Winter's over ... for now
Happy New Year from Helotes!

Pop the cork!

Champagne_glass_etcjpg Have you got your champagne chilling?

Forbes takes a look at the appeal of bubbly in this story (registration required; sorry!). The drink’s main attraction, according to the magazine, is not necessarily the liquid itself, but its air of sophistication, luxury, magic, celebration and, above all, romance.

Then, of course, there’s the impressive cost.

Yes, regular champagne is expensive, says Forbes, with a bottle of ordinary non-vintage fizz easily costing $40. But that’s not what the Forbes target audience is drinking, so the magazine lists some of the most expensive sparklers.

Topping the list is Krug’s Clos du Mesnil of 1995 at $750. The price is so high in part because it comes from one small (4.5 acres) walled vineyard devoted entirely to chardonnay grapes. It's also extremely rare, says Forbes, as only 12,624 bottles were produced in the 1995 vintage.

Krug is the list leader, with two other of its vintages also passing the magazine’s taste test. The legendary Dom Pérignon from Moet is there, too, with a 1995 Rosé that runs $350.

For a pricey domestic toast, you’ve got two choices, both from the vineyards of California-based Wilson Daniels LTD. A bottle of J. Schram 1999 bubbly will cost you $80. Or if 2005 was very good to you and you expect more of the same in 2006, pop for a $242 bottle of 1995 Salon.

But beating them all is the Louis Roederer Cristal Brut 1990 that Sotheby’s auctioned in December for $17,625. Of course, it was a Methuselah: six liters in one enormous, gold-labeled bottle. I think Forbes has the right idea: “The identity of the seller remains undisclosed, but we want to party at his house.” Of course, the buyer’s place might not be a bad house to drop by on Dec. 31 either. He or she should have plenty of bubbly to share.

OK, enough with the daydreams. We’re sure our invitation to Austin’s hottest ring-in-the-new party will show up in the next mail delivery, but just in case maybe we should make some contingency plans. Plans, that is, other than sitting on the couch and trying to stay awake while waiting for the crowd in Times Square to go crazy when the ball drops. At least being in the Central time zone this year, that means it’ll be 11 p.m. our time! Maybe we can pull that off.

And we might even buy a bottle of bubbly to celebrate our return to Texas. Of course, instead of the Forbes piece, we’ll be studying this Smart Money article that promises you can get a great bottle of champagne for less than $25.

With the money we save there, we can write a bigger check to our favorite charity on Dec. 31 (or call and get the credit card charge in under the year-end wire) so that we can have a little more to deduct on our coming tax return.

That’s just one of several year-end tax saving moves you’ll find here. It’s too late for a few of the suggestions, such as rebalancing your portfolio, but you still have time this afternoon and tomorrow to accomplish some of the other suggestions.

And when you get your money-saving tax moves out of the way, you’ll have even more reasons to be joyful at midnight Dec. 31.

Be happy, celebrate safely and we’ll raise a glass to a great 2006 for us all!

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