Spaghetti and meatballs, with sauce from a jar
Feeling lazy? No worries. You still deserve a taste extravaganza.
The easy choice: Make it a regional pairing and choose a Nero d'Avola from Sicily. One of Wesson's "favorite go-to wines" when he can't find anything else on a wine list, these medium-bodied babies made from an ancient grape "rarely disappoint." He adds: "It should be bound with the ragù. They should be sold as a pair. They're twins separated at birth."
Easy: Cusumano Nero d'Avola 2005 ($12)
The adventure: The twin has some competition - a Primitivo from Puglia. Made from the same grape as Zinfandel, Primitivos are "more medium-bodied wines that are wildly food friendly," says Wesson.
Adventure: Li Veli Orion Primitivo 2005 ($12)
Spring salad with grilled chicken, chickpeas, loads of different vegetables, and feta cheese
Whether it's made of leftovers you've thrown together or it's something you've planned from the get-go, this salad calls for a wine that's light, refreshing, and modest in alcohol.
The easy choice: Fruity Sauvignon Blanc wines from New Zealand are "in an ascendant state right now," says Wesson, and you won't have to spend more than $15 for a delicious example.
Easy: Giesen Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2006 ($12)
The adventure: Try the same wine from a different part of the world. Sauvignon Blancs from South Africa are also coming into their own as "vinous stars." Raves our wine guy: "The best examples are essentially amped-up versions of what you get from New Zealand."
Adventure: Buitenverwachting Sauvignon Blanc 2005 ($15)
Hard cheese and crackers
You always keep these staples on hand for the drop-by-unannounced types. A few sturdy reds will wait with them with ease. Medium- to full-bodied reds are the safest bets with firm cheeses (soft and semi-soft cheeses go better with light- to medium-bodied unoaked whites).
The easy choice: A red Côtes du Rhône. These blends of up to 15 different grape varieties "have been refined over decades of blending to the point where the top wines are far better than the sum of their parts," Wesson says. They're great wines to always have on hand. Just don't store them in the cupboard above your fridge (better in the broom closet or under the bed - or any cool place that's dark and free from vibration).
Easy: Paul Jaboulet Aîné Parallèle "45" 2005 ($12)
The adventure: Ah, an Argentine Malbec. Stock up on this reliable wine. Malbecs in the $10 to $15 range "deliver the goods in boatloads," says Wesson. "They don't make a fuss; they're there to please." They'll treat your taste buds well, whether you pair them with cheese and crackers, cold steak, or take-out barbecued ribs.
Adventure: Graffigna "G" Malbec 2004 ($14)