If you are looking for two fun wines for your next summer deck party, I recommend my two new Italian companions -- "Rubio" of Il Bastardo Sangiovese di Toscana and "Blanca" of La Bastarda Pinot Grigio Terre di Siciliana. Both 2015 wines are expressive, food friendly and sell for $9 or less at most wine outlets.
The label designs are eye-catching, too, featuring a chubby Rubio on his Vespa and a glamorous Blanca at the beach.
But it's what's in the bottle that counts!
I enjoyed La Bastarda this past week with a salmon dinner made by the Wine Goddess. I found it to be light, refreshing, crisp and pleasantly zesty, like grapefruit zesty. For the price, this is an extremely flavorful and satisfying Pinot Grigio -- as opposed to the thin, watery versions that abound.
Il Bastardo Sangiovese might seem entry-level from a price standpoint, yet it doesn't shirk on the customary bright acidity and dry plum-cherry flavors of Italy's No. 1 planted and beloved varietal. This is 100 percent Sangiovese. Try it with tomato pasta dishes, grilled Italian sweet sausage or a Caprese salad, and you'll be singing Dean Martin's "Volare" on Karaoke night.
Both wines are crafted by Paolo Masi, the third-generation winemaker at Renzo Masi winery in Tuscany's Rufina district. The winery's motto is: "Big enough to be broad-minded. Small enough to care about the details."
For $9 each, that's a philosophy I can drink by.