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The wine Web sites that give us a buzz 

Wine websites suck up hours of time. Joyfully traipsing from one click to the next, each page ticks off another five or 10 minutes. Next thing I know, it's midnight and the entire night is wasted. Well, not wasted, per se, since I did absorb tidbits along the way, but my patient pile of laundry in the closet remains undisturbed. My favorite wine sites encourage interaction — with a database or with intelligent (ideally educated) contributors or posters, and maintain interest with constantly changing content. But how to find the ones that fit my ideal mold? Google spits out more than 235,000,000 websites when entering the keyword "wine," an overwhelming number that exemplifies this intimidating, snobbery-laden topic. But it's also a breeding ground for umpteen sites hawking wine and worthless hacks regurgitating inaccurate information. Nevertheless, in my midnight travels I have stumbled across some gems.

Finally a website that makes sense of food and wine pairings. I'm not a fan of standard pairings ("chicken, white wine" "red wine, red meat"), finding them simplistic, restricting and unrealistic. You rarely serve a plain slab of meat with no seasoning, right? An extra dash of oregano, cumin or too much salt can throw off a food and wine match, changing the ideal mate from cabernet sauvignon to syrah. But the Wine Answers database incorporates sauces and spices into their choices, where the wine pairing decision should ideally begin (or start with the wine and work toward the food). The responses can be a bit general but it's the best food and wine pairing site that I've surfed.

Created by veteran wine writer Robin Garr, Wine Lover's Page embodies a reverent homage to the wine-obsessed. The site features hundreds of wine reviews, numerous columns and blogs from all over the Web (some talented, some not so much) — and, for those who like to speak their mind, densely populated online discussion groups. Garr is fiercely connected to his audience and to wine trends, firmly down-to-earth and extremely knowledgeable. One of my favorite sites and recommended highly for those seeking basic wine education and those wanting to tap into their inner wine geek.

Alder Yarrow's pithy, sometimes nonsensical blog rants about wine never cease to entertain and educate at the same time. He's one of those "thinking" wine obsessives who gracefully makes you ponder the esoteric aspects of wine, its marketing and the people who drink it. He constantly and righteously interacts with his community, delving into delightfully geeky topics without falling into wonkdom. And the comments, originating from all over the globe, read as interesting as the blogs themselves. Well done, Alder.

The name may sound light-hearted but it's no joke. This website tracks the ever-changing direct shipment laws for every state. If you get on its mailing list, you can receive breaking news to find out if your state has finally passed liberating legislation giving commerce back to the people from the draconian wholesalers.

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Recommended Wines

Erath 2006 Pinot Blanc Willamette Valley (Oregon) Pinot Blanc is one of those obscure grapes people hear about but don't get to taste very often. Originally from the Alsace region in France, the grape sports tart acidity and citrus but tastes full bodied like a chardonnay. This Pacific Northwest version has pear, lime and green herb flavors with a refreshing mineral finish. Decent value too. HS, S, T. $14. 3 1/2 stars.

Paul Jaboulet Aîné 2006 Côtes du Rhône Parallèle 45 From the Rhône region of France, where Grenache and syrah grapes originated, Parallèle 45 is named for the location of the vineyards on the 45th latitude. This blend of those two varietals emerges robust and meaty, dark cherry strewn with a coating of dust, fragrant plum and an acidic finish. S, T. $12. 4 stars.

Sweet (SW), Hypersensitive (HS), Sensitive (S) and Tolerant (T). Find out your tasting profile at

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