We’ve Got People Coming Over — Help!!

In the last few weeks, I’ve had more than one person ask for help with planning their holiday parties. They want to serve wine. They want to serve decent wine, but they don’t want to go broke. Or, they don’t want to serve expensive, high quality wines because they know that at a party very few people even pay attention. What, they ask, should they do.

Happily, you can serve wine a notch or two above pure plonk without needing a second mortgage. Every month the major wine mags are filled with notes and reviews of wines that are affordable and often play above their price points. If you need to start shopping for an upcoming party, or just want to be well-stocked as the holidays approach, the wines I’ve listed below are a reliable place to start. Cheers!


$12 2013 Charles & Charles Chardonnay (Washington) – “Polished, creamy and refreshingly balanced, with tobacco-accented pineapple and coconut flavors that come together smoothly and linger well.” (WS)

$14 2012 Foris Chardonnay (Rogue Valley) – “A directly appealing wine with notes of apple, toast and melon. It’s fresh in feel, medium bodied with a good sense of balance throughout and a lingering finish.” (WE)

$14 2013 Knapp Barrel Reserve Chardonnay (Finger Lakes) – “Tense and high-toned, with a lemony lift and a citrusy sharpness of tone and texture, this wine gathers some breadth and complexity from a satisfying leesiness in its flavors. The finish is bright, precise, mouthwatering. Chill it for cocktail hour, or a plate of shrimp on ice.” (W&S)

$10 2012 Stonecap Chardonnay (Columbia Valley)– “Tight and focused, with juicy pear and grapefruit flavors playing against hints of spice, lingering on the finish.” (WS)

$11 Bergevin Lane Linen Sauvignon Blanc (Columbia Valley) – “Light and expressive, with pretty pear and cream flavors set on a try, tautly balanced frame finishing with an open texture.” (WS)

$11 2013 Chateau Ste. Michelle Sauvignon Blanc (Columbia Valley) – “Sleek and refreshing, this offers pineapple and grapefruit flavors on a lively frame, persisting nicely.” (WS)

$14 2013 Waterbrook Sauvignon Blanc (Columbia Valley) – “Light and refreshing, with grapefruit and floral flavors singing brightly and lingering well.” (WS)

$10 2013 14 Hands Pinot Grigio (Washington) – “Light and refreshing with tangy pear and lime flavors on a sleek frame.” (WS)

$14 2013 Erath Pinot Gris (Oregon) – “This brisk gris is zippy and bright, with scents of green apple and orange blossoms. Its flavors shift to lime, . . . with a mild salty tang that suggests pairing it with roasted clams.” (W&S)

$15 2013 Red Hawk Pinot Gris (Eola-Amity Hills) – “This is a good, rich, leesy, and immediately appealing wine, with great texture and a fine mix of melon, apricot and peach flavors. For the price it’s hard to find a better Pinot Gris.” (WE)

$12 2013 Charles Smith Kung Fu Girl Evergreen Riesling (Columbia Valley) – “Crisp and sleek, with juicy, expansive nectarine and peach flavors that play against citrusy acidity, finishing with zing and a sense of softness that lets the finish keep singing.” (WS)

$10 2013 Mercer Canyons Riesling (Yakima Valley) — “Scents of lime and passion fruit give way to rippling, high-toned peach flavors, . . . . It offers some complexity in an inexpensive package, proving a nice foil for pad thai.” (W&S)

$15 2013 L’Ecole No. 41 Semillon (Columbia Valley) — “Light and refreshing, this white offers flavors of tangerine peel and grapefruit that pick up a creamy fig note as the finish lingers.” (WS)

$10 2013 McManis California Viognier (California) — “…this viognier is a steal: ripe and warming but rich enough to hold the heat in check, fragrant with jasmine and apricot scents, lasting on an apricot-skin grip that turns earthy at the end. Pour it with grilled fish or roasted king trumpet mushrooms. “(W&S)

$10 14 Hands Moscato (Columbia Valley) — “Varietally spot-on with a scent of pine fronds and rose petals, this medium-sweet white has a hefty pineapple ripeness, and a brisk, balanced finish.” (W&S)


$12 2012 Columbia Crest Grand Estates Cabernet Sauvignon (Columbia Valley) – “Polished, plush and vibrant, with a core of plum and black currant fruit welling up seductively against hints of sweet spices and cream. The finish lingers beautifully.” (WS)

$13 2012 Snoqualamie Cabernet Sauvignon (Columbia Valley) – “A dense, focused, and expressive red, with black olive-and-mineral-accented current and plum fruit that’s nicely restrained and shepherded into the velvet-textured finish. Lingers beautifully.” (WS)

$12 2012 Chateau Ste. Michelle Grand Estates Merlot (Columbia Valley) – “Velvety, focused and generous, with black cherry and coffee flavors, hinting at dark chocolate as the finish extends.” (WS)

$12 2012 14 Hands Merlot (Columbia Valley) – “Fresh and expressive, a bit raw yet juicy, with black currant and blueberry flavors shaded with notes of toast and peach fuzz as the finish persists.” (WS)

$11 2011 Castle Rock Merlot (Columbia Valley) – “Smooth and generous, supple, velvety and expressive, weaving a minty herbal note through a harmonious blend of blackberry, cherry and spice flavors.” (WS)

$12 2012 Charles Smith The Velvet Devil Merlot (Columbia Valley) – “Polished, supple and expressive, with well-modulated blueberry and spice flavors that slide easily into a long and well-defined finish. Has deft balance, richness and depth.” (WS)

$15 2012 Columbia Crest Cabernet Sauvignon (Horse Heaven Hills) – “Dark and spicy, billowing with plum, currant and white chocolate flavors, picking up pear and white tea notes as the finish lingers with refinement. The tannins are submerged.” (WS)

$11 2012 Hogue Merlot (Columbia Valley) – “Fresh and vibrant, with lively acidity to balance the rich blueberry pie and spice flavors, hinting at black pepper as the creamy finish lingers.” (WS)

$15 2011 Seven Falls Merlot (Wahluke Slope) – “Spicy, expressive, detailed and focused, offering white pepper and floral overtones to the raspberry and white chocolate core, lingering easily against fine tannins.” (WS)

$14 2011 Waterbrook Merlot (Columbia Valley) – “Light and tangy, with tobacco and coffee overtones to the black cherry and tangy balsamic flavors, lingering with persistence. Offers presence and refinement.” (WS)

$15 2013 Charles Smith Boom Boom! Syrah (Columbia Valley) – “Fresh, lively and sleek, with red berry, raspberry and spice box flavors in a neat package, lingering expressively.” (WS)

$12 2012 Bogle Petite Sirah (California) – “Wild berry flavors are ripe, fresh and juicy, with cedar, herb and red licorice overtones and chewy tannins.” (WS)

$11 2013 McManis Petite Sirah (California) – “Beyond the dark chocolate and wood smoke notes of this wine’s oak, there’s plenty of bright, firm petite sirah fruit. With grilled meat, the oak will recede and the fruit will shine.” (W&S)

$11 2013 McManis Pinot Noir (California) – “This marries black cherry flavors with barrel spice in a chewy structure that’s bold rather than delicate. Chill it slightly for grilled bratwurst.” (W&S)

$15 2012 Windy Bay Pinot Noir (Oregon) – “Soft and lilting in its scents of cedar and turf, this wine has a chewy density, lending depth to the dark cherry flavors. Its abundant grippy tannins will cut into beef stroganoff.” (W&S)

Key: WE — Wine Enthusiast; WS — Wine Spectator; W&S — Wine & Spirits


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