Going to a friend’s house for dinner? Be sure to bring the right bottle!

Wine Country 068

     As I was sitting down to post the latest installment of WWG, my thought was to focus on some interesting white wines I have recently tasted that are truly made for the changing of the season. But just as I got started, my friend emailed me with a request to write a blog that would help him choose an appropriate wine to bring to someone’s house when invited over for dinner. I thought this was a great idea and needed to be addressed ASAP, as I know it is a common dilemma. So the blog on Fall and Winter Whites will just have to wait….

     First off, you DO NOT need to spend a lot of money to get a really nice bottle. There are those in the wine world that believe the more expensive the bottle, the better the wine. Nonsense! That is not to say that very expensive wines are not good, most of them are delicious. But a lot of times you are paying for the name brand, or the rarity of the wine.

     Many wine shops will carry some of their own labels that you can’t really find anywhere else. They are typically wines that are made at some of the better known wineries in California, but instead of bottling it, the wineries sell it to a secondary label. By grabbing some of these lesser known brands, you are getting good quality fruit without having to pay the price for the name.  Each store has their own gems so ask your local merchant if they have any wines they carry exclusively. I know the Bottle King chain throughout NJ has a few (Dickson Mills Cab and Chard being my favorites), and Zachy’s in Scarsdale has the Bookster label which has solid wines across the board.

     So I guess my first point is not to buy something just because it is expensive. If you know that your hosts are fans of a particular wine, and they are of the belief that more expensive is better, than by all means grab a bottle of Silver Oak, Cakebread or Caymus Cabernet. You won’t go wrong. But if you would rather reach for something on the value side, try bringing the Artesa Cabernet or the Justin Winery Cabernet from Paso Robles. If you look at the wine magazine ratings, a lot of these less expensive wines are rated higher than the big dogs anyway!

     Another good tip is to bring a wine that you know your hosts enjoy or can connect with. If your friend is a fan of the Kendall Jackson Chardonnay, which is one of the most popular around (and a great go to wine), try bringing something similar she may have not tried before, like the Chateau St. Jean Sonoma Chardonnay. Or maybe your host and hostess just got back from a vacation in Italy. So a Chianti Classico or a Super Tuscan (a red blend usually consisting of Sangiovese, Cabernet and Merlot grapes) may help remind them of their trip, and it shows that you’ve actually been listening to their stories.

    I also like to try and bring wines that come from the hosts family’s country of origin.  It works out wonderfully for those whose families come from Spain, France, Italy, Argentina or Hungary. My wife’s parents both came over from Hungary, so I tried to bring over Tokaji, some of the best white desert wine made in the world, as much as possible! Since it tends to carry a bit of a hefty price tag however,  it’s now more for special occasions.  Beware….if you are visiting friends of Irish or English descent, you may want to avoid this strategy unless you’re bringing over beer (which could also work out well!!).

     Lastly, try and bring something that you know YOU would enjoy drinking. Many hosts will open up the wines that people bring as gifts. It’s not a rule, but unless they have some sort of a collection or have fully stocked up for the evening, chances are that your wine will be served. So go with something at least from an area that you are familiar with so you can be confident it will be enjoyable and won’t disappoint.

     It is difficult to put together a list of what to bring as there are so many different variables involved. But below I have tried to put together some options based on different varietals (the grape used for producing the wine i.e. Cabernet, Chardonnay, Merlot, etc) , prices and wines that are readily available at most wine shops. I also want to add that if you ever are looking for a specific recommendation, idea, or just have a general question about wine, feel free to post a comment. I check this blog often and will be able to respond pretty quickly most of the time. Salute!

WINERIES THAT HAVE GREAT VALUE WINES ACROSS THE BOARD:

Columbia Crest, Beringer, Artesa, Kendall Jackson, King Estate, Geyser Peak, Castle Rock, Barton and Guestier (B & G), Banfi, Veramonte, Wolf Blass and Peter Lehman.

 SPARKLING WINE/CHAMPAGNE

Under $15

Gruet Brut and Brut Rose (New Mexico….Really it is from New Mexico and delicious!!)

Korbel Brut Rose (California)

Freixenet Cordon Negro Brut (Spain)

La Marca Prosecco (Italy)

$16-$30

Mumm Cuvee Napa Brut ( California….don’t let the Meet the Parents stigma fool you)

J Brut Rose and Cuvee 20 Brut (California)

Schramsberg Mirabelle Brut and Rose (California….the Rose got 93 Pts from Spectator)

$31 and up

Basically any Champagne you pick out above this price will be delicious, a few of my favorites are Piper-Heidsieck, Veuve Clicquot, Henriot Brut Souverain, Nicolas Feuillatte and the Moet and Chandon family of Champagnes.

 WHITES

Under $15

King Estate Pinot Gris (Oregon)

Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc/Viogner (California)

Columbia Crest Grand Estates Chardonnay (Washington)

Brancott Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand….Marlborough great area for Sauvignon Blanc in general).

Zenato Pinot Grigio (Italy)

$16-30

Cambria Katherine’s Vineyard Chardonnay (California….one of my new favorites)

Cakebread Sauvignon Blanc (California)

Pio Cesare Cortese Di Gavi (Italy)

Louis Latour Chassagne Montrachet (France)

Dr. Konstantin Frank Riesling (New York)

$31 and up

Mer Soleil Chardonnay (California)

Far Niente Chardonnay (California)

E. Guigal Condrieu (France)

Joseph Drouhin Mersault (France)

Cloudy Bay Te Koko Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand)

 REDS

Under $15

Louis M Martini Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon (California….all their Cabs are great)

Angeline Pinot Noir (California)

Columbia Crest H3 Merlot (Washington)

Banfi Centine (Italy…great Super Tuscan value)

Delas Cotes Du Ventoux (France)

Bodegas Hijos de Juan Gil (Spain)

$16-30

Beringer Knights Valley Cabernet (California)

Cambria Julia’s Vineyard Pinot Noir (California)

Whitehall Lane Merlot (California)

Tenuta Dell Ornellaia Le Volte (Italy…2nd label from one of best wineries in Italy)

Chateau de Clairefont Margaux (France)

Mollydooker The Boxer Shiraz (Australia….great boutique winery)

$31 and up

Ruffino Chianti Classico Riserva Ducale Gold Label (Italy)

The Prisoner from Orin Swift (California….amazing Zin/Syrah blend)

D’Arenberg The Dead Arm Shiraz (Australia)

Turley Zinfandel (California…there are many different vineyards….ALL excellent!)

Chateau La Nerthe Chateauneuf du Pape (France)

Archery Summit Pinot Noir (Oregon…again, there are a few different vineyards, but all are great depending on what you want to spend)

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