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Recommended wines

Dave McIntyre
Special to The Washington Post
Monday, March 7, 2011; 10:20 PM

Here are some wines I've tasted recently that are worth seeking out. Some of them are new to this market and will be reaching more store shelves in the coming weeks.

Domaine du Pas de L'Escalette Les Clapas Blanc 2009

***

Languedoc, France, $33

This blend of obscure grapes - white carignan and Terret Bourret - is the product of old vines on the estate now farmed by the husband-and-wife team of Julien Zernott and Delphine Rousseau. "Les Clapas" refers to the stone-walled terraces on which the vines are grown, on mountain slopes at about 1,150 feet elevation. The winery's name refers to the ancient road from central France to the Mediterranean shore, which passed through the site. Zernott and Rousseau have built the ancient property into one of the leading wineries of the Languedoc, where tradition and innovation combine in a way that happens nowhere else in France.

Elite: Available in the District at Cork Market; on the list at Et Voila!, Ici Urban Bistro, Local 16, Rasika. Available in Maryland at Finewine.com in Gaithersburg, the Wine Source in Baltimore. Available in Virginia at Tastings of Charlottesville.

Domaine du Pas de L'Escalette Les Clapas Rouge 2008

***

Languedoc, France, $23

Old-vines carignan blended with grenache, cinsault and syrah yields a lovely wine that seems to offer an escape to southern France in every sip. It is fresh and herbal, with scents of thyme and rosemary and flavors of rich, dark fruit and sun-baked earth.

Elite: Available in the District at Cork Market, Schneider's of Capitol Hill; on the list at CityZen. Available in Maryland at Finewine.com in Gaithersburg; on the list at 13.5% Wine Bar in Baltimore, Grapeseed in Bethesda. Available in Virginia at Tastings of Charlottesville.

Bonny Doon Vineyard Le Cigare Blanc 2007 Beeswax Vineyard

**1/2

California, $25

This is California maverick Randall Grahm's version of a white Rhone blend, using roussanne and grenache blanc. It is full-bodied and rich, with a waxy texture and herbal notes of lavender and spice over a subtle core of fruit. The vineyard was farmed biodynamically when this wine was made; it received full Demeter certification as biodynamic for the 2008 harvest. That there isn't more demand for this wine is frankly puzzling.

Country Vintner: Available in Virginia at Best Cellars in Arlington; on the list at Trummer's on Main in Clifton.

Siduri Pinot Noir Sonoma County 2009

**

California, $20

Adam Lee of Siduri produces a wide variety of excellent pinot noir from up and down the Left Coast, including some small-production and allocated single-vineyard offerings. The Sonoma County - just arrived in this market - is more than an entry-level wine; it's bursting with juicy pinot flavor, braced with moderate tannin. The 2009 Sonoma Coast, which will be released later this spring, is even better.

Bacchus: Available in Maryland at Montgomery Plaza Liquors in Catonsville, Pine Orchard Wine in Ellicott City. Robins Cellars: On the list in Virginia at Michel in McLean (by the glass).

Gouguenheim Bonarda Syrah 2008

*1/2

Mendoza, Argentina, $10

Bonarda takes a back seat to malbec in Argentina's drive to dominate the value market in red wine. I wish there was more of it. This tasty red is ideal for casual weekday fare, with the juiciness of bonarda restrained by the earthiness of syrah.

Country Vintner: Available in the District at Cleveland Park Wine and Spirits. Available in Maryland at Georgetown Square Beer & Wine in Bethesda, North Ridge Wine & Spirits in Ellicott City; on the list at Vineyard Wine Bar in Havre de Grace.

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.

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