Here are some wines Dave McIntyre tasted for the first time at the Washington International Wine & Food Festival, held Feb. 12-13 and co-sponsored by The Washington Post. They are recent arrivals in the Washington market. As a rule, they are not yet in wide distribution, but you should look for them and ask your favorite retailers to get them.
Finger Lakes, N.Y., $16
Consider this a double review: I am thrilled that Red Newt Cellars, one of my favorite Finger Lakes wineries, has become available in the Washington area. That happened only about a month ago, so the wines are not yet widely available. Easiest to find is what the winery calls its Circle Riesling 2009, so dubbed because the label is in the form of a circle. It is delicious and fairly sweet, and it retails for an appealing $11. Even better, however, is the 2009 Dry Riesling. It captures the new style of dry Riesling emerging in the Finger Lakes, especially around Seneca Lake: lime zest, talc and a bracing acidity that energizes the palate. Retailers have been reluctant to stock it because dry Riesling doesn't sell well. So while you pick up a bottle of the Circle Riesling to try this terrific winery's work, overcome your fear of dry Riesling and ask your retailer to order that as well. The Circle is good; the dry is special.
Potomac Selections: Circle Riesling is available in the District at Ace Beverage. Available in Maryland at Calvert Wine & Spirits in Hunt Valley; Cranberry Liquors in Westminster; Fairgrounds Discount Beverages in Timonium; Grand Cru, Wine Market and Wine Source in Baltimore; Wine Cellars of Annapolis; Wine Seller of Ellicott City; Wine World Beer & Spirits in Abingdon; Wishing Well Liquors in Easton. On the list at Pure Wine Cafe in Ellicott City. Available in Virginia at Kybecca in Fredericksburg, Out of Site Wines in Vienna, River City Cellars in Richmond (also the dry Riesling); Twisted Vines Bottleshop in Arlington.
Waiheke Island, New Zealand, $20
This blend of merlot (42 percent), cabernet franc (27 percent), malbec (19 percent) and cabernet sauvignon (12 percent) is a stylish example of what New Zealand can accomplish with Bordeaux red varieties: It's fresh, rich and big, with green tea and olive flavors.
Nice Legs: Available in the District at Cork & Fork. Available in Maryland at Cork & Fork in Bethesda, I.M. Wine in Fulton. Available in Virginia at Kybecca in Fredericksburg, Market Cellars in Reston, the Vineyard in McLean; the Wine House in Fairfax; on the list at Northside Social Coffee & Wine in Arlington.
Columbia Valley, Wash., $30
Winemaker Joel Waite went to high school in Northern Virginia and worked as a private chef in the District before joining his parents, retired defense contractors, at their winery in Walla Walla, Wash. The malbec leads a lineup of excellent reds (including a delicious barbera) with its rich body and blueberry fruit. At the food and wine festival, when chef Vincent Albisu of BLT Steak was smoking up the exhibition hall with his steak au poivre, I ran back to the CAVU Cellars booth for another taste of this malbec.
Wines by Raz/Prestige: Available in the District at Cairo Wine & Liquor. More wines from CAVU will arrive in this market in mid-March.
Cotes du Rhone, France, $17
This is a terrific 50-50 blend of grenache and syrah, with rich dark-fruit flavors, earthy tannins and impressive length. Available online from a quirky but quality-minded importer.
FirstVine.com: Internet sales only.
The husband-and-wife team of Ted and Kathleen Kuker decided to devote their retirement to importing wines from the Balkans, where Ted's family originated. They launched their company in October; these are decidedly niche wines, but it's a niche worth exploring and expanding. The Pullus sivi pinot is pinot grigio like you've probably never tasted: gorgeous apricot and peach flavors, as though you're munching a just-picked, perfectly ripe fruit on the hottest day in August. It's nothing at all like the insipid pinot grigio that defines the genre. Pullus also has an excellent sauvignon blanc. The portfolio also includes a nice Slovenian cabernet sauvignon from the Mansus winery and an enticing white from Croatia, the Enjingi 2009 Grasevina, a slightly off-dry welschriesling with appealing apricot and peach flavors.
T&K Distributors: Available in the District at Cairo Wine & Liquor. On the list in Virginia at the Cosmopolitan Grill in Alexandria.
Marlborough, New Zealand, $15
This tasty sauvignon blanc offers some of the edginess we've come to expect from New Zealand, but it isn't overly aggressive. Rather, there's lots of citrus here, with red grapefruit and passion fruit flavors steeled by refreshing acidity.
Nice Legs: Available in Virginia at Cork & Fork in Gainesville, Kybecca in Fredericksburg, Unwined in Alexandria and Belleview, the Vineyard Table in Herndon, the Wine House in Fairfax; on the list at Bilbo Baggins in Alexandria, Screwtop Wine Bar in Arlington.
***Exceptional **Excellent *Very Good
Prices are approximate. Check Winesearcher.com to verify availability, or ask a favorite wine store to order through a distributor.