Terramater 2004 Zinfandel Shiraz, Maipo Valley, Chile (about $11) Terramater means "Mother Earth," and this wine marries the distinctive character of Chilean soil with grapes that are more associated with California (Zinfandel) and Australia (Shiraz). As always, mother knows what works best: The wine has delicious flavors of blackberries, spice, and smoke. It reminds me of the advice my own mother used to give me: Be firm but warm
- Meaty recipe pairing: Slow-braised short ribs, lardons, and baby vegetables
The Zin-Shiraz combo matches the smoky sweet flavors of the ribs with its own smoky/sweet flavors.
- Meatless recipe pairing: Grilled pizza margherita
Both Zinfandel and Shiraz often make for great pizza wines because they are packed with berry flavors but none of the mouth-drying tannins found in Cabernets. Chocolate-covered almonds
Gallo Family Vineyards Sonoma Reserve 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma, California ($15)Gallo's image as a jug wine is changing, not only with terrific bottles such as this one, but also with a new generation of winemakers. Foremost among them is Gina Gallo, who completed the viticulture program at U.C. Davis and learned her craft from her grandfather Julio, who started the business in 1933. This full-bodied number is bursting with aromas of dark plums, blackberries, and spice.
- Meaty recipe pairing: Roast racks of lamb with new potatoes and mint pesto
Cab is a classic match with lamb because of its complementary dark berry and mint aromas.
- Meatless recipe pairing: Vegetarian cassoulet
This crunchy, rustic cassoulet needs something full-bodied to stand up to it; this Cab does the trick with gorgeous black fruit flavors.
Peter Lehmann 2007 Eden Valley Riesling, Australia ($16)
Peter Lehmann is not only famous for his wines, but also for the artwork on his bottle labels. Often these feature women, such as the Queen of Clubs, who represents the gamble that winemakers took in the seventies to establish the Australian wine industry. The wine has vibrant floral and citrus aromas, a product of the cool climate in the Eden Valley.
- Meaty recipe pairing: Riesling-poached trout with thyme
It's easy to match a wine with a dish when they have similar flavor components: In this case, both share refreshing lime notes.
- Meatless recipe pairing: Caesar salad with herbed croutons
The zesty Riesling cuts through the creamy, tangy flavors of this classic salad.
Veuve Clicquot Non-Vintage Champagne, France (about $45)
Many of the famous Champagnes of France bear the names of the young "veuves" (widows) who ran these wineries when their husbands died due to illness or the ravages of war. Bollinger, Pommery, and Perrier-Laurent are just a few of their names, but perhaps the most famous of all is Barbe Nicole Clicquot Ponsardin of Veuve Clicquot. She was a brilliant marketer and a tough old bird. This bubbly has alluring aromas of ripe pears and hazelnuts, with a long toasty finish.
- Meaty recipe pairing: Ham, leek, and three-cheese quiche
The refreshing acidity in the bubbly cuts through the rich and creamy quiche for the perfect brunch combo
- Meatless recipe pairing: Asparagus with morels and tarragon
The effervescence in the Champagne prepares the palate for the exuberant flavors in this green, classic spring dish.
Merry Edwards Cuvée Meredith 2005 Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California ($54)
Merry Edwards, the winemaker and owner of this eponymous winery, is a pioneer in the California wine industry. In 1973, Edwards, whose career now spans 33 years, was one of the first women to earn a masters degree in food science with an emphasis on enology at the viticulture school at U.C Davis. This wine has aromas of black raspberries and blackberries. Edwards aged it in 73 percent new French oak, adding balance and structure. It should age gracefully for 15 years.
- Stilton pairing: Beef tenderloin with red wine sauce, creamed spinach, and truffled french fries
The tenderloin is succulent and juicy, matching the wine's generous fruit and fleshy texture.
- Blue cheese pairing: Truffled red wine risotto with parmesan broth
The silky and earthy flavors in the risotto are echoed in the wine.
Natalie MacLean's best-selling book “Red, White, and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass” has just been published in paperback. She was named the World's Best Drink Writer at the World Food Media Awards for the articles, wine picks, and humor in her free wine newsletter, available at www.nataliemaclean.com.