By The Glass
Champagne helps initiate school year
Have you been stuck in traffic lately? Have your children gone back to school? Are you glad school is in session?
Whatever you're thinking while driving through all the back-to-school congestion, it's probably not wine. But then again, after a hectic day that began with a 5:30 a.m. wake-up call, what better way to reward yourself than a nice glass of wine?
You don't have to enjoy wine only with food. Just sipping a great glass in a relaxed atmosphere is one of the most underrated experiences. Better yet, make it a glass of champagne. You don't have to wait for a holiday to unleash the ebullience of this heavenly drink.
Treat yourself for finishing all that back-to-school shopping. When the kids are all in bed, reach into the fridge or cellar and pull out that bottle of champagne. Just make sure not to let the bottle POP when you open it. You don't want to wake anyone up.
A new champagne that I've been drinking is the nonvintage Gonnet-Medeville Blanc de Noir ($45). This producer grows all its own grapes and makes the wine entirely from pinot noir. It is elegant yet beautifully intense and will certainly wash away any back-to-school blues. Having a cold glass of this champagne will give a new meaning to the words "chill out."
Or how about a rich, blockbuster red wine that you can cuddle up with before going to bed? Like a security blanket, rich reds make us feel warm all over. They envelope our palates and ease those worries about whether the kids are enjoying their school-provided hot lunches.
The Australian 2004 Penfolds Bin 389 Cabernet/Shiraz ($25) is a tried-and-true cuddly red. This blend of cabernet sauvignon and shiraz provides velvety red fruit flavors along with pretty spices and deep, almost chocolate tones to help you sleep even better. Don't worry too much about the Bin numbers with Penfolds; it is a reliable source for great value and palate-pleasing wines.
And if a chilled white is more your cup of tea -- or should I say, "glass of wine"? -- just unscrew the cap on a bottle of 2005 Kim Crawford Chardonnay ($18) from New Zealand. This delicious, refreshing, un-oaked chardonnay will lift your spirits and cleanse your palate.
It has intoxicating aromas of citrus orchards in bloom and apple pie. It is light-bodied and pure -- no woodsy bite or heaviness to encumber your palate before you doze off for a good night's sleep. And if you're apt to nibble something before taking a snooze, this lovely white goes great with a slice of sharp cheese.
So, may your school year be filled with joy and calm. Don't forget to take care of yourself in the process. Because without you on form, the family machine doesn't perform at its best. If you don't treat yourself, who will?
Roberto Viernes is a master sommelier and wine educator with Southern Wine & Spirits.
This column is a weekly lesson in wine pairing written by a rotating panel of wine professionals. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org