Corkscrew - Wine resolutions (2)

Broaden your wine horizons

"Wine cheers the sad, revives the old, inspires the young, makes weariness forget his toil." – Lord Byron

As a society, we're in a dazed state of stress. Consider the crazed mall zombies flurrying about during the gift-buying season. Wiis flew, iPods sang and credit cards wept. I had only one moment of reprieve when Christmas melodies touched my aching psyche and massaged the kinks – until I was ripped from my reverie by the overworked Target cashier impatiently demanding my plastic. Barring that trenchant interlude, I survived unscathed, and now life settles back into its normal high-stress level. I tame my tension with daily wine rations – its inherently soothing qualities make me slow down and savor, not slam. If you need to unite with your wine Zen, perhaps some 2008 resolutions are in order.

Resolution No. 1

Go organic. Maybe the chemicals polluting our wine are polluting our minds. Support the wineries making an effort to avoid the use of pesticides, fungicides and herbicides on their grape crops. Even though it's more work, Bonterra, Yorkville Cellars, Benziger, Fetzer, Quintessa and Robert Sinskey wineries all embrace winemaking the way it used to be.

Resolution No. 2

Attend at least one wine tasting per month. They soak your brain in vats of wine knowledge and train your tongue for its favorites. Buy at least one bottle of what you enjoyed and begin filling your wine rack.

Resolution No. 3

Start a wine diary. Ever mumbled to yourself in the wine store, desperately probing your overcrowded mind for that "oh-so memorable" wine you tried last week? Clear the blockage by noting great wines in an officially christened pad – or use your PDA.

Resolution No. 4

Open sparkling wine just because. That exhilarating "pop" shouldn't be relegated to special occasions. Life can be depressing, and a little bubbly goes a long way to chasing the boss's voice from your mind. Inexpensive Italian Prosecco and Spanish Cavas make this resolution even easier – many are less than $12.

Resolution No. 5

Buy a decent corkscrew. The cork-eating one that looks like a flying nun with arms should go buh-bye. Splurge on a Screwpull or a "rabbit"-type opener – your wine life will improve dramatically, and miraculously, cork will no longer appear in your glass.

Resolution No. 6

Experiment with dessert wine. Quit shunning sweet, and down rich, delicious dessert wine instead of that calorie-laden chocolate cake (or, when feeling hedonistic, both). Late-harvest Riesling, Zinfandel or ice wine, anyone?

Resolution No. 7

Jump the Chardonnay and Cabernet ship. With hundreds of other grape varieties out there, it's time to swim with the pros. Bold Zinfandel, refreshing Chenin Blanc, spicy Syrah, food-friendly Riesling, masculine Malbec, brawny Petite Sirah and fragrant Viognier (especially in the spring and summer) are adored by wine geeks, and they want company. Bonus: Most are excellent values since the hordes hang on the ship.

Resolution No. 8

Use decent wine to cook with. Dump the flawed idea that you only cook with wine that's already open – which also probably celebrated its one-year anniversary last week. Why would you want old, tired flavor in your food? Use fresh, tasty wine and you'll taste the difference. Bonus: Open it while you cook and "test" it out.

Resolution No. 9

Crack open a screwcap bottle. These days, screwing and unscrewing are cool. Since it's a better closure to keep wines as fresh as intended, loads of premium wineries are riding the trend, especially those from New Zealand and Australia, where 90 percent and 65 percent, respectively, of bottles are now screwed – pleasantly so.

Resolution No. 10

Open at least one bottle per month that you have been saving for "a special occasion," even if it's not. You could die tomorrow without ever having the pleasure of tasting that juice. Add friends and drink. Repeat as necessary.

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