Let's say you're throwing a party at which your famous shellfish buffet — blue crab cakes, fresh local scallops and iced Key West pink shrimp — will be the evening's centerpiece. With a lineup like that you'll need a sophisticated wine that also is a crisp and quaffable thirst quencher. The eminently food-friendly 2008 St. Francis Sonoma County Chardonnay (about $13 at big box stores, maybe a little more at wine shops) was made to order for the occasion.
Everything about this chard is balanced, likable and easygoing, from its understated oak and vanilla nose to its long dry finish with just a touch of spice. Through the buttery, vanilla-scented midsection, luscious tree fruits, especially pear and lime, are brought to full savor by aging in oak followed by malolactic fermentation, the two collaborating to produce the classic chardonnay silky mouth feel and soft but pronounced acidity.
Grapes for this chard came predominantly from the Russian River Valley, known for its cool foggy mornings and warm afternoons, with the balance sourced from the Sonoma Valley and Carneros regions, which amounts to an admirable pedigree.
And if you're allergic to shellfish this chard would go just as beautifully with a lusty pasta carbonara.
By Colette and John Bancroft. She is the Times' book editor, and he is a freelance writer specializing in food, wine and travel.