Everyday: Here’s a wine for all those folks who like Apothic Red and have decided to “move up”: The 2011 Hook & Ladder Russian River Valley “The Tillerman” ($17) is ripe and spicy and seriously tasty. But it’s also a wine for Apothic non-fans, thanks to some stirring midpalate grip and refreshing minerality on the finish. It’s robust but at least a little bit refined, and a fabulous match for everyday food: burgers, pizza, brats, spaghetti and meatballs, tacos. Top the experience off with the raw but rich songs of the (almost) inimitable Joe Cocker.
Occasion: I have been seriously digging on some California bubbles lately. They might not be Champagne, but that doesn’t mean they’re any less enjoyable. Loved the 2004 Roederer L’Ermitage Brut, but I loved the ’04 Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs ($33). even more. There’s some of that baked-bread thing going on, but also gorgeous green-apple notes and tons of energy. I don’t like to go all sensuous in wine descriptors, but the mouthfeel here is sexy and the finish riveting. This is a great match for almost any appetizer extant, plays splendidly with fried chicken or snacks and is a super landing spot for a ripe strawberry. The exuberant work of Mr. Frank Sinatra provides the perfect soundtrack.