12 Exceptional Wines for Parties

The Proper Pour Courtesy of The Proper Pour
By Megan Krigbaum Posted December 19, 2014

Denver's McLain Hedges and Mary Wright spend their days recommending bottles in their fantastic shop, The Proper Pour. Here, they recommend 12 wines that are a great fit for any sort of party.

Denver’s year-old The Source is a little food and wine wonderland in the city’s up-and-coming River North Art District. And tucked in the back corner is The Proper Pour, an outstanding wine and small-batch liquor shop from McLain Hedges and Mary Wright.

A couple months ago, the pair also opened the RiNo Yacht Club, a cocktail and wine bar in the center of Source, where they serve 70 or 80 wine selections from the shop and drinks created by Hedges himself. Food at the bar comes from Source restaurant Acorn and is served from a little dim sum cart, with snacks like housemade pâtés, fried brussels sprouts with compressed apple and kimchi and a hen-of-the-woods-mushroom-stuffed chicken roulade.

Obviously, Hedges and Wright are the sort of people who know the right bottle to take to a party. So we asked them for their picks for three different party scenarios: a dinner party, a cocktail party and bottle swap. Here’s what Hedges had to say about their selections:

Wines for a Dinner Party
“When I think about a dinner party, it’s a time when you want to bring out something a little more special. When you’re going over to a friend’s house for dinner, you want to drink a little more seriously. You’re going to hang out for the long haul, so you want to go all-in. If a friend’s cooking, I want to bring something that stands up for the effort they’ve put in.”

Bubbles: NV Bérêche et Fils Les Beaux Regards ($65)
“Bérêche wines show deep, crisp, laser-like acidity; they’re so focused. They’re just sort of bright and snappy and delicious. And this one in particular, I love a Blanc de Blanc. This is such a classic representation of what they do. It’s gorgeous, gorgeous Champagne. And $65 for a grower Champagne from the motherland, it’s hard to argue with the price.”

White Wine: 2011 Weingut Künstler Reichestal Riesling Kabinett ($33)
“This is from a producer that I love. The wines are so charming, and this site in particular has very rich soils, and that shows through in the wines. They grapes have a little longer ripening season, so the wines are pretty powerful but super well-balanced and rich. I especially love them this time of year. These wines are dry, but the longer ripening makes them plump and powerful and perfect with food.”

Red Wine: 2013 Marcel Lapierre Morgon ($36)
“Marcel Lapierre is one of the producers that got me seriously into drinking wine. I remember the first time I ever tasted it: I was in Atlanta with a bunch of friends, and I was just totally blown away. And Mathieu Lapierre happened to be there hanging out, and I went out with him that night, and he’s a nut, and ever since I’ve just had this love for his wines. He’s done a fantastic job taking over for his father and in continuing with tradition the way it should be. These are the perfect wines for food; the acidity is there, and the earthiness is there and the minerality is there. There are some smoky, black tea notes, and I really think those smoky undertones can carry though the bigger portions of a meal.”

Fortified Wine: Vergano Chinato
“I love anything fortified. Mauro Vergano’s vermouths are unbelievable. Originally, he worked in fragrances and flavors and was a scientist before making these wines. He started making vermouth on a small scale as a hobby, and the chinato was the first project he ever did. He uses Giuseppe Cortese’s Nebbiolo. He gets it at the two-year point, so it really shows freshness. This is the perfect way to finish a meal. It has classic rhubarb, ginseng, baking spices notes, but it’s all about that balance between sugar, alcohol and aromatics. I’d drink it on its own but also with anything with fruit, spice, chocolate. It has great digestive qualities, but with a perfumey wine note behind it. All of his vermouths are just on another level.”

Wines for a Cocktail Party
"For cocktail parties, you’re not going in trying to be the serious guy and raining on everyone’s parade. You want something fun and that’s just a crowd pleaser.”

Bubbles: 2013 Domaine le Briseau “You Are So Bubbly!” Rosé Petillant Naturel Magnum ($60)
"I love this producer, and from a natural wine standpoint, their farmers make a really fun sparkling wine. When you go to a cocktail party, you want to take that bubble thing down to a much more casual state. And what better way to show up to a party than with a magnum? I think you become everyone’s best friend at that point. This is from the Loire and is so lightly sparkling and has bright acidity with a little cranberry flavor. It’s a blend of Cabernet and Syrah, and it’s kinda like adult soda.”

