Being wine geeks as well as law geeks, we often take notes when we open a bottle of wine. Two good bottles that won’t require that you mortgage the house:

Farnese ‘Casale Vecchio’ 2005. DOC Montepulciano D’Abruzzo, 13%, $12.95. A ripe full red that has some of that smoky spicy dark fruit character of a good Shiraz, for somewhat less than you normally pay for a good Shiraz these days. J. gets cedar wood smoke, dark berries, toast, vanilla, tar, shrinking violet and earth on the nose; the palate is med+ body and acidity, barely dry with good balance and decent finish. A crowd pleasing wine but with a bit of sophistication.

Goats do Roam in Villages 2004, South Africa, 14.5%, about $17. This is the mid-range GSM blend between Goats do Roam (about $13) and Goat Roti (about $20). We served it to the group at dinner on Sunday and J. liked it enough to steal away and take notes: rich vanilla cream, red berries, toast, oak, smoke, earth, ink; barely dry on the palate, full bodied with good balance and finish. The smoky-inkiness on the nose makes this one a bit more distinctive than the Farnese above.