Wine bests

This year's cream of the crop

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BEST SEDUCTION WINE

I know Valentine's Day is over, but a good seduction wine should come in handy more than once a year. Our vote: Roederer Estate Brut (about $20) from California's Anderson Valley ― sleek and sophisticated with a fine, tingling bead of bubbles, yet creamy enough to be thoroughly hedonistic.

BEST WINE GETAWAY

The Yosemite Vintners' Holidays program at the Ahwahnee hotel in Yosemite National Park. Hike in the snow-draped forest, then return to a blazing fire and glasses of some of the Golden State's best wines. This fall will be the 20th year the Ahwahnee has invited renowned California vintners ― more than 20 this time ― to pour and talk about their wines. Seminars are capped by a banquet (and more great wines) in the historic hotel's candlelit dining room. Runs from about Thanksgiving through mid-December; reserve early. (559) 253-2001.

BEST UP-AND-COMING SOMMELIER

Rajat Parr, wine director at the Fifth Floor restaurant in San Francisco. Born in Calcutta, India, 28-year-old Parr was introduced to wine in England by his uncle, who had an extensive cellar. Later, Parr attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, with the goal of becoming a chef. But after the institute's wine classes proved irresistible, he went on to study wine intensely on his own and eventually landed a job with supersommelier Larry Stone at San Francisco's Rubicon. Says Stone, "When it comes to wine-tasting skills, Rajat is astonishing." Fifth Floor, in the Hotel Palomar, 12 Fourth St.; (415) 348-1555.

BEST TASTING (OPEN TO THE PUBLIC)

The ZAP ― Zinfandel Advocates & Producers ― tastings are held in five or six cities each winter through spring. The grandest of the events is in January in San Francisco, where more than 7,000 wine lovers show up to taste virtually every Zinfandel made (more than 350), in an atmosphere of madcap fun. Tastings will also be held this year in Austin, Texas (April 23); Scottsdale, Arizona (April 25); Las Vegas (April 26); and Folsom, California (June 9). (530) 274-4900.

BEST WINE FROM AN UNLIKELY PLACE

Callaghan Syrah (about $22), from Cochise County on a 4,200-foot-high plateau in southeast Arizona, land once roamed by Apache warriors. Young (and restless) owner and winemaker Kent Callaghan is an undiscovered talent. His production is small, but any wine he makes is worth seeking out the next time you're in Arizona. (520) 455-5322.

 

Sunset's Wine Club

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