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Help picking a red and a white, please!

If you had to pick a red and a white with the most crowd appeal (price no object) from these lists, what would you pick? Or are there any wines here you'd absolutely avoid?

White Wines
Chardonnay, Nederberg (South Africa) $21.00
Chardonnay, RH Phillips (Dunnigan Hills,CA) $23.00
Chardonnay, J.Lohr (CA) $29.00
Pinot Grigio, Mezzacarona (Italy) $20.00
Sauvignon Blanc, Dancing Bull (CA) $20.00
Gewürztraminer, Chateau St.Michelle (WA) $21.00
White Zinfandel, Beringer (CA) $21.00

Red Wines
Merlot, RH Phillips (Dunnigan Hills, CA) $23.00
Merlot, Sebastiani (Sonoma, CA) $30.00
Cabernet Sauvignon, Echelon (CA) $22.00
Cabernet Sauvignon, Sebastiani (Sonoma, CA) $30.00
Shiraz, Nederberg (South Africa) $21.00
Chianti, Ruffino (Italy) $23.00
Pinot Noir, Mirrassou (Modesto, CA) $25.00

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  1. yikes! i'd avoid all of them if i could, and the prices are really high. is this a restaurant or caterer's list? if so, find a different place. if you have to choose, the sauvignon blanc and pinot grigio are basically inoffensive whites. maybe the shiraz for the reds.

    2 Replies
    1. re: warrenr

      Catering hall, it's already chosen and a done deal. So I've got to help my sister make the least worst choice :-)

      1. re: warrenr

        Yes, we (or at least I) would choose the Le Montrachet and the Romanée-Conti, but the OP didn't list them. My guess is that this is a wine list from a caterer and the OP has the joy of doing the best that they can, with what they have.

        I have to work with wine lists from similar (though with more/better choices, usually) and it is not easy. One is faced with a less than stellar wine list, a limited budget, and the need for the best way to work with what is provided.

        Normally, I'd go the SB/Shiraz route, but do not really appreciate the choices. Same for the Gewürztraminer, not my choice for a producer of that varietal.

        That is why I chose one from column A and one from column B.


      2. Out of the particular wines that you list, most crowd pleasing, IMO, would be the J Lohr Chardonnay, and the Sebastiani Merlot...I really don't like the Echelon...

        1. Which vintage years AND when you say "most crowd appeal" it really depends on what you'll be using the wines for (i.e. what kind of food you'll be pairing them with)...

          Forgetting the producers, vintage years, and food pairings for the moment, just in terms of "fun drinkability" by themselves, probably the Chardonnay among the whites will be the most interesting wine "by itself" here.... since you have 3 to choose from ask the "wine steward" for a taste if they're avail by the glass, or ask which one they seem to get the most positive comments on... OR if you have a big crowd get one bottle of each and play a little tasting game.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Chicago Mike

            Sorry for th elack of detail earlier, I had to post and run.

            It's a wedding menu, with a bottle of red and white per table. The menu served will be a choice of: sirloin of beef, pasta with seafood, carved turkey. There won't be a chance to taste anything before the event, and the choice has to be made by next Tuesday.

            1. re: Chris VR

              Pasta with seafood... that just screams chardonnay.

              Carved turkey... favors Pinot Noir.

              Sirloin of beef probably best matches are the Cab or Merlot although the Shiraz might be pretty nice there too. HOWEVER the Pinot Noir would "work in a pinch", i.e. it wouldn't be a bad match for the Sirloin and it's a much better match for the turkey...

              SO, at the end of the day I'd go Chardonnay and Pinot here, just speaking varietals. But again, ask the catering guy. If he thinks one of the Cabs or Merlots (or even the Shiraz) is better than the Pinot, then go with that for the red and his top rec for the Chardonnay in the whites.

              About above all, avoid the Chianti which is likely to be quite a harsh/austere wine, IMO. Ditto for the white zinfandel which would be an embarassment.

          2. The Chateau Ste Michelle gewürztraminer is usually very decent, though without much uniqueness.

            3 Replies
            1. re: mengathon

              A bit sweet though, don't you think?

              1. re: jinet12

                I love the Mirrassou Pinot Noir, but I also prefer soft tannins. It's really nice and smooth.

                1. re: jinet12

                  yeah you're probably right. it was probably presumptuous of me to equate mass crowd appeal with something sweet. whenever i eat with people who don't really care for wine, i just tend to choose the most inoffensive, neutral wine.

                  that said, i've always thought chateau ste michelle does a very good job in terms of QPR as a big winery with just about all their offerings.

              2. Both would be Italian - not because of country, but more because of flavour - lots are 'anything but chardonnay', Cab Sav tends to be too heavy (tannic) for some, and the Gewurzt a bit 'specialised' in Flavour.
                Therefore Pinot Grigio (Pinot Gris) and Chianti

                1. I have had all of the whites except the South African. The Gerwurtz and White Zin are probably too sweet to have broad appeal in my opinion. The Dancing Bull is actully pretty good for a mass market SB. It might be the best bargain choice off the list. The J Lohr should generally be a crowd pleaser for a Chardonnay.

                  I would probably pick the Pinot or the Merlot from the red choices. Keeping in mind, the goal is to find wines with appeal to the broadest cross section of guests possible. These wines will not be remarkable, but should not offend anyone either, in my opinion.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: scrappydog

                    Mirassou Pinot Noir is TERRIBLE, IMO. I had some at a friend's once. Tasted a bit like homemade wine. Similarly, stay away from the Ruffino chianti.

                    The Sebastiani Cab-Sauv should be a real crowd-pleaser, moreso than most, in my opinion. It is very fruity (in any vintage I have tried) and is not very tannic for a cab-sauv. It should pair well with the sirloin of beef and, in a pinch, with the turkey (ducking).

                    I would go with the Gewurztraminer for the whites, in only because Chateau Ste. Michelle has some credibility as a winery (compared to the other choices). Also, I doubt that their Gewurtz is all that sweet (probably just a tad off-dry). 2nd choice would be the J. Lohr Chardonnay. Many of those whites are simply terrible wines. The Gewurz should be at least half-decent.

                    1. re: anewton

                      Have you ever tried white burgundies? Great variation on the traditional white wines.

                  2. Without defining the "crowd," to whom the choices must appeal, I'd choose the J. Lohr Chard for a white (fairly "big" for an inexpensive Chard, and with good fruit) and the Sebastiani Merlot (about the same set of reasons as the J. Lohr), though there could be some "Sideways" backlash *against* the Merlot and that would then favor the Mirrassou PN.

                    Now, if it were just me, I'd choose the two SA wines, as I have not had either, and would enjoy the opportunity to do so, regardless of how well, or not, they showed.


                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                      Thanks, all, for the suggestions. I passed them along and I REALLY appreciate your expert opinions.

                    2. Judging by the choices we are given, I would imagine the "crowd" that this is to appeal to doesn't care much for wine at all....

                      I would suggest the J. Lohr Chard and the Ruffino Chianti...a california chardonnay and an italian red willl appeal to the group your are hosting. I would strongly urge you to not get the Beringer White Zinfandel although that may very well be the crowd favorite :-(