Wine Talk

Snooth User: stevepokal

Fine Wine Suggestions for College Graduation

Posted by stevepokal, Apr 24, 2013.

Hey all,  I'm really just getting started with wine but i've been drinking/tasting seriously for about a year now. I will be graduating in a couple of weeks and I figure it is a good opportunity to buy my first batch expensive bottles since normally i dont exceed $25 in my tasting.

Since it is my graduation, excessive drinking is likely to take place, so I am looking for a couple suggestions at different price points, champagne ($40-50), pinot noir ($75-100), chardonnay ($40-50), and a porto at any price

i like well-balanced dry wines with a strong finish




Reply by EMark, Apr 24, 2013.


Congratulations on your achievement, Steve.  Good luck in your future endeavors and please continue to update us here on the Snooth Forum on your wine adventures.

I'm going to pass on your first two categories.  I have no recent experience there that excites me enough to share with you.  No worries.  I guarantee that others will jump in here.

From your profile I see that you are in Massachusetts.  You should have no trouble finding French wines, and, lately, I have been very much enjoying French Chardonnays.  You say that you appreciate balance in your wines, and I feel that balance is the signature characteristic of good French wines.  Two that I have tried, lately, are the 2011 Dauvissat Chablis ($39.99) and 2010 Domaine Saumaize-Michelin Pouilly-Fuissé Clos Sur la Roche. (This one comes in a bit under your target price.  I paid $29.99 for it.) 

I imagine that you regularly visit wine stores.  I would suggest that in your search you consult the clerks there on recommendations for Chablis and Pouilly-Fuisse.  Also, do not ignore other great Burgundy sub-regions such as Beaune or Chassagne-Montrachet.

Regarding California Chardonnays, the winery that I have most enjoyed, lately, is Flowers.  Their Chardonnays are, clearly, richer than most French versions, but they are not nearly as over the top as most Calivornia versions.  I recently was able to pick up the 2009 Flowers Sonoma Coast Chardonnay for about $35.  I really don't know how well distributed Flowers wines are.  So, I don't know how hard it might be for you to find.

With luck, somebody else will jump in here and give more recommendations from other geographies--e.g., Oregon or Australia.

Keep us in the loop, Steve.

Reply by stevepokal, Apr 25, 2013.

thank you emark for your reply, im glad to see you suggest a chablis, as ive really enjoyed the wines ive had from that region. i was told that it is more of a dry chardonnay and less oaky than the california wines, i generally enjoy the oakyness of california chardonnays but i think there is something about the crispness in a chablis as well. i have not tried a pouilly-fuisse yet, and at that price i will likely try it anyway as im beginning to venture out of my price limits and really just want good wine. of course, being a college student limits my choices but i'd rather get less good wine than buy the two for 10 specials that they keep right in front of the window (i can only imagine why so many people my age do not appreciate or enjoy wine).

anyway, i will be on the lookout for flowers as well, there is a decent amount of wine available in my area. there are a couple stores that specialize in fine wines even and hold weekly tastings. I have not ventured to a tasting yet, but i think i'm ready to go out into the wine world at this point, im especially interested in going to a winery and tasting from the barrel, but thats another thread haha.


Reply by GregT, Apr 25, 2013.


But I'd get a keg of beer.

Reply by JonDerry, Apr 25, 2013.

Glad to hear the Dauvissat treated you well the other night Mark.

Reply by EMark, Apr 25, 2013.

Steve, GregT's comment is prudent.  Please do not spend the kind of money you're talking about on wine, and kill it all in one night with friends.  Hoard it for yourself, or share it with somebody, but do make sure you savor it.  Don't go for the buzz.

Also, I am encouraged by your last paragraph.  By all means go to tastings.  You will learn much from the experience.

Yup, JD, the Dauvissat is winner winner.  As far as white wines are concerned I am moving over to the old world more and more.



Reply by Richard Foxall, Apr 25, 2013.

Emark, next stop is the Loire.  You'll be drinking ridiculously sharp and yet amazingly fruited chenins and rocky SBs before you know it.  I'm just a couple steps further on that slippery slope--why is it so hard for California (and WA and OR) to really get white wines?

As for the OP, I agree that you don't want to drink your best wines at a blowout where the real focus is everyone celebrating the last days of their wayward college careers. Hoard was not really the right idea, but it is nice to share with folks who aren't glugging it down like water.  Even the most ardent Snoother also doesn't put out huge quantities of top-end wines for the masses--it's just impractical and likely to make you feel it wasn't appreciated sufficiently.  Which is to be expected, because people are whooping it up, slapping each others' backs and generally not noticing too much about the stuff in their glasses.  Remember, they are also (just) graduating from jello shots. 

How about a party a week later for your closer friends, a "did that really just happen, where do we go from here" with food and a small enough crowd that you can hear people ooh and aah when they hit that first ethereal taste of PN?  (Sorry, GregT, had to say that!)

Reply by EMark, Apr 25, 2013.

Fox, actually, I have been all over Pouilly-Fume, Sancerre and Muscadet for many years.  I have a ways to go, however, before I get Vouvray. ;-)

You're a Calif PN kind of guy, give Steve some help, there.

