Wine is supposed to be relaxing, not anxiety-inducing. So how do you pick a wine from all those pages and pages of foreign names on the wine list and all those mysterious labels on the shelf at the wine store? And how do you know when it's a good value? Do what I do -- get advice from somebody who is smarter than you.
This week, we asked Andrea Lazar, General Manager and Wine & Spirits Director at t'afia restaurant in Midtown, for the names of Five Wines That Will Blow Your Mind.
Andrea Lazar: Wines blow my mind when they take me on unexpected adventures, when they pair well with food always and when they represent what great winemaking is all about for me -- terroir, a true representation of place and time, sun and rain and the passion of great winemakers trying to bring out the truth of the grapes. Here's my list:
$15 or less
2005 Ros of Syrah
Kim Mcpherson is growing some of the best grapes and making some of the best wines in Texas. His focus is on Rhone grape varietals that love the North Texas landscape. This ros is a perfect way to end the day and start a meal, any day of the year.
$30 or less
This is a rare varietal from a family winery -- they only produced 2,000 cases of Charbono in 2005. The grape is thought to have originated somewhere along the French-Italian border, but is now found in only 100 acres of California. I love this wine -- which has flavors of jammy plum, candied apple and anise -- on its own or with duck or venison.
$60 or less
2003 Gabriel (Merlot & Cabernet
Guadalupe Valley, Mexico
Most people would never consider buying a Mexican wine, much less one in this price category. But this gem from the country's Baja region is all about Mexico and all about great winemaking. When I first tasted it, I was reminded of a great single-village mezcal with its smoky characteristics and complex layering of flavors. This wine has depth and subtleties -- with flavors of leather, smoke, blackberry and roasted fruit -- that unfold like the Mexican landscape (1,098 cases produced).
$120 or less
Well, bubbles just blow my mind. Period. And I will spend this much on some really great bubbles. You can never go wrong with the "Grower Champagnes" from the small vineyards imported by Thierry Thiese, like the 2000 Jean Milan "Terres de Noel" Brut -- a truly beautiful wine (with bubbles). While drinking said wine, you could also read the book The Healing Powers of Champagne and feel good inside about spending as much on a bottle of wine as on an hour of therapy.
One of the best wine and food experiences I have ever had was at The French Laundry in Yountville [California], where we drank the most delightful Trockenbeerenauslese throughout the entire meal, from the liver pt to dessert. It was the wine we kept going back to, again and again. If I win the lotto, I will immediately order some 1993 Weil Kiedrich Grfenberg Trockenbeerenauslese, at about $450 for a half bottle.
Get the Dining Newsletter
The week's top local food news and events, plus interviews with chefs and restaurant owners, dining tips, and a peek at our print review.