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Here are four wines and a cider worthy of your dinner table anytime, including Thanksgiving. Last year, I recommended the sparkling Norton from Casanel Vineyards in Loudoun County. If you can get out to the winery, the current vintage is worth the trip. But here is a sparkling shiraz from South Africa that is also extremely food-friendly and surprisingly good — surprising because it doesn't fit any paradigm. You could also go with the Lambrusco from northern Italy I recommended earlier this year.
Year after year, this is one of California's best values. Based on zinfandel, this savory, stylish blend is so good it may distract you from your meal. ABV: 13.5 percent.
Distributed by Bacchus in the District, Country Vintner in Maryland, Select in Virginia: Available in the District at Ace Beverage, Burka's Wine & Liquor, Circle Wine & Liquor, Harry's Reserve Fine Wine & Spirits, Magruder's, Metro K Supermarket, Modern Liquors, Paul's of Chevy Chase, Rodman's, Safeway (various locations), Schneider's of Capitol Hill, Whole Foods Market (H Street NE, P Street, Foggy Bottom, Tenleytown), World Market; on the list at Agora, Canopy, Chef Geoff's, Morrison-Clark Historic Inn. Available in Maryland at the Bottle Shop in Potomac, Calvert Wine & Spirits in Hunt Valley, Cork 57 Beer and Wine and Georgetown Square Wine and Beer in Bethesda, Cranbrook Liquors in Cockeysville, Midway Discount Liquors in Joppa, Mills Fine Wine and Spirits in Annapolis, Montgomery County Liquor and Wine (various), Rodman's (White Flint), Wells Discount Liquors and Wine Source in Baltimore, World Market in Rockville; on the list at 13.5% Wine Bar in Baltimore, Botanero in Rockville, Republic in Takoma Park. Available in Virginia at Balducci's (Alexandria, McLean), Harris Teeter (various), Safeway (various), Trader Joe's (various), Wegmans (various), Whole Foods Market (various), World Market.
Sonoma County, Calif., $20
This zinfandel from some of Sonoma's older vineyards is spicy with raspberry and cranberry fruit flavors, plus hints of clove and pepper. Pull the cork an hour or two before dinner to give the wine a chance to develop. ABV: 14.7 percent.
Distributed by Elite: Available in the District at Ace Beverage, Bell Wine & Spirits, Paul's of Chevy Chase; on the list at Belga Cafe, Black Salt, Sonoma. Widely available in Maryland, at least outside of Montgomery County, including at Decanter Fine Wines in Columbia, Frederick Wine House in Frederick. Available in Virginia at the Cheese Shop in Williamsburg, Fern Street Gourmet in Alexandria, Locke Store in Millwood, Richmond Wine Station and Shields Market in Richmond, Wine Cabinet in Reston.
Middleburg, Va., $16
Mt. Defiance is one of several Virginia cideries to emerge in the past few years, part of a national wave to bring back traditional-style hard cider. It's a great bridge in style between beer and wine, with the benefit of low alcohol. This cider is clean and fresh, with just a hint of earthiness, not the funky quality European cider can get. ABV: 6.9 percent.
Distributed by Tradewinds in the District and Maryland, Select in Virginia: Available in the District at Mom's Organic Market, Rodman's, S&R Liquors, Schneider's of Capitol Hill, Sunset Wine & Spirits, Whole Foods Market (H Street NE, P Street, Tenleytown). Available in Maryland at the Wine Harvest (Gaithersburg, Potomac). Available in Virginia at Balducci's (Alexandria, McLean), Mom's Organic Market (various), Total Wine & More (various), Wegmans (various), Whole Foods Market (various).
Willamette Valley, Ore., $19
Rich, mouth-filling and relatively low in acidity, with some baking-spice notes, this pinot gris is more in the Alsace style than Italian pinot grigio. That makes it a nice partner for rich foods like the Thanksgiving feast. I'm looking at you, candied yams with mini-marshmallows! ABV: 13.5 percent.
Distributed by Salveto: Available in the District at Central Liquors, Chat's Liquors, Cork & Fork, Glen's Garden Market (Dupont); on the list at Mintwood. Available in Maryland at Dunkirk Wine & Spirits in Dunkirk, Potomac Gourmet Market in National Harbor, Old Line Fine Wine, Spirits & Bistro in Beltsville. Available in Virginia at Leesburg Vintner, the Wine Outlet in Vienna, Unwined (Alexandria, Belleview).
South Africa, $16
Sparkling red wine is admittedly odd, but when it works it can be fun, tasty and food-friendly. The Four Secrets offers spicy red fruit and bramble flavors. It may just be the partner for your cranberry sauce. ABV: 12 percent.
Distributed by Salveto: Available in the District at Central Liquors, S&R Liquors, Wine Specialist. Available in Maryland at Dunkirk Wine & Spirits in Dunkirk, Potomac Gourmet Market in National Harbor. Available in Virginia at Altura Wine & Gourmet in Alexandria, Crystal City Wine Shop in Arlington, Dominion Wine and Beer in Falls Church, Leesburg Vintner; on the list at Mokomandy in Sterling.
Availability information is based on distributor records. Wines might not be in stock at every listed store and might be sold at additional stores. Prices are approximate. Check Winesearcher.com to verify availability, or ask a favorite wine store to order through a distributor.