I think it's hard to pick one favorite wine. Overall, I prefer reds. Mostly because I find a nondescript red more enjoyable than a nondescript white. Indeed, I find nondescript whites quite unpleasant, whereas I can drink almost any red and be at least OK with it so long as it's not corked. I'd say at least 25-30% of the time, I will end up drinking a run of the mill wine simply because the folks I'm with aren't that into wine or don't have the budget for a wine having more character.
I eat out three or four times a week, have small dinner parties at least once a month and larger parties four or five times a year, so I get to drink a lot of wine. Below are the ones that came readily to mind when I saw your post.
California: I drink these far more than all the others combined. I always have a case of these on hand at home and at the beach house. I really like them and one has a fair chance of finding them in a restaurant, but I don't worry much about that because there are many good Cali wines. There are several others I like, even more than the ones below in some cases, but they are quite expensive and so hard to come by it's not worth mentioning them, and I don't buy them consistently.
- Vine Cliff Chardonnay - This is the white I set out when I'm hosting a party.
- Robert Mondavi Cabernet - This is the cab I set out when I'm hosting a party.
- Stag's Leap Fay Cabernet
- Rodney Strong Meritage
- Silver Oak Cabernet
Washington State: I like these too, but don't drink most of them often because I'm really quite content with the CA wines above. I just happened across them and I like them.
- J Bookwalter Meritage
- Northstar Merlot - A friend gave me a bottle of this as a gift and it's become the one Washington wine I have been keeping around for the past 4 or 5 years or so. It tastes nice, is a nice change up from the cabs I normally drink, and t's reasonably priced.
France: Like Cali, there's no shortage of awesome French wines and if you travel outside the US, it's well worth your while to have a few that you know and like besides the superstars because you'll more likely come across French wines than you will Cali wines. In France itself, however, I generally just order the vin du table
and have always been satisfied and in more than a few instances, very pleasantly surprised.
- The Pope's wine (Chateauneuf du Pape) - This is one of my "go to" reds. It's fairly commonly found, reasonably priced.
- Pouilly Fuisse -- If I'm out with folks who insist on a white wine with dinner and they have nothing they specifically prefer or want, this is my "go to" white wine. Like the Pope's wine, fairly common on restaurant wine lists.
- Veuve Clicquot
- La Grande Dame -- This stuff rocks, but it's not cheap. Definitely for very special occasions and with friends who appreciate it.
- Ponsardin -- This is what I call my general purpose champagne. Always have a case on hand. It's what I serve at parties or when friends just want a glass of champagne.
- Vouvray - dry and semi-dry. The sweet ones are good but I don't really want them.
- Saint Emillon - this is my other "go-to" red. When I'm in Paris or London, this is what I drink most of the time.
- Chateau Mouton-Rothchild -- these are quite pricy, so I tend to just buy a few a year -- one to drink when I want it, one for a special occasion and one for the label art.
- Chateau Margaux - again quite pricey, so usually one bottle each of the two reds. The label art isn't all that special, so no point in a third.
- Cote de Beaune (Burgundies) -- These are the ones I've tried often enough that I know I liked them and can remember their names.
- Montrachet - both. These are bar none my favorite white wines, and quite possibly my favorite wines period, but they are not cheap. Even so, if given a choice between these and almost any of the other wines I've cited, I'd pick Montrachet.
Italy: sadlly, I haven't had much experience with them aside from having tired several barolo, all of which were very nice. I haven't the first ideal of what their names were.