Weeknight: One of the cool things that has resulted from the never-ending malbec bandwagon trek is that some consumers (not enough, but some) have discovered the versions from Cahors. I can’t think of a better entree than the Chateau Eugenie Cuvee Reservee de l’Aieul Cahors ($18), a rustic delight year in and year out. This inky red boasts some big-ass fruit, more than matched by super-grippy tannins and deft smokiness. And what a hearty, elegant finish. Most any meat or veggie with some char on it — via grilling, searing or broiling — should cozy right up to this French red. The sturdy, soulful, seamless jazz of Kamasi Washington will enhance the experience mightily.
Occasion: At a recent tasting I was knocked out by the wines from a new-to-me Rioja house. I featured an entry-level wine in today’s Star Tribune, where the limit is $15/bottle. But even for three times that, the 2005 Ontanon Gran Reserva Rioja ($45) is a serious value. Layers of flavors and textures are hallmarks of this robust red, a delight in winter or any other season. The oak is subtle, the tannins just right, the mouthfeel multifaceted. Oh, I almost forgot to mention the stupendously alluring, complex nose and more-ten-ample finish. Besides the classic Iberian pairings (sausages, paella), this wine will play well with duck, pheasant, bison and other game. The stirring blend of something truly new that the early Allman Brothers Band captured seems just right for the occasion.