These two bottles made the trip back with me from a recent weekend in California.

Trips south are bittersweet when you’re a wine nerd. As much as I love the freedom of strolling into the wine section at Total Wine, the L.A. Wine Company or even Trader Joe’s, it’s a bit like being on a weekend furlough when you’re incarcerated—as good as it is, you know sooner or later you’ve got to head back to your harsh reality. So you’ve got to gather ye rosebuds, which in this case means maxing out your allotment of wine to bring back.There’s a few natural ground rules. Generally speaking, wine from South America is well-priced up here so you can skip that entire category when searching for wine. The same goes with Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.The U.S. of A. is the natural default, but there are occasional steals to be had in the France and Italy selections.The first bottle I went with was a 2011 Anthill Farms Tina Marie Vineyard Pinot Noir. This is one of my fave Sonoma Coast producers and I’m on their mailing list, but I rarely take up my allotment because import duties make it so grotesquely punitive. I found this bottle at Total Wine for $36, which is cheaper than at the winery and way cheaper than up here (where if you can find it it would start at $85 of so). These guys make the most serene cool climate pinots that they’re always a revelation to those who decry Cali pinot as nothing but fruit bombs (and they’re syrahs are amazing too).The second bottle was a bit more of a wild card. I’d had only a smattering of experience with the cult Piedmont producer Vietti, all of them great, and all of them too far apart. But about a year ago, their importers, International Cellars, brought proprietor Luca Currado to town to taste some of his wines and to say that thereafter I became an instant acolyte would be an understatement. I search the wines out wherever I can find them: I had a bottle of their Nebbiolo Perbacco at the new Aldo Sohm Wine Bar in New York in the fall that was fantastically enjoyable (and that brought me some serious street cred with the somm in charge). So when I found a bottle of the 2012 Vietti Barbera D’Asti Tre Vigna at the L.A. Wine Co. for $14.95 I didn’t hesitate. I would have bought a case if I could have.And because misery loves company, please tweet me @WLSips and tell me about your recent cross-border