Everyday: Sometimes a wine experience can be exhilarating and bum one out. I loved tasting the 2011 Alexakis Vidiano ($16), but it made me sad that I have had so few wines from Crete. Vidiano is grown only in Crete, and Alexakis is the island’s largest privately owned winery. But this white gem is no bulk product, thanks to some lush-and-lean interplay, striking blood-orange flavors and streamlined acidity all the way through a mouth-watering finish. This is one of those wines that really evokes the ground from which the grapes sprang, and (another regret) makes me really want to visit the vineyard. Quaff it with shellfish or just fish-fish in most any preparation.
Occasion: I’m not a Luddite about oak, but I lean more toward the “less is more” school of new wood. But it’s also great when the vintner gets the oak “just right,” which certainly is the case with the 2011 Dusted Valley Columbia Valley Cabernet Franc ($42). The layers of dried herbs and red fruit (berries, currants) fairly explode across the palate, but there’s grace to go with this power. The finish is somehow both dusty and silky. This hearty red — like many Washington merlots — could be used as a “ringer” at a cabernet sauvignon tasting and perhaps not be “outed.” As such, it would cozy right up to grilled beef or roasted lamb.