Everyday: It’s hard to find a Portuguese red these days that doesn’t offer decent bang for the buck, but the Udaca Irreverente Tinto ($11) is a flat-out killer bargain. The usual blend of touriga nacional and other obscure (to us) grapes, this hearty red has a friendly, slightly smoky nose and gorgeous red fruit year in and year out. It’s a great introduction to Portugal even though it straddles the line between the old and new world styles that are the cause of no small amount of rancor down Iberia way. It’s big enough for grilled beef and approachable enough for burger, barbecue or pizza night.
Occasion: One of the truly swell things about going to Wine Country is getting a chance to sample lesser-known wines in restaurants, sometimes even by the glass. The Davis Family Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2009 ($40) was a revelation on our recent trip. Juicy blue fruit and firm backbone make for an enticing mouthfeel that gives way to a finish that somehow is both crisp and silky. It’s very food-friendly, playing beautifully with both the salmon and rack of lamb that my way better half and I enjoyed with it (on the Sonoma coast, btw, overlooking the mouth of the Russian River). Can’t wait to try it at home with roast chicken and winter squash.