Everyday: We tasted some fabulous pinot noirs on a trip to Oregon last year “” the 2008s were almost all stellar “” but the real revelation was the whites, especially pinot gris and pinot blanc. The Ponzi Willamette Valley Pinot Blanc 2010 ($17) is a prime example, with yummy honeydew and pear flavors and just enough kick from the minerally undertones. Few white wines have the length of this beauty, and the way it lingers languidly on the palate quells any impulse to take another quick quaff (or three). Almost any preparation of shellfish will sing with this bracing white delight.
Occasion: A lot of Napa wineries make Bordeaux blends, but few can evoke the earthy refinement of that French region. The Hess Collection Mount Veeder 19 Block Cuvee 2008 ($36) is just such a wine, although admittedly it cheats a bit by throwing in some syrah. It smells grand, with both dried and ripe fruit that also caress the palate, punched up by a jolt of coffee-like flavors. There’s great harmony, plus a dry elegance that indicates it will age beautifully. Steak au poivre, anyone? Some toasty bruschetta with sundry spreads is another swell matchup.