Whining about wine
March 2, 2010 8:35 AM   Subscribe

I've been invited to the Oscar's party of a wine connoisseur. Naturally, I know nothing about wine. What kind of wine do I bring him? I don't think he's a wine snob, just very knowledgeable about wine. More detail inside.

Assume I know nothing about wine, other than it has grapes and alcohol. I want to go to a wine shop on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and buy some bottle of wine, for between $30 and $40. I don't care what kind of wine it is, but the host will.

Now, I know you're not supposed to drink red wine at parties because of spills and stains, but I've been to parties at his apartment before, where he has had red wine, so that rule doesn't seem to apply to him.

posted by dfriedman to Food & Drink (41 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Bring something else, or ask the host for a suggestion.
posted by mkb at 8:39 AM on March 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

I would bring something that compliments wine served. A really good cheese or small appetizer.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:43 AM on March 2, 2010

My fallback is usually Conundrum - it's an easy drinking wine that seems to make both wine lovers and 'a glass of the house white' types happy. The price tends to vary - it was once over 30$ bottle (I paid 45$ for a bottle back when it first came out and was still branded with Caymus), but successive vintages seem to have grown cheaper and more available. Now I can find bottles for 17 bucks at the local CostCo.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:44 AM on March 2, 2010

Boxed wine. If he's knowledgeable, then he'll know that cheap wines consistently come out on top in blind taste tests.
posted by cmoj at 8:45 AM on March 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

If he's a wine connoisseur, he'll most likely be providing the wine. Bring something else. Bring cupcakes. Cupcakes are awesome.

If you really want to bring wine, go to a wine shop on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, find someone who looks like they know what they're doing and say "I've been invited to the Oscar's party of a wine connoisseur. I want to buy some bottle of wine, for between $30 and $40. I don't care what kind of wine it is, but the host will. What should I buy?"

If they grab a bottle from the nearest end display and say "This is really good!", go somewhere else. Whatever they recommend, ask them why they're recommending it.

When you get to the party and give the wine to the host, tell them "The guy at the store said you'd like this because..." Don't try to come off as someone who knows anything about wine if you don't actually know anything about wine. In my experience, the only thing wine people like better than explaining wine to a noobie is trying to out-wine another wine person.
posted by bondcliff at 8:47 AM on March 2, 2010

Why are you bringing wine? When I go to my friend the wine dealers house, I don't bring wine.
posted by sully75 at 8:50 AM on March 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

Ask him. Or, if that won't work for whatever reason, I vote for bringing a bottle of Prosecco. It's sparkling and festive, and there are a lot of varieties available at non-bank-breaking prices, and it doesn't have the....what, intimidation? factor of Champagne.

(Also, unless your host is a jerk, he's not going to be snobby about whatever you bring. I'm a little bit of a beer snob, but when someone turns up at a party I'm throwing with a loaf of Bud Lite, I'm all "Hey, thanks! Great to see you, glad you could come, feel free to put the beer in the fridge/cooler!" I'm happy to see them and happy they wanted to bring something.)
posted by rtha at 8:51 AM on March 2, 2010

If it were me, I'd bring something from the Coppola winery, because it's an oscar party for god's sakes, not a sommelier convention: http://www.franciscoppolawinery.com/
posted by CharlesV42 at 8:52 AM on March 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

Go to this place. They're really friendly, know their stuff, and love making recommendations. Everything I've ever gotten there has been unusual and great.
posted by neroli at 8:53 AM on March 2, 2010

We have a lot of wine friends who know more, and can afford better, than we can. We've taken to bringing a tasty local Sake to dodge any wine faux pas. (what's the plural of faux pas, anyway???)
posted by mossbackfarm at 8:53 AM on March 2, 2010

Boxed wine. If he's knowledgeable, then he'll know that cheap wines consistently come out on top in blind taste tests.

