With some local advice, it is easy to find wine to enjoy with recipes

Singer/songwriter Billy Joel made it sound so simple, "A bottle of red, a bottle of white. It all depends on your appetite." That might be true, but the number of possible red and white (and let's mention rose) wines to choose from are mind boggling.

The old adage of white with fish and red with other meat is a meager starting point that does not begin to address the selection. This is because we live in a world abundant with varied geographies, soils, climates, and generations of vintners who have spent years in the care of their fields.

For the less knowledgeable, your foray into the vast landscape of wine need not be unaccompanied. Nor do you need to select a bottle simply because you like their label. (Yes, I have done this.)

Excellent help is available right here in downtown Olympia at the Wine Loft. The easily identified brick building is a stone’s throw from Puget Sound and provides a cozy home to the bottles of wine that line the walls and crowd the floor space.

Owners Jim and Mary Jones have turned their love of wine into a longstanding business that has earned success by being friendly to their customers and providing consistent service and prices. The Wine Loft has been helping people for 17 years, and prior to that business the Jones owned the lovely Fleur de Lys Restaurant.

The Wine Loft has bottles to fit all budgets. Prices range from $4.99 to $200 but Jones told me that people typically shop for bottles between $8.00 and $15.00. If you really need help, you literally can take your party menu to the store and let them recommend specific wines. If you find a variety you especially like, you can buy it by the case. They also offer a couple of tastings each month, which give customers a chance to sample a variety of wines.

If you are looking for a housewarming or New Year’s gift, let The Wine Loft assist you. Describe the person for whom the gift is intended and get a few wine suggestions. The Wine Loft carries appropriate gift bags so you can head straight to your party – even if it happens to be at your own home

You don’t have to be a connoisseur to enjoy a glass of wine. Stick your nose into a glass and inhale deeply. Can you notice a burst of blackberry or an earthy oak? There is a wine for you whether your taste runs to the thickly sweet or crisply dry. Wine is a flavor balancer and with a little help you can elevate your special dinner to a memorable feast. Don’t worry about remembering that a sauvignon blanc with a citrus note would pair nicely with clams but that a pinot gris would be great with halibut. A grilled steak might call for a classic merlot but pick a ruby port to go with your chocolate dessert. Help is waiting for you.

I still think that Billy Joel had the right idea, “A bottle of red, and bottle of white. Whatever kind of mood you’re in tonight.” Make your mood great. Bon Appetit!

No special occasion is called for to enjoy a glass of wine. Pour a glass and enjoy, but in this wintry time of year, a warm beverage really hits the spot. You can easily make mulled wine. The following recipe calls for citrus fruits and warm spices. It came from where there are many more mulled wine recipes. This one calls for a non-specific red wine.

Lemon Orange Mulled Wine

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup sugar

1 orange

2 lemons

2 sticks cinnamon

12 cloves

2 bottles red wine

To make the wine: Simmer (but not boil) the water, sugar, cinnamon and cloves for 10 minutes. Add in the wine. Peel the orange and lemons and add in the peels. Let sit for a length of time to seep in the flavors, without boiling. Strain out the larger bits and serve warm.

For leftover wine: Another use for wine is to use to deglaze a pan. Deglazing can be done with many liquids such as broth, stock, vinegar, fruit juice or wine. The purpose is to get the tasty bits of brown that are left after cooking at the bottom of your pan. These morsels are the basis for a winning sauce. Take out any burnt bits but you can leave the dark brown ones. Pour off most of the fat and then turn up the heat. Add your cold liquid to the hot pan. As it boils the brown bits will come off the pan. Scrape as necessary and stir. Once the bottom of the pan is cleared, turn down the heat. Now you are ready to make a sauce.

Mary Ellen Psaltis lives locally and eats globally. You can reach her at