Mossback Chardonnay, California; $18
It's always refreshing when you find a great chardonnay for less than $20 that has a perfect balance of fruit and oak. It starts with a terrific nose of sliced apples and vanilla bean, which seamlessly flow into the mouth. Additional flavors of yellow pears, ripe tropical fruits and a touch of baking spice round out the tasting experience. The finish has hints of acidity and oak, which allows it to stand up to many different menu choices, from heavier seafood to chicken with a creamy sauce.
Pinnacle Whipped Vodka, France; $15
A new flavor of vodka seems to come out each week. When this one arrived, I was amazed -- a whipped cream-flavored vodka. When you open the bottle and take a sniff it smells like fresh whipped cream, and it has the taste to match. There's very little burn and loads of creamy sweetness in each sip. You could sip it on the rocks, but mixing it would give it real possibility. Any cream-based cordial can take on a new life with just a splash of this vodka. I also tasted its sister, a cake-flavored vodka by the same company. It's priced the same, and it also was outstanding. Use these as building blocks for some fun and classic cocktails.
Lain Bradford is a wine writer and reviewer who has achieved his first level master sommelier certificate and is working toward his Certified Wine Educator degree. He only writes about beverages that are available in South Carolina and Georgia. Follow him on Twitter under the name "winereview."