These bottles stood out during our comparative tasting of 18 red wines. The wines were tasted blind, meaning we didn't know what we were evaluating, and in random order. The wines were from Europe, the United States and Australia, selling at a variety of price levels.
Provenance Vineyards Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
Napa Valley, $45
Gorgeous, from first sniff to final sip. Jammy fruit and velvety mouth feel, with hints of toffee and mint. Taster Robert Luskin said the tannins were "as expected for a young wine now coming into balance," while taster Mark Slater praised its "elegant" build and "gentle finish."
Washington Wholesale; available at Pearson's, Chevy Chase Wine & Spirits; on the list at Blues Alley, Bobby Van's, Capital Grille, Il Mulino and Zola in the District.
Thorn-Clarke William Randell Shiraz 2005
There's no mistaking this Barossa Valley wine for anything other than Aussie shiraz: explosive with jammy blackberry and minty flavors leading to a long, rapturous finish. "Fine tannins," taster Nadine Brown wrote, while Slater noted "satisfying flavors and good balance of components." Luskin ignored the tannins and just wrote, "Winner, hands down."
Kysela; available at Calvert Woodley, Cleveland Park Wine and Spirits, Magruder's stores and Paul's of Chevy Chase in the District and at Total Wine & More in McLean and Arrowine in Arlington.
Christian Moueix St. Emilion 2005
This blend of 85 percent merlot and 15 percent cabernet sauvignon shows classic Bordeaux styling and a restraint with new oak barrels (a factor in the moderate pricing, most likely). Brown enjoyed its herbal notes of sage and thyme and the "earthy, fine tannins" that marked it as an Old World wine.
Republic National; available at some Total Wine & More stores.
Solaire by Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
Soft, juicy and easy drinking, with no really noticeable tannins, this Paso Robles wine impressed as a well-made cabernet for drinking now rather than aging. Brown noted its "well-integrated, easy-drinking balance of fruit/acid/tannins," while Slater enjoyed its ripeness and "fairly good balance." Luskin called it "drinkable."