This time of year is frantic — shopping, out-of-town guests, crowded stores.

And to make it all the more crazy, you’ve forgotten a few key people on your list.

Or you neglected to get that hostess gift.

Or you completely spaced that you are in charge of bringing the wine for that holiday dinner.

Take a deep breath. We’ve asked a couple of experts in the Old Pueblo to give us suggestions. They’ve done the thinking; you just have to do the buying. And drinking, of course.

“Wine is kind of a sure thing,” says Mark Thomson, who owns Plaza Liquors, which is packed with wines from around the world. “It’s a no-miss gift.”

Thomson, who loves getting wine as a gift as much as he loves helping his customers select just the right vino, points to Arizona wines as a gift that has that local edge. And before you pooh-pooh that idea, get a load of what Thomson has to say about the wines from our region:

“When I first started Plaza Liquors (in 1978), Arizona wine was just getting going, and some of the wines were pretty bad,” he says. “That’s why Southern Arizona wines had a bad reputation. But now, some of these wineries are producing wines as good as Napa Valley wines.”

The only downside — they can be a little pricier. “But they are worth it,” says Thomson. “Some of the wines are incredible.”

Over at Catavinos Wine Shoppe & Tasting Room, owner Yvonne Foucher knows how pricey wines can get. And she’s committed to keeping every bottle in her shop under $15. How does she do it?

“I buy wine by tastes, not by labels or price,” she says. “And the wines go through a very extensive process to get into the shop. … We have good wines at great prices.”

We asked Thomson and Foucher to come up with wines perfect for holiday parties and last-minute gifts. Their suggestions:

Mark Thomson, Plaza Liquors

  • He puts two Sonoita-area wines on his list: Charron Vineyards Empire White, a dry white blend ($13.50) and Dos Cabezas 2012 Red Blend ($18). The Empire White is “the perfect food wine with its bright flavors and its easy-to-drink nature,” says Thomson. The Dos Cabezas is a “multiple grape blend making for a complex and bold dry red.”
  • Rutherford Hill 2010 Sauvignon Blanc ($10): “Peaking in flavors and richness,” says Thomson. “The bracing dry and crisp finish makes it perfect for holiday dishes with light meats, chicken or fish.”
  • Legado Munoz 2011 Tempranillo ($12): “Spanish wines are still very popular and very fun to drink,” he says. “Tempranillo, the main red grape produced in Spain, is a dry/spicy/robust red.”
  • Schultz 2008 Napa Red Blend ($27): “Cabernet, Zinfandel and Syrah are combined and aged in French oak for over a year,” says Thomson. “This silky and opulent dry red is my hit wine of this holiday.”
  • Duval Leroy NV French Champagne ($37) — “As good as any nonvintage French bubbles that I have tried. Elegant yet contains those typical toasty and creamy flavors from France.”

Yvonne Foucher,

Catavinos Wine Shoppe & Tasting Room

  • One Hope Brut Sparkling Wine, NV ($13.99): 100 percent Chardonnay. “Aromas of green apples, nectarines and fresh-baked bread; crisp with flavors of peaches, sweet berries, pears and a creamy finish.” The wine is good as an aperitif, with ham, or for a New Year’s Eve toast. One of the reasons Foucher is partial to this label is that a percentage of profits from every bottle go to a nonprofit organization. This one fights childhood hunger.
  • Villa Wolf Pinot Noir Dry Rose, 2011 ($14.99): “This is a unique, hard-to-find, wonderful dry rose from Germany,” says Foucher. It has the “aromas and flavors of bright berry fruits (strawberries and raspberries) with a lean, crisp, dry finish.”
  • Arnel-Carmenere 2010 from Bodega Vina Peralillo in Colchagua Valley, Chile ($13.99): 100 percent Carmenere. The Carmenere is “a Bordeaux grape that made its way to Chile, where it thrives,” said Foucher. It has “aromas and flavors of black fruits, plums and pepper with a hint of earth and coffee.” She says it pairs well with any red meat.
  • St. Hallett Shiraz 2011 ($14.99): 100 percent Shiraz. The wine has the “aromas and flavors of dark cherry with a bit of spice with red berries and a supple chocolaty mouth feel,” says Foucher. It is full-bodied and has a long finish. “This is a very big, jammy, juicy wine,” she adds, matching well with red meat. This Shiraz a favorite among her customers.

Contact reporter Kathleen Allen at or 573-4128.