Income tax refund checks are arriving now, and the IRS says the average taxpayer is getting back $3,120. Does it give you any ideas?
Now I know you have bills to pay, college loans to defray and retirement plans to fund.
But would you be upset if I made one little irresponsible-ish suggestion — that you invest just a small percentage of that refund in your wine education?
I mean, when else can you do it? And if life is too short to drink bad wine, it’s surely long enough for one little splurge.
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It’s easy to be cynical and believe, as a friend once told me — that any wine priced over $15 a bottle is just the winemaker’s ego.
But there are reasons why some wines cost more than others, just as a Jaguar costs more than a Prius. An acre of vineyard land in California’s Napa County can go for more than $200,000, and one in Sonoma County more than $100,000, according to an article in the Napa Valley Register. That compares to the average acre of farmland for the whole state of California at $7,200.
In part, it’s because Napa and Sonoma are seen to have the combinations of soil, weather and tradition that makes great wine.
And some grape growers go to incredible lengths to make great wines. Some of them drop half of their crop to the ground during the growing season with the idea that vines that average three or four tons per acre make better wine that those producing nine or 10 tons per acre.
Labor costs vary greatly, too. Some finicky growers pay workers to go down rows of vines picking off individual grape leaves, one by one, to let just the absolute perfect amount of sunlight caress their grapes.
Some fancy French oak barrels for aging wine cost $1,000 or more, while American oak barrels often cost less than $500, according to Wines & Vines magazine.
So, while I’m not saying every $50-and-over bottle of wine is worth the money, you can see why some of them might be.
Sure, you still should go to your savvy wine friends and favorite wine shop staffers and ask for their advice.
But you'll never know until you try.
(P.S.: You might not want to show this column to your spouse. Or your heir. Or your boss.)
▪ 2012 Freemark Abbey Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford, Napa Valley, Calif. (82.3 percent cabernet sauvignon, 8.3 percent merlot, 4.6 percent petit verdot, 3.9 percent cabernet franc): aromas of toasty oak and black cherries, flavors of black raspberries and black pepper, big, mellow tannins, full body; $70.
▪ 2013 Robert Mondavi Fume Blanc Reserve, “To Kalon Vineyard” (98 percent sauvignon blanc, 2 percent semillon): aromas of toasty oak and white grapefruit, flavors of tropical fruit and minerals, big and lush, long, powerful finish; $50.
▪ 2012 Matanzas Creek Winery Merlot, “Jackson Park Vineyard,” Bennett Valley, Calif. (98 percent merlot, 1 percent cabernet sauvignon, 1 percent cabernet franc): intense aromas of flowers and black raspberries, flavors of dark chocolate, spices and herbs, long, smooth finish; $60.
▪ 2013 Merry Edwards Pinot Noir, “Klopp Ranch Vineyard,” Russian River Valley, Calif.: toasty oak and brown sugar aromas, flavors of black raspberries, chocolate and spice, rich and full-bodied; $63.
▪ 2013 Gallo Signature Series Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, Calif.: big and hearty and rich, with complex aromas and flavors of black plums, anise and spice, with smooth tannins; $50.
▪ 2011 Poggio al Tesoro Sondraia Bolgheri DOC Superiore “Super Tuscan” red wine, Italy (cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc): aromas of black cherries and spice, bitter chocolate flavors, big, ripe tannins, full body; $55.
▪ 2013 Three Sticks “One Sky” Chardonnay, Sonoma Mountain: aromas of oak and spice, opulent flavors of ripe yellow apples and vanilla, powerful acids, long, lush finish; $50.
▪ 2012 La Jota Vineyard Cabernet Franc, Howell Mountain, Napa Valley: hint of oak, aromas and flavors of black plums and black raspberries, full-bodied, opulent, big, ripe tannins; $75.