Reds and Rosés
2006 Pure Love Wines Layer Cake Shiraz, $16
The label: A towering pastry―with one slice tantalizingly missing―decorates this luscious value (shown, bottom) from Australia's Barossa Valley. As the grandfather of winery owner Jayson Woodbridge once told him: "A really good wine is like a delicious cake: It's layered with fruit, mocha, chocolate, hints of spice. And it's rich."
The taste: A jammy, dark-chocolaty mouthful balanced by a soft, earthy finish.
Drink it with: Grilled steak or barbecued ribs.
2005 La Mancha Mano a Mano Tempranillo, $11
The label: Mano a Mano ("hand to hand" in Spanish) describes anything that is handcrafted, like the block-print unicorn and dog pictures by the children of winemaker Jorge Ordonez on the label of this bottle (shown, top left)―not to mention the Spanish wine inside.
The taste: Seductive, spicy, fruity, and smoky.
Drink it with: Rich, hearty foods, like an intense blue cheese, grilled rack of lamb, or a juicy cheeseburger.
2003 Nine Stones McLaren Vale Shiraz, $11
The label: The makers of this Australian Shiraz (shown, top right) put a ring of stones around its label, evoking the great Celtic monolithic monuments built by their ancestors.
The taste: A meaty, spicy Shiraz with pronounced cherry and berry flavors.
Drink it with: Grilled lamb chops or slow-braised short ribs.