10 Ultimate Wines for Dinner Parties

F&W's Ray Isle solves every pairing dilemma with 10 spectacularly versatile wines. These bottles are sure bets at dinner parties.

Wine Pairings Guide


2010 Chateau Ste Michelle Dry Riesling ($9)

Chateau Ste Michelle sells far more of the off-dry version of this Washington-state Riesling, but this zesty, refreshing wine is much easier to pair with food (look for the yellow label, not the white).

2010 Geyser Peak Sauvignon Blanc ($13)

Vintage after vintage, Geyser Peak's lively, grapefruit-scented Sauvignon Blanc maintains a fine balance between Sauvignon Blanc's tropical- and citrus-fruit notes and its grassy, herbal character.

2010 Paul Blanck Pinot Blanc d'Alsace ($13)

Dry Alsatian whites like this crisp bottling, from an estate that dates back to the 17th century, are a go-to for pairing. Blanck's grapes are farmed without chemicals, which makes the wine additionally appealing.

2009 Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Gris ($16)

Oregon Pinot Gris tends to be zippier than Alsace versions, which can be extremely rich, and far more interesting than most Italian Pinot Grigios (the same grape). This white-peachy bottling is a standout.

2009 Bastianich Friulano ($16)

New York City-based restaurateur Joe Bastianich started making wines in Friuli 12 years ago, concentrating on the fragrant whites for which the Italian region is known. This bottling, made from the local Friulano grape, has good mid-palate richness, nectarine and citrus notes and a lingering hint of peppery spice.


2010 Fontanafredda Briccotondo Barbera ($17)

The bargain in this respected Piedmontese producer's portfolio of wines is this berry-bright, lightly smoky Barbera (a grape with lots of color and flavor, but not many astringent tannins).

2010 Terres Dorées Beaujolais l'Ancien Vieilles Vignes ($16)

A good Beaujolais can pair with almost anything, from fish to steak, and this expressive red from Jean-Paul Brun is the definition of good Beaujolais: It's moderate in tannins and alcohol, yet overflowing with flavor.

2009 Marchesi di Grésy Dolcetto d'Alba Monte Aribaldo ($23)

Dolcetto produces deeply colored, berry-fruited wines with soft tannins and good acidity (a key characteristic of wines that pair well with a wide range of foods). Marchesi di Grésy's lightly earthy rendition is a classic.

2009 Lang & Reed North Coast Cabernet Franc ($24)

John Skupny at Lang & Reed combines the ripe juiciness that California's warm climate brings to Cabernet Franc with this grape variety's classic tea-leafy character. The result is a cherry-inflected red that can seemingly pair with almost anything.

Sparkling Value

NV Lini Labrusca Rosso Lambrusco ($16)

This wild berry–inflected, scarlet-hued sparkling wine will make anyone forget the insipid sweetness that characterized many mass-production Lambruscos in the past. Lini, a small family company, has been making terrific Lambruscos since the early 1900s.

Article updated November 2011.

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