s a very good choice when you want to get comfy with a bit of Rimbaud. A baguette, a wedge of fromage and a good book—now, there’s perfect pairing.
Spaghetti red? I’m glad you asked. These days, I’m liking the $10 Carpineto Dogajolo 2005, a young Super Tuscan made from Sangiovese (80 percent) and Cabernet Sauvignon (20 percent). Hey, the pretty label alone is worth the $10. Nicely balanced but powerful. Try Dogajolo with your grandma’s braciole. And hey, while we’re in Italy, here is a bang-for-the-buck brand that’s hard to top: Arancio. For a pittance, you can pick up Fuedo Arancio’s Chardonnay Sicilia 2006 ($8) and his Grillo Sicilia 2005 ($9). Use the Grillo like a racy Riesling—great with roast pork loin and apples.
And let’s round out our case with a sassy bottle of Aussie d’Arenberg The Stump Jump 2006 ($10) and Spanish Lo Brujo Macabeo Calatayud 2006 ($8). You’re gonna dig these.
Bottle No. 13: Condesa de Leganza Tempranillo Rosé 2006. My advice? Stay away from this wimpy Spanish Rosé, even if it’s thrown in for free.