…actually, make that every season
Even though this is the time of year that I prefer to wrap myself up like a burrito, take to the couch with a bottle of something delicious, and bark orders at my children from my throne of comfort, it does happen to be the season of entertaining. Party invitations abound. Everyone wants to host everyone. Dinners and get-togethers galore. Spouses nationwide are insisting, “This is the first I’ve heard of this plan.” Ok fine, maybe that last one was personal. The bottom line is that most of these scenarios require wine because, as my mother taught me, how dare you show up at someone’s home empty-handed.
Picking crowd- or even small-group-pleasing wines can be tricky. Some people only drink red wine. Others will do anything but Chardonnay. Still others love something with bubbles. Wouldn’t it be nice if you just had a go-to list to whip out for this exact scenario? A what-wine-to-bring-to-any-get-together cheat sheet? Look no further because we at The Vintner Project created just that for you.
We vetted a staggering number of wines to pick a selection of perfect bottles that not only fit just about every bring-a-bottle situation, but that are also fairly widely available online.
Graham Beck Brut NV. Easily the most reliable bubbly around in terms of impressive quality at an astonishingly reasonable price. Plus it’s a great conversation-starter to bring a bottle of Cap Classique instead of one of the usual sparkling suspects. Get it here.
Frank Family Vineyards 2016 Blanc de Blancs, Carneros. Made from 100% cool-climate Chardonnay from Napa’s Carneros region, this is a complex yet utterly elegant sparkling wine bursting with bright fruit and classic toasty notes. Sip on its own or create a dream pairing alongside oysters and caviar. $60. Get it here.
Champagne Barons de Rothschild Concordia Brut NV, Champagne. Champagne purists will love this classic Brut, from one of the most respected names in French winemaking. Made from a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, this bubbly is decadent, with notes of lemon, apricot, and marzipan, lifted by fine perlage, prominent freshness and a long finish of brioche and toasted hazelnut. $65. Get it here.
Valdo Marca Oro Prosecco Rosé Brut NV, Prosecco DOC. Not all Prosecco is created equal and this bottling demonstrates the level of quality that is possible in this quaffable fiz that’s a staple at most Italian gatherings. Celebrate Prosecco’s relatively new rosé category with this fresh and fun bubbly that’s sure to get any gathering started on a festive note. $16. Get it here.
Simonsig Chenin Blanc, Stellenbosch. If you haven’t already, you need to get on the Chenin Blanc train for exciting, zippy, versatile wines in a variety of shapes and sizes. This one has zing for days and is the perfect aperitif or partner for a range of appetizers. $15. Get it here.
Bouchaine Vineyards 2022 Estate Gewürztraminer, Carneros. Gewüztraminer can be a really polarizing grape, but it needn’t be if renditions like this one are out there. Here, the aromatics are subtle yet beguiling, with rose petal, lychee, juicy pear, and nectarine on the nose, giving way to a wine that is at once beautifully structured and mouth-wateringly drinkable. $45. Get it here.
Wiens Cellars 2022 Albariño, Temecula Valley. Don’t sleep on wines from this dynamic AVA in Southern California. This Albariño is as zippy as it gets, bursting with juicy citrus, green apple, acacia, and nectarine. Get one of your friends to host a feast of king crab legs and bring this delicious number to pair. $28. Get it here.
Spy Valley 2022 E Block Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough. There is nothing grassy or over-the-top about this bright, elegant Sauvignon Blanc. It’s got concentrated notes of stone fruit, lime zest, and apple blossom, and a tasty, wet-stone minerality. Sure to impress at any gathering. $28. Get it here.
Rich & Luxurious White
The Hilt 2020 Chardonnay, Sta. Rita Hills. If I could drink one Chardonnay for the rest of my life, The Hilt might just be it. Winemaker Matt Dees has managed to find the perfect intersection of fruit, acid, and oak integration, resulting in a wine that is densely layered, with notes of tart apple, nectarine, and white flowers, with a wonderful briny quality, slight kiss of baking spice, and a zingy, absolutely epic finish. $55. Get it here.
