Sunday, December 09, 2001

What wine to bring? 

November 16, 2001

> What Kind of Wine Will You Bring? Here Are Some Tips
> With friends and family gathering for the holidays,
> this is the time of year
> when the big question is: "I've been invited to the
> house of a friend who
> knows something about wine and I'm supposed to bring
> a bottle for dinner.
> What do I do?"
> In almost every office, there's one person everybody
> turns to for wine
> advice. For years, we were those people, and we try
> to write this column as
> if we still are, albeit with millions of co-workers
> now. So here's the
> advice we would give a colleague in the cubicle next
> to ours. To some
> extent, these are safe choices, because nothing is
> worse than showing up
> with a bottle of wine that nobody drinks. On the
> other hand, all of them
> show the kind of care that friends expect.
> Make sure you know if you're supposed to bring a
> white or a red. We've
> offered some of each just in case. (Also, if you're
> asked to bring the wine
> for the entire dinner party, the general rule of
> thumb is that each bottle
> holds six glasses of wine.) We think Champagne or a
> light dessert wine
> (anything made from the Muscat grape that's less
> than 11% alcohol) are great
> wines to bring, but we're assuming here that your
> host just wants a red or a
> white to go with dinner. We're also assuming that
> these are good friends and
> that this is a somewhat fancy dinner party. If it's
> a pizza party, that's
> obviously a very different story.
> 1. Special Chardonnay. Chardonnay is always a safe
> choice because almost
> everybody loves it, but it can be boring. Here are
> several Chardonnays that
> are not boring, and you can even say, "This was one
> of the wines recommended
> by the Journal." (If it's a dud, you can always
> blame us, too.) If the label
> is one that you don't see every day, like Rombauer,
> your host is sure to be
> impressed that you went to the trouble, so we've
> included several of those
> in this list. In the $25-and-up category: Rombauer,
> Davis Bynum, Robert
> Mondavi Reserve, Byron Estate, Beringer Private
> Reserve. Under $25: Bogle
> Vineyards, Atlas Peak, Guenoc, Markham, St. Francis,
> Acacia, Cambria and
> Edna Valley.
> 2. Special Merlot. Ditto, ditto, ditto. In the
> $25-and-up category:
> Whitehall Lane, Joseph Phelps, Dry Creek Reserve.
> Under $25:
> Niebaum-Coppola, Hess Select, Wild Horse,
> Franciscan. With both the
> Chardonnay and the Merlot, you'll have a million
> choices beyond these names,
> of course. What's important is to spend a little
> more than you usually spend
> on a name that might be a bit unfamiliar.
> 3. Zinfandel. Especially at Thanksgiving, many
> people consider Zinfandel the
> perfect wine because it's so very American. It isn't
> grown anywhere else,
> and its tastes are bold, brash and altogether New
> World. Unfortunately, many
> Zinfandels under $20 these days are sweet, hot and
> alcoholic, so we'd urge
> you to plan to spend more than $20 and think "R":
> Ridge, Ravenswood, Rabbit
> Ridge, Renwood and Rosenblum. All of these wineries
> have Zinfandels at
> various prices, but look for the ones over $20 for
> an experience that will
> impress your host.
> 4. Kosher wine. If your host keeps Kosher or any of
> the guests do, a bottle
> of outstanding wine that just happens to be Kosher
> would be most thoughtful.
> You can get just about anything Kosher these days,
> from fine Champagne to
> top-rank Bordeaux. If your store doesn't have the
> kind of good stuff that
> makes you say, "Gee, I didn't realize this was
> Kosher," try another store.
> 5. Fine Bordeaux. Showing up with a good bottle of
> Bordeaux will immediately
> stamp you as a person of class and breeding, and
> this is easier than it
> seems. Look for a Bordeaux from Pomerol,
> Lalande-de-Pomerol or Pauillac. The
> first two will be hits because they're primarily
> made from the Merlot grape.
> Pauillac is a storied name, home of some of the
> greatest red wines on Earth,
> such as Chateau Lafite Rothschild. But there are
> many lesser-known, and
> therefore more affordable, chateaux, too. Plan to
> spend at least $20.
> 6. White Burgundy. Made from the Chardonnay grape,
> these are among the best
> white wines in the world, and even wine lovers don't
> drink them as often as
> they'd like. Burgundy is hard to understand, so just
> look for a bottle from
> any of these three places: Puligny-Montrachet, Chassagne-Montrachet
> and Meursault (poo-lean-ye moan-ra-shay, sha-sahnya
> moan-ra-shay and mehr-so).
> These will likely cost you around $40, but wait'll
> you see the guests'
> faces.
> 7. Red Burgundy. Made from the Pinot Noir grape,
> these are often wonderful.
> Look for wines from Savigny, Gevrey-Chambertin and Chambolle-Musigny
> (sav-veen-ye, jev-ray shahm-bear-tan, shahm-bol
> moos-seen-yee). Savigny is
> usually a terrific buy at about $30. The others will
> cost somewhat more.
> 8. New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. This is the white
> wine the in-crowd is into
> at the moment. These wines tend to be crisp, grassy
> and quite distinctive.
> Buy the youngest you can find. If you see Cloudy
> Bay, grab it, because it's
> famous and everyone will be impressed. But there are
> others we like better,
> including Villa Maria, Stoneleigh, Goldwater Estate,
> Grove Mill and Babich.
> These will cost $10 to $20.
> 9. 1997 Italian red. We're not too interested in
> vintages -- there are too
> many caveats and qualifications to ever focus on one
> vintage over another --
> but everyone who knows about wine knows that 1997
> was a great year for
> Italian reds. So if you show up with one, you're
> sure to be welcomed warmly.
> We think Barolo and Barbaresco are always special
> treats, but they will
> likely cost at least $40 and probably more. Consider
> instead a Chianti
> Classico, which will be delicious and soulful in a
> very special way. You can
> often pick up an excellent Chianti Classico for $20
> to $25. When you hand it
> to your host and he smirks, assure him that this
> Chianti bears little
> resemblance to the simple, quaffing ones of his
> college days. After the wine
> is poured, you will be proved right.
> 10. Savennieres. This dry white wine from the Loire
> Valley of France, made
> from the Chenin Blanc grape, is highly trendy at the
> moment. It's juicy,
> vibrant and flavorful, with enough weight to be
> excellent with food.
> 11. Cote Rotie. This is a very special
> recommendation we'd offer to our
> friends with a) money, and b) someone they really
> wanted to impress. Cote
> Rotie is one of the most special red wines of the
> Rhone Valley of France.
> Made from the Syrah grape, it has a roasted, almost
> chewy redness that makes
> it unique. We also often sense herbs and even
> lilacs. It's great for colder
> weather and it's one of those wines that's too often overlooked, even
> by wine lovers, because it's so different. The
> downside: It will cost you $50
> or so.
> 12. Pinot Gris. This is a white wine of some weight
> and considerable charm,
> especially Pinot Gris from Oregon, where it hits a
> high note. It is a
> marvelous combination of citrus flavors and nice
> acids that make it great
> with food, plus a hard-to-describe dimension that
> reminds us of crème brûlée
> and flan. Some good names to look for: Eyrie, King
> Estate, WillaKenzie and
> Sokol Blosser. Expect to pay less than $20.
> It's the thought that counts. But if you show up
> with any of these, you'll
> be invited back.