Everyday: Ho hum. Another day, another new grape from Italy. Actually, I’ve been diggin’ insolia/inzolia for a few years now, but the Cusumano Sicilia Insolia 2011 ($12) might represent the best value yet for this white grape, which used to be used primarily to make the dessert/cooking wine Marsala. Fresh and vibrant, with fab fruit (mostly citrus) and spot-on minerality, the Cusumano is a long, lean beauty, from the floral, orange-y nose to the refreshing finish, featuring several layers of flavor in between. It’s hard to imagine a seafood dish that wouldn’t sing with this wine, and zesty salads are another nice pairing.
Occasion: My palate has changed over the years, but it always has had a particular penchant for red blends, especially from the Rhone and California. The 2007 Star Lane Happy Canyon Estate Red ($42) is a stunner, with structure and stuffing out the yin-yang. A monster nose portends an earthy but beautifully ripe focus, and the lush but firm mouthfeel portends a near-endless finish. Coffee lovers will like this big ol’ red (54 percent cab, 29 cab franc, 7 each merlot and syrah, 2 petit verdot and 1 malbec), but so will fans of wines that nail the power-elegance dance. Steak au poivre begs for this wine, but any beef or lamb dishes whould welcome its presence at the table.