Repeat after me: "I do solemnly swear to try new wines this year, expand my wine horizons, and get myself out of the rut of only drinking wine for special occasions. I will kick myself in the ass if I find myself not accomplishing the above tasks."
We're a rut kind of society. Look at the way Americans walk around dazed and crazed during the holiday gift-buying rush. At one point, I allowed festive Christmas music to penetrate my frazzled brain and calm me a bit -- until I realized I was in line at Target and the equally harried cashier was impatiently awaiting my payment method.
Now it's a new year, time to chill out and start enjoying life again. To jump-start this idea, here are my wine resolution suggestions for 2005:
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, Domaine Alfred, Fetzer, Quintessa, and Sinskey wineries all embrace winemaking the way it used to be.
Attend at least one wine tasting per month. Soak your brain in lots of wine to expand your horizons. Fill your wine rack with what you liked.
Start a wine diary. Ever mumbled to yourself in the wine aisle, desperately searching your memory for a wine label? Avoid those moments by writing down wines you like on a pocket pad or use your PDA.
Open sparkling wines just because you like the "pop" sound. With falling prices and their high fun quotient, sparklers belong in your belly, not on the shelf.
Buy a decent corkscrew. The one with the long arms that looks like a flying nun should go bye-bye. Splurge on a screwpull or a "rabbit"-type opener -- your life will improve dramatically, and miraculously, cork will no longer appear in your glass.
Experiment with dessert wine. Quit shunning sweet and try dessert wine instead of that enormous slice of chocolate cake.
Branch out from Chardonnay and Cabernet. With hundreds of other grape varietals out there, it's time to explore. Bold Zinfandel, refreshing Chenin Blanc, spicy Syrah, food-friendly Riesling, charming Cabernet Franc, underappreciated Petite Sirah, and fragrant Viognier (especially in the spring and summer) all await your approval.
Use decent wine to cook with. Trash the flawed idea that you only cook with wine you wouldn't drink. Why would you want bad flavor in your food?
Crack open a screw-top bottle. Cool wines come in cool packages, so why not unscrew? Since it's a better closure, lots of premium wines are riding the trend wave, especially those from New Zealand.
Open at least one bottle per month that you have been saving for "a special occasion," even if it's not one. You could die tomorrow and never have the pleasure of tasting that juice. Add friends and drink.
Simi 2003 Sauvignon Blanc Sonoma County -- Zippy and crispy with lemon, pineapple, and melon on the nose and tongue. Fun stuff. $14.
Adelaida 2002 Pinot Noir SLO Paso Robles -- Fresh-picked raspberries with a dose of tangy cranberry. Smooth and easy-going for a Pinot. $16.
Alexander Valley Vineyards 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley -- Silky, soft, and elegant, like a luxurious bath. Perfectly constructed with fruit, acids, and tannins all coming together in gorgeous harmony. Hints of chocolate-covered cherries, with violets and red raspberry. $22.