Don't be a Scrooge - bring wine to your holiday party

You don't have a casserole dish. Someone else is bringing a veggie tray. And admit it: your last baking attempt was less than edible. It's the holiday party season, and you're standing empty-handed.

Not so fast, dear Scrooge. A bottle of wine is always the perfect party favor, no recipe required. Standing before rows and rows of reds, whites and sparkling wines, though, it can be tricky to know just which pick is tops. But again, no worries on your end, as we've found the best wines for you and yours.

It's called cupcake. How can that not be delightful? As rich and desirable as the pastry itself, Cupcake Chardonnay is a full, elegantly textured wine. Hailing from California's central coast, it's crafted from sun-drenched grapes to create a flavor-packed drink with notes of vanilla, butter, cream and lively citrus. Reminiscent of the sugar- and icing-laced fancies of childhood, this wine is a surefire pleaser. It's sold at Cost Plus World Market.

Direct from Sonoma wine country, La Crema Pinot Noir blends the intense fruit flavors of raspberry and blackberry with a tingling, exotic spice. Distinct hints of black cherry and plum flirt with mint, anise and cocoa for a drawn-out, flavored finish that is destined to become a holiday tradition. La Crema Pinot Noir is sold at area grocers, including Cost Plus World Market, Publix and Kroger.

While the winter winds may make it a bit too nippy to get in a round on the greens, Faldo's wines are sure to pick up golf enthusiasts. British Open veteran Nick Faldo recently launched Faldo, a golf-themed Aussie wine label with varieties that include a shiraz, sauvignon blanc and cabernet sauvignon. Expertly blended for sports fans or non-fans, these wines land a hole in one. Sold in a sleek, chic black bottle, the wines look expensive, but ring up at a mere $15. Faldo wines are available at area wine retailers.

Equally matched for a late-in-the-season barbecue, a steaming bowl of stew or a fiesta of spicy foods, the Montecillo Reserva is a versatile, clean-flavored wine. An intricate fermentation process involving temperature-controlled underground cellars, French oak casks and months of waiting is used to ensure the wine is at top peak. All the hard work pays off, as the wine has a deep ruby tone and intense, powerful taste. Retailing for $20, it's sold at area wine retailers.

The Cabulous Cabernet Sauvignon is a versatile, full-bodied and smooth wine, ideal for either the holiday office party or a night cuddling by the fire. No, that's not a spelling error. It's Cabulous. But it's also fabulous. Ripe fruit flavors of cherry, black currant and plum finish with soft tannins for a friendly but elegant feel. Retailing for $9.99, it's sold at Cost Plus World Market.

After a hearty meal of holiday favorites, wrap your palate around the sweet essence of raisins, toffee and chocolate in Osborne Premium's Pedro Ximenez Sherry. This dessert wine from Spain is made purely from Pedro Ximenez grapes for a dark color and rich, even and oh-so-savory taste. Retailing for $20, it's sold at area retailers.

- Compiled by staff writer Anna Ferguson