Reply by GregT, Apr 25, 2013.

Drinking a Muscadet right now, after having Valbuena, Aro, and a few other great but really young Spanish wines. If I had a Vouvray, that's what I'd have opened tho - sometimes that's exactly what you want and after big reds, it's nice. 

Emark got it tho - at a big celebratory bash, what the F, just get a keg or some daquiris going and enjoy life. You'll have cares and jobs and concerns soon enough and you'll want wine to distract you, but some of the best times I've ever had in life involved only a few beers and a few girls.

And college graduation is a very poignant time - you're seeing your friends for the last time that you'll all be in what is actually the twilight of childhood, before everyone has to be and act like an adult forever. Savor it. You worked hard. You're saying good bye to your friends at that stage of your life. Who knows who keeps in touch in the years to come? I'd forget about wine for the night. 

Reply by edwilley3, Apr 26, 2013.

I'm a Loire Lover - I should trademark that term. I love the area AND the chateaux AND the wine. Yes, Chenin sounds like a great idea now that things are starting to heat up down here in Tejas.

Anyway, on bubbly (intentionally that term), I would keep the Champ for a toast with just you and the family or your closest mates. I am crazy for the stuff and have lots of great suggestions. However, at your price point, I really really really like the Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve and also highly recommend the Delamotte NV.  CHBR is a reserve-heavy NV bottling with up to 40% reserve wines and - in the new packaging - a combo of about 60 wines (versus 120 on avg for the previous traditional styled package). It's always balanced, elegant, somewhat yeasty, and fruity (due to the delicious pinot noir they use). Great at $50. The Delamotte may be a bit cheaper, although probably not too much. It's clean and elegant; the grapes that go into it are used to make Salon in vintage years, or so I've heard. I really don't care about that - it's tasty at $40. If you want to have a couple of crowd-friendly bubbly bottles in reserve, try picking out a couple of non-Champ traditional method sparklers. I've tried a bunch and liked them all just fine. Those from the Loire will be grassier, whereas those from Burgogne will be a tad more complex (I prefer them usually). Also, a longtime favorite of mine is the Alsace-produced Lucien Albrecht. The rose version - a saingee method bottle made entirely from pinot noir - clocks in at a bit over $20 and is a great value. I do quite like the blanc version, too.  BTW, currently I'm liking the Delamotte more than the Roederer Brut Premier, which I believe changed a bit in the newer label. IF - and that's a big IF in Texas - you can get Dampierre's Cuvee des Ambassadeurs at a reasonable price, you will find that it's a beautifully balanced 50/50 pinot and chardonnay bottle with lovely fine bubbles. It's not stunningly complex, but it's REALLY drinkable and very elegant in style.

You may be tempted to buy Veuve Clicquot "Yellow" label. In my opinion, that's "just ok". I've had 100+ champagnes and other sparklers in the past couple of years and I honestly cannot recommend it as a good value no matter how much I want to like it (or how wonderful that long ago finished bottle of 1991 Vintage Reserve was). Even the latest "Vintage Reserve" bottle is not as good as the Moet "Grand Vintage" reserve bottle. I just don't know what's wrong. The many people who clearly buy lots of it might be persuaded by the marketing or may just have been drinking it for a long time, but I could list at least a couple dozen fairly priced bottles that are much better at the NV level.

On the PN, given that you are going to want to drink in volume, I personally would skip it. These guys know that I am not a huge PN fan (as a varietal bottle, anyway). However, I think that you would be better off buying 2-3 Ridge zins (I mean...Ridge....good producer, right?) or maybe even their delicious petite sirah than a single bottle of PN for this particular occasion. I'm thirsty!!!!

If you have any specific bubbly questions, please do not hesitate to ask.

Reply by edwilley3, Apr 26, 2013.

Re: porto, tawny is a relatively economical choice in comparison to some vintage port prices. Reynella makes a very tasty tawny for under $20. I am always up for drinking a Warre's LBV port, but that's not terribly special.

You probably know that port vintages are just as important as the vintage in other wine areas. I personally love 1994. I've been drinking it now for years. The question I would have is what you can really find in your area. Not all stores are going to have a good selection of vintages.

What you MIGHT do - considering that a 1994 is still fairly young - is drink a 1994 Graham's (or whichever suits your style - check out the link below) now for your graduation and keep one more in a cool place/wine cellar to drink 10 years from now when you are at a major post collegiate milestone. Port is often used in traditional British culture as a mark of manhood. The future incarnation of the 1994 should be amazing. Buy a third bottle and drink it in 25 years when you have made your success in the world.

BTW, the 2000 Fonseca is a tasty very young vintage bottle from what - you probably know - is a great vintage. However, the corks are really inferior and they are VERY likely to fall apart. Even using an Ah-So opener, I had great difficulty removing a cork recently. I probably looked like a total novice. Anyway, it's a tasty bottle, but it's still a bit young and it hasn't totally come together. Rich black fruits, however, make it very fun to drink!


I hope that this is at least somewhat helpful.


Reply by stevepokal, Apr 26, 2013.

