Everyday: Sometimes a man (or a woman, at least in the case of my way better half) needs a wine with some dirt and smoke on the nose and palate. A wine like the 2010 Lo Nuevo Sorbo a Sorbo Catalyud Old Vines Garnacha ($12). This Spanish grenache also boasts some ripe, juicy fruit and just enough tannins to linger on the palate before a surprisingly long finish. Would that all $12 wines delivered this kind of hearty goodness. Try it with short ribs (braised or Korean-style) or that burger/brat (or other sausage)/pizza trifecta.
Occasion: The other night I gathered up some inexpensive California red blends for sampling. Many were nice, but one was off the charts, with stunning structure and depth. Turns out my “wow” moment was actually an “oops” moment: I had put the 2009 Beaulieu Reserve Tapestry in with the $10-$15 stuff. It’s still a “wow” wine at $45, by the way, with lots of rustic dried fruit and herbs, a touch of that dirt and smoke, and a stout but elegant finish. Can’t wait to try another bottle with steak au poivre, but it also should play well with an herb-infused leg of spring lamb.