Bordeaux can be intimidating for new wine buyers, especially with its reputation for pricey bottles that require a decade (or several) of aging, not to mention a good cellar to age them in. That's why I've always liked the Right Bank wines of Pomerol, whose merlot-centric blends can be drunk in relative youth. Travel a bit north of the Barbanne stream, however, and you'll end-up in the lesser-known appellation of Lalande-de-Pomerol, where one can find a similar approach (if not quite the depth or finesse), but also some very good values. This is particularly true after a string of good vintages — like the powerful 2009s and 2010s — which prompt the remainders of the respectable 2008 to be sold off at steep, inventory-clearing discounts.
That's exactly how a normally $30-plus bottle like Chateau Pavillon Bel-Air, made by the team from Pomerol's Chateau Beauregard, lands on the Chairman's Selection list at a go-for-it $19.99. Fresh and ruby out of the bottle, this blend of 70% merlot and 30% cabernet franc is ripe with small red fruits, a shade of licorice, and suave tannins for a silky finish. Great with lamb or charcuterie.
Chateau Pavillon Bel-Air 2008, $19.99, in Pennsylvania (code: 32459.)