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What Wine To Bring To The Party

By Charles Olken

It is going to be a fun weekend around here. Not only do we have the big parade here in Alameda in which every civic group worthy of the name and some not so worthy like the Dancing Ladies, a bunch of fifty-somethings marching around in their pink bathing suits supposedly advertising their dance classes, but , in reality, advertising why fifty-something of any gender ought not be parading in pink nothingness, gets into the act.

But, that’s the nature of the Alameda parade—lots of fun sitting in the shade of an old tree drinking whatever suits and watching as one as an hour and a half of floats and dignitaries drift by. To tell the truth, I only manage to get there (there being about a half mile down the street) about every three years. Not sure why this is one of the years, but it is.

I will bring a bottle of bubbly along this year. Everyone loves sparkling wine, and even though too much of it gets mixed in with orange juice, I will bring a decent wine—hopefully—because that is all I have in my cellar if I do say so myself. We have a couple of “go to” bubblies that are real bargains for everyday drinking, especially when we wait and buy them on sale. Our recent favorites have included:

90 GLORIA FERRER Brut Sparkling Wine Sonoma County $22.00 GOOD VALUE
It may be that its fairly high percentage of Pinot Noir affords this impressive non-vintage Brut with a sense of substance and depth not usually found at the price, or it may be the wine's ample autolyzed richness does the same. Either way, the wine is long on character, all of which is quite good. It has a fine, creamy feel, and an insistent stream of small bubbles with lengthy flavors to match, and it is made all the more attractive yet by its reasonably modest price.

89 CHANDON Rosé Sparkling Wine California $22.00 GOOD VALUE
A little less weighty and vinous than many Rosés get, yet a wine that delivers the goods in terms of lots of slightly juicy fruit and still holds true to its champenized origins with a light veneer of yeast always in play, this vigorous, aggressively bubbled young sparkler is wonderfully well-balanced and a sheer joy to drink. It will find equal success at the table with food or when sipped on its own, and it offers very fine value in every respect.

Both of those wines, even today, are available at discount, but the discounts do rise during the Holidays and either of them will fit right into the celebrations down the block at the home of a friend whose happens to live along the parade route and invites us all in.

The Fifth of July

Normally a day of rest, or back to work when it falls during the week, this year arrives on a Sunday and has been designated as the time for a massive birthday party for my writing buddy, Steve Eliot, whose celebrates one of those big numbers this year.

There is one thing about partying with Steve that I love. He and the rest of us pull out interesting wines from our archives (some call them cellars) and we try to outdo each other with uniqueness. We are not collectors of grandly expensive bottles, although we all have older wines that some would find pricey if they were to buy them today. But, this party is not about contemplation. It is about trying the interesting and unusual.

I am about to go raid the cellar as soon as this blog gets finished, and I am going to be looking for the following bottles that are lurking in the dark recesses somewhere.

--A magnum of 1985 Henchske Cabernet from Australia

--A 1975 Burgess Petite Sirah, a wine well-liked in its time. I wonder how it has held up. Petite Sirah can age forever, and if I decide to bring it, I may well also look for a 1975 Fetzer Petite Sirah whose tannins may now be partially resolved.

--1971 Ridge Mendocino Zinfandel—the first wine ever to receive three-stars in Connoisseurs' Guide. It is well-past its sell-by date and I have several remaining bottles, but, because it is not dead, and a half glass or so is all I really want, it is a wine that can be opened with nothing more than a hope and a prayer.

So, that is what I am drinking this weekend. I hope you will have as much fun sorting through your stash as I am about to have. Who knows what is hiding out back.

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