Everyday: It’s always fun to try a new grape, especially from a new place. It’s an even bigger delight when that offering turns out to be as tasty as the Popova Kula Vranec 2005 ($15). Straddling the Old and New Worlds, this is a dusty, hearty red with some nice dark blue and red berry fruit. It turns a bit jammy in mid-palate but has earthy tones on the finish. Vranec is indigenous to the Tikveshija region of Macedonia, where these grapes are grown, and the word means “powerful black horse” in Macedonaian. This bold red would be delicious with hard cheeses, spring lamb or caponata.
Occasion: A lot of California’s North Coast wineries release expensive juice that tastes manufactured. Beringer generally manages to avoid that pitfall, and the Beringer Napa Valley Private Reserve Chardonnay 2009 ($38) continues a tradition of ripe delights. Judicious use of oak lets a veritable fruit cocktail of flavors (pear, melon, etc.) shine. The texture is lush and lovely, the finish sublime. Enjoy it with the usual suspects — crab or lobster, fish with rich sauces, corn dishes — or with some nice milk chocolate.