Correction: An earlier version of this story did not specify that the 2011 bottling of Cousiño-Macul Antiguas Reservas Cabernet Sauvignon is not yet available in the Washington area.Those listed retailers in the article are selling the 2010 vintage of the wine; they do not have the newer vintage in stock.

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 Vine Connections wines from Chile are only now reaching the Washington area market, so they are not yet in many stores or restaurants. Retailers can order them from Bacchus Imports.

Here are my three top picks from the Vine Connections lineup plus an old favorite and another new contender from Chile. The wide availability of the Cousiño-Macul compared with the others shows not only the wine’s quality but also the advantage gained from large production and from having been in this market for nearly 30 years.

Merino Syrah 2012


Limarí Valley, Chile, $18

Electric and elegant, this syrah is blended with 3 percent viognier in the Côte Rôtie fashion to give its aromas a lift. It is lean and focused in its black-fruit flavors and its minerality. The wine shows what syrah can do on limestone soils in a cool climate.

Vine Connections/Bacchus: Available in the District at Tunnel Wines & Spirits.

Cousiño-Macul Antiguas Reservas Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

★★ 1 / 2

Maipo Valley, Chile, $19

This stylish wine has always been my benchmark for expressive yet inexpensive cabernet sauvignon. (Its price has crept up in recent years, but it often can be found on sale.) Don’t worry if you discover a forgotten bottle in your cellar: This one ages well. The retailers listed below haven’t yet received the new vintage and are still selling the 2010.

Winebow: Widely available in the District, especially at Cairo Wine & Liquor, Calvert Woodley, Chevy Chase Wine & Spirits, MacArthur Beverages, Magruder’s, Potomac Wine & Spirits, Rodman’s, Safeway (Georgetown), various Whole Foods Market locations. Available in Maryland at Bethesda Chevy Chase Beer & Wine, Chevy Chase Supermarket, Grosvenor Market in Rockville, many Montgomery County Liquor Stores. Available in Virginia at Total Wine & More (Alexandria, McLean, Sterling), Wegmans (Fairfax, Sterling, Woodbridge), Whole Foods Market (Alexandria, Arlington, Falls Church).

J. Bouchon Canto Norte 2012

★★ 1 / 2

Maule Valley, Chile, $15

This vibrant Bordeaux-style blend is based on merlot, with carmenere to give a Chilean accent. Julio Bouchon’s great-grandfather emigrated to Chile from Saint Emilion, merlot territory in Bordeaux’s “right bank,” and he says the north, or right, side of the Maule River favors merlot. The winery also produces a delicious cabernet sauvignon-based blend called Canto Sur from vineyards on the Maule’s left bank.

Vine Connections/Bacchus: Available in the District at Tunnel Wines & Spirits. Available in Maryland at Town & Country Wine Liquor Etc. in Easton.

Leyendas de Familia Noche de Luna 2011

★★ 1 / 2

Maule Valley, Chile, $33

A fruit-forward blend of cabernet sauvignon, carmenere, malbec and cabernet franc, it had me looking at the label after every sip, wondering where all the flavor was coming from. It is still quite young and should be even more impressive with a few years in bottle.

Red Ink Distributing: Available in Maryland at Eastport Liquors in Annapolis, Georgetown Square Wine and Beer in Bethesda, Old Farm Liquors in Frederick.

Mayu Pedro Ximénez 2012


Elqui Valley, Chile, $15

Made from grapes grown at an altitude of 6,500 feet — much higher than the vineyards near Jerez, Spain, where “PX” makes wonderful sweet sherry — this dry version is soft and round, with flavors of apricot and talc, and a sense that aromatic night flowers are blooming somewhere just out of sight. Mayu makes a racy sauvignon blanc as well.

Vine Connections/Bacchus: Available in the District at Hayden’s Liquor, Windows Cafe & Market. Available in Maryland at Chesapeake Wine Co. in Baltimore, Decanter Fine Wines in Columbia, Shawan Liquors in Hunt Valley, Town & Country Wine Liquor Etc. in Easton.