Chateau Chevalier Cabernet Sauvignon 2007, Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley $23.99
"Spring Mountain District" on an empty bottle commands this price. That there's actual wine inside is a bonus! These grapes grow on steep slopes in the Mayacamas Mountains. And as an ode to the best creation of the wine industry for consumers, it is a second label of the famed Spring Mountain Vineyard. A favorite quirky Napa story (as 90% of those vineyards not begun by retired physicians/lawyers/actors are), a rickety older Frenchman came to San Francisco to start a stained glass business toward the end of the 19th century and then embark on the gold rush once his underlings had full control of the daily operations. Not thinking ahead, once he arrived in America, his apprentices disappeared to do the same thing. Stuck with glass and no employees, he needed a faster, financial answer. After phylloxera had fully devastated the wineries of France, the people remained thirsty. He began producing wine until, toward the end of the wine boom in Napa Valley, his business exploded in success with elegant structures adorning the property, including the main "chateau" for which the estate is named today.
The wine possesses great swathes of chocolate raspberries atop deeper hints of mocha. Common for this area, the color is darker than the palate of the wine. If you like brooding berries & cherries, this goes far but doesn't overwhelm or weigh down the palate as many of the more well known, "boutiquier" wineries from nearby. Bright acidity ensures moderate longevity, cellar for 4-6 years. --WW

Domaine Grand Veneur Clos de Sixte 2009, Lirac, Rhone Valley $24.99
My favorite grape, Grenache, makes a hammy appearance at 50% in this blend of remaining Syrah (35%) and Mourvedre. The Jaume family owns 125 acres which stretch over four appellations and this particular piece of Lirac produces +/- 5K cases. making it a clear boutique feature among most wines produced in this region, many now being negociant produced than the more expensive estate bottling.  Alaine and his sons are the forces behind the wine's integrity, sticking to extremely traditional French standards of blending and fermentation. I really, really, really like this wine and highly recommend decanting for an hour before. It has the breadth of a Chateauneuf but the noble simplicty of Rhone's finest elder vines.

"A prodigious effort. This dense purple-colored wine offers up notes of black truffles, charcoal, blackberries, kirsch, garrigue, new saddle leather, herbs de Provence, spice box, and smoke. It possesses great fruit, full-bodied power, excellent depth, and abundant silky tannins. Drink it over the next 6-8 years."
Wine Advocate (Aug. 2010), 93 pts

Practical AND fun to play with when dinner gets boring
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Oxygenators, aerators, Vinturis, decanters, call them by their brand or purpose, they baffle most people as yet another "wine-people exclusive, self-hatred inducing accessory".  But they're a great idea for complex reds, though fun to use and no harm for simpler wines.  Here's why: "Breathing" is exposing wine to oxygen and allowing the complex compounds that are the physical make-up of juice to breakdown and in the process turn, like a flower from bud to brown, into a bright, glowing beauty.  And like a flower that's bloomed, there is the 'opening', 'peak' and 'station wagon ride a la National Lampoon's Family Vacation to death'.  The process of "letting a wine breathe" adds to the pleasure and enjoyment of most reds, generally those of the more tannic, bolder and aged variety.  I own multiple of all of the above as I enjoy their practical purpose as well as the aesthetic nature of a crystal decanter on a baroque monster dining table.  They are expensive.  Aerators average about $40 and decanters start at the same price and can reach into the thousands of dollars.  

What you can do: remove the cork from your wine bottle and pour enough wine into your glass to expose the shoulder of the bottle (where the neck meets the curve -- until the wine is about 3 in. from the mouth of the bottle).  For most reds (I do not recommend decanting or aerating Pinot Noir given its delicate aromas), I'd let the wine rest in the open bottle for about 20 min. and then taste.  It's fun to taste what you've poured into your glass immediately after exposing the shoulder to compare at the 20 min. mark.  For wines that are older, beyond 5-6 years, particularly blends and 'big' Cabernets, you can wait anywhere from 30 min - an hour.  For some wines, I've waited beyond four hours and the wine still needed more time.  But don't worry: only the Chinese can afford those these days.  #OCCUPYWINEBOTTLES