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The holidays are a prime time for wine

by: VERN UYETAKE, Tom Reider at Wizer’s Oswego Foods often helps customers with wine selections.

You don't need a bottle count to prove that the holiday season is the prime time of the year for buying wine.

You just need to know that Tom Reider and Jim Clark are probably the two busiest guys in Lake Oswego at this time of year. They are the wine stewards of Wizer's Oswego Foods and Lamb's Palisades Market, respectively, and if you want to buy wine as a holiday gift it is very likely you will need their services.

'November and December are like five busy months rolled into two,' said Reider, who is a Wizer's institution after 17 years of service. 'The holidays have a hectic nature to them.'

'Between Halloween and New Year's is the busiest time for us,' said Clark, who is fast approaching his 25 years as a wine steward. 'At holiday time you want everything on hand because you don't want people to come in and not have what they want.'

There is always pressure on a wine steward to suggest just the right wine, but the pressure is even greater during the holidays because wine flows at parties and is so often given as a gift. The wrong wine can greatly diminish that 'Ho Ho Ho' spirit.

As 'the old-timer' at Wizer's, Reider has been solving people's holiday wine dilemmas for years.

'Some people come in and know precisely what they want,' he said. 'Often they rely on my judgment. The object is to get them to come back.'

Reider has a lot to work with. Besides an ample selection in the main store, Wizer's has a wine cellar with 20,000 bottles. Every bottle is needed because 'we cover every price here up to $500.'

'It's funny in retail,' Reider said. 'Sometimes it's remarkably easy to sell 80 bottles of wine. Other times I have to trot out the horse and pony show.'

When you visit with Clark at Lamb's he will steer you toward his 'Bermuda Triangle,' from which you can't emerge without getting a great deal. It's a great place to stock up on wine for your holiday party because the prices are great and it also tastes great. But Clark has to be ready for all wine scenario's during the holidays.

He said, 'Some people want gifts for friends, others like local wines, some are value oriented, some want the rare wine you get for the guy who has everything, others want wine for office parties between now and the end of the year.'

Picking top holiday wine selections is a bit of a strain for Reider and Clark, even with their range of expertise.

'The 10 I pick today might not be the 10 I pick next week,' Reider said.

Still, they consented to point readers toward wines they can't go wrong with during this season of celebration.

Tom Reider's top 10 holiday wines:

1.2000 Wing Canyon Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, (Napa Valley, Calif.), $24. 'To buy this Napa Valley cabernet is miraculous. It has real stuffing that will age gracefully.'

2. 2003 Kaesler Shiraz, (South Austrailia), $26.99. 'This is a small Australian producer making blockbuster red wine.'

3. 2005 Kali Hart, Chardonnay, (Santa Lucia, Calif.), $14.99. 'This is quintessential California Chardonnay from a great producer.'

4. Duval-Leroy, Brut Champagne, (Vertus, France), $35.99. 'It's as good as any $75 champagne you can get, so save your money.'

5. Gloria Ferrer, Sparkling Wine, (Sonoma, Calif.), $17.99. 'This is consistently one of the finest producers of bubbles in California at a great price.'

6. 2004 Norton Reserva, Malbec, (Mendoza region, Argentina), $15.99. 'This is a great example of what Argentina does best - full-bodied Malbec.'

7. 2002 Louis Latour, Bourgogne Blanc, (Beaune, France), $15.99. 'A classic white burgundy at a great price.'

8. 2005 St. Innocent, Pinot Gris, (Salem, Ore.), $17.99. 'Maybe the finest pinot gris made in Oregon. Treat yourself to this wine while you can.'

9. 2003 Avignonesi Montepulciano, (Italy), $27.99. 'This vino noble from central Italy should probably cost twice as much.'

10. 2005 Bergstrom, Pinot Noir Cumberland Reserve, (Newberg, Ore.), $44.99. 'I can't get enough of this winery's wine in the store. It's maybe the hottest ticket in Oregon today. It's full-bodied pinot noir that delivers the goods.'

Jim Clark's top holiday wine choices are:

1. Jackson-Triggs, Chardonnay (Okanagan Valley in British Columbia), $9.99.

2. Jackson-Triggs, Cabernet Sauvignon (Okanagan Valley), $9.99.

3. Milton Park, Merlot Barossa, (South Eastern, Australia), $9.99. 'It took two years to get it here. This is the only place to get it.'

4. Balgownie Estate, Cabernet Sauvignon, (Bendigo Region of Victoria), $12.99 (formerly $30).

5. Jip Jip Rocks, Shiraz, (Naracoote, Australia), $13.99. 'Jip Jip Rocks is in the middle of nowhere. This wine won a double gold medal in London.'

6. Thorn-Clarke Shotfire, Barossa Shiraz, (South Australia), $18.99. 'They have five separate vineyards in the valley.'

7. And closing with a wine that will truly knock your socks off, Henschke Hill of Grace, Shiraz, (South Australia), $450 a bottle. 'It comes from the oldest vineyard in Australia that has vines that are 150 years old with three vintages. Only six bottles make it to Oregon.'