If you decide to throw an impromptu dinner party—or you need a last-minute hostess gift—could your wine cellar come to the rescue? We asked these local wine experts for recommendations of bottles (and varietals) to keep in stock for such an occasion.
Steve McIntyre, BALABAN’S WINE CELLAR
- Always have sparkling wine on hand. It goes well with all types of food, from seafood to spicy dishes. You can find quality sparkling wines without having to buy real expensive French Champagne. Mirabelle from Schramsberg and a French Vouvray from Bernard Fouquet are great options.
- Pinot noir is very versatile, with strawberry and raspberry flavors that pair well with food.
- If you have guests over and you’re drinking white wine as a cocktail, chardonnay is an excellent choice. I like California chardonnays—like those from Ramey Wine Cellars—because they tend to be fruitier with a little oak, and make for a good stand-alone wine.
- White Burgundy is a nice option to serve with food. It’s a French chardonnay with good structure and nice mineral characteristic that helps create a good balance with food. Macon and Chablis are areas in Burgundy, France, that produce great wines.
- If it’s a summer get-together, rosé is a nice wine that tends to get overlooked because people associate it with white zinfadel or something that is very sweet. Tavel from Southern France is a great French rosé.
- Oregon-produced pinot gris is a good alternative to offer your guests. It’s a similar grape varietal to pinot grigio, but it has more spicy notes and depth of flavor. It works well as both a food wine and cocktail wine. Elk Cove and Christom both make nice pinot gris.
Rachael Buehrer, THE VINO GALLERY
- Stock your cellar with some ‘everyday drinkers’ that you can grab for a last-minute dinner party. Choose light white wines or un-oaked reds that aren’t meant to be aged. Pinot gris or sauvignon blanc are good whites, while shiraz is a good red that is less expensive than a cabernet and has a lot of versatility. Cotes du Rhone also makes for a good food wine.
- If you need a hostess gift and don’t know what they like, go with something medium-bodied, whether it’s red or white. Often, Spanish or Italian wines are a good in-between.
- Sparkling wine always is a good option for a celebratory occasion like a housewarming party or wedding.
- There are many obscure varietals available if you want to offer your guests a chance to try something different. The Italian arneis varietal is a more interesting, aromatic version of a pinot grigio, or people may not have tried malbec and tannat from South America. Nerello mascalese grapes are grown on a volcano in Sicily and produce a nice, light red wine that smells and tastes a little smoky, pairing well with meat.
- Choose medium-bodied wines for cocktails. If it’s too acidic, you almost need food to balance the harshness, but wines that are softer can stand alone. An un-oaked chardonnay, as opposed to an oaky one, or a light Spanish red wine, as opposed to a big Napa cabernet, will work better if you are just having drinks or appetizers.