Everyday: The Italian grape primitivo is basically identical to zinfandel. But the 2008 Li Veli Pezzo Morgana Salice Salentino Negroamaro Riserva ($18) evokes the state grape of California more than any primitivo in my experience. The nose and the first burst in the mouth boast big ol’ dark red fruit and the kind of briary, slightly herby edge that makes Dry Creek Valley zins so distinctive. This is a firm, focused, well-defined red that is ready to drink now but also is worth cellaring for a while. Try it with barbecued baby backs or chicken or with a nice chunk of dark chocolate.
Occasion: I’m getting excited about sampling the 2012 German rieslings, and sipping a wine like the 2009 A.J. Adam Dhroner Hofberg Kabinett ($28) makes me even more eager. From a winery that consistently shines in the Mosel region’s inconsistent climate, this is an uber-smooth, light and lively, highly expressive white with great purity and focus. Boasting a trademark bit of petrol on the nose, its delicious citrus and apple notes and slate-like minerality make this a highly gluggable, but easy to savor nectar. It will play well with mildly spicy food of any ethnic (or domestic) origin.