UH OH, IT’S PARTY TIME (Budget Edition)

UH OH? Uh oh, indeed. The party season is here and you want to serve good wines but you’re on a tight budget. What to do? Glad you asked. First off, you need to know the range of wines you should buy. Just having white and a couple of bottles of red used to be OK but now, not so much. Now it’s “red, white, and bubbles” – and not just one of each. The name of the game is variety. Also, it’s nice if the wine somewhat matches the food you’ll be serving. It seems like a lot to consider but I’ve got you covered. Here are my preferred party picks (and some alternates) all priced under $12.00 per bottle.

BUBBLES:
Preferred Pick –
CASTILLO PERELADA Brut Reserva, Cava (Spain), NV ($8)PereladaCavaBrut
A blend of Macabeo, Xarel·lo and Parellada together with Chardonnay fermented using Methode Champenoise and aged at least 18 months on the yeasts in the bottle.    Pale-gold-straw in color; dry, medium-bodied with fresh acidity. Cheap Cava that both smells and tastes better than its price. Toasty, yeasty earth with citrus and tree fruit along with some earthy red fruit. Good grip in the mouth, quite long. So much better than it has to be at this price point. Great with appetizers and anti pastas. Perfect with potato chips or popcorn. BS: 90+.
Alternate Picks: Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava ($9) -or- Zonin Prosecco ($10)

WHITES:
Preferred Pick –
NICOLAS HERMEN Riesling Qba, Pfalz, 2011 ($8)
100% Riesling fermented cold in stainless steel tanks with no oak and no ML.    Pale straw with green highlights; bright and clear. Semi-dry with a crisp balance. Offers fresh apple and lime fruit with a hint of peach and a wildflower floral note over a core of wet stone minerality. Fresh and refreshing. Great as a glug-able aperitif. And fine with shellfish and especially with shrimp or mussel dishes. BS: 88+.
Alternate Picks: Polka Dot Riesling from Washington State ($8) -or- Dr. Loosen “L” Riesling from the Mosel ($10)

Preferred Pick –
YALUMBA “Y  Series” Pinot Grigio, South Australia, 2012 ($10)
100% Pinot Gris fermented and aged sur-lie in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks with its malo-lactic fermentation blocked.   Straw with green highlights with nice legs, medium-body, fresh acidity, and scant phenolics. The fruit ranges from pear and apple to lime with a hint of honey. Fresh and lively but with some richness in the mouth. Versatile, appealing white that goes with everything. BS: 89.
Alternate Picks: The Ned Pinot Gris New Zealand ($12) -or- Chateau Ste. Michelle Pinot Gris ($10)

Preferred Pick –
La NOBLE Chardonnay,  Vin de Pays d’Oc, 2011 ($10)LaNobleChardonnay
100% Chardonnay (from a mix of lower, more coastal vineyards and higher cooler mountain vineyards) fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks, and aged “sur lie” (on the lees) until bottling.  Medium straw in color with well formed legs; dry, medium-bodied with freshly balanced acidity.  Fresh, lively, fruit-and-floral Chardonnay offering citrus and tree fruit with some leesy richness and enough mineral earth to keep it in focus. Because it does not go into oak barrels, this is a Chardonnay that works with lots of foods from shellfish through to pork and veal and even mushrooms. Very easy to appreciate and like. This could be your party wine. 88.
Alternate Picks: Louis Latour Ardeche Chardonnay ($9) -or-  Domaine de Gournier Chardonnay from Nimes in France ($10)

