Christopher Columbus had to put up with a lot before he landed here. He deserves a toast. Make it Italian.
First, a taste of the Südtirol-Alto Adige. The 2014 Cantina Terlano-Kellerei Terlan St. Magdalener ($20) is a light, dry red blend that has a hint of berries. It's made with schiava and lagrein grapes. The 2013 Egger-Ramer Schiava Gentile ($15) provides an easygoing acquaintance with the indigenous grape. Schiava may be chilled a bit. Good with burgers and pork.
Meatier and richer is the 2011 Aia Vecchia Sor Ugo ($35), a Bolgheri with suggestions of black currant and cherries. It's a solid choice with red meat and the first game of the season. The 2012 Tascante "Ghiaia Nera" Sicilia IGT ($20), made with grapes that grow on Mount Etna's slopes, is hearty, and a lively production starring the nerello mascalese grape.
The 2012 Arnaldo-Caprai Montefalco Rosso ($23) is mostly sangiovese, with 15 percent each sagrantino and merlot. Full-bodied and fruity, the ruby-hued wine pairs well with beef, pork, and chicken dishes. And the 2012 Ruffino Modus Toscana IGT ($28), half sangiovese and a quarter each cabernet sauvignon and merlot, is an accessible, affordable, harmonious introduction to the "Super Tuscan" family.
If you're feeling celebratory: the outstanding 2011 Avignonesi Grandi Annate Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG ($95), a concentrated, intense red with floral and plummy accents. It has considerable elegance that would make any voyage immediately worth it. Try the wine with red meat, game cheese, pasta Bolognese.