There’s nothing more helpful to a novice wine drinker than walking into a store where the shopkeeper is willing to give you all the  recommendations you need. “Don’t feel bad if you don’t know a lot about wine,” says Steve McIntyre, co-owner of Balaban’s wine cellar & tapas bar in Chesterfield. “The number of people who really know what they’re doing is probably less than 10 percent of the total wine-buying public.” He adds, “There are a lot of good shops in St. Louis where the owners and employees take pride in knowing what’s in their store and telling you about it.” With that in mind, we asked local wine experts for their recommendations, and we can’t wait to try them out!


“With the cold weather that we’ve been having, I would recommend cabernet,” says David Schaeffer, wine director at Copia Restaurant & Wine Garden. “That’s what I drink during the winter, especially for dinner. When it’s cold, I want something hearty.” These are the top three he’s pouring right now:

■ Stags Leap Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, 2008: Fruity with strawberry,

black currant and blackberry, along with chocolate, espresso and leather flavors.

■ O’Shaughnessy Mount Veeder, 2008: There are only about 500 cases of this cabernet produced per year. It hits some floral notes, with a lot of rich, dark fruits. It’s full-bodied with a nice, long finish. “I had to call in a favor to get on the list,” Schaeffer notes.

■ Cardinale, 2008: A high-end wine from Napa Valley, it’s been called one of the most perfect wines you can get in a glass. Flavors include tobacco, toasted oak and black currant.


Approximately 90 percent of the wine purchased in the U.S. is opened within 24 hours of buying it, McIntyre notes. He doesn’t knock the practice, but reminds that the experience will always be better with a properly aged wine. White wines generally need less aging, while  McIntyre recommends drinking most reds when they’ve aged at least four to five years. His top recommendations include:

■ Chardonnay: Both France, the northern Sonoma coast and Sonoma’s Russian River Valley produce high-quality chardonnay. McIntyre  recommends looking for vintages that are well-balanced between fruitiness and an oaky taste. “I think that oak can be like using too much salt: It’s excellent in the proper proportions, but I think it can be over-used.” Look for: Ramey, LIOCO, Au bon Climat.

■ Malbec: Originally from France, malbec has become a popular grape varietal in Argentina. It’s a full, fleshy, robust red wine that doesn’t have

a lot of tannin. With a lot of big, fruity flavors, it pairs well with red meat. “It’s soft and approachable, so it can violate the five-year rule, you can drink it early.” Look for: Catena, Kaiken.

■ Champagnes: Champagne and sparkling wines from California

and Europe pair well with seafood, shellfish, spicy cuisines, roasted meats…and most importantly, chocolate!

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