We’ve all been in a situation when we needed to give a bottle of wine as a gift. The task is generally straightforward. We trust what we have enjoyed in the past, we depend on our local fine wine retailer, or you simply contact me. (This is the one I enjoy the most.)
We could consider this an easy mission because the bottle is handed off with a “thank you,” “happy birthday,” “happy anniversary” or other appropriate acknowledgement — to then possibly lie quietly in your recipient’s wine rack in the corner along with others.
But after a few recent dinner conversations I have learned that being invited to a dinner party with an expectation for you to bring a bottle for consumption is a much different situation. I hope a few of my tips will ease the stress of any situation.
When asked what you can bring, many times the answer is something like this:
“Just bring a bottle you like.” The first tip is to drop all expectations on what your dinner host will do with your bottle. Don’t expect the wine you are bringing to be consumed, even if you have painstakingly thought out the possible menu at the dinner. The host may have already planned wines for the menu. Sometimes the bottle you bring is seen more as a gracious thank you than an expected perfect pairing for the evening.
“We love all wines, just bring something you would buy for your dinner.” This is the possibly the most important tip. There are many subtle suggestions to help us choose an appropriate bottle in our price range. Over the years, I have learned that if it’s a casual grilling dinner, it will most likely warrant an exceptional $10 value. If the host is an avid collector you may want to go big and break the bank. Or not. I once brought a bottle of the most expensive wine I could afford, only to have it put into a Styrofoam cup by the host. On another occasion, I proudly offered an $8 value to a dear friend only for the bottle to be surrounded by some of the most expensive, exquisite wines I have ever experienced. The safe bet is to show up with a wine you love and the zeal to say why it was your choice to share.
“We are eating around 7 … just bring a chardonnay.” When a host asks you to bring a specific bottle there is no reason to stress because you simply follow the request. If you are asked to bring chardonnay, have it chilled and ready to open when you arrive. Chances are you were specifically asked to bring a wine for consumption at dinner. If you were asked to bring merlot, don’t take a chance on a unique wine outside of the norm from an unfamiliar region (unless you have a pre-approval from the host for a fun addition to the conversation.) And if the hosts are specific enough to name the varietal, I would feel confident asking what price range they have in mind.
“Bring any wine. We are just happy you are coming to our home for dinner.” This is where you can shine for your choice of wine. Just be gracious, thoughtful and mindful that your friends invited you to dinner in the first place. Most likely you won’t go wrong with any choice. These are mine:
- 2015 Sean Minor Four Bears Pinot Noir, California (about $15 retail)
- 2015 Bell Wine Cellars Red Blend, California (about $16 retail)
- 2014 Pascal Jolivet Sancerre, France (about $29 retail)
- 2014 Trimbach Gewurztraminer, France (about $29 retail)
- 2013 Presqu’ile Winery Pinot Noir, California (about $44 retail)
- 2014 Reynolds Family Winery Chardonnay, California (about $40 retail)