My good friend Trish is co-hosting a fancy New Year’s Eve party here in Napa. It’s a black-tie affair, with a sit-down dinner for 50, followed by dancing, and if I know Trish, her party will rock til dawn. She has hired a limo service for the entire evening so no one has to drive.
Yesterday she sent me a text message. "HELP! Wine Recommendations" it read. Trish is very knowledgeable about wine, has a good palate (and a cellar) and lives a wine- and food-loving lifestyle. Somehow she realized that as of Monday she was in charge of wine. She said she had a case of sparkling wine, but would like another three cases—a mix of Pinot, Syrah, Cabernet and the like—without spending a fortune. "Maybe average $20+ a bottle," she wrote.
It’s too late to order online. There are lots of good wine shops in Napa and I suggested she check out Costco in Fairfield or Novato, where I noticed many excellent buys in the $20 and less range the last times I visited.
Our regular value reports are an excellent source for information and it pays to know that in recent years imports often offer better values than domestic wines. But the major problem of shopping individual stores is you never know what’s available until you set foot in the store. And unless there are shelf-talkers or good wine advisers on hand, you’re left guessing or taking a stranger’s advice. Nothing wrong with the latter. I’ve been steered to many good wines by retailers over the years. But just as often it seems that their tastes don’t jibe with mine and the wines the suggest end up being OK or good, but nothing special. Occasionally they’ve been terrible disappointments.
I suggested Trish download Wine Spectator’s mobile companion (free to WineSpectator.com subscribers), which will give her fast access to our database of wines. I’ve been using it lately with my iPhone, with impressive results. It’s a lot faster and easier to use than I first imagined. You won’t find reviews for every wine sold, but it can be a helpful guide. Another good source is our new Easy Finds tool.
Next, I’d contact a few of the local wine merchants and ask them to put together a three-case selection, with the parameters she had described. Better yet, I’d invite the retailers to the party(!), have them bring the wines (lots of them) and see how their choices work out, with a "bill me later" proviso. (She could also drink down some of her cellar, I offered. But I know most of those wines are special one-of-a-kind bottles that demand closer attention than a rowdy party.)
But if you’ve got any suggestions for Trish or anyone like her—shopping for a New Year’s Eve party at the last minute—post them here and I’ll pass them along.
Meantime, Happy New Year. It’s getting close and I’m ready for a change.
Joseph Oglesby — Atlanta, Georgia — December 30, 2008 2:57pm ET
Robert Dwyer — Wellesley, MA — December 30, 2008 3:37pm ET
Brad Kanipe — Atlanta — December 30, 2008 3:38pm ET
Mark Owens — Cincinnati, Oh. — December 30, 2008 4:25pm ET
Eric P Perramond — Colorado Springs, CO — December 30, 2008 4:43pm ET
William C Towne Jr — Valencia, CA — December 30, 2008 5:54pm ET
Fred Brown — December 30, 2008 9:58pm ET
Timothy Clark — Chicago,IL. — December 31, 2008 1:29am ET
Whit Thompson — Rochester, NY — December 31, 2008 9:46am ET
James Laube — Napa, CA — December 31, 2008 1:56pm ET
Dennis D Bishop — Shelby Twp., MI, USA — January 2, 2009 10:34am ET
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