For many of us, winter can be a special time for gathering with friends and family around a roaring fire to relax and reminisce. It's also the season when wine lovers find it fitting to pull the corks on special bottles to go with special dinners.
It used to be a wine writers' practice to suggest what a personal cellar should include. Everyone did it. Customers would come to a wine shop, clipping in hand, to pick good bargains of price and quality to set aside for Sunday dinners. I used to follow this sort of suggestion, but I haven't been asked for another list for maybe 10 years or so.
One wine industry practice dovetails neatly with these lists - making large once-a-year releases of wines that have been aged at the winery to open space for newer vintages and incidentally easing the winery's cash flow.
As you reflect on what, how much, and what kinds of wines to purchase, think of the family's usage. Are most of the adults in the home accustomed to a glass of wine with dinner, at least weekly? And is this usage mostly white or red wine? What about shelf space for rose wines? Your reflection will take you to choices from around the world, far beyond what it would have reached even 10 or 12 years ago, and the discovery of new pleasures.
w Attitude '04 rose pinot noir ($16) from Pascal Jolivet. Light as a ballerina, hints of sunny green valleys and fruits.
w Parallele 45 Rose ($10) by Paul Jaboulet. An old classic: dry, balanced.
w Glazebrook '05 sauvignon blanc Marlborough, New Zealand, $14. Nice, velvety texture, varietally true (tastes just like it should).
w Columbia '03 chardonnay. Delicious, ($19).
w Sartarelli '02 verdicchio ($12). Italy doesn't make many whites, but this dry, clean white is one of the world's best.
wEstancia '05 California pinot grigio ($12). This changed my appreciation of pinot grigio; great, delicious.
w Estancia '05 Monterey chardonnay ($12). Anything from Icon Estates can be taken for granted; fine, great buy.
w Castoro Cellars '01 late harvest zinfandel ($16). Terrific, full flavored, "chewy" texture.
w Sterling Vintner's Collection '02 cabernet sauvignon ($12). Long a sleeper, an excellent buy at the price.
w Morgon '04 Jean Des-combes/Georges duBoeuf ($12). This is how to get over a "nouveau" to appreciate what a mature beaujolais really is like.