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JUDICIOUS JUICE: Exotic reds, a few trusty whites and a handfulof pricier vintages make up the bulk of the author's wine cellar.

Recession Wine Cellar

More vin ordinaire than Chateau Margaux, but it gets the job done

By Christina Waters

ACTUALLY, it's a garage, and even though it does maintain a wine-friendly temperature of 55 degrees year-round, it also forces boxes of wine to rub shoulders with laundry baskets, racks of potting equipment, spurned luggage, seasonal lawn furniture and poorly organized power tools. My current cellar (cut me some slack here) reflects the reduced circumstances of my spending climate. Hence the following eclectic assortment.

There are always more reds than whites in my trove, a reflection of taste rather than strategic connoisseurship. There are no cabernet sauvignons. There are no chardonnays. Let that sink in for a moment, and then continue.

There is always a split of Veuve Clicquot in the refrigerator for those spontaneous celebrations. And there is always a sauvignon blanc chilling. The current version is an inexpensive French model from Touraine ($8.99) that sips nicely before dinner. In the far back of the garage-cum-cellar sit the remains of a case of Tintero Grangia, an exceptionally dry Italian white wine I scooped up at Kermit Lynch in Berkeley for around $8 a bottle. A steal. More costly by far was the half case of 2007 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe from the fabled soil of La Crau. I bought it at $40ish a bottle, and it has since doubled in value. It is being hoarded for obvious reasons.

From Gatos Locos I keep a syrah and several pinot noirs, along with three fine pinots from Cumbre, including a 2005 and a 2006 Raffaelli Vineyard. Quinta Cruz's 2007 Tempranillo, Pierce Ranch, was just fetched last night to partner with some steelhead and alio e olio. Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard's 2006 and 2007 Grenaches are well represented. And from Storrs, a Rusty Ridge Zinfandel 2005 and a Wildcat Ridge Pinot Noir 2006 take their place.

From Bonny Doon Vineyard, I always stock a few bottles of Cigare Volant (currently the mighty 2005), as well as Le Pousseur Syrah and a half case of the wonderful 2006 Sangiovese. Seriously all-purpose red wine.

For celebration backup, I've got a Spanish sparkling Cava from German Gilabert, at 11.5 percent alcohol a splendid breakfast bubbly. Another maverick is a 2007 Carignan vin de pays de l'Aude from the massive vineyard nurseries of southwest France. It was probably quite cheap, as was the Block No. 45 Pinot Noir 2007, made in San Martin from nice, generic "California" grapes. It was $9 and I bought a case of it.

River Run's trusty Côte d'Aromas also sits in wait for some huge pasta and red sauce dinner. And I've stashed several liter bottles ($12.99) of grüner veltliner from Biohof Pratsch.

Do I have a guilty pleasure? You bet. Thanks to the bargain rack at Shopper's, I still possess three bottles of the phenomenal Phenom Syrah, a decent emergency tipple for $4.99 a bottle.

You can tell a lot about a person from the contents of their wine hoard. So now you know.

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