Pomona College Magazine
Volume 41. No. 2.
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Expert Advice

The Well-Stocked Wine Cellar

Napa Valley winemaker Cathy Corison ’75 encourages wine novices as well as connoisseurs to get past the stigma of thinking they need to find the “right” wine to enjoy at that special moment. “Wine can intimidate people,” said Corison. “One shouldn’t feel the need to know something about wine to enjoy it.”

Corison, who produces two handcrafted, limited-production Cabernet Sauvignons at Corison Winery, said her interest in wine began when she took a wine appreciation class at Pomona, on a whim, and was instantly hooked. Within a few weeks after graduation, she was living and working in Napa Valley. Soon she was taking winemaking classes at UC Davis and received a master’s degree in enology two years later.

Her advice is to have fun with wine. Discover individual likes and dislikes. “People obsess about finding the perfect wine and food combination,” said Corison. “Every once in awhile, the perfect match happens, and it’s magical; the wine can make the food taste better and vice versa. But one shouldn’t take it too seriously.”

Corison’s husband, William Martin, keeps it interesting at home by bringing a new bottle of wine to the table every night for dinner. For 13 years, Corison has tasted each new wine “blind.” She guesses the variety, the region it comes from and the year it was made, and then rates it on a four-star scale. Only then is its identity revealed.

A wine cellar, she says, can be anything from a case or two of carefully chosen bottles tucked away in an interior closet to an elaborate, climate-controlled space with hundreds of treasured bottles. The important thing is that the storage space be dark, with an even, cool to moderate temperature and no vibration. Corison said finding a trusty retailer is key to selecting wine, but she offers a few suggestions for those who want to have something on hand to accompany almost any meal.

White Wines:
• Riesling and Grüner Veltliner are fruity and dry and go well with cheese dishes and Asian foods.
• Chardonnay and Pinot Gris are full-bodied, rich and dry to accompany fish or fowl with rich sauces.
• Sauvignon Blanc is full-bodied, crisp and herbal for lighter fare such as vegetables.
• Gewürztraminer and Viognier are spicy for charcuterie, unadorned fowl and spicy food.

Red Wines:
• Pinot Noir and Sangiovese are light and fruity to accompany salmon, duck and simple meat dishes.
• Cabernet Sauvignon, Nebbiolo and Merlot are big and full-bodied and are great companions to lamb and beef dishes prepared in a hearty manner.
• Zinfandel and Syrah are spicy and full-bodied to enhance savory dishes.

Pink Wines
• Rosés such as Grenache, Syrah and Pinot Noir can be dry and complex and also have an audience, as do sweet pink wines though Corison said they don’t go as well with particular foods.

Sparkling Wines:
• “These wines are not just for weddings,” Corison said. “Nice, dry Méthode Champenoise from Champagne or elsewhere are wonderful with a wide range of foods.”
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