Above the Bar

Stocking a wine rack your friends will envy

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Congratulations. You've found the coolest eight-bottle wine rack to adorn your barren kitchen countertop. Besides figuring out the direction it should face for full decorative impact, the fun part is filling the rack with wine and then, of course, drinking it. But selecting the right wine for your lifestyle is another story. If you're single, chances are you consume the same bottle over a few days. But if you get a Vacu Vin pump system, 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 refreshing Pinot Grigio or fruity White Zin to pour over ice after a hot day, pop open a Sangiovese with a fully loaded pizza or Merlot when you're in a more serious mood.

For take-out junkies, food friendly vino adds restaurant zeal to your meal. My wine rack overflows with favorite food wines and also those for drinking straight up: New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Australian Shiraz, Oregon Pinot Noir, Washington State Riesling, dry French rosé, California Chardonnay, French Champagne and certainly my favorite, Zinfandel.

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

If your home bears a revolving door for unexpected guests, you'll need a variety of wines on hand — and maybe a bigger wine rack. Jeffrey Stambor, winemaker at Beaulieu Vineyards in Napa, suggests the following eight varietals to appease all tastes: New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, under 14% alcohol red Zinfandel (so they'll still drive home), Syrah, Napa Cabernet, Pinot Noir, Argentine Malbec, Méthode Champenoise sparkling wine, and a chilled, dry rosé.

If wine snobs crawl all over you, looking for the latest and greatest in unknown wines, definitely keep the eight chosen varietals of Randall Grahm, owner of Bonny Doon Vineyards, in mind: Gruner Veltliner, Syrah, Italian Nebbiolo, Cabernet Franc, German Riesling, Italian Albariño, Italian Barbera, and French red Burgundy. Or make an impression by following the words of Eric Baugher, vice president of winemaking at the legendary Ridge Vineyards: Riesling, Barbera, Geyserville Zinfandel, Monte Bello Cabernet, Syrah, French Grenache, French White Burgundy, and Pinot Noir.

With unlimited 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 happiness. The rest is up to you.

Wine Editor Taylor Eason can be reached at 813-248-8888 ext. 162 or [email protected] weeklyplanet.com.

Recommended Wines

Selaks 2001 Sauvignon Blanc Fabulous citrus and fresh green grass on the nose, then flowing into sultry fruit like honeydew melon and passion fruit. Might be hard to find this New Zealand gem, but it's dee-licious. $14

Liberty School 2000 Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon Shazamm. Smooth as a baby's butt tannins, with gorgeous cherry fruit coming at you from all angles. Great stuff. $16 1/2

Benziger 2000 Carneros Chardonnay Beautifully balanced between oaky and buttery. Shockingly yummy with food, and dripping with melon and tropical fruit. $14 1/2

Cline Cellars 2000 Zinfandel Like uncovering really ripe berries at the grocery store, this is a true find. This medium tannin Zin has enthusiastic red fruit that gladly makes your acquaintance. $12 1/2

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