December 18, 2008


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White, the budget wine gift
Rieslings and Pouilly-Fuisses for everybody
By Tim Protzman

Warning! Warning! Christmas is in a week! Gift alert!

But I know someone who’s getting a nice present. I got an e-mail from a lady who wanted two cases of Roederer Cristal Champagne. It was a mistake, but why’d I get it? Am I on her e-mail speed dial? Cristal is a nice gift. The going price is around $235 a bottle so it’s not something you’d tip your milkman with. But what do you tip your milkman with? How can you give wine gifts that don’t leave you in the poor house? But are memorable, too? The quick one-word answer is: White! Real winos sometimes overlook white wines in the race to red. Even Gil, my late great wine guru, used to say to anyone who dissed red wine, “But that’s where all the flavor is.”

The truth is that white wines are a little more approachable for the wine beginner. Red may have cachet and weight for the more educated palate, but there’s plenty of flavor in white wine.

My favorite white to recommend this year is Riesling. It’s inexpensive, pretty well made and different. When was the last time you had a glass of Riesling at the tavern?

Kendall-Jackson, Woodbridge and Robert Mondavi all come in at around $10 dollars a bottle. You’ll smell apple and honeysuckle. You’ll taste melon, honey, green apple and a wee bit of custard. If you’re really gifty then buy a case, which runs about $120. This is perfect for the hairdresser or a teacher or the toll attendant. One, they’ll thank you profusely. Two, they’ll tell you just how nice the wine was. This goes for people who don’t know wine and even semi-connoisseurs like me. The one person who might be underwhelmed is the wine expert. Most will like it and find it fun, satisfying and tasty. But the ones who start conversations with “We found this little vineyard in Rheingau…” will find it déclassé.

Riesling brands also worth trying — Bonny Doon, Chateau Ste. Michelle, Dr. Frank, Hopler, Grant Bruge, J Lohr, Long Flat, Rosemount, Salmon Run, Snoqualmie and Tohu.

The hot Riesling areas now are California, Oregon, Australia, New York Finger Lakes, Germany and the French province of Alsace. But beware of turning to the source. Alsace and Germany produce great Rieslings, but they’re expensive. The cheaper ones from these two places are usually not very drinkable.

Pouilly-Fuisse is chardonnay. But it’s got its own terroir, and it’s not as pricey as white Burgundy.

I’d give this to someone who likes wine a lot. And at $20 to $30 a bottle the recipient is a little more special. Like your boss or a co-worker, parents or new significant other. I’d go with the Jadot or Laboure-Roi, $19.99 and $21.99 respectively.

Why Pouilly-Fuisse? Different, with great name recognition and I’ll bet most of you have yet to taste one. But don’t get too worked up, it’s still just chardonnay.

Does your office have a gift exchange? Do they do a Secret Santa? I worked for this large healthcare company and most of the people in my office liked wine. And Martinis and beer. We also had this little tradition — a Yankee gift swap. We’d all bring in a wrapped gift, usually something from home, and we’d all pick numbers. Number One would choose a gift from the pile and unwrap it. Number Two could take Number One’s gift, prompting them to take another one from the pile, or one from the pile. Number three could choose the two unwrapped gifts or one from the pile. So Number 22 had the pick of everything. One year we did this with wine. Wine we had at home or something from the liquor store.

The first unwrapped bottle was A Little Penguin Shiraz. Tina got it and there it stayed. Our boss got Chateau Beauchene du Rhone Villages, which is a step up from Cote du Rhone as this represents the 95 villages and vineyards and an increase in quality. The boss kept that bottle. A catfight broke out over the Gramona Grand Reserve Cava or Spanish sparkling wine. It kept getting passed back and forth. Alliances arose, like on Survivor, to capture the prize, until … the Chateau Larose Trintaudon 1998 (it’s a structured little Haut-Medoc) showed up. Tommy made a play for it and was trumped two turns later by Kate. Kate didn’t even drink wine; she just wanted her Team Leader Angie to get it. Things got heated. Mistletoe was hung over someone’s derriere and people were told to kiss it. My bottle of Cape Mentelle Margaret River Cabernet/Merlot went to Sue with little fanfare. And I got a 1994 Beaulieu Rutherford Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. I had a high number and luckily, Dave came after me. He didn’t drink but had his eye on the 1.5-liter Barefoot Chardonnay for his family’s Christmas dinner. Quantity was important, not quality.

The Beaulieu was exquisite, especially since it cost me $13.99, which is what I paid for the Cape Mentelle. Surprisingly, Beverly had brought it. She was cute, smart and totally without a clue when it came to wine. She’d pulled the bottle out of a case her father had in his basement. He had lots of others too. And that’s how she came to be my girlfriend.

