Everyday: The best California chenin blancs are clean and fresh, easy-drinking and super-tasting. Like the 2014 Vinum Clarksburg Chenin Blanc ($15), which follows a refreshing nose with layers of citrus, melon and tropical fruit; it basically tastes “green” (lime, honeydew, green apple and kiwi). Love the juicy acidity on the midpalate and finish. My tasting notes include the phrase “almost too smooth,” which, btw, is a compliment. Go for some ceviche or fish tacos, tuna or chicken salads (circa 2016, with chunks of the protein, not a mayonnaise-y concoction). Or with the chips and Emeril’s guac on Super Bowl Sunday. The playlist? Start and finish with the broad-ranging wit and wisdom of songwriter extraordinaire Nick Lowe.
Occasion: It’s the shank of winter, and we’re embarking on what for Minnesotans is the ironically longest-lasting month. Time for a big and bold red blend. But rather than the candy-like concoctions like Apothic and Meomi, got for a sturdy Portuguese gem like the 2013 Esporao Quinta dos Murcas Douro Reserva ($29). This is heartiness incarnate, a bottle of (made-up-word alert!) robustitude and refinement and harmony. Dark red fruit, perfect tannins, solid mouthfeel, long finish, etc., etc. It’s dense but elegant, ripe but complex, perfect for drinking now or setting down for a few years. And ideal for such wintry dishes as this delicious lentil soup with beef. The smoky, sultry vocals of the inimitable Sarah Vaughan are another perfect accompaniment.