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Top 10 Wines for the Holidays

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When the holidays roll around, what wines should every Wine Lover have on hand for impromptu get togethers as well as planned black tie holiday parties? Well, that depends somewhat on personal preference, cellar capacity, budgets and which wines your guests have favored in the past, etc. But to be sure, you can have a well-stacked wine list of your own to manage everything from party platters to formal dinner parties. Let's start with the "Big Eight" varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Shiraz, Pinot Noir for the red wines and Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc for the whites.

1. Kendall Jackson Vintner's Reserve Chardonnay 2005 (CA) $10

This Chardonnay is a delicious compilation of fruit and smoke, full-bodied and balanced. Apple, melon and pear dominate the palate and are well supported by a rich, buttery texture. Kendall-Jackson is known for consistent quality, good distribution, and holds a stellar reputation for producing wines that are reasonably priced.

2. Wine of the Week: Fetzer Valley Oaks German Riesling 2005 (Germany) $9

The Fetzer Valley Oaks German Riesling is an off-dry, low-alcohol Riesling sourced from the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer and the Rheinhessen, two of Germany's prominent grape growing regions. This is an "every man's" white wine, in that it will behave beautifully with an assortment of flavors, spices and white meats. The flavor profile boasts abundant apple, pear and peach combinations with an enticing semi-sweet finish. Fetzer's Valley Oaks offers an authentic German Riesling, that is easy on the palate, easy on the wallet and is versatile enough to be featured at all holiday get togethers whether formal or informal.

3. St. Supery Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley 2003 (CA) $18

Citrus fruits burst to the forefront with orange, lemon and lime defining the palate. This Sauvignon Blanc also boasts a refreshing spirit with lots of spunk - earth, slate and balanced acidity all move within the wine providing ample elegance, familiarity and vibrancy for a festive holiday gathering.

4. Eola Hills Pinot Gris 2005 (OR) $10

A terrific Pinot Gris for the price and the flavor! This one will catch your attention with the honeyed pears and crisp apple flavor, followed by a refreshing finish. Pair this one with your favorite hors d' oeuvres.

5. McManis Family Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 (CA) $10

This is a Cab that will "wow" the most discerning guests, especially if you reveal the price paid/bottle! A deep garnet colored red wine with plenty of blackberry and cherry on the palate. You'll notice dominant tannin definition and even a bit of coffee on the finish. The perfect party wine!

6. Rex Goliath Pinot Noir (CA) $9

Named after a 47 pound Texas rooster from the early 1900s, this Pinot Noir offers an undistracted aroma of ripe berries and a hint of spice. The flavor profile consists largely of strawberries and raspberries, with very subtle tannins and light weight acidity. A pleasant, supple Pinot Noir with enough versatility to go with everything from hors d'oeuvres to the main dish and for just $9 a pop you don't have to risk much to give Rex Goliath a go!

7. Yellow Tail Shiraz (Aus) $7

Can we see "lotsa fruit?" There is a reason that the Yellow Tail brand has done so well in the U.S. and abroad, it comes down to making consistent, quality wines with great distribution and a perfect "party" wine price point. Not to mention that the Yellow Tail Shiraz has good berry fruit-forward flavor, with raspberries rising to the top of the palate and a decent finish. This is a red wine that guests will like whether they are "into" reds or not.

8. Dancing Bull 2003 Zinfandel (CA) $8

This black cherry packed Zin has a spice and warmth that will perk up any table full of holiday dishes, with a special affinity for red meats, boisterous tomato sauces, mushrooms and sausage. Definitely a wine that is made for good times!

9. Beringer's White Zinfandel 2005 (CA) $6

While most oenophiles detest the thought of owning, much less offering a "white zin" at their holiday get togethers, there will no doubt be a fair amount of guests that will drink it with gusto. So, that said, Beringers offers a nice white zinfandel option with good pricing to satisfy the party necessity.

10. Korbel Champagne Brut $10

Whether your celebrating something specific or just need to have a bottle of bubbly on hand. This is a champagne stand by that is perfect for party goers, the price is right, the taste is good and many guests just elect to have a sip or two anyway.

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