REDS:
Preferred Pick –
Le VERSANT Pinot Noir, Vin de Pays d’Oc, 2012 ($11)
100% Pinot Noir, grown on north and east facing slopes in the highlands near Puisserguier & Cazouls in Southwestern France. Fermented using rack-and-return (most unusual for Pinot) and aged 5 months in 90% Stainless Steel tanks and 10% in older oak barrels.    Deep-red color with well formed legs; dry, medium-bodied with freshly balanced acidity and medium phenolics.  Supple dark red cherry and some berry fruit with accents of cola, a subtle earthiness and a bit of black pepper along with spice and a dark floral note. Lovely in the mouth. This is the value-priced, food friendly, everyday Pinot Noir you’ve been looking for. Grows on you as you drink it. Shockingly good for the price. Versatile enough to accompany almost anything you can serve red wine with. BS: 90.
Alternate Picks: Hahn Pinot Noir ($11) -or-  Louis Latour “Valmoissine” Pinot Noir ($12)

Preferred Pick –
CA’ MOMI Rosso di Napa, Napa Valley, 2010 ($10)CaMomiRosso
A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, and Merlot aged 8 months in French and American oak barrels. Sensory: Deep red-purple in color with good legs; dry, medium full-bodied with balanced acidity and medium plus phenolics. Offers fresh, dusty red & black fruit showing spicy cherry berry character combined with gravelly earth terroir, dusty mixed oak, and accents of cedar, tobacco, black pepper, leather, and dark spice. Long, clean finish. Fresh elegant integrated focused, and precise; almost Sangiovese like. This is an American red wine to use as you would use Chianti; try it with pizza, pasta and red sauce, lasagna, eggplant Parmigiana, etc. BS: 88+.
Alternate Picks: Tudal “Tractor Shed” Red ($11) -or- Tiziano Chianti DOCG ($11)

Preferred Pick –
HEALDSBURG RANCHES Cabernet Sauvignon North Coast 2010 ($12)
100% Cabernet Sauvignon aged in 100% French oak barrels (none new).   Sensory: Medium-red-purple in color with well formed legs; dry, medium full-bodied with fresh acidity; medium phenolics.  Supple more red than black fruit Cabernet with lots of spice, subtle oak, and a bit of mineral. tough to beat at this price point. Perfect with grilled meats, especially steak. BS: 89.
Alternate Picks: Yalumba “Y Series” Cabernet Sauvignon South Australia ($11) -or- Los Vascos Cabernet Sauvignon Chile ($10)

GENERIC TURKEY WINES

So you need to buy a bottle (or 3 or 4) for Thanksgiving but you’re not really clear on the menu? You know there will be turkey but you don’t know how it will be cooked and you don’t know which sides will accompany it? You’re flying blind; I’m here to help.

All other things being equal, Pinot Noir is the best wine to serve with the traditional thanksgiving meal with all its regional and familial variations and permutations. Traditional New England? No Problem. Pit-roasted Turkey with jalapeño cornbread oyster stuffing? Ditto. Deep-fried Turkey with a Cajun spice injection? Out-a-sight. Turduken? Uh-Huh. Pinot handles ’em all even as it deals with all the oddball spicy, sweet (candied yams, cranberry sauce), salty, or gloppy (overcooked green beans served in casserole with canned mushroom soup and French’s fried onions) side dishes better han any other red. And, if served at 55-58°F (which is ideal cellar temperature), Pinot will actually help a slightly dried out turkey (of which there are far too many) taste better.

My picks (in three different price ranges) are all from France because these wines are lower in alcohol and a bit higher in acidity (freshness) making them better partners at the table.

Le VERSANT Pinot Noir, Vin de Pays d’Oc, 2012versantpn
100% Pinot Noir, grown on north and east facing slopes in the highlands near Puisserguier & Cazouls in Southwestern France. Fermented using rack-and-return (most unusual for Pinot) and aged 5 months in 90% Stainless Steel tanks and 10% in older oak barrels.   Sensory Note: Deep-red color with well formed legs; dry, medium-bodied with freshly balanced acidity and medium phenolics.  Supple dark red cherry and some berry fruit with accents of cola, a subtle earthiness and a bit of black pepper along with spice and a dark floral note. Bear Note: Lovely in the mouth This is the value-priced, food friendly, everyday Pinot Noir you’ve been looking for. Grows on you as you drink it. Shockingly good for the price. BS: 90. ($12 SRP)