Aperture 2022 Barrel Fermented Sauvignon Blanc, Sonoma County. Fans of top-quality white Bordeaux will fall in love with this complex, age-worthy Sauvignon Blanc from one of Sonoma’s most exciting wineries. It’s got everything one could ask for in a white wine – structure, freshness, texture, and a full kaleidoscope flavors and aromas. $50. Get it here.
Tablas Creek 2021 Esprit de Tablas Blanc, Adelaida District. White Rhône blends always seem to stay in the shadows of their red counterparts, and this is unfortunate because they have so much to offer in terms of complexity and suitability for a wide range of cuisines. Tablas Creek’s flagship white is a stunning example of the magic that happens when these grapes come together in the hands of a talented winemaker. Everyone must taste this wine at least once in their life and it may as well be thanks to you. $75. Get it here.
Elena Walch 2021 Beyond the Clouds, Alto Adige DOC. A white wine for red wine drinkers, this Chardonnay-dominant blend packs a serious punch. Opulent in both aroma and body, it offers layer upon layer of pineapple, golden delicious apple, hazelnut, and warm vanilla custard that ties it all together brilliantly. Your fellow sippers will thank you for this one. $90. Get it here.
Rosé Every Way
Materra | Cunat Family Vineyard 2022 Yoshino Rosé, Napa Valley. This estate-grown rosé is made from 100% Malbec and is part of a line of wines specifically designed to pair with Japanese cuisine. Co-founder Miki Cunat originally hails from Shiogana, Japan, and these wines are a tribute to that heritage. The stunning hue is reminiscent of Japan’s cherry blossoms, and the delicate floral, watermelon candy flavors are a match for any occasion. $27. Get it here.
Château Haut-Blanville 2022 Rosé, AOP Languedoc. This lively blend of Grenache Noir, Syrah, and Cinsault offers a beautiful bouquet of fresh strawberry, cherry, and watermelon aromas, complemented by a palate-pleasing burst of citrus notes and bright acidity. Packaged elegantly with a glass closure, this delightful rosé offers a luxury experience for under $20. $17. Get it here.
Ehlers 2022 Sylviane Rosé, St. Helena. If the vibrant color of this wine doesn’t lure you in, the juicy, mouth-watering flavors will. Light and bright enough to sip as an aperitif, but hearty enough to sip with the meal itself, this is a wine for red and white drinkers alike. $38. Get it here.
Pratsch 2022 Organic Rosé, Austria. How do you get a conversation started? You surprise and delight your friends with a unique wine from an unexpected region. This tasty, crushable rosé fits the bill perfectly. And at such a palatable price, you may as well bring a few bottles to share. $16. Get it here.
Fun and Food-Friendly Reds
The Paring 2019 Red, California. This red is a major crowd-pleaser. It’s complex and weighty enough to sip on its own, when you’ve all retired to the couch after dinner. But it’s also easy-drinking and food-friendly enough to stand up to just about anything you or your host have on the menu. $25. Get it here.
Hecht & Bannier 2018 Syrah, Grenache, Carignan, AOP Languedoc. Hecht & Bannier is a great touchpoint for anyone looking to discover the wines of Languedoc-Roussillon. This juicy red sees no barrel aging, so it bursts from the glass with bright red cherry and berry fruit, and those unmistakable floral, herbal, and savory notes so prominent in wines of this region. Made with organic grapes. $17. Get it here.
Primus 2020 Carménère, Colchagua Valley. It’s time to pay attention to Carménère a French variety now synonymous with the wines of Chile. It’s typically a versatile, medium-bodied wine with layers of fruit-driven and savory notes and fantastic structure. This bottling is a delicious example, not to mention an absolute steal at $18. Get it here.
Georges Duboeuf 2023 Beaujolais Nouveau, Beaujolais. Nouveau haters are gonna hate and you’re gonna ignore them, ok? Because there are few wines more fun than a slightly chilled bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau to kickstart a great evening of eating and drinking. This wine is light, easygoing, and as quaffable as it gets. $15. Get it here.
