2000 E. Guigal Hermitage Rouge

The Wine and Cheese Place, 7435 Forsyth Boulevard, 314-727-8788

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A $50 bottle of wine goes quite well with a takeout Vito's red-pepper-and-mushroom pizza, we know this much is true. It brings out the pure essence of the mozzarella, makes it blossom, brings out its creamy cheesiness. And oh! How it ties a ribbon around the sweet bell pepper, making its flavor glisten. Because this 50-buck wine -- which costs twice that at a swank restaurant -- is considered one of the best Rhônes on the market; none other than the tony Wine Spectator rated it 97 (!), which is a mere three points (of what, exactly, we're still not sure) shy of perfection.

The key to judging an exquisite wine is not to couple it with lobster risotto, a big-ass steak or a fancy pasta, but to enjoy it with a grilled cheese sandwich and maybe some tater tots. To drink wine this way is to understand its true essence, to appreciate not only its finish, but its start. How does it taste burped up with cheese, crust and tomato sauce?

It's no secret that we here in the Drink of the Week cellar aren't connoisseurs -- a fact snobs remind us of every time we attempt to fake it (ask us about the Rolling Stones or Pimp Juice, however, and we'll run circles around you). Experts love showcasing their knowledge, and connoisseurs get a particular rush out of belittling know-nothing booze writers. But that doesn't mean we can't appreciate a kick-ass bottle of wine. This Hermitage kicks major ass, man -- and you can quote us on that.

E. Guigal is the producer. France is the country of origin, specifically, the Hermitage area of the northern Rhône valley (the Rhône is a river in France). 2000 is the vintage. The grape is syrah. Specifics out of the way, this red gushes with fruitiness, though the bouquet is as subtle as a wink across a crowded MetroLink car, or an accidental brush against a pretty butt. Its taste is rich, cutting through cheese and crust with nary a lost flavor molecule. The result is a wine that'll impress the hell out of the wine Trekkies, to say nothing of your best friends down at the car wash.

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