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9/11/2008 Spend Fall in Spain
9/04/2008 Making a break for it
8/28/2008 Achieving the impossible
8/21/2008 AVA in search of a movie
8/14/2008 Return to seller?
8/7/2008 Wine at the game
7/24/2008 Reviving a star
7/17/2008 Champagne staycation
7/10/2008 Pair vintage with vintage
6/26/2008 Leftover wine
6/19/2008 Fortune favors Opus One
6/12/2008 In the year 2048
6/5/2008 Tea, the original infusion
5/29/2008 Hello old friends
5/22/2008 Ancient in the new world
5/15/2008 You are the expert
5/8/2008 The must-drink list
5/1/2008 Gaming wine futures
4/24/2008 Chronos and me
4/17/2008 Getting lucky
4/3/2008 The daquiri's of spring
3/27/2008 Germans play well with others
3/13/2008 Complain yourself happy
3/6/2008 Operatic wine tasting
2/28/2008 Everything must go!
2/21/2008 His & hers bottles
2/7/2008 Friends in spam
1/31/2008 Warm up the wine
1/24/2008 A drink to them
1/17/2008 Stalking the barking dingo
1/10/2008 Wishes and predictions
1/3/2008 Bit of bubbly
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12/20/2007 Not fighting for the right
12/13/2007 The liquor store suite
11/29/2007 World of drinkin'
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11/15/2007 Drinks with Diwali
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11/1/2007 Drinks with History Channel
10/25/2007 Schooled in Shiraz
10/18/2007 Spooky wines
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9/20/2007 Small world of wines
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9/6/2007 Wine lover's shopping trip
8/30/2007 Bottle surfing
8/23/2007 Lobster goes red
8/16/2007 Emotional tasting notes
8/9/2007 Stop, wine thief
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7/26/2007 You do know your wine
7/19/2007 Booze free association
7/12/2007 Raiders of the sidewalk
7/5/2007 A sustainable buzz
6/28/2007 We are the merlot
6/21/2007 Forgot Dad? Bring booze.
6/14/2007 Jack & Jill and a pail of wine
6/7/2007 Our lady of the Rioja
5/24/2007 Breaking the fast
5/17/2007 What the best bears drink
5/10/2007It's OK to be pink
5/3/2007 In praise of tastings
4/26/2007 Invention-tini
4/19/2007 More 'Mas'
4/12/2007 Futures in a bottle
3/29/2007 Uneasy glass of spring
3/22/2007 Chateau de blech
3/8/2007 Finding new beauties
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2/15/2007 The extraordinary ordinary
2/8/2007 A glass of sweetness
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1/25/2007 Ham it up
1/18/2007 Cheating on wine
1/11/2007 Burning down the tree
1/4/2007 New Year's hangover
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12/21/2006 Kissing frogs
12/14/2006 Wine for horrible friends
12/07/2006 Like dregs in the wine glass
11/30/2006 Gift of calmer shopping
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11/2/2006 The geography of grapes
10/26/2006 Please continue to hold
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10/12/2006 Making new friends
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07/27/2006 Slow process of maturation
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Adventures in and past the Euro-Cave
A Do-It-Yourself Wine Tasting
A Red For Everything
A Red Wth Your Leftovers?
A Tasty Way To Put Wine To The Test
A Year Of Wine
An Around-The-World Holiday
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Basking In The Mondavi Light
Behind One Door Is Great Wine
Beware The Hot Bottle
Brandy and the nude beach
Champagne, The Other White Wine
Cheers And Whines Of The Vine
Days of wine and jelly beans
Deep in the heart of Texas
Drinking for your health
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Drinking Whites After Labor Day
Finding A Great Medium-Weight Drink (I)
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Gifts for blood, love or money
Grill and sip, sip and sip. Finding the perfect wine for barbecue
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How The Corleones Saved Wine

In Praise Of An American Wine
In search of the girl next door
Keeping it in the family
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Looking back at the heyday of cheap wine
My Big Fat Greek Wine Tasting
The Best Drinks On A Budget
The Highly Drinkable (Mostly) Merlot
The Long, Strange Journey Of Wine
Old French grape in the New World
Olé! to a week in wine
Opening the Parker book

Our French friends — really
Our Northern Neighbor
Poker faces and wine

Presenting A New England Vodka
Presenting The Wines Of Spring
Rewarding Your Support Staff
Schooled In The Art Of Wine
Shopping for Wine Bargains

Sitting By The Fire And Dreaming Of Wine
Slipping A Little Sideways
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Spirit World Tales
Springtime calls for wine and ice cream
Sudden ugly mood swings
The new face of fine wines
The wines of fall
Thinking ahead to the holidays
Time To Stay Frosty
Tipples for turkey day
TV worth drinking
What it means to miss N.O.
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What's Your Wine Sign
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Wine Between The Season
Wine for the NASCAR set
Wine is in at the Inn
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Wine Works With Red Sauce