The Wine Novice asked Andrea DiFiore for a list of red wines (with her own descriptions) for the following functions: an informal dinner-party, a formal dinner party at your boss's house (or someone else you might want to impress); and that special memorable event. These 14 wines, ranging in price from $12.99 to $99.99, are guaranteed to stand out among oeniphiles who appreciate good friends, good food and good times, said Andrea.
2011 Les Darsons, Languedoc, by Jeff Carrell, $13.99 -- A Syrah-Grenache blend featuring red ripe fruit and black pepper notes. An "off-the-beaten" path wine that does justice to a small French producer.
2011 Camino de Navaherreros, Spain, $12.99 -- Makes a good introduction with raspberry and cherry tastes leading to a medium, dry finish. Pairs well with pasta and chicken or as a nice sipper.
2009 La Spinetta, Langhe Nebbiolo, $27.99 -- A wine you think about drinking while spending all day cooking osso buco (veal shank) with mushroom risotto.
2010 Arnad Montjavel Vallee d'Aosta, La Kiura, $16.99 -- Another little known Italian wine similar to a Pinot Noir. Red fruit flavors and dominant Nebbiolo presence (75 percent) that produces a dry, silky finish.
2009 Domaine de Courteillac Bordeaux, Dominique Meneret, $14.99 -- "This is (the French wine) I would pour to bring the taste of Old World wines to someone who just drinks California cabernet," says Andrea. Jammy, blue and red fruit tastes, tannic and the right touch of acidity make this a well-balanced red to go with a hearty meal.
2009 Rusack Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara County, $29.99 -- An overachieving small family estate produces this impeccably structured wine that should grace every Thanksgiving Day table. Exceptional floral, spicy notes, velvety on the palate and a mouth-watering finish.
2007 Truchard Pinot Noir, Carneros, Napa Valley, $32.99 -- Lush cherry aromas and gorgeous baking spices -- like nutmeg -- make for a brilliantly textured wine. Another great complement to turkey dinner.
2010 Stafford Hill Pinot Noir by Halloran, Oregon, $19.99 -- A small-production estate that takes pride in handcrafting quality wines at a bargain price point. Pomegranate, raspberry and orange peel notes create a delicious and appealing wine.
2003 Poggio Antico Brunello di Montalcino, Italy, $74.99 -- For the special occasion when romance, elegance and an exquisite meal are on the agenda. Flavors of licorice, anise, black currants, dried floral notes and plums are expressed in complex layers of taste ending with a satisfyingly long finish. "This is elegance to me," says Andrea. "It's a wine that you just want to keep smelling in the glass. It's an experience to savor."
2007 Ceretto Barolo Zonchera, Italy, $52.99 -- It's bigger and more masculine in style (than most Barolos). Deep red fruit rich in mushroom sauce. Pairs well with steaks, venison, and thick meat stews.
2009 Plumpjack Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville, Napa Valley, $99.99 -- A hard-to-get wine previously reserved for elite restaurant distribution, this is a big, full-bodied cab with tons of tannin and balanced acidity. Black olives, cherry and deep dark rich fruit combine for a luscious taste. A serious Cab through and through.
2008 Chappellet Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, $49.99 -- Robert Parker gave the 2007 vintage a high rating and great publicity, but the 2008 proved just as opulent during an "off-vintage" year. Tons of spice and cassis flavors come through from good, quality fruit.
2007 Saint Cosme Chateaunheuf-du-Pape, France, $54 -- A classic, highly rated Rhone-style wine that merits special attention and sells at a great discount to other top French wines. "The aroma is like putting your nose in lilacs. The floral notes in this wine are incredible," says Andrea. "Exceptional with slow roast pork chops."
2007 Cantina del Pino Barbaresco, Italy, $39.99 -- Bitter cocoa and concentrated red fruit are the leading characteristics in a wonderful wine with a long finish. Good with veal chops.
-- Jim Campanini