Columnist, Food

★ ★ ★Exceptional  ★ ★Excellent ★Very Good

Availability information is based on distributor records. Wines might not be in stock at every listed store and might be available at additional stores. Check to verify availability, or ask a favorite wine store to order through a distributor.

The Classified Growth Bordeaux featured in the annual international Left Bank Bordeaux Cup tend to be expensive. But if you’re in the mood simply to enjoy a Bordeaux without paying a lot of money, look for ones labeled Cru Bourgeois, Bordeaux Supérieur or simply Bordeaux. Their quality can be uneven, but many of these wines are excellent values.

I couldn’t resist throwing in a Grand Cru from Saint-Émilion, on the right bank, as well as a Sancerre, for a white wine change of pace.

Château Gontey Grand Cru 2010

★ ★ ★

Saint-Émilion, Bordeaux, France, $38

This heady merlot, with 20 percent cabernet franc, is available primarily in restaurants, but it’s also worth finding for a special dinner at home or even for your cellar. It is rich, dark and brooding at first, but after an hour or so it comes alive with intense cherry fruit. (I suggest decanting). It’s modern in style; the extract and soft tannins grab your palate and hold on. Alcohol by volume: 14 percent.

Elite: On the list in the District at B Too, Bistrot Lepic, BlackSalt, Brasserie Beck, Le Diplomate, Montmartre, Occidental Grill, Sequoia, Sur la Place. Available in Maryland at Balducci’s and Cork & Fork in Bethesda. Available in Virginia at Altura Wine & Gourmet in Alexandria, Grand Cru in Arlington, Whole Foods Market (Charlottesville); on the list at La Côte D’Or Cafe, Tallula and Zaika in Arlington, Notting Hill in Alexandria, Old Original Bookbinders in Richmond, Pane e Vino in Lorton.

Cru Monplaisir 2010

★ ★ 1 / 2

Bordeaux Supérieur, France, $20

This blend of merlot with some cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc is fresh and lively in a fashion that most New World wines, overdressed in oak, do not achieve at this price point. ABV: 13.5 percent.

Elite: Available in the District at Ace Beverage, Connecticut Avenue Wine & Liquor, Rodman’s, Whole Foods Market (Glover Park, P Street); on the list at Daikaya and DC Coast. Available in Maryland at Quarry Wine and Spirits and the Wine Source in Baltimore, Wheaton Winery, the Wine Post in Glyndon, the Winery at Olney; on the list at Donna’s and Mr. Rain’s Fun House in Baltimore, Mussel Bar in Bethesda. Available in Virginia at Vino Volo in Tysons Corner, the Wine Cabinet in Reston. On the list at Bastille, Columbia Firehouse, Del Ray Cafe and La Bergerie in Alexandria; Passionfish in Reston.

Reflets du Château Cissac 2011

★ ★

Haut-Médoc, Bordeaux, $22

In the classic Bordeaux style, it shows some earth to balance the fruit. An excellent partner for simple red-meat meals. ABV: 12.5 percent.

Elite: Available in the District at Chevy Chase Wine & Spirits, Rodman’s; on the list at Circle Bistro. Available in Maryland at King’s Contrivance Liquor Shop in Columbia, Petite Cellars in Ellicott City. Available in Virginia at Grand Cru in Arlington, Hop & Wine in Fredericksburg; on the list at Tallula in Arlington.

Château la Coudraie 2010

1 / 2

Bordeaux, France, $14

It’s juicy and straightforward, with a hint of the tobacco-y character that wine lovers like to call “cigar box.” ABV: 13.5 percent.

J.W. Sieg: Available in the District at Cleveland Park Wine and Spirits. Available in Virginia at Once Upon a Vine in Richmond, the Wine Outlet in Vienna; on the list at Fleurie and Now & Zen in Charlottesville, Max’s Bistro on Broad in Richmond.