As you pull into the drive at Lightning Ridge Cellars, you are greeted by Monty, a huge Great Dane who can look you in the eye even when you're in an SUV. It can be a bit intimidating at first. Much the same can be said about Americans trying a new varietal of red wine. Think Paul Giamatti in Sideways: "No fucking merlot." He got us to try pinot noirs. Now maybe Monty, who is as gentle as this wine is smooth, can persuade you to try the wine she's named after, Lightning Ridge Cellars' 2013 Montepulciano. The Italian grape is rarely grown in the U.S., but former engineer Ann Rancone is making it work in Elgin. The grapes are 100 percent estate-grown, and aged for 38 months in East European oak barrels. If you have a nose for this sort of thing, you notice aromas and flavors of back cherry, plum, and — ex-smokers will love this — tobacco leaf. The 2013 Montepulciano was named Best in Class at the 2018 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. And it was among the least expensive at $28. Alas, we would have brought a few bottles back with us, because it's not available in stores yet, but it was sold out. We settled for the latest, a 2016 vintage, but we prefer the full Monty.