Everyday: Most people automatically think tempranillo when the topic of Spanish reds comes up, but I lean a bit toward garnacha finding the better expression, up and down the price spectrum, in that Iberian country. One of the best cheaper examples is the Altovinum Evodia Old Vines Garnacha ($10), which offers up powerful aromas and splendid dark fruit, with just enough grip, surprising complexity and a finish with some oomph. Oh, and a seriously cool label. Try it with cured pork of all ilks, hearty soups or a paella that adds some chicken and/or chorizo to the mix.
Occasion: Bordeaux has a multi-century head start, but northern California is catching up rapidly in nailing where to grow and how to vinify sauvignon blanc and semillon. The 2011 Signorello “Seta” ($32) has a glorious tropical, spicy nose and gorgeous melon and honeyed tropical fruit, with a nice jolt of crisp texture keeping the wine firmly away from Flabbyland. The layers of flavor roll on during a seriously lengthy finish. The blend of 62 percent semillon and 38 percent sauvignon blanc should play well with most chicken dishes, especially those with a fruity sauce, and an array of squash dishes (ravioli in brown-butter sauce, spaghetti squash with Parmigiano-Reggiano).