A wine bottle label aimed at people who drink “for fun,” as in beer — and it works

Masked Rider California Sagebrush 2009 Pinot Noir

Judy found this very delicious, satisfying wine in a remainders section of a store whose buyers’ taste is a lot like ours. She snagged a couple of bottles and we opened one right away. We loved it! So she raced back and bought . . . three cases!

It won’t last long in our house. It’s great with chicken prepared any way at all; with salmon; with pasta dishes with either tomato or cream sauce (or both); with pork; with . . . yeah.

I write this little note in spite of my assumption that you won’t be able to find it. I write in order to underscore a point I try to make with family and friends who (I think) often think we’re just cheap. (For them, I suggest you go to the little joke I found on the label, and just do the opposite of the advice I found there. Read on, former friends and family!)

The art on the front is colorful and appealing: a masked horseman twists in his stirrups, taking aim at some challenge his steed is streaking to carry him beyond.

On the back, with a bit of tongue in cheek prose, is a little tab saying “peel here.” When I did, the message on the back of the strip appeared: “Don’t squat on your spurs!”

Now that’s fun. I want you to know that not all wines with precious labels are just plonk. This one doesn’t rate a medal for exotic layering of sensations. It gets my vote as a good example of what wine writers try to do — alert folks to real, surprising values.

Bob Cramer, The Fearless Taster, www.fearlesstaster.com .

Hand-picked in a small Potter Valley vineyard, Toby Forman’s 2010 Tobias Chardonnay is gracefully nuanced

Tobias North Coast 2010 Chardonnay

I was disappointed when I opened this example of the “micro-lot” wines that the younger generation of Napa Valley’s Forman Vineyard — Ric’s son, Toby — is making. I’d say it was not a great sipper. With small slabs of sauteed beef and modest portions of wild sauteed salmon, Judy and I decided the Charles Shaw Shiraz outclassed the subtle Tobias Chardonnay. I decided not to post a note about it.

We’d shared only a half bottle of the Chardonnay — one of the Food and Wine magazine’s bi-monthly samples — and it was two days later when I drank some more of it. Bam Bam Kazam! It made a clean, satisfying sip, and it would have been much more pleasing with the surf’n'turf, earlier, if I’d held it a couple of days before I served that sorta-special meal! Who knew?

You know, now. Toby Forman gave a lot of attention to that little vineyard in Mendocino County. The mouthfeel now was smoothly rounded, and bright lemony acidity lasted long after the leftover wine bottle was empty. The wine club notes say that perfectly: “It gets its food-friendly crispness from Mendocino’s cool nights.” I would have expected that from Potter Valley, but the label doesn’t share the secret with the buyer — it’s just labelled “North Coast.” That’s a marketing mistake, corrected by the Food and Wine club. Thanks!

For a medium-bodied Chardonnay the Tobias has a rich gold color — not suggesting oxidation from aging, just richness of great grapes. My whole mouth was tingling and I wished I’d had leftovers from the surf’n'turf to pair with the wine again. The fact is, there’s plenty of richness of a graceful, nuanced kind. Now . . . how to get the effect of a couple of days’ aging before serving it? I’m just glad it happened to me.

You could go to www.tobiasvineyards.com to find out where to find it. — Bob Cramer, The Fearless Taster.