Everyday: California’s vintners still struggle to produce quality cabernet and pinot noir for $15 and under, but chardonnay? No problem. The 2012 McManis River Junction California Chardonnay ($10) is especially delicious, with very rich but not remotely flabby fruit, like a perfectly ripe hybrid of honeydew and watermelon, and some tropical spices. It’s light on the oak and just right on the minerality. For chard fans, this is a buy-by-the case wine. Try it with most any chicken dish, from quesadillas to lemon-roasted breasts, or just by its lonesome.
Occasion: For years Napa winemakers have told me how much they’d like to make petit verdot as a varietal; left unsaid is that their land usually cost so much that they’d have to sell it at a very tough price. Well, the 2010 Decero Mendoza Petit Verdot from Argentina is a serious bargain at $32, if that means anything. Rustic with a touch of wild herbs and coffee flavors plus a whole lotta blueberry delightfulness, thus hearty red lingers mightily on the palate. Roasted or braised meats or even a not-too-sugary blueberry dessert would make for swell accompaniments.