White Wine: 2013 Folk Machine Tocai Friulano ($16)
“Winemaker Kenny Likitprakong is always doing something cool. He comes to Colorado a lot, especially this time of year, because he’s an avid skier. With this Friulano, I think he was on the hunt for a different variety originally, but a friend of his called him and said, 'These 40-year-old vines are going to get ripped up if i can’t find somebody to buy the grapes.' The wine’s just ripe and crisp, with stone fruits and it’s just gulpable. It’s another producer pulling old, forgotten grapes from California back into the spotlight.”

Red Wine: 2013 Château d’Oupia Les Hérétiques ($12)
“The Languedoc offers the best value in France. Talented winemakers, incredible old vines and great varieties. They have a lot more freedom with what they can grow there. This winery has been around since the 13th century. It started as a negociant, but in the '70s started making wine a little more seriously. This is awesome bistro wine—great for every day. And it’s really complex for the price; it’s just made so well. This is 90 percent Carignane and 10 percent Syrah, so it has this bright berry and herbaceousness but also this earthy, smoky tobacco thing going on.”

Fortified Wine: Cocchi Vermouth di Torino ($20)
“This bottle is well-priced and a great way to get people into drinking vermouth. They are fantastic to drink before dinner, after dinner, in the sunshine, when it's cold out. This one is pretty versatile, and it mixes well in cocktails as a substitute for classic sweet vermouth, like in a Manhattan or Negroni or Boulevardier, but you can get creative with it. It plays well with anything from tequila to rum. It has something that complements anything—menthol qualities, vanilla, orange peel, caramel, licorice.”

Wines for a Bottle Swap
"For a bottle swap, I think you want to go for wines that if someone was walking into a store, they wouldn’t necessarily grab that bottle in particular. Not something weird and off-putting—something familiar but a little off the beaten path.”

Bubbles: NV Mas de Daumas Gassac Frizant Rosé ($29)
“I’m going back to the Languedoc here for value. This is 90 percent Cabernet and 10 percent Petit Manseng. This might be the bottle of sparkling wine that I drink more than any other. I love this wine so much. And I didn’t know when I started to get into wine that pink bubbles were going to be my thing, but they are. This has such brightness, strawberries and herbs and white pepper, but it also has this very tropical guava note. It makes me think I’m in this other world. You never see Cabernet like this.”

White Wine: 2013 Broc Cellars Vine Starr Grenache Blanc ($34)
“Chris Brockway makes his wine in Berkeley. He’s an urban winemaker in Northern California who pulls all his grapes from organic or biodynamic farms. This one is from a biodynamic site called Martian Ranch in Los Alamos. The wines are just gorgeous. There are very few people making Grenache Blanc in California, but I think this is one of the best. It shows minerality and almost a basily, floral, white peach thing going. This is an opportunity to drink something a little different, a little outside the box. We could go with Chardonnay, but Chris Brockway makes stunning wines, this one in particular.”

Red Wine: 2013 Tamí Frappato ($23)
“I love Arianna Occhipinti! I’ve always loved her wines. She’s the rock star of her region in Sicily. Tamí is a a collaboration she does with other winemakers, and what they do is take biodynamically farmed fruit and make wines at a reasonable price that people can drink every day. The Frappato is perfect with food. It’s delicious with salumi and cheeses, and it’s a perfect opening wine. Amazing minerality from their volcanic soil."

(Un)fortified wine: Equipo Navazos #44 Florpower ($42)
“Sherry’s coming back more into the spotlight these days, with bartenders and wine drinkers pushing the movement back into the forefront. That’s certainly part of my mission here. This is an unfortified fino—and you never really see that. It’s definitely not very traditional, but it’s such a cool wine. This project was started by a bunch of winemakers who wanted to make the world’s best sherry and bottle it for themselves and start a little sherry club. People started getting bottles, and demand started growing, and they started bottling. We thank them for that. This one is 100 percent Palomino, and everything is done traditionally, aside from the fact that they don’t fortify it. The wine itself is bottled at 11.5 percent alcohol and has just this intense nose of apples and almonds and yeasty hay notes and minerality with this amazing, lively acidity. It’s so perfect with food. I want a mountain of oysters and cured ham, and I’ll just kick my feet up and send me off.”

Related: Gifts for Wine Lovers
Gifts for the Cocktail Enthusiast
Gift Picks from Star Chefs

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