That may be true. Well, not quite -- that link says cheap and expensive wines do equally well in blind taste tests. But even assuming for the sake of argument that you find a boxed wine that would beat all the other wines in a blind taste test, it still wouldn't be a good gift. It would only work if the host (who has to see the container) is unusually rational and if he can conceal the cheapness of the wine from everyone else. However, this is implausible since giving someone wine at a party is an open gesture, and the host typically enjoys leaving the bottle (box?) out, pours it in front of guests, lets it serve as a conversation piece, etc.
posted by Jaltcoh at 9:14 AM on March 2, 2010

Nthing bringing a bottle of sparkling. Prosecco and Cava are both great alternatives to Champagne, and many people don't enjoy them very often so they're pretty special. That said, I pick up a bottle of Gloria Ferrer's sparkling white (from CA) whenever I see it.

I also like to bring Oregon Pinot Noirs to parties where I know people who enjoy wine can try them.
posted by juliplease at 9:20 AM on March 2, 2010

Have you considered seeking out local wineries? It might be a decent alternative to buying well-known exotic wine, if you bring a lesser-known variety from your own community. Even if it's not world-class stuff, people tend to appreciate homegrown local product.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 9:31 AM on March 2, 2010

Option 1. Go to the wine store and say,
I've been invited to the Oscar's party of a wine connoisseur. Naturally, I know nothing about wine. What kind of wine do I bring him? I don't think he's a wine snob, just very knowledgeable about wine. Price range $30-40. Seriously, that's what the wine store employees are for!

Option 2: Prosecco is a good call; also Cava. These are festive bubbly whites, like champagne, only they can't be called champagne because they're not French. (Italian and Spanish, respectively.) I like them better than champagne, myself, and they tend to be much better value, You can probably get an excellent one for $20ish.

Option 3: offer to contribute to the snacks, and bring hors d'oeuvres or fancy cheese from Murray's.

I'd avoid local wine, contra the Winsome Parker Lewis. In NYC, local = Finger Lakes, and while there definitely are excellent wines from there now, you really have to know what you're doing. A lot of them are still way too sweet.
posted by kestrel251 at 9:45 AM on March 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Just finished reading Julie&Julia so I say: Chateau Greysac Haut Medoc, it apparently impresses food writers for the New York Times.
posted by kitchencrush at 9:56 AM on March 2, 2010

No do not bring wine if he's into wine. It'll be impossible to get him something that impresses - indeed you run the risk of buying a very expensive bottle of wine that is not to his taste.
posted by JPD at 10:39 AM on March 2, 2010

I would bring something related to some of the movies that are up for consideration.

For Avatar: giant bottles of blue water.
For Inglorious Basterds: Gewerztamiener (I know I butchered that)
For Hurt Locker: Something fizzy and explosive
posted by effluvia at 10:48 AM on March 2, 2010

It's been more than twenty years since I had my first sip of this wine, yet nothing since has been half as startling-- and I've lost track of the number of times I've had the sneaky pleasure of seeing other people's eyes widen as mine must have done:

Essensia by Quady:

Essensia – From 100% Orange Muscat with an aroma reminiscent of Orange Blossom and Apricot, and a lingering refreshing aftertaste, Essensia is used as a dessert accompaniment or a dessert in itself. The Orange Muscat grape variety is little known. It was once grown in France and there are some small plantings in Italy and Australia. The wine is lightly fortified to about 15% alcohol and aged for 3 months in French Oak. The wine tastes balanced, like the taste of fresh fruit.

I doubt this wine is entirely respectable from a typical connoisseur's point of view, but such a person is not likely to forget it once encountered; everyone has their guilty pleasures, and this one may give you the satisfaction of adding an item to your host's unpublicized list.
posted by jamjam at 11:31 AM on March 2, 2010 [3 favorites]

There are so many wines, and your local wine dealer may not have what someone here recommends. Get a recommendation for a good wine store, go there, and mention that your friend __ recommended them, and ask them to recommend a bottle of nice wine, in your price range, for someone who is knowledgeable. Alternatively, since it's an Oscars party, bring the best bubbly in your price range. Given modern agriculture and wine-making, most wine these days is pretty darn good, and even less-expensive sparkling wine is a hit at a party.
posted by theora55 at 11:47 AM on March 2, 2010