LEONCE BOCQUET, Rully Rouge, 2009
100% Pinot Noir (from Rully in Burgundy’s Cote Chalonnaise) aged 14 months in a combination of 50% used oak barrels and 50% tank.     Sensory Note: Red-violet in color with well formed legs; dry, medium-bodied with freshly balanced acidity and medium phenolics with a longer finish.    Supple darker red cherry-berry fruit and even a hint of cocoa to complement the cola and dark floral notes.    Bear Note: Complete. Drinking very well now. This is Chalonnaise Pinot Noir at a high level.  BS: 91. ($24 SRP)

HENRI de VILLAMONT, Savigny les Beaune Clos des Guettes 1er cru, 2011
Tech Note: 13% Alcohol. 100% Pinot Noir fermented using open-top tanks and punch-downs (classic for Burgundy) and aged 14 months in French oak barrels (40% new).   Sensory Note: Red in color with well-formed legs; dry, medium-bodied with freshly balanced acidity and medium phenolics.  Shows fresh red cherry and berry fruit. Lots of cola and spice but on an elegant and even ethereal structure. Vivid in the mouth with a lingering finish that comes in waves.   Bear Note: YUM. Precise, pure, refreshing; alive-in-the-mouth. BS: 92+. ($35 SRP)

And maybe you’d like to bring some bubbles? Everybody may like the guy who brings donuts or breakfast tacos but everybody LOVES the guy who brings the bubbles. You can be that guy. Don’t know what to grab? Gotcha covered there too:

Castillo PERELADA Brut Reserva, Cava (Spain), NVPerelada500x500
Tech: 11.5% Alcohol. A blend of Macabeo, Xarel·lo and Parellada together with Chardonnay and Subirat Parent, Garnatxa Tinta, and Monastrell. Fermented using Methode Champenoise and aged at least 18 months on the yeasts in the bottle. Sensory: Pale-gold-straw in color; dry, medium-bodied with fresh acidity. Cheap Cava that both smells and tastes better than its price. Toasty, yeasty earth with citrus and tree fruit along with some earthy red fruit. Good grip in the mouth, quite long. So much better than it has to be at this price point. BS: 90+. ($10 SRP)

JANSZ Brut, Tasmania, NV
Tech Note: 12% Alc. A methode champenoise blend of 58% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir, and 2% Pinot Meunier aged two years en tirage (on the yeasts) before disgorgement and finishing. Sensory Note: Pale green straw in color and fully sparkling with a nice bead even in the larger Riedel glasses. Plenty of fizz. The yeast-and-fruit nose was evident even as I was pouring the wine. In the glass, I found yeast and toast notes along with citrus and floral as well as a bit of red fruit. There is even a Champagne-like mineral component along with enough richness to make this work well with food. (I continued to sip it after we were seated with some of La Vista’s excellent mussels.) It is crisp and fresh with a fine balance and very long finish. Bear Note: Delicious. I think Carol has a slight preference for the Jansz Rosé but I find them both to be excellent. And I think this was better with the mussels than the Rosé would have been. BS: 92+. ($25 SRP)

GOSSET Brut Excellence, Champagne, NVimages-1
Tech: 12% Alcohol. A blend of 45% Pinot Noir, 36% Chardonnay, and 19% Pinot Meunier sourced primarily from Grand and Premier Cru vineyards. Gosset bases this blend on three vintages and then adds 20% reserve wines (wines aged in a sort of solera with many vintages blended together). The wine spends over 2.5 years en tirage (resting on the lees before disgorging). Sensory: Medium straw in color with a hint of green highlights. Dry, light-to-medium-bodied with crisp acidity and scant phenolics. Focused, classy, classic, and delicious. Tart lemon-citrus fruit with some some subtle red fruit notes along with lots of toast and a lot of minerals. Fine style. Gets richer and more satisfying as it warms and flattens (which I like very much). Delicious. BS: 92. ($41)

HAPPY THANKSGIVING