TOO OFTEN, American red wines are caricatures of themselves: big in alcohol, big in ripeness, and overextracted—adult beverages reminiscent of Kool-Aid. This is especially true with the “big red wines” like cabernet, syrah, and merlot. Just as we’re tempted to put too much barbecue sauce on a rack of ribs, too much ketchup on french fries, or too much icing on an otherwise perfect pastry, many winemakers just can’t resist the temptation to overstate their case.

There is at least one Northwest winery, thankfully, that has consistently avoided such indulgences. Based in Walla Walla, Washington, Chateau Rollat (rollat.com) produces great wines from the “big” wine grape varieties that are not only restrained, but elegant and complex. No adult-style punch here—just food-friendly, tantalizing wine.