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Best Wines of 2004

Select wines -- vote!

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With election season upon us, it's time to get serious about voting. But forget the races for Senate, Congress and President; I'm picking winners in the world of wine. I've offered up several deserving of high office, hoping you consider them for your votes. If you have a write-in candidate that you prefer, let me know. (Note: These winners were chosen from tastings over the past year. Dates of review are in parentheses.)

Best Wine to Impress a First Date
Domaine Serene 2000 Pinot Noir Evenstad Reserve (6/2/04, $47). Whether you serve it before the date, during the date, or as a nightcap, you're assured good results with this positively passionate pinot. OK, it costs almost as much as the meal, but the impact will last.

Best Wine to Get Your Date Drunk on the Cheap
Cellar #8 2001 Zinfandel North Coast (8/18/04, $11). Traditionally high in alcohol, zinfandels get the job done quick. This fruit bomb makes seduction even more fun.

Best Wine to Serve Someone Who's Not Into Wine
Caymus 2002 Conundrum California (7/14/04, $25). A fruit-forward white blend of several grapes, this smooth talker will satiate the heartiest of beer drinkers.

Best Gift of Wine
Perrier Jouet Grand Brut NV (12/17/03, $30). People dig French champagne, but hate shelling out the exorbitant amounts of cash it takes to buy it. Be a hero/ine and make the purchase for them.

Best Body Shot Wine
Banfi 2002 Rosa Regale (2/11/04, $18). Watermelon in color and strawberry-sweet on the tongue, this fun dessert sparkling wine is perfect for slurping, whether from glass or navel.

Best Cheap Wine to Drink Every Day -- Red
Villa Mount Eden 2000 California Pinot Noir (4/28/04, $10). The 2001 is equally as impressive. The best pinot under $15, period.

Best Cheap Wine to Drink Every Day -- White
Montes 2002 Chardonnay Reserve Curico Valley Chile (9/1/04, $8). Cheap enough to buy by the case, and you should. I have two bottles in the fridge right now.

Best Mindblowingly Good Wine
Chase 2000 Zinfandel, Hayne Vineyard Napa Valley (8/18/04, $47). I get chills just thinking about this stuff. Explosively juicy fruit, gorgeous, silky tannins and a whopper of a finish. Unbelievably good.

Best Jacuzzi When It's Cold Out Wine
Vionta Albario 2002 R'as Biaxas (3/17/04, $15). I like chilled whites with my hot, bubbly water. This crisp, light-hearted Spanish wine adds to the ambience.

Best Wine to Piss Off Your Wine-Snob Friends With
Anything from a screwtop bottle. The fact that really great wine is emerging from something other than a cork-sealed vessel drives snobs crazy. Make a big show out of cracking the metal seal and watch the cognoscenti squirm.

Best Wine to Serve to Your Worst Enemy
Murphy Goode 2001 Snake Eyes Zinfandel Alexander Valley (6/16/04, $22). This fantastic, if appropriately named, wine will prove to all doubters that your taste is vastly superior to theirs. Rub it in.

Best Wine to Drink During Hurricanes in Florida
The bottle you've been saving for that "rainy day," now that the infamous day has arrived. During the most recent rash of storms in Tampa Bay, I drank a Ridge 1999 Dusi Ranch Zinfandel, and forgot all about the swirling cloud nightmares destined for my house.

Best Morning-After Wine
Pommery Pop Extra Dry Champagne (not reviewed lately, but enjoyed often, $50 for pack of 4). Sold in adorable mini champagne bottles, Pommery's French champagne provides the perfect amount of wine for a hangover, or for sharing with two people.

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