Heading into the holiday season, we started tasting potential party-pleasing wines to add to your list (assuming everyone has been good, cycling through being naughty and nice, depending upon the quality of what is being poured and the price).

The following 40 reds and whites, mostly from California, should be in decent distribution. If the vintage listed isn’t available and a newer vintage is offered, proceed. We bought some of these wines at blow out sales with merchants and grocery stores during their annual clearing inventories program. We also subscribe to several wine discount sites that send out daily emails with new offerings. Do an online search for discount wine sites, then see what fits your needs. For a good starting point, check out Wines Til Sold Out, Wine Access and Invino. Discounts range from 30 to 60 percent.


Cabernet Sauvignon

KJ Cabernet

  • $10 party Cabernet ’14 William Hill No. Coast. Berry, jam nose; mid-body; soft tannins; easy-drinking; short fruity finish. w/pizz
  • $13 Sonoma Cabernet ’13 Rodney Strong. Light berry/herbaceous nose; mid-body; soft tannins; easy-drinking; some Cab flavor. w/pizza, pasta.
  • Fine $15 Mendoza Cab (80%) blend (12 Malbec, 8 Petit V.) ’12 Kaiken Terroir Series. Mint, ripe grape nose; long semi-chewy fruity finish.
  • Beefy Mendoza Cabernet ’13 Aranwa $17. Mint, berry, cassis nose; mid-big body; good fruit; semi-chewy; hot finish (14.0 alc.).
  • Good under $20 Mendoza Cabernet ’14 Catena. Big mint nose, wood, berry/jam; mid-body; berry-wood on the palate; long fruity finish. w/stew
  • Smooth $20 Napa Cabernet ’14 Twenty Rows. Ripe grape, blackberry nose; mid-body; soft tannins; good fruit extract; long finish. w/beef
  • Kendall-Jackson Vintners Reserve ’13 Sonoma Cabernet $20. Straightforward Cab nose; berries; mid-body; semi-tight tannic finish. w/beef
  • Fine $25 Oakville Cabernet ’13 Robert Mondavi. Ripe grape (15.0 alc.) prune nose; blackberries; mid-body; good fruit/flavor; semi-chewy finish.


  • Good $8 Central Coast Merlot ’14 Edna Valley Vineyard. mint, blackberry jam nose; mid-body, decent tannins, varietal character. Party wine.
  • Fine $9 burger, BBQ, party sipping Calif. Merlot ’14 Clos du Bois. Mint, berry, cocoa nose; mid-body; soft tannins; long fruity finish.
  • Party, wedding reception, New Year’s party crowd-pleaser Central Coast Calif Merlot ’13 William Hill $11. Mint, alc., wood nose; soft-mid body; semi-chewy fruity finish.
  • Easy drinking $11 Calif. Merlot ’13 Ch. St. Jean. Light cocoa, blackberry nose; mid-body; balanced; long smooth finish. w/appetizers
  • Food-friendly $17 Merlot ’13 Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve. Berry, wood, mint, nose; balanced; decent acids/tannins; semi-chewy finish. w/pasta
  • Fruity, balanced $18 Napa Merlot ’12 Sterling. Berry, mint, prune nose (14.5 alc.); ripe fruit; good structure; fruity finish. w/meat loaf.


  • Value Mendoza Malbec ’15 Tapiz $10. Ripe grape (13.9 alc), jam, mint nose; mid-body, soft tannins, fat, easy-drinking party/picnic wine.
  • Another tasty $10 Mendoza Malbec ’13 Bousquet Organic. Berry, pepper, wood nose; balanced; fruity; easy sipping; a little hot (14.0 alc). w/burgers
  • Big Mendoza Malbec ’14 Zolo Gaucho Reserve $18. Mid-dark purple; mint, wood, berry, peppery nose; big tannins; chewy; needs time. w/ribs

