So a few years ago, I started a family tradition. My dad and stepmom were getting into drinking wine, but they were really overwhelmed by all the choices they were faced with at grocery stores or at wine stores. Most of the wine stores in the Omaha area area currently pretty "big box" wine stores...either chains like Brix (which I, as someone who knows a little about wine, find frustrating due to the sheer volume of wine) or wine stores like Corkscrew, which is great if you know what you're doing, but still a little to big for them to not feel intimidated. I was living in New York at the time and had a smaller wine store I went to (Bottlerocket) that I loved. I asked them if they would be willing to put together a mixed case of wine to send to my dad's house, so that they could sample some different wines and figure out a few that they liked, so that way they could at least know what to ask for in a grocery store or a wine store. So Bottlerocket sent home a great case, along with these info sheets on each one where we could mark "Loved It, Liked It, It Was OK, Not My Favorite or Hated It". We had a great time trying the wines and marking down who loved/hated what, and thus a tradition was born.

I've since moved away from New York, and found my new wine happy place at Vino 100 in Chicago. The store is fantastic, with all the wines labeled with a two scales, flavor (fruity to dry) and body (light to full), so even if you haven't heard of a particular brand, you can kind of see how it stacks up against others you like. I've never gotten a single bad bottle from there. By now Steve (the amazing proprietor) knows what I like, and gives excellent suggestions for my palate whenever I go in there.

So, Groupthinkers, I am excited to share this year's wine with you. Dad's house is pretty much only reds, but my mom and stepsister really like sweet whites, so Mom's gets a mixed case half full of wine I wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole. But just in case anyone is looking for wine for the holidays, here is what I got, along with Steve's notes. No bottle should be over $20, so it's all very affordable.

Dad's case:

The Grinder - You know this one. [The Grinder is a pinotage that literally everyone I've ever given it to absolutely loves. It smells like coffee, but tastes like chocolate and plums and all kinds of deliciousness.]

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90+ Bordeaux - This is their value Bordeaux. 50% Merlot, 40% Cab Sauv, 10% Cab Franc. Medium full, with nice fruit, a bit of earth and balanced acidity. [I highly recommend 90+ Cellars wines to anyone who has them around. They're consistently really good and reasonably prices.]

Pedroncelli Cab - This is a single vineyard Alexander Valley Cab. Full bodied, with lots of fruit and baking spices and an easy finish. Just how you like your Cabs. [I haaaaaaaaate cabs with strong tannins. I find anything that desalivates my mouth to be disgusting.]

Domaine de la Solitude Cotes du Rhone - These guys have been making wine for centuries, and are most famous for their Chateauneuf du Pape. Good stuff. Mostly Grenache with Syrah, Mourvedre and a bit of Cinsault. Fruit, spice, and earth.

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Maryhill Merlot - Washington Merlot are my favorites. Full bodied, balanced, and complex, but softer because it's Merlot. This should be spot on for your palate. [I like merlots...I know it's not trendy to like them, but I do.]

The Feast - Blend of Alexander Valley Cab and Napa Merlot. This again should hit your palate perfectly. Plus, it's called the Feast, so great for you Festivus Feast. Open it after the airing of grievances, but before the feats of strength.

Mom's case:

Casteggio Moscato - light, fizzy, and sweet.

Casteggio Sangue du Judah - this is basically red moscato. red fruits, fizz, and sweet. It should be served chilled. It is one of our best sellers. The sweet drinkers love it. The name means blood of Judas. I don't know why.

St. Christopher Gewurztraminer - light and sweet. The tasting notes are lychee fruit and spice. Another crowd favorite among the sweets.

The Rebel Red - This is a kitchen sink blend from Washington. It has Grenache, Mourvedre, Sangiovese, and Syrah with a bit of Merlot and Cab. It's good and has a guy riding a motorcycle on the label. What else do you need to know?

Drassanes Red - This is a fun one. It's 60% Bobal, with Tempranillo and Syrah.Bobal is the 2nd most planted red in Spain after Tempranillo. You find it in the south east, around Valencia. It reminds me of Cab Franc, because it's a bit lighter, but nice and complex.

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Joan D'A Garnatxa - You've had this before. Full bodied for a Garnacha, with rich extracted fruit. [I was big into Garnacha this year.]

Ferrandiere Malbec - Malbec from the south of France. More rustic than the ones from Argentina, so more interesting. This is the Malbec for people who don't like Malbec.

Maryhill Winemakers Red - Cab, Merlot, Syrah, and Cab Franc. This is a crowd pleaser. Nice fruit, some smoke, some spice, and a touch of green on the finish. Easy peasy, but delicious.

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Indomita Sauvignon Blanc - Lots of pink grapefruit on the nose. more subtle citrus on the palette and a touch of minerals on the finish. So good for the price. [I've had Indomita's Carmenere before, and it's great, so I'm excited to try something else from their winery.]

Indomita Chardonnay - From Chile, but Cali in style with some butter and some oak. Great value for a reserve Chard.

Happy drinking!!