Here are some locally available labels from wineries that have resisted the trend toward ultra-ripe, high-alcohol wines. That is not to say that these wines are “vegetal” or underripe, only that they have not sacrificed finesse and elegance for power and high ratings.
**1 / 2
Santa Ynez Valley, Calif., $30
Winemaker Joe Davis says high alcohol levels obscure the fruit and earth expressions of wine. This regional bottling is an excellent introduction to his style and talent, but if you can find his single-vineyard bottlings of syrah or pinot noir, don’t miss the chance to try them as well. His syrah from the biodynamically farmed Purisma Vineyard is one of my favorite California expressions of the grape. Davis says he picks earlier than anyone else in that vineyard, in order to avoid excessive sugars and alcohol.
Constantine: Available in the District at Rodman’s; on the list at Blue Duck Tavern, Dino, J&G Steakhouse, Morton’s the Steakhouse, Rasika, the Source, Veritas Wine Bar. On the list in Maryland at 8407 Kitchen and Bar in Silver Spring.
**1 / 2
Santa Barbara County, $20
Ever had a chardonnay that tasted like vodka? It wasn’t from Alma Rosa, the winery of Santa Barbara pioneer Richard Sanford, which produces several chardonnays that speak of the grape and the terroir. This, his basic blend, is ripe and rich with some exotic fruit flavors and without excessive weight or alcohol.
Monument/RNDC: Available in the District at Circle Wine & Liquor, Connecticut Avenue Wine & Liquor; on the list at Dickson Wine Bar, Matisse. Available in Maryland at Finewine.com in Gaithersburg; Silesia Liquors in Fort Washington; Town & Country Wine, Liquor Etc. in Easton; the Wine Source in Baltimore; Woodmoor Grocery in Silver Spring. On the list at Woodmont Grill in Bethesda.
**1 / 2
Mendocino County, Calif., $25
Copain, like Arcadian, specializes in pinot noir and syrah, focusing in its top wines on single-vineyard expressions of terroir. This wine shows good cool-climate character, with refreshing acidity and vibrant black-fruit flavors that develop nicely as the wine opens.
J.W. Sieg: Available in the District at Cleveland Park Wine and Spirits; on the list at Art & Soul, BLT Steak, Plume, Ripple, Veritas Wine Bar. Available in Virginia at Chain Bridge Cellars in McLean, Grape + Bean in Alexandria, Out of Site Wines and Vienna Vintner in Vienna, Salute! Wine Market in Winchester, Unwined in Alexandria and Belleview; on the list at the Ashby Inn in Paris, Ray’s the Steaks in Arlington.
Central Coast, Calif., $20
Bob Lindquist searches out syrah from cooler growing areas throughout the Central Coast region for this cuvee, which is consistently focused and well structured. His single-vineyard bottlings are also not to be missed.
Country Vintner: Available in the District at Rodman’s; on the list at Bombay Club, Oval Room, Ris. Available in Maryland at I.M. Wine in Fulton. Available in Virginia at Balducci’s in McLean, Unwined in Alexandria, Wine Cabinet in Reston, the Wine House in Fairfax; on the list at Brabo in Alexandria.
**1 / 2
Santa Barbara County, Calif., $24
Winemaker Jim Clendenen has never been one to follow the crowd, or even care if the crowd follows him. But he has always made wines that match New World flair with traditional, Old World style.
Country Vintner: Available in Virginia at Arrowine in Arlington; on the list at Chef Geoff’s in Tysons Corner, Fyve Restaurant Lounge at the Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City.
***Exceptional **Excellent *Very Good
Prices are approximate. Check Winesearcher.com to verify availability, or ask a favorite wine store to order through a distributor.