Recommendations

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Prices are approximate. Check Winesearcher.com to verify availability, or ask a favorite wine store to order through a distributor.

José Michel et Fils Brut Special Club 2002
***
Champagne, France, $62

This wine shows amazing finesse, with an appealing honey flavor though it's not sweet. After tasting several sparkling wines, I kept getting pulled back to this bottle.

Wine Traditions: available in the District at Cork Market; on the list at Cork Wine Bar. Available in Virginia at Arrowine in Arlington.

Legras & Haas Cuvee Prestige Grand Cru Vielles Vignes
***
Champagne, France, $90

It's a definite splurge, but this wine is beguiling. Initially deceptive, it develops complexity with every sip. It features appealing aromas of autumn and winter; I thought of freshly cut pumpkin (the smell you get when carving a jack-o'-lantern), though my wife thought I was nuts.

Murray-Sikes Selection/Nice Legs: on the list in the District at BlackSalt, Cedar. Available in Maryland at Cork & Fork in Bethesda; on the list at Grapeseed in Bethesda. Exclusive Wine Imports: available in Virginia at Arrowine in Arlington, Ashburn Wine Shop, the Butcher's Block and Rick's Wine & Gourmet in Alexandria, Maison du Vin in Great Falls, Wine Seller in Herndon.

Guy Charlemagne Grand Cru Reserve Blanc de Blancs Brut
** 1/2
Champagne, France, $51

From Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, an area of Champagne known for sublime all-chardonnay fizz, comes this big, bold sparkler with lots of bready yeast and toast flavors.

William-Harrison: available in the District at Connecticut Avenue Wine & Liquor, MacArthur Beverages, Magruder's, Paul's of Chevy Chase, Whole Foods Market Glover Park. Available in Virginia at Cecile's Wine Cellar in McLean, Whole Foods Market Reston, Wine Seller in Herndon; on the list at L'Auberge Chez François.

Jean Vesselle Brut Reserve
** 1/2
Champagne, France, $43

Rich and fat, with lots of toast; with food, it comes into focus. Very stylish wine.

Dionysus: available in the District at Whole Foods Market Tenleytown; on the list at Restaurant Nora. Available in Maryland at Balducci's in Bethesda, Finewine.com in Gaithersburg, North Charles Fine Wine & Spirits in Baltimore; on the list at Tavira in Chevy Chase. Available in Virginia at Balducci's in McLean and Alexandria, Rick's Wine & Gourmet in Alexandria, Vienna Vintner, Ellwood Thompson's Local Market in Richmond.

No. 1 Family Estate Cuvee No. 1
** 1/2
Marlborough, New Zealand, $36

Made by a Champagne winemaker transplanted to New Zealand's Marlborough region, this all-chardonnay blanc de blancs is stylish, fruity and rich, with a whiff of smoke to give it complexity. Bravo! New to this market.

Nice Legs: available in the District at D'Vines, De Vinos; available in Virginia at the Organic Butcher of McLean, Vienna Vintner, Wine Seller in Herndon.

Vve Fourny & Fils Premier Cru Grande Reserve Brut
** 1/2
Champagne, France, $40

Delicate and creamy, with great style and finesse, this wine provides an elegant backdrop for food or a special event, without intruding.

Kermit Lynch/Simon 'N' Cellars: available in the District at Ace Beverage, Cleveland Park Wine and Spirits, Potomac Wine & Spirits; available in Virginia at Arrowine in Arlington, Fern Street Gourmet and Unwined in Alexandria, the Vineyard in McLean.

Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs 2006
**
North Coast, California, $38

Chardonnay with bubbles and no oak, stylishly produced by one of California's oldest sparkling-wine houses.

Bacchus: available in the District at Chevy Chase Wine & Spirits, Morris Miller Wine & Liquor, Trader Joe's; on the list at Againn and BlackSalt. Available in Maryland at Bradley Food and Beverage in Bethesda, FineWine.com in Gaithersburg, Corridor Wine & Spirits in Laurel, Wells Discount Liquors in Baltimore, Wine Cellar in Annapolis; on the list at the Inn at Perry Cabin in St. Michaels.

Duval-Leroy Brut
**
Champagne, France, $40

Bright and full, tasting like it's dominated by chardonnay. This is a leading house, though not by any means a "small grower," in the Cotes des Blancs region of Champagne. Duval-Leroy has not had representation in our market for a few years but was recently picked up by International Cellars.

