Tuscany, Italy, $45
Brunello is always a splurge, and at its best gives a lovely, seductive expression of sangiovese and Tuscany. Dried cherries, a dusting of cocoa and perhaps a whiff of herbs make this impeccably balanced wine a worthy partner to a wide variety of dishes.
Country Vintner: Available in the District at D’Vines; on the list at Fiola. Available in Virginia at Au Domaine in Alexandria, Market Cellars in Reston, Wegmans (Woodbridge); on the list at Landini Bros. in Alexandria.
G.B. Burlotto Dolcetto d’Alba 2011
Piemonte, Italy, $19
This delightful dolcetto is almost the exact opposite of the brunello in character: It’s fruity and light in body; playful, rather than cerebral. It’s an excellent partner to lighter meats and even hearty pasta or pizza.
Elite: On the list in the District at Rasika in Penn Quarter. Available in Maryland at Frederick Wine House, King Farm Beer & Wine in Rockville, Wine Cellars of Annapolis. Available in Virginia at Arrowine in Arlington, Planet Wine & Gourmet in Alexandria.
Chateau Ste. Michelle Cold Creek Vineyard Riesling 2010
Columbia Valley, Washington, $18
Chateau Ste. Michelle, a large winery with a large corporate owner, is a leader in Washington state Rieslings. The Eroica is its best known, while the inexpensive Dry Riesling is its best value and one of the best white wine values produced in the United States. The Cold Creek Vineyard Riesling is medium-dry, meaning fairly sweet, which makes it a nice partner for semi-stinky cheeses and spicy foods (though not necessarily both at the same time).
Republic National: Available in the District at Rodman’s; on the list at Rivers at the Watergate, Sea Catch.
Penfolds Koonunga Hill Chardonnay 2011
South Australia, $11
Anything with the Penfolds name is good, and this excellent, gulpable chardonnay is no exception. It is often on sale, so look for it when planning a party. This wine is also labeled as Penfolds Red, with some proceeds going to support Project Red, an AIDS research charity.
Washington Wholesale in the District; Reliable Churchill in Maryland; Republic National in Virginia: Widely available.
Argillae Orvieto 2011
Umbria, Italy, $15
A good Orvieto is sort of a crossover wine: something for pinot grigio fans who are beginning to be interested in more substantial wines. It’s not complex, but it shows nice fruit and medium weight, and it pairs nicely with lighter seafood dishes.
Country Vintner: Available in the District at Cleveland Park Wine and Spirits, Pearson’s. Available in Maryland at Silesia Liquors in Fort Washington.