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Nice rack

Stacking and stocking wines for every occasion

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Congratulations! You've just found the coolest eight-bottle wine rack to adorn your barren kitchen countertop. Besides deciding which direction it should face for full decorative impact, the fun part of filling your rack with wine is then, of course, drinking it. Stocking it with the wine that best suits your lifestyle, though, is another thing altogether.

If you're single, chances are you consume the same bottle over a few days. If you buy a Vacu Vin pump system, which prolongs the shelf life of uncorked wines, you don't have to be limited. Open a different wine each day and take wine guru Michael Mondavi's advice: Drink according to your mood. Buy a refreshing Pinot Grigio to pour over ice after a day in the sun, pop open a Sangiovese with a fully loaded pizza or contemplate the nuances of a Merlot when you're in a more serious mood.

For take-out junkies, food-friendly vino adds restaurant zeal to your meal. Pinpoint wines that both pair well with food but are also pleasing on their own: New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Australian Shiraz, Oregon Pinot Noir, Washington State Riesling, dry French Rose, California Chardonnay, French Champagne and my personal favorite, Zinfandel.

For those with a penchant for the piquant, stock softer, more aromatic grapes that stand up to spicy foods: Riesling, German Gewurztraminer or California Viognier. If you're feeling zesty, crack open a soft, fruity Australian Shiraz.

If wine snobs will be among you, keep your rack filled with a few of the seven chosen varietals of Randall Grahm, eccentric winemaker and owner of Bonny Doon Vineyards: Italian Nebbiolo, Cabernet Franc, German Riesling, Austrian Gruner Veltliner, Italian Albarino, Italian Barbera and French red Burgundy.

Since most of us only want a good buzz to forget the workday crap, collapse on the couch and become one with the remote, cheap but tasty is what we're after. Although most varietals have some rare inexpensive exceptions, there are some grapes you don't want pay less than $12 bucks for: Chardonnay, Chianti and Pinot Noir. Stick with the varietals that are produced in cost-saving, massive quantities yet still provide palate pleasure, including Zinfandel, Cabernet (other than the wallet-depleting Napa Valley varieties), California Sauvignon Blanc, California sparkling wines, Merlot, Australian Shiraz, and Petite Syrah and Washington State Riesling.

With an indefinite number of choices, discovering your wine lifestyle will certainly be the most fun part of the wine rack, but a local wine shop's priceless advice can help steer you toward wine bliss. The rest is up to you.

Recommended Wines

Selaks 2001 Sauvignon Blanc ($14) Fabulous citrus and fresh green grass on the nose, which flows into sultry, fruit-like honeydew melon and passion fruit. It might be hard to find this New Zealand gem, but it's worth the hunt.

Liberty School 2000 Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon ($16) Shazam! Tannins are smooth as a baby's butt, with gorgeous cherry fruit coming at you from all angles. Great stuff.

Benziger 2000 Carneros Chardonnay ($14) Beautifully balanced between oaky and buttery. Shockingly yummy with food, and dripping with melon and tropical fruit.

Cline Cellars 2000 Zinfandel ($12) Like the revelation of uncovering really ripe berries at the grocery store, this is a true find. This fun, medium tannin Zin has enthusiastic red fruit that gladly makes your acquaintance.

corkscrew@creativeloafing.com

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