Today's Sponsors
 California Wine Club
Top 3 Holiday Reasons To Order With The California Wine Club!

Top 25 California wines of 2005!

In This Issue
 Holiday schedule We're on a Monday-only publication schedule while I'm on the road.
 WT101 - Festive holiday wines Our popular online wine-tasting education program celebrates the season with a month of "bubblies and stickies."
 California Wine Club Top 3 Holiday Reasons To Order With The California Wine Club!
 Réserve Grand Veneur 2003 Côtes du Rhône ($10.49) A Southern Rhone treat from 2003, it's a "baby Chateauneuf" at a fraction of the price.
 Vinfolio Top 25 California wines of 2005!
 This week on The quest for value in vintage and non-vintage Champagnes, and a selection of active topics in our WineLovers Community.
Last Week's Wine Advisor Index The Wine Advisor archives.
Administrivia Change E-mail address, frequency, format or unsubscribe.

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Wine Advisor's holiday schedule
As mentioned in last week's newsletter, I'm traveling this month, just back from a few family days in Florida and leaving shortly for Portugal, where I'm looking forward to an in-depth look at the beleagured natural-cork industry ... and tasting some excellent Port and other good things to eat and drink. While I'm traveling, we'll publish only on Mondays. However, I'll update with wine and travel reports and photos as time and connectivity permit, and our online forums will be busy as always, so check in often!

WT101 - Festive holiday wines

When it's time to think about wine for a festive occasion - or a quiet evening by the fireside on a chilly night - many of us like to turn to something a little more celebratory than the wines we usually serve, and perhaps a bit more warming.

With the holiday season upon us, the joyous pop of the Champagne cork and the audible purr of pleasure that attends the opening of a bottle of fine Port are, or ought to be, as much an audible signal of the Christmas season as jingle bells or chestnuts crackling on an open fire.

But for many wine enthusiasts who've grown accustomed to the dry table wines served with dinner, sparkling wine ("bubblies") and sweet fortified wine ("stickies") can seem awfully daunting simply because these wines are different. How do you open them? How do you serve them? Do they go with food? Can they be aged?

If you'd like a little guidance in discovering these pleasures, you've come to the right place. In Wine Tasting 101, the popular monthly wine-education feature in our WineLovers' Community online forum, we'll be spending the month of December tasting both "bubblies" and "stickies" and comparing notes on good Champagnes (and other sparkling wines) as well as Ports, Madeiras and other powerful and warming dessert wines in the fortified style.

Lots of experts will be there to answer questions, and I will too; I'm also pleased to announce that international Port expert Roy Hersh, the publisher of the excellent For The Love of Port Website, has agree to serve all month as guest expert, answering questions and offering comments on Port, Madeira and other fortified wines ... and bubblies, too. Roy, a member of the Sommelier Society of Washington, D.C., and the Enological Society of Seattle, is one of only a handful of Americans selected by the Port Wine Institute (I.V.D.P. Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e Porto) as a member of its "Confraria" or Port wine brotherhood. It's a pleasure to have him working with us this month, and I hope you'll take advantage of his generosity by dropping in on our online forum with your Port and fortified-wine questions.

To participate in Wine Tasting 101, simply click to the WT101 "folder" (section) of our WineLovers Community online. The following link will take you there. Feel free to read all the discussions, and you're most welcome to join in any of the conversations. No need to wait to be introduced!

If you prefer to comment privately, feel free to send me E-mail at I'll respond personally to the extent that time and volume permit.

Here's a simply formatted copy of today's Wine Advisor, designed to be printed out for your scrapbook or file or downloaded to your PDA or other wireless device.

California Wine Club
Top 3 Holiday Reasons To Order With The California Wine Club

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Call 1-800-777-4443 or visit

Grand Veneur Réserve Grand Veneur 2003 Côtes du Rhône ($10.49)

This is a very dark-garnet wine with a reddish-purple edge. Red fruit, ripe and full, raspberries and red cherries and fragrant red pepper on the nose and palate. Ripe and luscious cherry-berry flavors, good acidity and smooth but perceptible tannins build structure, although the fruit is forward in the "California-like" style of the 2003 vintage in the Southern Rhone. Excellent wine, approaches Châteauneuf-du-Pape for a fraction of the price. It's a typical regional blend of 80 percent Grenache and 20 percent Syrah. U.S. Iimporter: Kysela Père et Fils, Winchester, Va. (Nov. 23, 2005)

FOOD MATCH: Good with any red meat or poultry; it made a very fine match indeed with Marcella Hazan's roast duck featured in the 30 Second Wine Advisor's FoodLetter on Nov. 24, 2005

VALUE: Exceptionally good value for this price.

WHEN TO DRINK: Although Cotes-du-Rhone Villages is by and large a wine for drinking while its bigger siblings like Chateauneuf-du-Pape age in the cellar, I wouldn't bet against this "baby Chateauneuf" improving for five years or so under good storage conditions.

Alain Jaume et Fils has an informative Website in English and French at

Here's a link to the U.S. importer's Website:

Compare prices and find vendors for Réserve Grand Veneur on

Vinfolio: Top 25 California wines of 2005!

Order our top 25 California wines of 2005 before they sell out!

We bet you havenít heard of many of these wineries as they are often "under the radar" of the major reviewers. During the course of 2005, our California expert, Doug Wilder, tasted over 1,000 wines from all regions of California, with the best being written up in his free weekly Wilder Side of California wineletter. Donít wait to order as these wines will sell out. You do not need to be a Vinfolio member to order.

View (and order) our Top 25 California wines of 2005:

Learn more about Vinfolio and sign up for the free weekly Wilder Side of California wineletter:

This week on

Some highlights of recent articles on that I hope you'll enjoy:

QPRWines: Vintage and Non-Vintage Champagnes
When more than 238 Vintage and Non-Vintage Champagnes are compared by score and price, QPRwines identifies one "Outstanding Value" and 27 "Great Values." Check the details in Neil Monnens' QPRwines, which groups wines by the major critics' average scores, then lists them by price and ranks them by value.

Hot topics in our WineLovers' Community
There's lots of interesting talk about wine, food and other good things in our friendly and civil WineLovers Community interactive forums. Drop by today!

FedEx won't ship wine?
Faced with the welter of state and national laws governing wine shipping, some "common carriers" resort to a simple, irritating solution ... they just won't do it. Of course, this assumes that the shipper tells them what's in the package.

Decanting question
When and why should fine wines be "decanted" by transferring them from the bottle to a separate vessel for service? This forum discussion goes beyond our basic Frequently Asked Question (FAQ).

Last Week's Wine Advisor Index

Because of my travel schedule, The 30 Second Wine Advisor was published only on Monday last week (and subscribers received a Thursday FoodLetter). Here's the index to last week's columns:

 Wine magnets and snake oil (Nov. 28, 2005)

 Complete 30 Second Wine Advisor archive:

 Wine Advisor FoodLetter: Ultimate turkey sandwich (Dec. 1, 2005)

 Wine Advisor Foodletter archive:

 30 Second Wine Advisor, daily or weekly (free)
 Wine Advisor FoodLetter, Thursdays (free)
 Wine Advisor Premium Edition, alternate Tuesdays ($24/year)

For all past editions, click here


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All the wine-tasting reports posted here are consumer-oriented. In order to maintain objectivity and avoid conflicts of interest, I purchase all the wines I rate at my own expense in retail stores and accept no samples, gifts or other gratuities from the wine industry.

Monday, Dec. 5, 2005
Copyright 2005 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

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