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The Lighter Side of Taxes

Domaine Le Peu de la Moriette (Vouvray, France) 2004 ($12, Vineyard Brands): This rendition of chenin blanc features subtle notes of flowers, honey and melons, with a light sweetness that is counterbalanced by fresh acidity. Great for spring sipping, this is also well suited to dishes with a spicy edge.

William Roan (North Coast, Calif.) Viognier 2003 ($11): It is difficult to find moderately priced bottlings of Viognier that deliver the prime attractions of this grape, but you'll find them here; rich and soft, with lots of juicy peach fruit.

Valmiñor (Rias Baixas, Spain) Albariño 2003 ($12, Kysela): Unusually affordable but nevertheless wonderfully true to the variety, with subtle notes recalling flowers and nectarines, and excellent balancing acidity.


Emrich-Schoenleber (Nahe, Germany) Menzinger Halenberg Riesling Spätlese Halbtrocken 2002 ($41, Chapin): I firmly believe that Riesling is the world's greatest white wine grape, and I'm happy for doubters to put that proposition to the test by tasting this wine. Crisp, green apple fruit is accented by many little nuances including notes of nuts and minerals. An intricate, symmetrical beauty.

Far Niente (Napa Valley, Calif.) Chardonnay 2003 ($50, National): I rarely get excited about California chardonnay, but this is one of two truly marvelous bottlings to make the cut for this column. Rich and full-bodied yet clean and refreshing, it features complex fruit notes of ripe pears and baked apples along with exceptionally well-integrated oak accents.

Louis Michel (Chablis, Burgundy, France) Premier Cru Montmain 2002 ($40, Vineyard Brands): If you think of Chablis as boxed plonk, you owe it to yourself to try the genuine article from Burgundy. Light in body but deep and complex in flavor, this has an impressive core of green apple fruit augmented by subtle notes of toast and minerals.

Pol Roger (Champagne, France) 1996 ($75, Wildman): This wine from Champagne's otherworldly 1996 vintage is so spectacular that I'm surprised it is still available for purchase. Although obviously expensive, its only qualitative peers are prestige cuvees that cost more than $100. It is broad, deep and complex in flavor yet still bright and sharply defined.

Ramey (Carneros, Calif.) Chardonnay 2002 ($38): This breaks the mold of gooey, fat California chardonnays with a remarkable streak of zesty acidity. A great match for scallops, swordfish or grilled prawns.

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