A month after Sandy, it's time to start thinking about something festive. The holidays beckon.
For any gatherings, subdued or celebratory, you'll need a few bottles of good, not-too-expensive wine. Here are some recommendations, $25 or less.
Reliably fruity and fresh, the medium-bodied 2009 Castello di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva ($21) is an ideal match for red-sauced dishes, from pastas to chicken and beef.
The 2008 Benziger Family Sonoma County Merlot ($19) has enough red fruit to suit Santa. It's an uncomplicated, balanced choice, very good with roast beef, chicken, turkey.
Turn to Spain for the 2010 The Show Garnacha ($13), peppery, with lots of spice and extra heat. This one will stand up to pizza with all toppings, barbecue, burgers, sausages.
The citrusy 2011 Laroche Punto Niño Chardonnay Reserva ($11), from Chile's Casablanca Valley is right with guacamole, salads, shellfish.
In a bubbly mood, look for the nonvintage, crisp Mumm Napa Brut Prestige ($20), a refresher for a toast, and just as good with appetizers.
And, for a Port, try the 2007 Fonseca Late Bottled Vintage Unfiltered Port ($25). The concentrated production is ready now and fine company for blue cheese, chocolate, a well-deserved, post-party respite.