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Mother's little helper 

The right juice for Mom's big day

Did you ever notice the Cleavers didn't have much to do with vices? They didn't smoke, drink, have sex, cuddle or curse. I imagine Wally secretly toked on a fatty every now and then with Eddie Haskell, and June must've dipped into her liquid Little Helper to handle Beaver's antics. That dull housework and cookie baking and those monotonous PTA meetings definitely cried out for wine. But with all the choices out there, what would little Beaver buy June for Mother's Day?

Beaver could be the government's test bunny for underage Internet wine orders, or maybe he could slip a fiver to a bum during his 19th nervous breakdown to score some vino. I wonder if he'd buy a wine with some serious punch, the kind June requires? Maybe a 16-percent-alcohol, hardcore red zinfandel. It's not like a shot of tequila -- which is what I would crave if I lived in Cleaverland -- but fruity enough to please a softer, more delicate palate. It helps if she starts at 9 a.m. so that the edge is off by 3 when the kids start running around. Names like Rombauer, 7 Deadly Zins, and Rosenblum Cellars sound appropriate.

My mom is the exact opposite. The June Cleaver lifestyle is anathema to my focused, career-minded mother (and, by extension, me), so she calls for a lighter, more refreshing wine that won't weigh down her creativity. And her business acumen doesn't allow for wasteful spending, so value-priced reigns supreme. Australian and Chilean wines fill her wine cabinet, and gifts in the $10-$15 range make her day brighter. Veramonte, Carmen, Lindeman's and Palandri wineries.

Single moms are in the same boat. Busy as hell, under appreciated and exhausted, wines come to their emotional rescue. These women require plenty of fruit and screwtop closures. No patience to endure the one-minute process of cork-popping. California has a bunch of offerings for the single mom: fun, light-hearted names and prices. Red, White or Pink Truck ($12), or Big House White, Red or Pink ($10).

Well-to-do soccer moms are on the other end of the spectrum. They require something besides yoga to calm their nerves when they can't reach doctor-everything's-going-to-be-all-right. With an expensive bottle of Champagne she'd never buy for herself, she'll feel decadent yet not guilty for indulging herself, sipping on the sly. If she's smart, she'll selfishly hide it from hubby. Taittinger, Pol Roger and Veuve Cliquot, all French Champagne houses and suitably rich and lovely, can impress and allow her to enjoy her special day.

And then there are jet-setter moms, with the means to travel the world, lying on foreign beaches and eating foods you've never encountered. They have international cell phone numbers, but probably don't know it's Mother's Day. But you do. This mom needs wine from cool, unknown wineries, made from grapes whose names she can throw around and impress people -- interesting Spanish and Italian wineries or California Cabernet Franc and Argentinean Malbec. Surprise her with a bottle of one of those (ask a local wine shop to recommend), and watch her realize she can sometimes get what she wants.

Happy Mother's Day!

Recommended Wines

Amavi 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley (Washington) Smooth and very easy drinking for those intimidated by cab. Slightly sweet with ripe dark fruits like blackberry and cherry, yet balanced with leather, vanilla and chocolate. Simply delicious. Sw = 3. $22. **** 1/2

Onix 2004 Priorat (Spain) (Not available in Georgia or North Carolina) Tastes like an aged steak in a glass, with dusty black cherry, fragrant prunes and bold tannins. One of the cheapest wines that I've encountered from the normally expensive Priorat region of Spain. Sw = 1. $12. ****.

Bianchi 2004 Cabernet Franc Paso Robles (California) This wine's sexy, sexy, sexy. Loaded with black cherry, vanilla, dill and blackberry. Confident yet balanced tannins and a lovely, giving finish. Sw = 1. $25. *** 1/2.

Sweetness (Sw) rating is out of 10, 10 being pure sugar. Star (*) rating is out of 5, 5 being wine nirvana.

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