Other Reds

Ferrari-Carano Siena

  • Good $13 BBQ and burger wine ’13 Qupe Central Coast Red. Cherries, licorice, mint nose; mid-body; soft, round, easy-drinking finish.
  • Well-made Calif. GSM blend ’12 Beckmen Cuvee le Bec $17. Mid-dark garnet; mint, blackberry, floral nose; mid-body, balanced, smooth fruity finish. w/BBQ
  • Stylish $20 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ‘14 Schug. PN nose; berries, light oak; mid-body; balanced; long fruity finish; good acids. w/pork
  • Ferrari-Carano ’14 Siena $22. Berry, jam nose (mostly Sangiovese); mid-body; balanced; fine fruity finish (food friendly, like a Chianti Classico Riserva). w/veal


Markham Chardonnay

  • $10 Monterey Chardonnay ’14 Hess. Tropical, peachy nose; mid-body; balanced; decent acids, fruit; long semi-crisp finish. w/bbq chicken.
  • Fruity easy-sipping Santa Barbara Chardonnay ’14 Qupe Y Block $13. Toasty, oaky nose; soft acids; long fat finish. w/cheeses.
  • Quality $14 Mendocino Chardonnay ’14 Bonterra. Light Chard nose, peachy; soft, balanced, smooth fruity finish. w/appetizers.
  • Big fruity Monterey Chardonnay ’14 San Simeon $14. Oaky, toasty, peach jam nose; long soft fat finish; a little hot (14.9 alc.). w/fish
  • Fat buttery Napa Chardonnay ’15 Markham $14. Light citrus, vanilla nose; balanced; good fruit; round, ripe, semi-fat oily finish. w/fish
  • Value Napa Chardonnay ’15 Sparrow Hawk Reserve $14. Mid-dark gold; toasty, tropical nose; round, ripe; fat fruity finish. w/clam chowder.
  • Fatter style Monterey Chardonnay ’14 Talbott Kali Hart $15. Light toasty vanilla nose; round, ripe, soft acids, long finish. w/cheeses.
  • Decoy ’13 Sonoma Chardonnay $16. Light toasty Chard nose; soft, faded acids; simple, easy drinking wine for appetizers.
  • Dependable village Chablis ’13 Bichot Long-Depaquit $20. Distinct Chard nose; minerals; balanced, good fruit; long crisp finish. w/shrimp
  • 2d label Paul Hobbs Sonoma Chardonnay ’15 Crossbarn $22. Chard nose, peach, light oak; mid-body, semi-crisp, long fruity finish. w/cheeses
  • Raymond No. Coast ’13 Chardonnay $22. Citrus, light oak, stone fruit nose; mid-body; good Chard character; long semi-crisp finish. w/fish.
  • Round ripe Russian River Valley Chardonnay ’13 Chalk Hill $23. Vanilla, oak, honey nose; mid-big body; long semi-lush soft finish. w/grilled fis

Sauvignon Blanc

  • Easy sipping $8 Sauvignon Blanc ’15 Edna Valley Vineyard Central Coast. Light new mown hay nose; mid-body; balanced; soft acids. w/appetizers.
  • Value Sonoma $10 Sauvignon Blanc ’15 Rodney Strong Charlotte’s Home. Light SB nose; citrus, minerals; balanced; good acids; long fruity finish.
  • Fine $11 Sonoma Sauvignon Blanc ’14 Kunde Magnolia Lane. Light SB nose, citrus, honeysuckle; mid-body; tight, semi-crisp finish. w/clams
  • Easy-sipping $12 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc ’15 Markham. Light citrus, new mown hay, vanilla nose; long semi-crisp finish. w/appetizers.
  • Sonoma Sauvignon Blanc, ’14 Sean Minor 4 Bears, $14. Subtle citrus nose; herbaceous; mid-body; good flavor; round fruity finish. w/clams
  • Spy Valley ’15 Sauvignon Blanc $14. Classic grapefruit/citrus Marlborough nose; mid-body; good acids, fruit; a little short. w/cheeses
  • Stylish $15 Napa Sauvignon Blanc ’14 Groth. Citrus, herbaceous nose; mid-body; balanced; good varietal fruit; long crisp finish. w/ceviche