For Thanksgiving festivities, a variety of wines should be the order of the day. But as we enter the season of holiday gatherings of a different sort, it makes sense to have on hand several bottles of the same wine. In other words, it’s a good time to buy by the case.
There are plenty of options. Those I mention here overdeliver for the price. I admire and sometimes love these wines, but it’s not the worst idea to try one bottle first before taking the deep plunge into case purchases.
Most of these wines should be under $15, and some under $10, plus the case discount that all merchants should offer, even with mixed cases. Many of them are available at crazy-good prices because this is by far wine’s most competitive category, and this market has merchants like Morelli’s that price them to sell.
Speaking of categories, that’s how I’ll present them:
Washington wonders: Chateau Ste. Michelle is a superb operation, with stellar stuff at all price points, but especially at the low end, with its own bottlings plus the Columbia Crest line. These brands also are stout across the grape spectrum, particularly strong with merlot, sauvignon blanc and riesling. Every bit as dependable and even less expensive: Hogue, with the same varietals plus chardonnay and gewürztraminer worth seeking out. Closer to $20, but tasting like $25-to-$35 wines, is the Boomtown line from Dusted Valley.
California counterparts: Since Adam LaZarre returned as winemaker, Cycles Gladiator has regained its footing. These fruit-forward, crowd-pleasing offerings come with a beautiful, slightly naughty label that actually was banned in Alabama a few years back. Also shining in the $10-to-$12 range — each with a raft of worthy varietals to choose from — are McManis (especially the earthy-ish cab), Bogle (killer petite sirah) and Parducci Small Lot (which rivals Montoya for best under-$20 pinot noir extant). Note that these are quintessentially California, with bright fruit flavors. But none of them are what I call “doughnut wines,” sweet at the start and finish but hollow in the midpalate.
Chenin instead of chard: Sticking with California, two vintners make juicy, peachy wines with chenin blanc that should surprise and gratify chardonnay fans — or people who like wine. Dry Creek Vineyard’s rendition, sourced in Clarksburg, has a delightful crispness that dances deftly with the fruit-cocktail flavors. Pine Ridge concocts a seamless blend of chenin and viognier with alluring spiciness and a zesty. lengthy finish.
The “The’s”: A pair of gems from the Southern Hemisphere fall in the $13-to-$17 range. The Ned winery in New Zealand trots out a sauvignon blanc that is richer and less tart than your standard Kiwi offering, and its pinot gris is a bright, sunshiny effort with spot-on fruit/acid harmony and a supremely satisfying finish. When sipping Longridge’s “The Emily,” a chardonnay-pinot noir blend (!) from South Africa, it’s easy to lose count of the types of fruit it evokes; best, perhaps, to simply not try and just savor its deliciousness.
Both sides of the pond: The father-son team of Mel and Charlie Masters has got it going on with wines from California and France. Their domestic Tortoise Creek label is a font of inexpensive goodness with both reds (zin, cab, merlot) and whites (chard, sauv blanc), and Le Charmel makes a seriously swell French pinot noir.
Molto buono: Falesco produces a set of unusual (for Italy) varietals that sound American — merlot, chardonnay, etc. — but drink Italian, with food-friendly balance and great texture. The winery’s Vitiano brand specializes in exemplary, and more Americanized (think rich and soft), red and white blends.
Boxing Day: Before and after the British holiday on Dec. 26, better-than-ever boxed wines are great choices. (Those who might be embarrassed about serving them could consider giving their high horse a night off.) Personal faves include the outstanding Shania and Viña 425 reds, whites and pinks from Spain; the smooth-as-all-get-out Vincio-Vaglio Serra Piemonte Barbera from Italy, and lush Big House red and white blends from California.
The really good news: These are pretty dandy options for any season.
Bill Ward writes at decant-this.com. Follow him on Twitter: @billward4.