EDWILLEY3, Thank you very much for your post. I probably should have clarified that this wine will be taken with my immediate family and close friends, not a large gathering, thats what the cheap stuff is for. I would get a keg but im at a point where i really enjoy drinking wine and prefer it to any other alcholic drink. i wouldnt go so far as to bring stemware to a party but ill drink wine out of a solo cup :)

anyway, I will be looking into those champagnes and seeing what i can get around here. Champagne is actually a wine that I have yet to get into so im looking forward to taking advantage of this chance to enjoy. Everybody serves Korbell at new years party's. so that is really my only experience so far, and i know it can get a whole lot better than that...

Porto is a wine that I have found that i really enjoy. I started out with Six Grapes Reserve and im not sure if it is considered a good port or not (ive heard both good and bad but it was recommended to me at a shop). Since then I have really enjoyed the Smith Woodhouse Lodge Reserve Porto and the Taylor Fladgate 10 year aged tawny port. I haven't had a vintage porto yet, but i have a website that i reference when looking for good vintages to buy. I appreciate you making it easy for me with two good years to look for though. I do not have the best options avialable to store my wine, but i would be interested in aging some wines if there is a good option for someone who rents/moves every few years.

I may decide to get a bottle of pinot as a graduation present and enjoy it by myself also, so please still suggest some pinots if you can. Or any great wine that you think could be available around my area. is one of the shops that i frequent. there is also another store in town that specializes in wine. they really only sell wine and fine spirits, so thats probably a place i can go and get a good recommendation, but i like to have some stuff in mind when i show up too.

Reply by stevepokal, Apr 26, 2013.

also most of my good friends have already graduated haha, i took time off to work but eventually went back after a couple years and am finally finished, so its more of a personal thing than anything for me. ive already been to so many graduation parties, but its a good excuse to get my close friends together again so i wanted to have some good wine for the occasion :)

Reply by edwilley3, Apr 26, 2013.

Several quick points before I dash off to the Lexus dealer for an overdue 5k interval service:

1. It's very durable. Keep it in a cool, shaded spot (not above the fridge) and it will remain relatively stable. Of course, keeping it cooler in a cellar would slow down maturation, but you aren't exactly jeopardizing a vintage port by keeping it in a mostly 71 degree room (provided there are not any huge highs).

2. The ports you listed are very tasty. I don't "love" the Six Grapes, but quite like that Smith Woodhouse. In fact, the SW vintage ports are a little more affordable than some others. If you decide to go with a vintage port, be sure to decant it properly. It needs time. That said, your next step might be something like a 2001 Warre's Late Bottled Vintage. The LBVs are the step between what you've had and full blown vintage port. For a bit of fun, Guenoc in California makes a very fun petite sirah port. Early 2000s and old should drink just fine.

3. Champagne runs from fun, fruity and friendly all the way to magnificently complex. I'm fairly certain that Perrier Jouet NV (non vintage) will be available in your area, as will be Moet "Imperial". In addition to what I previously suggested, these would be excellent bottles to begin the process of learning about bubbles. PJ is known for elegant, balanced, and easy to drink wines. Even their upmarket Belle Epoque is incredibly light and delicate. Moet "Imperial" - a non vintage brut - is perhaps the most iconic of the entry level major label NVs. I like it as well as the Grand Vintage reserve bottles (about $65). Ultimately, you should put the following on your list to try:

a. Perrer Jouet NV

b. Moet NV Imperial Brut

c. Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve

d. Delamotte NV and Blanc de blancs

e. Vilmart NV Brut

f. Gimonnet NV Brut

g. Goutorbe NV Brut Rose

h. Ruinart NV Brut blanc and rose versions

i. Dampierre "Cuvee des Ambassadeurs" NV Brut

j. Agrapart "7 Crus" NV Brut (small "grower" champ...delicious straight edge aperitif style)

k. Piper Heidsieck NV Brut (and if you can find it, the 2000 vintage with a gray label)

l. Roederer Brut Premier NV (not the old GOLD label, which are now a bit too old)

m. Duval Leroy 1998 vintage blanc de blancs (if you happen to find it)

There are a great many producers and bottlings. Most of the veritable champagnes are nice to drink, for sure, but quality and flavor profile vary greatly. The proportion of grape types in the bottle - even considering only the NV bottles - varies greatly, too. I tend to favor the smaller producers, although I have listed Charles Heidsieck, Piper Heidsieck, PJ, and Moet here because they are benchmarks. Some folks would tell you to buy Pierre Peters, but I don't find their style as compelling (there's just something on the finish) and for the same money would drink something else. One thing's for sure: If you don't reasonably enjoy at least a majority of what I've listed, then you should not worry too much about champagnes. I would suggest trying a variety of things like what I've listed before diving into the grand marques like Dom Perignon. I further suggest avoiding half bottles for your first experience with a given bubbly. I once had a flawed half bottle of Krug with a clearly messed up dosage.

A word to the wise: Be careful about champ in small rural stores. If the bottles have not been stored properly, it's all to easy to get a corked bottle. I see older bottles of Dom Perignon in glass cases inside run down stores all the time. I won't touch the stuff. I've had bad luck with older Charles Heidsieck vintage bottles, too.

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