What We Drank, the series within which we highlight interesting, often non-local libations that find themselves in our glasses, is back after a too-long hiatus.

Lenn Thompson: Two Shepherds 2011 Saarloos Vineyards Grenache Blanc

Tasting (and drinking) so much New York wine, it’s not every day that I get to taste grenache blanc. It’s even more rare that I get to taste one from California, made by a blogger-turned-winemaker.

A few weeks ago, William Allen, the Bermuda native behind Simple Hedonisms and Two Shepherds, visited Long Island wine country and asked me for my recommendations on where he should taste, eat, etc.  As a thank you, he was gracious enough to leave some of his wines behind for me — and I couldn’t resist popping the cork on this one the next day.

When I read 14.1% abv on the label, I was expecting heft and oak. Luckily, my expectations were dashed quickly.  It’s very well balanced, with citrus peel, green apple, subtle leesy notes and a distinct mineral note as well as well-integrated, almost-juicy acidity. Fermented with ambient yeasts in neutral oak, the mouthfeel is supple, succulent and and bright all at the same time.

The next day I Tweeted William to find out how I could procure more.

Evan Dawson: Domaine du Grand Tinel 2007 Chateauneuf du Pape
What kind of markup do you expect to pay in restaurants? Cheaper bottles tend to get marked up dramatically, but more expensive bottles should see a smaller markup percentage. For example, if a $15 bottle sells for $35, you wouldn’t expect a $100 bottle to sell for $235, but rather something more like $150.

That’s an ideal world, of course, but often restaurants do a dreadful job of setting prices for higher end bottles. I’ve had many general managers tell me that higher end botltes just don’t sell; then I see the wine list and a bad vintage, mediocre producer is going for an outrageous price. Of course it doesn’t sell.

So when I saw this wine on a restaurant list on Saturday night for $60, I felt compelled to try it. It retails for closer to $40, but keep in mind two things: first, Chateauneuf is a prestige name and often results in unreasonable markups, and second, this is from the most hyped vintage ever. I typically don’t dig 2007 CdP; too ripe, too hot, too big.

Not this wine, happily. Listed at 14.5 ABV, I’m inclined to believe it, and while it was big enough for a steak, it was multi-dimensional. Very nice array of savory and sweet, without ever pushing too hard in one direction. Most of all, this represents the rare good value on a restaurant wine list, as most of its ilk retails for more than what we paid in the restaurant.

Todd Trzaskos: Banrock Station 2002 Shiraz (Original price $9 1.5L)

From the “Budget Basement Cellaring Project,” where I’m testing the theory that inexpensive, well made, and well chosen wines, may age more gracefully than should be expected.Minor loss of edge color going brick red for a thin band, and then into a fine light red/purple hue.  I don’t recall that this was a particularly tannic wine, but I do remember good fruit and balance. This one made it into the project because it was a utility wine which had been meant for a party and forgotten for some time before it was included.Highly pleasing aromatic medley of fresh red fruit jams. Strawberry, raspberry, cherry, with a slightly darker black currant note. Actually reminded a couple of us of lighter California zinfandel.Bright fruit attack of the aforementioned flavors, moves to a light mid-palate, with fine-grained astringency at the finish being the only hint of wood, and cassis into the horizon. The tastiness and lightness belie the 14% abv.

Paired delightfully well with traditional Sunday dinner at my folks place (with extended family seating 22). Dad’s meatballs, eggplant parmagiana, pasta, sautéed beet greens, and a fresh garden salad

This wine was suggested for consumption within 12 months of release. In this case, we were all glad to have waited.

Tracy Weiss: Anthony Nappa Wines 2010 “Spezia” Gewurztraminer

Anthony Nappa’s Spezia is some weird stuff.

The wine maker is best known for his popular, Anomaly, a favorite on the North Fork and in Manhattan. I’d heard rumors about his Gewürztraminer whispered around Peconic Bay like the legend of Harry Potter. You’ve got to try the ‘wine that almost wasn’t,’ they urged.The grapes used for this vintage were originally sold to another! They came down with a nasty case of the botrytis. Anthony swooped in the dead of night and rescued these late harvest orbs and walked them barefoot up hill in the snow and sang them lullabies until they dried out. Despite the hyperbole, and luckily for all of us, this gewürztraminer was born. Because it’s awesome.

The nose is a heavily perfumed tropical bouquet of hothouse blooms, the kind you’d find in the lobby of a fabulous Bora Bora resort. Gewürztraminers are known for their floral aromas but the Spezia blew my hair back in the best possible way.

I tasted stone fruit, concentrated pineapple, mango and a funk that was interesting and enjoyable. It goes down hot hot hot, but stayed well balanced with acid. It would be a perfect addition to the wine list at Harold Dieterle’s Kin Shop. Maybe I’ll smuggle a bottle in.

Julia Burke: Saz-That-Rac at the bar, Mike A @ Lafayette Hotel

My current favorite watering hole, located only a few blocks from my new place downtown, is Buffalo celebrity chef Mike Andrzejewski’s steakhouse at the newly renovated Lafayette Hotel.

Bar Manager Tony Rials, a sommelier by training but a genius with mixology, is in charge of the bar’s cocktail program, and his original list contains some of the most interesting and creative drinks in the city.  Tony likes to use techniques such as infused sprays, dehydrating and rehydrating ingredients with spirits, and fat washing to lend his cocktails multiple levels of complexity, and my favorite of his drinks, a take on the New Orleans classic Sazerac (he calls his “Saz-That-Rac”), shows off this attention to detail.

Lavender-absinthe spray gives just a subtle floral menthol note, while flower honey and cognac add sweetness; rye and just a touch of  Peychaud’s bitters complete the drink.

It’s slinky, sexy, and incredibly refreshing for summer, and while I know I should get around to trying every single one of Tony’s magnificent creations, I can’t seem to take my sights off this one.

David Flaherty: Weingut Schwarzböck, 2011 Trocken Riesling

Usually at this time of year, I find myself in a baby pool of riesling.  I sit my little tub of liquid joy on my stoop in Queens with my swim trunks on and just sip its deliciousness, praying the humidity will rescind.

With the onslaught of the Summer of Riesling barreling through our organization, I get to try many, many rieslings.  The joy and expressiveness is endless. This little beauty from Weingut Schwarzböck — a producer I’ve never tried before — comes from Lower Austria, clocks in as a “Trocken” (meaning it is fermented dry), and registers at 12.5% abv.

As I sit there in my pool watching the neighborhood kids mock me for being a “full grown man in a baby’s bath,” I just laugh.  The jokes on them.  While they’re overheating, I am on a palate journey that is rife with refreshing acidity, teeming with minerality, and all held together with a structure that is endlessly fascinating to ponder.

Laugh all you want, you little monsters, Daddy is in vinous bliss and he is cool, cool, cool.