$15 or less
WHAT: Little Penguin Merlot 2006 (red) Rating: NNN
WHERE: Southeastern Australia
WHY: I was down at the LCBO's glass menagerie and picked up this little amphibian. An excellent choice for the party season. You crack it open, people pour it out and walk away drinking, happy. Also comes in an office-soiree-compatible 1.5-litre magnum.
PRICE: 750 ml/$12.15
AVAILABILITY: At most liquor stores (product #598912)
WHAT: Thirty Bench Red 2005 (red) Rating: NNNN
WHERE: Beamsville, Ontario
WHY: I'm not making this up. The most beautiful red cardinal just landed on the back fence as I started to write this. And that's what we've got here; a captivating red that inspires with homegrown beauty. Right now, it needs something like prime rib or some cellar time, but this is a great Ontario wine.
PRICE: 750 ml/$19.95
AVAILABILITY: At selected Vintages outlets as of Saturday (December 8) (product #53389)
Sips and nips
WHAT: El Dorado 12-Year-Old Rum Rating: NNNN
WHERE: Demerara, Guyana
WHY: Night seems to fall about 30 minutes before sunrise, and people are starting to argue about how much Christmas there should be in Christmas. It's time to pack the flip-flops and make a run for the tropics. Can't afford the airfare? Grab a bottle of this big, rich, honied, fruity rum and get warm on the inside.
PRICE: 750 ml/$35.95 (sale price)
AVAILABILITY: At selected Vintages outlets (product #912402)