CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- I want to share a few recommendations from some red wines I've sipped recently and which I think you will enjoy, too. They come from places as geographically diverse as California, Germany and Italy, but that's one of the great aspects of wine appreciation: If you can't find what you're looking for, there's always someplace else to look.
I have been a longtime fan of Sebastiani Winery in Sonoma, Calif. Sebastiani was the first winery I ever visited, and over the years, and through many family leadership changes, two things have remained consistent: quality and value.
So I was concerned when I read that the family had sold the winery a few years back to the Foley Wine Group. My concerns, though, were unfounded as evidenced by the continuity of quality in the wines produced to this day. Recently I tasted a couple of wines that reinforced this view.
2007 Sebastiani Sonoma County Merlot ($19): This is a very focused wine with spicy plum and earthy flavors balanced by tannin and a nice touch of acid. Try it with grilled lamb chops basted with garlic, lemon and olive oil.
Merlot has gotten a bad rap ever since the movie "Sideways." As the price of merlot dropped, I happily benefited and stocked up on as much as I could afford. Appreciation for merlot (unfortunately for me) is ramping back up and this effort from Sebastiani clearly demonstrates why.
2009 Sebastiani Pinot Noir ($18): Wonderful balance in this elegant, value-priced pinot noir. Ripe cherries, some vanilla and bright acid characterize this wine from the cool Sonoma Coast. Grill a filet of salmon dusted with cumin, brown sugar and a little chili powder, and then wash it down with this supple sipper.
2007 Sebastiani Cabernet Sauvignon ($20): This wine epitomizes the excellence of the 2007 vintage in Northern California. Perfectly balanced with black cherry and cola flavors, this wine is a one that keeps giving; it is silky and has a long, lingering finish. I matched this baby with a grilled rib-eye rubbed with garlic, olive oil, kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper.