Appetizers
December 6, 2006
Party Planning

News to me: America Online has a sommelier. She's Katie Griesbeck, and she teamed up with some AOL colleagues to taste through 34 wines priced at $5.99 or less, a niche that appeals to hosts planning a big holiday soiree. The wines, which weren't tasted blind, were bought at various stores in and around New York City.

The five the panel liked best were:

Trader Joe's Coastal 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon ($4.99), recommended to accompnay steaks and beef tenderloin or a cheese tray of brie, aged cheddar and gorgonzola.

Amaicha 2005 Torrontes ($4.99), an Argentine white evocative of gewurztraminer or viognier, recommended with spicy foods, Asian flavors, shrimp, a mild Swiss or a smoked gouda.

Banrock Station 2004 Shiraz ($5.99), a South Eastern Australia shiraz softer and sweeter than other shirazes on the market, with lush cherry and plum notes and a hint of peppery spice that make it fine for dishes like rack of lamb or grilled meats, says Griesbeck.

Barefoot Cellars Non-Vintage Merlot ($5.99), which while enjoyable on its own also will complement roast pork loin, spaghetti Bolognese or even a chocolate dessert.

Barefoot Cellars Non-Vintage Chardonnay ($5.99), a lighter style chardonnay but with the structure, acidity and complexity to accompany crab cakes or roast chicken, as well as rich cream sauces that often grace the holiday buffet table.

Though AOL sells wines on its Web site, these releases are widely available in supermarkets and grocery stores.

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