Those of you who see me regularly will know that I drink a lot of Gerolsteiner Sprudel. I'm fond of San Pellegrino, particularly with food. I still like Calistoga, though the plastic bottles are a travesty. I once had a thing for Perrier. But first place in my carbonated mineral water sweepstakes always goes to the German bubbly. Even though Trader Joe's has raised the price twenty cents per bottle, making the Gerolsteiner more expensive than San Pellegrino, I remain as loyal as ever. And it's not because I have thing for Germany. You see, Gerolsteiner is both naturally carbonated -- I think you can tell -- and more forcefully carbonated than its competition. And its taste feels more neutral to me. Not as sour as Perrier or Calistoga, less calcium and magnesium-muted than Mendocino or Apollinaris. It actually reminds me of the water we got from our well in Pennsylvania, though that wasn't carbonated. What all this adds up to is a water that appeals to me even when it's at room temperature, that goes well with a variety of foods, and never leaves an unpleasant aftertaste. My favorite thing about Gerolsteiner, though, is the experience of opening a new bottle that has been properly chilled. I reach into the refrigerator, preferably on a brutally hot day like today, break the seal and pour a healthy quantity down my throat. The sensation is difficult to describe but totally sublime. It burns and soothes at the same time. The closest analogy I can think of is the feeling of sucking on an icicle on a very cold day. But the bubbles elevate Gerolsteiner to an even more rarified plain. If only every drink were a first drink.