Everyday: I used to love the fresh grassy aromas of New Zealand sauvignon blancs, until a seeming conspiracy turned most of them into monolithic grapefruit bombs with the occasional cat-pee notes. The Domaine du Salvard Cheverny Blanc 2009 ($16) has that freshly cut, nettle-some nose, and some gorgeous fruit to boot. This is a splendidly balanced white that pairs splendidly with always-challenging vinaigrettes (especially if the salad includes some goat cheese) and light chicken or fish dishes. A friend once asked me to recommend a really good Sancerre for under $20. I couldn’t — not sure anyone can — but this wine from just down the road will do quite nicely.
Occasion: Year in and year out, no one in Napa makes more delicious zinfandel than Brown Estate. Located in the relatively remote but emerging Chiles Valley region, this winery sources fruit from all over the county for the Brown Estate Napa Zinfandel 2009 ($36). Rustic and lusty, this wine has a lovely balance of jamminess and earthiness, plus a seriously silky mouthfeel and outsized finish. Good luck finding a better wine for pizza, burgers or baby back ribs. It’s the world’s first hashtagged wine (#brownzin) and comes from some longtime pioneers: The Browns are from Jamaica and were Napa’s first winery with black owners. The best place to find this and other tasty Brown wines might be the winery’s website.