As a longtime admirer of Domaine d'Arton's white and pink wines, I brought high expectations to my introduction to its reds. Blessedly, the Domaine d'Arton "La Croix d'Arton" Cotes de Gascogne Rouge ($12) more than delivered. This merlot-syrah blend offers up hearty, just-ripe plum flavors, some smoke and black pepper and a soft but firm finish. Try this French gem with burgers or brats or pizza, or most anything off the grill, especially if a robust sauce is part of the deal. (The $16 Reserve is also a screamin' bargain, by the way.)

Available at Cork Dork, Rum River, North Loop, Solo Vino, Stinson, South Lyndale, Lake Wine & Spirits and Excelsior Vintage.

Bill Ward