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Christie Dufault, Wine Director of GARY DANKOChristie Dufault 's Wine Tips

1. Start with Champagne! Often, people overlook Champagne or reserve it for special occasions only. I say, bring it on daily! Champagne can be such a lovely way to start any meal- it is so refreshing and uplifting. Furthermore, you don't have to have a vintage bubbly from some highly praised producer. There are lots of fresh, bright, delicious non-vintage brut styles out there.

2. Stop drinking white wines too cold. Forget the ice bucket. White wines always show their aromatic and flavor qualities better when they aren't ice cold. Chilled, yes, but never too cold; the wines just tighten up.

3. Ask for half bottles at your favorite restaurant. This way, instead of one bottle, you can have 2 half bottles of different wines. Or start with a half bottle of sparkling or white, followed by a bottle of red. Then finish with a half bottle of dessert wine. There is a growing selection of fine wines by the half bottle. Look for them on wine lists.

4. Don't weigh your food down. Try leaner, brighter wines with your food and be sure that you can really taste both your food and your wine. White wines like Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, and Gruner Veltliner make excellent accompaniments to so many dishes. And for reds, drink more Pinot Noir, Barbera, and Dolcetto. Of course, it all depends on what you are eating. So go ahead and have that Cabernet Sauvignon with your steak. Again, just make sure you can taste everything. Then you will really enjoy the dining experience.

5. Engage your server in wine chat. All too often, people assume that it is only the sommelier who really knows or cares about wine. Wrong. Almost always, in a restaurant where there is a sommelier, there is a very high standard for wine service for all floor staff. Often, your server can be just as knowledgeable about the wine list as the sommelier. In fine restaurants, professional servers are interested in food and wine. They know the wines that they are serving. Engage them; they will appreciate it, and you will get great service.

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