Exceptional Excellent Very Good
With Valentine's Day approaching, romance is in the air, so I've included two wines in this week's recommendations made by vintners who are planning their weddings. They include an outstanding chardonnay from California's Central Coast and a quirky sparkling red wine from Virginia. A modestly priced champagne and two classic zinfandels round out the selection.
Central Coast, Calif., $38
Oceano is the project of Rachel Martin, executive vice president of Boxwood Estate Winery in Middleburg, Va., and her fiance, Grammy Award-winning music producer Kurt Deutsch. It's an impressive debut wine, sourced from a vineyard just a few miles from the Pacific Ocean near San Luis Obispo. There's a lot going on in the glass, as waves of citrus and tropical fruit flavors compete for attention. Just sit back and enjoy each sip. Alcohol by volume: 14 percent.
Distributed by Oceano Wines: Available in the District at Calvert Woodley, Cork & Fork, MacArthur Beverages, Potomac Wine & Spirits, Schneider's of Capitol Hill, S&R Liquors; on the list at Brasserie Beck, Flight, Marcel's, Siren. Available in Maryland at the Tasting Room Wine Bar & Shop at National Harbor; on the list at Lock 72 in Potomac, Urban Butcher in Silver Spring, Wildwood Kitchen in Bethesda. Available in Virginia at Slater Run Vineyards Tasting Room; on the list at Field & Main in Marshall, Harrimans at Salamander Resort and King Street Oyster Bar in Middleburg, the Restaurant at Patowmack Farm in Lovettsville.
Napa Valley, Calif., $33
Frog's Leap has never been a winery to shift in the adverse winds of a consumer trend. When zinfandel producers began to favor the more powerful, extra-ripe style, Frog's Leap stood firm with what some call a "claret" style of zin, more like a classic Bordeaux in its balance, weight and alcohol level. The 2015 is a classic "field blend" of 79 percent zinfandel, 19 percent petite sirah and 2 percent carignan, delicious with red berry fruit and a deep sense of earth. And though they don't tout it on the label, Frog's Leap has long been a leading proponent of organic viticulture. Enjoy this with any dish you'd pair with red wine. If you're pairing with chocolate , look for the savory, nutty type. ABV: 13.6 percent.
Distributed by RNDC in the District, Bacchus in Maryland, Country Vintner in Virginia: Available in the District at Ace Beverage, Circle Wine & Liquor, Harris Teeter (various locations), Metro Wine & Spirits, Potomac Wine & Spirits, Rodman's, Safeway (various locations), Whole Foods Market (various locations); on the list at several restaurants. Available in Maryland at Bay Ridge Wine & Spirits in Annapolis, Nick's of Calvert in Prince Frederick, Eddie's of Roland Park in Baltimore, Rodman's in White Flint, Total Wine & More (Laurel, Towson). Available in Virginia at Arrowine and Cheese in Arlington, Total Wine & More (Alexandria, Arlington, Chantilly, McLean, Springfield).
Calistoga, Napa Valley, Calif., $38
Montelena's zinfandel is another in the classic "claret" style. It's a blend of zinfandel and primitivo. The latter is now recognized as a clone of zinfandel, and wineries are beginning to distinguish them; I'm not sure consumers can at this point. Raspberry and cranberry with some savory herbs characterize this beauty. ABV: 14.5 percent.
Distributed by M. Touton Selection: Available in the District at Eye Street Cellars, Harry's Reserve Fine Wine & Spirits, Morris Miller Wine & Liquor, Rodman's, Wagshal's Deli; on the list at Kellari. Available in Maryland at Bay Ridge Wine & Spirits in Annapolis, California Wine & Spirits in California, Frederick Wine House and Old Farm Liquors in Frederick, Maple Lawn Wine & Spirits in Fulton, Pine Orchard Liquors in Ellicott City, Silesia Liquors in Fort Washington, Tilghman Island Country Store and Total Discount Liquors in Eldersburg, Wine Source in Baltimore. Available in Virginia at Balducci's in McLean, Wegmans (various locations).
Champagne, France, $36
Trouillard offers classic champagne at a reasonable price for its quality. It's crisp and refreshing, with hints of red berries. Enjoy it for a toast and the first course of your Valentine's dinner. ABV: 12 percent.
Distributed by Kysela: Available in the District at the Bottle Shop, Central Liquors, Cleveland Park Wine and Spirits, Crown Liquors, MacArthur Beverages, Magruder's, Rodman's. Available in Maryland at 5 O'Clock Wines & Spirits in Owings Mills, Balducci's in Bethesda, Columbia Fine Wine & Spirits in Columbia, Country Spirits in Cascade, Longmeadow Wine & Liquors in Hagerstown, Maple Lawn Wine & Spirits in Fulton, McHenry Beverage Shoppe in McHenry, Town & Country Wine Liquor Etc. in Easton, Village Spirits in Smithsburg. Available in Virginia at Bottleworks in Richmond, Foods of All Nations and Market Street Wineshop (Downtown) in Charlottesville, Locke Store in Millwood, Planet Wine & Gourmet in Alexandria, Swirl & Sip in Fairfax.
This is a novelty wine, and it's easy to see that Casanel winemaker Katie DeSouza, who is engaged to Boxwood winemaker Tyler Henley, has fun making it. It's 100 percent Norton, Virginia's irrepressible red grape, fermented in the traditional champagne method. Think of Lambrusco, only fruitier. Just thinking about it makes me hungry for a dense chocolate torte with raspberry coulis. ABV: 13 percent.
Available at Casanel in Leesburg, Va.
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.