This is the time of year for strategic wine buying. With holiday parties and gift lists, Christmas dinner and New Year's Eve, you can either be willy-nilly and buy as you go or have a plan.
I'm as willy-nilly as the next consumer when it comes to buying wine, but in December I stock up. A well-chosen case of wine bought early in the month avoids hassles during the chaotic holiday season.
Selecting the case is the challenge, and half the fun. Here are some of the wines I'd put in my case, but remember: This isn't a greatest hits of wine for an ideal Christmas Day. (I'll be dipping into my cellar all month long, of course.)
It's a selection of excellent bottles that will be handy to share with others, and have relatively good availability around the country. You'll find a complete list below, with links to our original reviews.
The case includes reds, whites and sparkling wines. For the reds, I was looking for elegance and versatility, wines that you can sip before dinner and also drink with just about any food served at a holiday gathering.
Few wines are better suited to those specific demands than Pinot Noir, and my three candidates—Mondavi, Argyle and Merry Edwards—share two things in common. They're serious Pinots and have a modest price tag, a combination that's increasingly difficult to find.
While I'd be happy to drink Pinot Noir all month, I have friends who prefer more robust reds, even as something casual to drink before dinner. For them, I picked three wines that are more full-bodied but still retain a supple friendliness: Markham Merlot, Bogle Petite Sirah and Chateau Ste. Michelle Cabernet Sauvignon.
The whites I selected solely for their ability to go with seafood. It's a big part of the Christmas tradition for many families, and in Northern California, people wait in line to buy Dungeness crab for the holidays. The three wines I chose—St. Supéry Sauvignon Blanc, Dry Creek Chenin Blanc and Trimbach Gewürztraminer—are variations on a similar theme: crisp wines with distinctive flavors.
Finally, there's sparkling wine. The three wines I selected cover a lot of bases. For value there's Korbel Brut California 2009. This isn't the ubiquitous and often mediocre non-vintage Korbel brut; look for a label that reads "made from organically grown grapes." The Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noirs I include because it's just so damn fun to drink—crisp and light yet boldly fruity.
And as much as I enjoy California sparkling wines, I gotta have Champagne this time of year. A lot of us prefer a certain house style. My wife is into Pommery and my brother is a Veuve Clicquot man, but my go-to Champagne to please the whole crowd is Taittinger Brut La Française NV.
So that's 12 bottles, with a suggested retail total of $276. You may find only a few of these wines at your local retailer, but at least this is a place to start. And remember, most retailers give a 10 percent discount by the case, and with that my case works out to about $21 a bottle. Not a bad price to get you through the holidays.
Argyle Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 2009 (89 points / $25 / 19,200 cases made)
Bogle Petite Sirah California 2008 (88 points / $11 / 200,000 cases made)
Chateau Ste. Michelle Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley Indian Wells 2009 (90 points / $18 / 70,000 cases made)
Dry Creek Chenin Blanc Clarksburg Wilson Ranch Dry 2009 (86 points / $12 / 11,942 cases made)
Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noirs Carneros NV (89 points / $20 / 31,527 cases made)
Korbel Brut California 2009 (88 points / $16 / 10,300 cases made)
Markham Merlot Napa Valley 2007 (90 points / $21 / 31,500 cases made)
Merry Edwards Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 2009 (91 points / $42 / 3,988 cases made)
Robert Mondavi Pinot Noir Napa Valley Carneros 2009 (88 points / $26 / 15,000 cases made)
St. Supéry Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley 2010 (89 points / $20 / 42,080 cases made)
Taittinger Brut Champagne La Française NV (90 points / $40 / 30,000 cases imported)
Trimbach Gewürztraminer Alsace 2009 (90 points / $25 / 10,000 cases made)
Dry Creek Vineyard — Healdsburg — December 7, 2011 11:42am ET
Josh Moser — Sunnyvale, CA — December 9, 2011 1:29pm ET
Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions