It's that time of year. You have been invited to your sister's, Boss's, friend's, neighbor's, Church's, or some other relation's holiday party. Because you are a wine fan, and because you are polite in the Era of Mad Men sense of the world, you decide to bring a bottle of wine as a Host/Hostess gift. Aw man, now what? What do I bring? How much do I spend? What if I want to drink it? My friend, here are your answers.
First, determine if you want to drink the wine that night or not. If it is just a regular holiday party, and you want to make sure there's something good to drink, that's fine. Just hand the bottle to the host, and say something like "I figured we could pop this tonight, to see what you think of it." This should save you the frustration of bringing something you really want to try, and have it end up in the rack on top of their fridge. If you are going to a dinner party, one method is to call a few days before, and ask what the courses will be. Then mention that you would like to bring a wine to match one of the courses. This insures that they know that you want to open the bottle.
If you don't really care about opening the bottle or not, then there are still several things to take into consideration- How well do you know the people? Are they knowledgeable about wine? Are you really trying to impress them, or just be polite? Here are some scenarios:
-Your Nieghborhood Christmas Party- This is an easy one, especially if they don't know, or care much about wine. Bring somthing that is user-friendly, and doesn't cost you much more than $15 retail. Suggestion- Crios Malbec or Yalumba Shiraz/Viognier
-A holiday cocktail party where you know the host, but not many other people there- This one is tricky, since you want to bring something nice, but don't want to seem cheap. I advise that you go "off the beaten path", and bring something that even the wine geeks at the party will appreciate, but most people haven't heard of. You can still get there for less than $20. Suggestion: Altos de la Hoya Monastrell, or maybe Cantina Tollo Montepulciano.
-A party where there will be some reasonably knowledgeable wine people that know you. This is getting a little tougher. My suggestion is to bring Grower's Champagne. It will cost you around $40, and is delicious. Suggestions are A Margaine, Pierre Peters, or Rene Geoffroy.
-Your Boss's house for a dinner party. Two thoughts here- get something that has scored 90 points somewhere, just in case they are paying attention. My suggestion would be Snowden "Ranch" cabernet (It tastes better than Caymus, and is cheaper). Also, get something that isn't too well known, but is still nice. If they are just getting into wine, then something like Rombauer or Cakebread is a nice gesture, but the wines are bad for the price. If they are a little more knowledgeable then those types of wines might actually offend them. Another safe route is to go Grower's Champagne, as listed above.
I hope this helps a little. Whatever you bring, it will probably be appreciated. If they start laughing, saying things like "Oh my gosh, that is classic!" then just play along, and act like you meant it as a joke.