International Cellars: available in the District at Ace Beverage, Bacchus Wine Cellar, Bell Wine & Spirits, Calvert Woodley, Modern Liquors, Paul's of Chevy Chase, Tunnel Fine Wine & Spirits, Whole Foods Market Glover Park, Wine Specialist; on the list at Adour, Et Voila, Montmartre, Oval Room, Oya, Proof.

Alfred Gratien Brut
** 1/2
Champagne, France, $50

The red grapes (pinot noir and pinot meunier) shine through with a minerally, red fruit character. This wine nicely combines toast and yeasty flavors that give heft with delicacy and finesse.

Domaine Select/Bacchus: available in the District at Calvert Woodley, Wide World of Wines; on the list at Poste. Available in Maryland at Chesapeake Wine Co. in Baltimore, State Line Liquors in Elkton, Wine Merchant in Lutherville.

Ch. Gardet & Co. Brut
** 1/2
Champagne, France, $58

New to this market, it impresses with richness and body, yet a delicate finish. It gets even better the next day.

Bacchus: available in the District at Ace Beverage, Cork Market; on the list at Corduroy, Cork Wine Bar, Proof, Vidalia. Available in Maryland at Wine Cellar of Annapolis, DiWine Spirits in Pikesville.

Domaine Chandon Etoile Brut
** 1/2
California, $40

No finesse, just joy: It's consistently one of California's top bubblies, lively and almost electric. Unfortunately, there is not much of it around.

Washington Wholesale: available in the District at Ace Beverage, Calvert Woodley; on the list at Art & Soul, Enology, Kellari Taverna.

Jacquesson Cuvee No. 733
** 1/2
Champagne, France, $64

Jacquesson (pronounced pretty much like "Jackson") has a legion of fans for its rich, complex style, which comes from aging the base wine in large oak casks. Its single-vineyard champagnes, though well into the triple digits pricewise, are fantastic. This cuvee, based on the 2005 vintage, shows excellent focus and depth.

Vintage 59/Winebow: available in the District at Bacchus Wine Cellar, DeVino's, Griffin Market. P&C Market; on the list at Bistro Bis, Proof, Vinoteca.

Lamiable Brut Grand Cru
** 1/2
Champagne, France, $55

Rich and yeasty, this is one for those who prefer their champers on the powerful side.

Kacher/Washington Wholesale: available in the District at Calvert Woodley, MacArthur Beverages; available in Virginia at Au Domaine in Alexandria.

Pascal Doquet Brut Grand Cru
** 1/2
Champagne, France, $67

Powerful, rich and long on the finish, with toasty flavors. An excellent partner for rich foods.

Kacher/Washington Wholesale, available in the District at Calvert Woodley, Dixie Liquor, Rodman's; on the list at Marcel's. Available in Virginia at Au Domaine in Alexandria.

Haton & Fils Brut Chardonnay Premier Cru, Cuvee René Haton
**
Champagne, $48

This has very nice, delicate chardonnay fruit with good balance and finesse.

William Harrison: available in the District at MacArthur Beverages, Magruder's, Paul's of Chevy Chase, Whole Foods Market Glover Park. Available in Virginia at Wine Seller in Herndon; on the list at L'Auberge Chez François, the Inn at Little Washington.

Jean Laurent Blanc de Noirs Brut
**
Champagne, France, $50

This wine is aged on the lees for five years, compared with 1 1/2 to 2 years for most non-vintage champagnes. That gives it a little extra color and weight.

Hand Picked Selections/Republic National: available in the District at Magruder's.

Pierre Morlet Grande Reserve Brut Premier Cru
**
Champagne, France, $50

It's yeasty, with aromas of exotic melons, excellent body and finish.

Constantine: available in the District at Paul's of Chevy Chase, Schneider's of Capitol Hill.

Domaine Glinavos, Poeme Cuvee Brut 2005
* 1/2
Zitsa, Greece, $39

Quite good, this is expressive in toasty flavors and body, though not as harmonious as it should be. Still, it would be a fun wine for a game of "stump the wine nerd" or to relive your Greek islands vacation.

Constantine: available in the District at Paul's of Chevy Chase, Schneider's of Capitol Hill.

Key

*** Exceptional

** Excellent

* Very Good

Prices are approximate. Check Winesearcher.com to verify availability, or ask a favorite wine store to order through a distributor.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company