Craig LaBan's Drink: Tariquet's Bas-Armagnac VSOP

I've been gravitating to Gascony the last several months. It's such a prime region for great values in both red (such as the Chateau de Larroque featured in August) and white - especially the affordable series of crisp blends from Domaine du Tariquet that have appeared in state stores lately, featuring such obscure grapes as ugni blanc and colombard for its "Classic," and a sauvignon-semillon blend imported only to Pennsylvania (for just $9.99!) that smells like green melons in a glass, but drinks dry enough to flatter raw oysters.

Tariquet's table wines are a fine reminder that this 100-year-old winery (and Gascony itself) is most renowned for Armagnac - Cognac's swashbuckling southwestern cousin, an eau-de-vie distilled only once in copper alembics heated by wood fires. Tariquet's Bas-Armagnac VSOP is a blend of several vintages made from ugni blanc and baco. Aged a minimum of three years in oak, it is a deep amber spirit, complex with aromas of stone fruit, toast, and vanilla, all stoked by a warm rustic breath of alcoholic Gascon fire. - Craig LaBan

Domaine du Tariquet Bas-Armagnac VSOP, $46.99 online only (code 31247) at (with free shipping); Tariquet Sauvignon-Semillon 2011, $9.99 (code 32539).