With the holiday season in full swing, here are some crowd pleasers that are guaranteed to bring the holiday party thunder and, most importantly, won’t break the bank just to be put on the table and guzzled by the thirsty masses.

Let there be no doubt that the holiday party wine of 2011 is the J Bookwalter Winery Bookmark Red Wine. This non-vintage blend is mostly Syrah along with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

The fact that this wine is not shy on the oak is actually part of its charm. Many wines at this price point are unoaked or oaked with chips or staves. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. It is, however, extremely (extremely) rare to find a wine at $15 that has an abundance of high quality, expensive oak, which is what you find here.

Though the oak does play a big part in this show, there’s more than enough fruit to go along with it. The Bookmark Red retails for $15 but can be found in many places, including some grocery stores, for $10-$12. This is a case purchase wine at this price and a perfect wine for the holidays or to bring as a host gift. Notably, this wine was also the third ever unanimous “buy” wine in the four-plus years I have been conducting monthly Virtual Tastings.

The next wine is the 2008 Rulo Winery Syrca – a Syrah and Cabernet blend. This is another wine that is guaranteed to make your friends think you paid a whole heck of a lot more for the bottle than you actually did. It can be your little secret.

Moving on to whites, bring a bottle of the 2010 Pacific Rim Columbia Valley Riesling, which has a great label and is an even better wine. If someone says, “But I don’t like Riesling. It’s too sweet!” you have my permission to hit them over the head with the bottle. Just make sure it’s empty first because it’s too good to waste.

Any coincidence that all three of these wines are screwcaps? No. First it gives you a great opportunity to educate your friends that a screwcap doesn’t mean low quality. Secondly, and more importantly, it means you don’t have to be that person who brought a corked bottle of wine to the party!

Let me know what your go-to wines are this holiday season.

J Bookwalter Winery Bookmark Red Columbia Valley NV $15
Rating: * (Excellent)
Toasty, campfire notes dominate aromatically initially followed by espresso, chocolate, red fruit, dark fruit, light herbal notes, and cracked pepper. The aromatics are attention getting indicating an oak program obviously for a much more expensive price point. The palate is soft and silky, lush, rich and fruit filled with ripe dark fruit and abundant chocolate flavors and a sweet, lingering finish. Dips a bit in the middle but comes back together and sails. 33% Syrah, 31% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 11% mixture of Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Roussanne.

Rulo Syrca Columbia Valley 2008 $15
Rating: * (Excellent) Aromatics of dusty cherry, blueberry, a jumble of dark fruit, dry chocolate, and light herbal notes. The palate is loaded with rich, penetrating fruit flavors along with firm, slightly dry tannins. Fruit flavors persist a long finish. 72% Syrah, 28% Cabernet Sauvignon. 14.5% alcohol. Reviewed October 31, 2011

Pacific Rim Riesling Columbia Valley 2010 $11
* (Excellent) Pale lemon yellow. An aromatically compelling wine with floral notes, peaches, and jasmine. The palate is medium-dry and full off mandarin orange and lime flavors, beautifully stitched together with a zing of acidity that carries along to a lingering finish. 100% Riesling. 11.5% alcohol. 2.3% Residual Sugar. Reviewed August 30, 2011