Everyday: The more you learn about wine, the more you realize how little you really know. I had never heard of fernÃ£o pires unitil I tasted the refreshing, flavorful Samora Branco Tejo ($12). Now I know that the grape was named after a 16th-century Portuguese apothecary and sometimes is known as Maria Gomes (Pires’ lover?). There’s a lovely limey nose to this white (arinto is also in the blend), which then rolls alluringly over the palate. Sushi or ceviche would make a nice accompaniment.
Occasion: As much time as I have spent in Dry Creek Valley, I somehow have missed visiting the Unti winery, despite a rousing recommendation from friends who never have steered me remotely wrong. After tasting the Unti Benchland Dry Creek Syrah ($35; ignore the vintage at left; I drank the ’07), I won’t make that mistake again. This is about as Northern Rhone-y a syrah as I have come across from Northern California, with olive, herb and pepper notes framing the dark berry flavors. The minerally backbone keeps the voluptuousness from getting too over-the-top. Bring on the grilled or roasted meat with this lusty beauty.