Here's a secret: when an oenophile has people over for anything other than a tasting, what he needs them to bring is tasty easy-to-drink wine that everyone will like, so that he doesn't have to pour his good stuff for people who can't appreciate it! In that price range I'd be looking for a punchy quaffable Italian, more fruit than mineral, like teroldego (the Marion is excellent and might be $40-$50 if you can find it) or cannonau (actually you can pour the Sella and Mosca Riserva, which is all over the place for under $15, for pretty serious wine drinkers).
posted by nicwolff at 11:48 AM on March 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

for $30 - $40 you could make a bangin cheese and bread plate to sop up all the wine in your belly.
posted by WeekendJen at 12:57 PM on March 2, 2010

First I was going to say (as recommended above) just ask at your wine store. They love to make suggestions.

Failing that. I'll give you a few of my faves in that price range. (These are pretty good across years)

1. One of my all time favs Ridge Geyserville Ridge sells their wines in the "french" naming convention, named by region as opposed to grape so the Geyserville is significant though Ridge is pretty good across the board.

2. Orin Swift's The Prisoner Cool name, delicious wine.

3. Toulouse Pinot Noir it quacks like a duck.
posted by bitdamaged at 1:00 PM on March 2, 2010

Oh those are all reds too... But many wine "connoisseur" of the home variety can be partial to reds.

But some fallback whites! Note good whites are usually cheaper then their red brethren - stupid but true.

Keenan Chardonnay Yum delish. I belong to their wine club

Can't find a link but ZD makes some good chards.

If you want something lighter and crisper I like Duckhorn Sauvignon Blanc but this time of year in New York its a bit cold for a Sauv.
posted by bitdamaged at 1:08 PM on March 2, 2010

Bring an incredible hunk of Stilton from Murray's Cheese Shop or Zabar's instead.
posted by Elsie at 1:09 PM on March 2, 2010

Possible gifts for wine people:
Wine charms
Wine collar (handmade ones out of felt in different shapes are cool for the holidays)
posted by chillmost at 1:14 PM on March 2, 2010

I can't promise that an oenophile won't turn up his nose at this but at a recent gathering of friends with wildly varied tastes in wine, all of my pals (even those who don't ordinarily go in for whites) really liked the Clean Slate Riesling. Added bonus: it's dirt cheap.
posted by JaredSeth at 1:28 PM on March 2, 2010

Bring an incredible hunk of Stilton from Murray's Cheese Shop or Zabar's instead.

never pair wine with blue cheese or artichokes.
posted by JPD at 1:43 PM on March 2, 2010

never pair wine with blue cheese or artichokes.

Huh? Actually, reading this makes me really want to have some white wine, bleu cheese, and artichokes all in the same meal.
posted by Jaltcoh at 1:47 PM on March 2, 2010

try artichokes and red wine - then come back here and apologize.
Blue cheese is not aggressively miserable the way artichokes are but it does obliterate your palate and make everything taste like two buck chuck. And I say this as someone who loves all three items.
posted by JPD at 1:54 PM on March 2, 2010

eta - its the enzymes in artichokes
posted by JPD at 1:56 PM on March 2, 2010

try artichokes and red wine - then come back here and apologize.

I'm not going to do this since I drink white wine, not red wine, but when I used to drink red wine, I'm sure I sometimes had it at dinner with an artichoke dish and it was fine.
posted by Jaltcoh at 2:02 PM on March 2, 2010

I'd say go with cheese, but not Stilton - it would overpower most wine. As you can see from the previous comments, everybody seems to have a favorite wine - and they are all different. If your friend is into Burgundy, he might despise California cabernet; conversely, if he's into California cult wines, anything from Europe (at least anything for $30 from Europe) is going to taste either thin or "rustic". Regarding cheese, the most wine-friendly are probably the hard cheeses (like farmhouse) Cheddar, aged Gouda, and Parmigiano-Reggiano), along with most goat cheeses (as long as they're not too runny). If you do go with a wine, I like the Coppola suggestion - the wine is well made, and even if it's not to your friend's taste, it will be a conversation piece. Or you could go with Marilyn Merlot.
posted by mr vino at 2:03 PM on March 2, 2010