Reds for Contemplation
Podere Sapaio 2021 Volpolo, Bolgheri DOC. This beauty is a heady blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, and 15% Petit Verdot. If you love a Super Tuscan, this one is a standard-bearer, offering layers of fruit and spice and texture that finds the perfect balance between silky and fresh. $41. Get it here.
Markham Vineyards 2021 Merlot, Napa Valley. You WILL drink F-ing Merlot, and it WILL be this one. Seriously though; Markham continues to produce some of the best Merlot I’ve ever had in my life and this bottle will help you fall in love with the grape all over again – or for the first time. $29. Get it here.
La Crema 2021 Sealift Vineyard Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast. La Crema wines are always a hit among crowds. Take it up a notch with this vineyard-designate Pinot Noir. It’s elegant, it’s layered, and it’s also age-worthy if for some reason your host chooses not to reward you for bringing this wine by sharing the bottle with you. $65. Get it here.
Peju 2021 Cabernet Franc, Napa Valley. If you (and your friends) typically gravitate to Bordeaux and varietal Cabernet Sauvignon, go with this broody bottle of Cabernet Franc. It’s dark, it’s mysterious, and it’s bound to leave a lasting impression. $80. Get it here
The Wine Pros Have Spoken: Community Picks
For good measure, we asked our Grapeloop community to tell us their go-to wine to bring when invited to dinner. Here’s what some of them had to say:
“Some of the pours I love for their versatility, price point, and the ability to find once folks fall in love with them are: Maison L’Envoyé Moulin-à-Vent for red, Cottanera Etna Rosato for rosé, Chateau Ducasse Blanc for white, and Raventós i Blanc Blanc de Blancs for sparkling.” – Leo Braddock, winemaker.
“The Vice ‘The House’ Cabernet is under $30 with the 25% promotion plus as an added bonus you can schedule a virtual tasting with the Wine Maker. I love their wine and the family who owns it.” – Michelle Dotinga, wine ambassador.
“Zaccagnini Il Vino Dal Tralcetto Montepulciano d’Abruzzo – great price point, nice looking bottle, amazing wine.” – Rachel Kasab, publicist
“Caraccioli Brut Sparkling from Escolle Vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands of Monterey – hands down the best vintage ‘Champagne-like’ sparkling in CA for the money. In a handsome package, too.” – Laura Ness, journalist and wine columnist
“Well, coincidentally, Graham Beck Rosé is my go-to but you already named a Graham Beck so I’ll go with another mainstay—Adami Vigneto Giardino Prosecco DOCG.” – Kym Wroble, food, wine & nutrition specialist
“For bubbly, Carboniste Sparkling Albariño Extra Brut, Domaine Allimant Laugner Crémant d’Alsace AOC Brut Rosé NV, or if I have extra dollars for some reason, or need to make a good impression, Bérêche Champagne AOC Brut Reserve NV. For white, Domaine du Bouchot ‘Terres Blanches’ Pouilly-Fumé AOC or Rafael Palacios ‘Louro do Bolo’ Godello Valdeorras DO. Pink, Matthiasson Rosé or, if I’m on a budget, Pigoudet Rosé Coteaux d’Aix en Provence AOP. For red, Famille De Boel France ‘Le gras c’est la vie!’ Méditerranée IGP.” – Sarah Daniels, writer & wine buyer
“My favorites that I generally bring to dinner with other guests and get many compliments: Allegrini Palazzo della Torre, Ferrari Brut, La Raia Gavi, Le Macchiole Paleo Bianco, and Capezzana Barco Reale di Carmignano.” – Paola Pavan, wine & spirits marketing strategist “We often bring one of the wonderful Pinot Noirs from Bouchaine Vineyards in the Carneros region of Napa Valley. At this time, I would probably choose the Bouchaine Pinot Noir Calera Clone. It happens to be a featured wine at King Charles’ 75th Birthday celebration, and one of the wines we’ll be enjoying at our Thanksgiving table.”