Everyday: I bow to no one in my admiration for chenin blanc, and wines like the 2013 L’Enchantoir Saumur Blanc Terres Blanches ($15) are a big reason why. There’s a bit of sweetness here, but the firm minerality and friendly acidity rule the roost; this wine is the very definition of tension. Oh, and the honeydew deliciousness (which aptly reflects the aroma) makes me wonder why I don’t eat more of the melon version. It’s bright enough for summer but has the body for all seasons, and the energy to provide a lift in the dead of winter. Pair it with grilled fowl or fish, plus summer veggies served raw or cooked (and yes, that includes difficult-to-match tomatoes). And the pure but pointed and poignant early work of Jackson Browne.
Occasion: Six years ago, I lamented in my erstwhile day job about how and why domestic syrah had never gained a foothold with consumers. Nothing much has changed with consumers since then, but a lot of California vintners have stopped making the stuff, especially in hot-weather sites. The 2012 Stolpman Ballard Canyon Syrah ($28) comes from a cooler climate and thus has the stony texture and structure of its Northern Rhone counterparts. But the dark red fruit is pure California goodness, while the finish is hearty but refined. Marinate some of the cheaper cuts of meat (flank or hanger steak, lamb shoulder), onions and peppers and grill away. Plop on some classic Johnny Cash to round out the pairings.