Keeping with the Coppola/Oscars idea mentioned upthread, you could bring a novelty like Sofia Champagne in a can. Who cares if it's great or not, it comes with a little straw like a juice box!
posted by contraption at 2:41 PM on March 2, 2010

oops, try this link
posted by contraption at 2:44 PM on March 2, 2010

Just curious, is it out of the question to bring a wine-sized fancy bottle of beer, or a particularly nice 6-pack of beer? I mean were you told specifically to bring wine for everyone to drink, or are you assuming he wants it because you know him as a wine connoisseur? They've got a great selection of interesting beers at the Whole Foods beer store on 2nd Ave, and I don't have any friends who'd turn their noses up at that, especially for something like an Oscar party.

While I realize your question asks about wine on the Upper East Side, I'm only suggesting this because wine can be pretty scary to pick out for a wine person, especially if you don't know what their taste in wine is and you've never tasted the stuff you're buying for them. One time I bought a holiday gift of wine for a colleague and ended up deciding against giving it to them, and eventually I opened it for myself. It turned out to be rather unappealing. I was glad I kept it.
posted by wondermouse at 2:58 PM on March 2, 2010

1. If he's any kind of wino, red wine will be served.

2. Is this a tasting party or just a get light-headed-drunk-on-wine party? Will there be a lot of people in attendance? If so, bring extra glasses as spares if you have them. You'll be thanked when he doesn't have to collect spent stemware to rinse after tastings and guess whose glass is this one or that one. Or, if it's a self-serve wine trough, have people walking back and forth from the kitchen to rinse.

3. This is important: if you don't know wine there is no need to impress. Inevitably, there will be some detail that you didn't hear about here or during the pitch at the wine shop and that will come up in discussion. Pick up anything that's in the price range and quaff-able.

4. Wine knowledge is a nerdy pursuit hopelessly steeped in tradition. If he's any sense of humor, he'll know that -- so have fun! Once the third or fourth drunken toast is proposed -- I usually declare, right before the clink, that anyone who breaks my stemware will be stabbed with the shattered glass remaining. I follow this with a big, red-stained, toothy smile and a loud exclamation, 'Just kidding! This won't end up like the last tasting... um... uh... En Vino Veritas!"
posted by bumbleintuit at 3:05 PM on March 2, 2010

never pair wine with blue cheese

A sharp blue with a sweet bubbly (like a prosecco) can be one of those sublime wine/food combos where everything comes out better.
posted by bitdamaged at 3:20 PM on March 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yup. And a Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Cabernet or Port can all play beautifully with the right blue.
posted by rtha at 3:47 PM on March 2, 2010

Don't bring wine....rather, don't bring wine that you're bringing just to make an impression. Wine as gifts should be given when you know the wine, love the wine and can explain why you thought they would love the wine. Wine goes two ways, either it's a very personal thoughtful gift, or it's just standard "hostess gift" stuff, in which case it might as well be freshly squeezed Beaujolais nouvea.

I would bring a food...either bite size and savory, or desserty...bite-size brownies or cupcakes are always welcome. Who doesn't love a good cupcake? Plus, I get you could find little oscar like charms at the party store, or add some edible gold glitter to your butter cream and make gold cupcakes...all kinds of fun stuff can happen with cupcakes.
posted by dejah420 at 5:35 PM on March 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

2nding the Coppola Sophia blanc de blanc in a can. It's fun at parties, and bubbly seems to go with just about everything. The four-pack of splits is about the price of an inexpensive bottle.
posted by Gilbert at 9:02 PM on March 2, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for all the answers.

I've decided, per some of the advice above, to forgo wine. I'm just going to go to Whole Foods and stock up on high end beer, of which I know something.
posted by dfriedman at 3:53 AM on March 4, 2010

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