Everyday: I loves me some chenin blanc, and am thrilled that more and more American vintners not only take it on but manage to find places suitable for growing it. The latest example to cross (and delight) my palate: the McKinley Springs Horse Heaven Hills Chenin Blanc, a steal at $14. Following a gorgeous stone fruit/honeysuckle nose, the wine delivers vibrant citrus and golden-apple flavors and surprising depth, finishing with long and clean minerally goodness. Try it with light cheeses, light pasta dishes and shellfish. Or al fresco, indoors or out.
Occasion: Those who want to splurge, but not excessively, on a holiday dinner wine could do little better than the Pierre Gaillard Saint-Joseph Les Pierres ($36). There’s a whole lotta dried-herb (maybe that garrique thing so often referenced by a certain Mr. Parker) and violet going on at the outset, then spice-laden red and black fruit and earthy acidity. This is a rich and rustic but ultimately elegant offering, very true to its north-central Rhone origins. FYI: In my experience, any vintage will do. Try it with roasted fowl, herb-laden side dishes, cranberry sau … well, you get the picture; braised meats and olive-y appetizers are also swell accompaniments.