Fall Vintage Trying to find the perfect wine for a big occasion? We asked three experts--MADELINE TRIFFON, wine director for Detroit's Unique Restaurant Corp.; JAY JAMES, wine director for the Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas; and KEVIN ZRALY, author of Windows on the World Complete Wine Course--what they would give or serve for the following occasions:
$15 or less A 21st-birthday bash, at which 40 to 60 guests are expected, most 21 or older
TRIFFON: Chateau de Segries Lirac Rouge Cuvee Reservee, 2000
"A gorgeous Cotes-du-Rhone, sophisticated enough for the seasoned wine drinker yet gentle enough for newbies."
JAMES: Roederer Estate sparkling wine, nonvintage
"This is an outstanding American sparkling wine, perfect for celebrating."
ZRALY: Dr. Loosen Riesling Kabinett
"A great introduction to wine: light, easy to drink, semidry and low in alcohol. The past five years have been excellent vintages."
$35 or less A thank-you gift for a job or client referral from a casual friend
TRIFFON: Bodegas Muga RiojaReserva Seleccion Especial, 1995
"People love the idea of maturity in a quality red. An earthy and complex alternative to Bordeaux."
JAMES: Laetitia Pinot Noir Reserve, 1998
"It's full of flavor and complex, with a light smokiness."
ZRALY: Veuve Clicquot Brut, nonvintage
"It's a no-brainer. Everybody loves champagne."
$100 or less Close family members' 50th-wedding-anniversary celebration
TRIFFON: Siduri Pisoni Vineyard Pinot Noir, 2000
"Nobody gives Pinot! A drop-dead crowd pleaser, plush and decadent."
JAMES: Krug Grande Cuvee Brut, nonvintage
"Since in most of the world 1952 was a lousy vintage, I recommend this above-average champagne because it's full of depth."
ZRALY: Taylor Fladgate, 30year-old tawny port
"Its rich, sweet flavor is perfect in cooler weather. What's more, it will make the happy couple feel 20 years younger!"
REASONS TO GO DUTCH
For serious gardeners as well as apartment dwellers with teeny window boxes, planting bulbs is one of autumn's sweetest pleasures. And just like fall fashions, bulbs are subject to crazes (as in the Dutch tulip bubble, circa 1630). Horticultural gurus say that this season, black, orange and fragrant bulbs are the ones to plant. While a truly black tulip has not yet been created, Black Hero (a deep crimson, below) and Black Parrot (a dark maroon) come close. If you want aroma and color, try Orange Princess or candy-striped Carnaval de Nice. Most bulbs can be bought from online florists such as brentandbeckysbulbs.com or johnscheepers.com For best results, plant tulips as soon as night temperatures drop to about 40, before the ground freezes. Choose bulbs that feel hard all around, and plant them in direct sun, 4 in. to 6 in. apart in well-drained soil. Bonus tip: to fend off hungry squirrels, rub the bulbs in hot sauce.