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10 must have wines



Is your wine refrigerator or rack looking a little sparse and you’re not sure what type of wines to stock it with? We spoke to five local wine experts seeking their input on the dilemma. We asked them to base their recommendations on the following criteria: affordability; that their selections were food friendly; were consistently well made; and readily available for purchase.

2006 Baileyana "Grand Firepeak Cuvee" Chardonnay from Edna Valley California, $21.95 (left)

"This wine craves a pork loin stuffed with figs, almonds and chevre. I have the recipe, it is perfect for holiday entertaining. The 2006 shows a bright array of citrus flavors up front, followed by intensely concentrated flavors of red apples and ripe pears. Months of less stirring while the wine rested in small French oak barrels brings out the full, creamy texture."

2004 Louis M. Martini Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, $16.95

"An exceptional value for a Napa Valley cabernet for under $17 a bottle. The Louis M. Martini Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon exhibits a deep garnet color with intense aromas of cedary oak, currents and black cherries. Concentrated flavors of ripe plums, chocolate and tobacco marry perfectly with the oak nuances. It is a well-structured wine that is balanced with firm, velvety tannins that culminate in a long, elegant finish. Pair this wine with duck breast with a blueberry-cabernet sauce. Recipe is from the Martini Family recipe book."

Juan Gil Jumilla, $15 (left)

"This wine, made from the Monastrell grape in southeastern Spain, is a perfect wine for the holidays. Its blueberry and black fruit awaken the senses while the sweet baking spices, tobacco and vanilla chase away the chill of the season. A true crowd pleaser at any holiday party with its festive fruit, complex nuances and lusciously smooth mouth feel. If you cannot find this one, just ask for a Monastrell from Jumilla. This region is abounding with value-driven wines. This wine would go best with venison and game."

Lustau "Don Nuno" Dry Oloroso, under $20

"This is not your grandmother’s sweet sherry. This deep mahogany-colored wine is dry, complex and full-bodied. Although dry, it is bursting with nutty flavors, caramel, toffee and dried orange peel. Don’t save this wine for dessert! Start your meal with a glass of this dry Oloroso slightly chilled on its own, or pair it with venison, smoked game and even richly-flavored Chinese dishes, like Szechuan beef. This wine is also the perfect partner for a cheese plate! Just beware, the alcohol levels can hover at a well-disguised 18-20 percent."

Meyer Family Syrah, $30 to $40 (left)

"I chose the Meyer Family Syrah because you always need to have a wine that can stand alone for an occasion when friends are just hanging out at the house, but not for dinner. This has all the qualities of a syrah: big fruit, nice acid and a good amount of tannin while not at all overpowering. For the quality of this wine, it is definitely a great bargain. The winemakers, Matt and Karen Meyer, have an extensive knowledge and background in the art of winemaking."

Seventh Domain Pinot Noir, Napa Valley, $25

"This pinot is not an ordinary pinot noir, which is part of the reason I picked it. It’s a really bold pinot with notes of forest floor and deep fruits like super ripe raspberries and plums, but it’s more than that. You can tell its uniqueness the instant you pour a glass with its deep brick-like hew. You can taste a potpourri of different flavors the instant it hits your lips. The first time I tasted it I thought, ‘This could be a Napa Cab’ because it was so much bolder. This would be great with a steak, a big rare tuna filet or, for the vegetarian, a portabella mushroom sautéed in a red wine reduction."

Maxim Grünhäuser Spätlese, $19.50 (left)

"I recommend Maxim Grünhäuser Spätlese, a late harvest riesling spätlese from the Mosel-Ruwer, Germany wine-growing region. This wine has incomparable finesse, is rich in fragrance and fruity acidity with a steely mineral undertone. It is great to drink by itself or is a perfect match with seafood and Asian dishes that tend to be prepared and enhanced with a select spiciness. This riesling comes from the Maximin Grünhäuser Wine Estate, one of the most renowned in Germany."

Beringer Merlot – Napa Valley, California, $18.50

"I recommend a Napa Valley merlot because of its smooth fruitiness and soft plummy characteristic. This merlot from the Beringer Estate is an excellent example of a consistently well-made red wine from California’s Napa Valley.

It is a perfect match with red meats such as prime rib and beef tenderloin served chateau briand style.The merlot could be served with steaks, but a heavier cabernet sauvignon or a bordeaux style blend would be a preferred choice."