Everyday: OK, I’ll admit to having a soft spot for any West Coast efforts to make Italian varietals. But I still was delightfully surprised with the quality of the Montevina Terra d’Oro Amador County Barbera 2009 ($18). The yummy darkish fruit is in gracious harmony with the soft tannins and just-bracing-enough acidity. This is a spicy, supple and sexy wine, possessed of a lovely mouthfeel and gorgeous finish. Bonus: It’s every bit as food-friendly as its Piedmontese counterparts. Try it with rustic winter stews, lamb and game dishes or anything with mushrooms.
Occasion: I’m also a sucker for chenin blanc, and few, if any vintners in the world are doing it any better than Loire master Nicolas Joly. The N. Joly Savennieres “Les Vieux Clos” 2009 ($53) elicited a rare “yowsa!” in my tasting notes. It’s a font of endless harmony, with all manner of stone fruit (apricot, peach) and ripe green apple flavors melding with racy acidity over a minerally base. The finish is, as my late, great mother-in-law would say, nigh onto endless. Creamy soups, sauces and cheeses play beautifully with this brisk delight, as would most curry dishes.