Picking my favorite wine is like picking my favorite cat — really tough, except when one of them pees on my husband’s beloved computer games … then he becomes the chosen one. For me, deciding favorites depends precariously on mood and circumstance, so I measure my favorite bottles with my wallet — what did I buy for "off duty" consumption? My 2007 shopping list:
Bethel Heights 2005 Pinot Noir Eola-Amity Hills This Oregon gem has silky, bright cherry and vanilla, firm acids on the tongue, with enough leather to make a saddle. Delicious. Sw = 1. $30. 1/2
Catena 2004 Malbec Mendoza (Argentina) Loaded with dark fruit such as blueberry and black cherry, and opening up into rich vanilla and slightly spicy black pepper. Austere and sophisticated, this underpriced red will pair well with grilled meats. Sw = 1. $16. 1/2
Drouhin Chambolle Musigny 2005 Bright and pretty with raspberry and plum, silky tannins, slight soft leather and black pepper on the palate. Powerful yet elegant, approachable and delicious. Sw = 1. $60.
EOS 2004 Petite Sirah Reserve Paso Robles Juicy, dribble-down-your-chin blackberry, with a bold, dusty tannin structure to hold up the fruit. Sw = 1. $25.
Feudo Arancio 2005 Nero d’Avola (Sicily) Intense and concentrated cherry and raspberry with smooth medium tannins and a plum finish. Lively personality in this wine — it drinks much like a well-made Merlot. Sw = 1. $10.
Flora Springs 2004 Merlot Napa Valley (California) Flora Springs produces the most consistent Merlot in all of California. Reliably fruity with black cherry, blackberry, with a touch of earthy leather and fragrant vanilla. Add in smooth tannins and you’ve got a gorgeous bottle of wine. Sw = 1. $27. 1/2
Hogue 2003 Merlot Reserve Columbia Valley This wine makes me want to purr. Elegant dark cherry, laced with astringent bittersweet chocolate and a sweet raisiny finish. A touch of earthy eucalyptus with medium-soft tannins. Sw = 1. $30. 1/2
Liberty School 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles Soft and approachable, with bright cherry, vanilla and a bit of spiciness. Great value for the quality. Sw = 1. $15.
Monkey Bay 2006 Rosé New Zealand Refreshing with strawberries, raspberry and a tart, crisp finish. Delicious, cheap and not sweet. Sw = 2. $11.
Mumm Napa Brut Prestige (California) Sour apple squirted with lime and dipped in sweet honey. Slightly earthy but mostly the fruit reigns. The best deal I found. Its Blanc de Blancs is also fantastic. Sw = 2. $19. 1/2
Onix 2004 Priorat (Spain) Tastes like an aged steak in a glass, with dusty black cherry, fragrant prunes and bold tannins. One of the cheapest wines I’ve encountered from the normally expensive Priorat region of Spain. Sw = 1. $12.
Pierre Sparr 2004 Pinot Gris Reserve Smells like fruit cocktail with a heavy dose of pear. Lush, soft mouthfeel and refreshing minerality. Sw = 3. $16. 1/2
Stags Leap 2005 Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley Crisp and bracing, yet smooth grapefruit and citrus. Wet slate and an amazing finish that lasts on and on. Worth the extra cash. Sw = 2. $20. 1/2
Waterbrook 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley (Washington) The aroma lures you in with bright raspberry, earthy espresso and fragrant red rosés. Medium-bodied, the palate enjoys all those smells, but also bittersweet chocolate, toasty vanilla and a generous, Zinfandel-like black cherry. Soft tannins and an endless finish complete it. Astounding value for $20. Sw = 2. 1/2
Sweetness (Sw) rating is out of 10, 10 being pure sugar. (star) rating is out of 5, 5 being wine nirvana.