Last Sunday night marked one of the only times I've sought out a product solely on the basis of its appearance in an advertisement. Cajun take-out never looked so good, and the Pavlovian response is said to be mighty powerful even if the stimulus comes from a secondhand source, like a newspaper. It's highly recommended, however, that you opt for real grub in satisfying your hunger. Paper is nothing but empty calories, and your tongue will look like you've just used it for a dish towel.
In any case, if you're gonna go Cajun spicy, it's a cinch you'll need something to squelch the flames, no? That's where a good Merlot, which goes so well with everything, comes in particularly handy—and Ballentine Vineyards' 2005 entry is every bit as good or better than most. This Napa Valley product pairs with just about any dish you care to name amid the Merlot grape's signature trait—its early ripening gives a lighter body to the wine, inviting that many more food choices. I've paired Merlots as often as I change my socks, but this time, I thought I'd try something a little different in the interest of clinical research. Turns out even chicken jambalaya can't dampen this one's persistence and acidity, to say nothing of its black cherry and plum taste. It also stands up well as a varietal by itself, another nod to Merlot's appropriateness for any occasion.
This one can be had for around $17.25 most anywhere wines are sold. Like all its Merlot cousins, it'll acquit you in any situation, fooling your friends into thinking you're some kind of connoisseur (which, if you've read this column for any length of time, you actually are). Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to floss, and pronto. I apparently didn't marinate Sunday's sports section as well as I thought.