The Want: The all-occasion wine—red or white—that's perfect for a host, a client, or an impromptu office toast. It can't look cheap or taste cheap but should cost $15 or less.
The Get: Goose Ridge Riesling 2007 ($10) and Penfolds Bin 2 Shiraz Mourvèdre 2008 ($15). Produced in Washington State, the riesling is light and balanced with notes of apples, ripe pears, and floral elements. The Shiraz turns nasty Aussie viticultural stereotypes on their head with its tart, blackberry bite on the finish. Both bottles suggest the good taste of a connoisseur.
MESSAGES IN A BOTTLE
Liquors that look and taste more expensive than they are
Plantation Five-Year-Old Barbados Rum: Fresh and lively, this fiery dark rum has a spice-infused finish that makes it perfect for sipping on the rocks—or mixing with orange juice and triple sec—during the winter. $20
Milagro Tequila Silver: This modestly priced tequila doesn't burn the palate like other options in its category. Plus, you can taste the agave, and it won't bring on any embarrassing spring break flashbacks. $25
Beefeater Gin Winter Edition: The added cinnamon, nutmeg, and pine shoots make this traditional blue-blood standby an ideal base for more savory winter cocktails this season. $20
Bulleit Bourbon: In addition to the nifty bottle—presentation does matter, after all—Bulleit separates itself from the likes of Wild Turkey and Jim Beam with its refinement and light touch. $22