★ ★ ★Exceptional ★ ★Excellent ★Very Good
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.
Here are two Napa cabernet sauvignons that have never strayed toward the newer, powerhouse style, along with one of the East Coast's best Rieslings and two red blends from southern France and Lebanon.
★ ★ ★
Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley, Calif., $50
Smith-Madrone is high up on Spring Mountain, just west of Saint Helena, with steep, picturesque vineyards overlooking the valley. The 2011 vintage was uneven throughout Napa Valley, but Smith-Madrone produced a top-notch, elegant cabernet that features Bordeaux-like characteristics of blackberry fruit with that graphite/pencil character wine lovers will recognize, plus lip-smacking, refreshing acidity. And if you can restrain from gulping the bottle, it’s even better the second night. Alcohol by volume: 14.3 percent.
DOPS in the District and Maryland: Available in the District at Arrowine and Spirits, and soon at Calvert Woodley; on the list at Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House, the Hamilton, the Prime Rib. Available in Maryland at Don Tonio’s in Chestertown, Rip’s Wine and Spirit Shop in Bowie, the Wine Bin in Ellicott City, Wine Source in Baltimore, and soon at Pinky’s West Street Liquors in Annapolis; soon to be on the list at Woodberry Kitchen in Baltimore. Robins Cellars in Virginia: On the list at Ray’s the Steaks in Arlington.
★ ★ ★
Rutherford, Napa Valley, Calif. $52
Frog’s Leap is in Rutherford, the heart of Napa Valley. Its wines are known for “Rutherford dust,” a textural reference denoting the sensation of rubbing the nap of velvet the wrong way. Winemaker John Williams is an advocate of organic viticulture and dry farming, meaning no drip irrigation. He says that irrigation encourages the vines to seek water close to the ground’s surface rather than digging deep to find nutrients that give the wine structure and the ability to age. His estate wines — sauvignon blanc, zinfandel, merlot and cabernet — are all classically structured and powerful without being overpowering. ABV: 13.4 percent.
RNDC in the District: Available at Ace Beverage, Calvert Woodley, Chevy Chase Wine & Spirits, Chinatown Liquor, Press Liquors, Rodman’s, Safeway (various locations), Whole Foods Market (various locations); on the list at Café Lombardy, Capital Grille, Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House, Fogo de Chao, the Gryphon, Johnny’s Half Shell, Occidental Grill & Seafood, the Prime Rib. Bacchus in Maryland: Available at Bay Ridge Wine & Spirits in Annapolis; Cranbrook Liquors and Hunt Valley Wine, Liquor and Beer in Cockeysville; Montgomery County Liquors (Hampden Lane). Country Vintner in Virginia.
★ ★ ★
Finger Lakes, N.Y., $18
Nice Legs: Available in the District at Ace Beverage, DCanter, Glen’s Garden Market, Paul’s of Chevy Chase. On the list in Maryland at the Walrus Oyster & Ale House in National Harbor. Available in Virginia at Curious Grape in Shirlington, the Organic Butcher in McLean, Red Apron Butcher in Fairfax; on the list at Bazin’s on Church in Vienna, Vermilion in Alexandria.
Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, $26
Lebanon’s most famous winery has a cult following of wine lovers around the world. This lovely blend is 50 percent cinsault, with the rest Grenache, cabernet sauvignon and carignan. It’s meant for relatively early drinking, while the main cuvees can easily age for decades. ABV: 13.5 percent.
Country Vintner: Available in the District at Cork Market, MacArthur Beverages, Rodman’s. Available in Maryland at Old Line Fine Wine, Spirits & Bistro in Beltsville, Wine Harvest (Potomac), Wine Source in Baltimore; on the list at the Arthouse, Fleet Street Kitchen, Wine Market Bistro in Baltimore; Lebanese Taverna (various locations); Pure Wine Cafe in Ellicott City. On the list in Virginia at Lebanese Taverna (various locations).
Languedoc, France, $22
Here’s a textbook Languedoc red, with violet and thyme aromas over blackberry fruit. Delish. ABV: 13.5 percent.
M Touton Selection: Available in the District at Capitol Hill Wine & Spirits, Cleveland Park Wine and Spirits, MacArthur Beverages, Paul’s of Chevy Chase, Rodman’s; on the list at Bistroquet. Available in Maryland at Old Farm Liquors in Frederick. Available in Virginia at the Vineyard in McLean.