Fuzzy Money 

"Free" wine always tastes good.

"That's not how money works!" is an admonishment I frequently get from my more financially savvy cohabitant — usually in response to my perceived misinterpretation of the word "free." Example: Seemingly frivolous expenses, like taking a cab in a city brimming with public transportation, are actually "free" on days when I've worked on a lucrative freelance gig. My justification is that as long as the money I've earned that day exceeds cab fare, I'll come out ahead. Similarly fuzzy math applies if I go to a restaurant that allows you to bring in your own wine. If said restaurant doesn't charge a corkage fee, guess what?? The drinks are free! And what if said restaurant sees me coming a mile away and therefore charges, say, a $7 corkage fee? No problem: split four ways, that's just $1.75.

Such was our expenditure on a recent night out for Thai food (see Food & Drink, "Classic Thai Goes Tapas Chic"). The conventional wisdom on pairing wines with Asian cuisine suggests whites — a fruity but dry Riesling, or perhaps a spicy Gewürztraminer to complement the equally spicy food on your table. We grabbed a bottle of each, adding a dry rosé to the mix as well.

Our Token Winemaker is a big fan of the Marqués de Cáceres white Rioja, so that label seemed like a good choice for our rosé for the night. Good call, because the 2006 rosé ($7.49), also from Rioja, won over even the wine-eschewing beer drinker in our crowd. "Tastes good!" was his simple assessment, while the rest of us noticed a strawberry bouquet; a tart, bright taste; a nice dryness; and a mellow finish. My Francophile cousin even sniffed that it didn't taste cheap. As for how it paired with the food, the other two wines were such standouts with the rich and spicy Thai flavors that the rosé was relegated to a before-dinner beverage.

The 2005 Fetzer Valley Oaks Gewürztraminer, a gold medalist in last year's West Coast Wine Competition, was also honored on the Wineau list of favorite bargains of the year last year, so I was eager to try the 2006 vintage ($8.99). This was a classic, well-balanced Gewürz with a slight effervescence — I tasted lemon-drop candies and found it unapologetically sweet, which was indeed a nice balance to the spiciness of the food.

Still, nothing beat the 2006 Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling ($7.99) for putting out the fires raging in our mouths after too much curry. It had a distinctive aroma and a taste that was somehow syrupy sweet without being cloying. I kept thinking of an upscale — or even homemade — version of peach schnapps. This wine also had a slight effervescence, and it really stood up to the varied but powerful flavors of chilies, curry, peanut, citrus, and garlic on Anchalee's menu. Worth every penny.

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