Exceptional Excellent Very Good
Sometimes a wine just seems appropriate for the situation, rather than for first course or an entree. I was in the mood for Rough Day Cabernet and Rough Day Chardonnay when I tried them, and I wished I had a case of each — not just for the cute name or the adorable dog on the label, but because the wines are actually rather good. They are examples of high-value, low-price wine from Eastern Europe, in this case Bulgaria. Now, until someone comes out with a wine called Rough Week, we can supplement with a delicious gruner veltliner from Austria and two inexpensive beauties from France.
Kamptal, Austria, $24
This is a beautiful wine year-in, year-out, and in the exceptionally ripe 2015 vintage, it trades its edge of acidity for fleshy sensuality. Don't just knock this back — give it your attention and let it entice you with a hint of citrus, talc and white flowers. ABV: 13.5 percent.
Distributed by Siema in the District and Maryland, Select in Virginia: Available in the District at Cleveland Park Wine and Spirits, Cork & Fork, DCanter, Metro Wine & Spirits; on the list at Kafe Leopold + Konditorei, Old Ebbitt Grill. Available in Maryland at Balducci's and Cork & Fork in Bethesda, Beckley's Country Store in Frederick, Cranberry Liquors in Westminster, Dawson's Market in Rockville, Downtown Crown Wine & Beer and Finewine.com in Gaithersburg, Longmeadow Wine & Liquors in Hagerstown, Wine Bin in Ellicott City; on the list at Vini Culture and Volt in Frederick. Available in Virginia at Arrowine and Cheese in Arlington, Balducci's and Chain Bridge Cellars in McLean, Cork & Fork in Gainesville, J. Emerson Fine Wines & Cheese in Richmond, Locke Modern Country Store in Millwood, Oakton Wine Shop, Unwined (Alexandria, Belleview), Vino Market in Midlothian; on the list at Acacia and Secco in Richmond, Bazin's on Church in Vienna, L'Auberge Chez Francois in Great Falls, Trummer's on Main in Clifton.
Languedoc, France, $12
This wine hails from the same producer as one of my favorite inexpensive rosés, and it shows what Southern France can do with beautiful, organic grapes (the "Bio" in the name signifies organic). The wine is fruit-forward in an international style, rich and sweet tasting. (That's fruit-flavor sweet, rather than sugary sweet.) Try this with red meat dishes, and the fruitiness makes it great with spicy Sichuan dishes. ABV: 13.5 percent.
Distributed by Dionysus: Available in the District at Mom's Organic Market, Rodman's. Available in Maryland at Balducci's and Bradley Food & Beverage in Bethesda, Dawson's Market and Mom's Organic Market in Rockville, Rodman's (Wheaton, White Flint), Wine Source in Baltimore. Available in Virginia at Balducci's (Alexandria, McLean), Grapevine in Warrenton, Mom's Organic Market (various locations), Unwined (Alexandria, Belleview).
Thracian Valley, Bulgaria, $10
What more could you ask for in an inexpensive cabernet sauvignon? This wine offers blackberry fruit with rich, supple sweetness and a hint of mocha on a well-balanced finish. It's a smooth wine to smooth out the edges of a rough day — and it lasts well into the next day as well. ABV: 13.5 percent.
Distributed by G&B: Available in the District at Calvert Woodley, Chevy Chase Wine & Spirits, Georgetown Wine & Spirits, Streets Market and Cafe, Wagshal's Deli, Watergate Vintners & Spirits, Yes! Organic Market (various locations); on the list at Bacio Pizzeria. Available in Maryland at Capital Beer & Wine and Georgetown Square Wine and Beer in Bethesda, Chevy Chase Supermarket, Downtown Crown Wine and Beer and Finewine.com in Gaithersburg, Fenwick Beer & Wine in Silver Spring, Takoma Park-Silver Spring Co-op in Takoma Park, the Wine Harvest (Gaithersburg, Potomac). Available in Virginia at Streets Market and Cafe (Alexandria, Arlington).
Thracian Valley, Bulgaria, $10
This chardonnay is quite textbook, with apple and peach flavors, plus some oak influence. Enjoy this at parties, while cooking dinner or with simple poultry and seafood dishes. ABV: 13 percent.
Distributed by G&B: Available in the District at Calvert Woodley, Chevy Chase Wine & Spirits, Georgetown Wine & Spirits, Streets Market and Cafe, Wagshal's Deli, Watergate Vintners & Spirits, Yes! Organic Market (various locations); on the list at Bacio Pizzeria. Available in Maryland at Capital Beer & Wine and Georgetown Square Wine & Beer in Bethesda, Chevy Chase Supermarket, Downtown Crown Wine & Beer and Finewine.com in Gaithersburg, Fenwick Beer & Wine in Silver Spring, Takoma Park-Silver Spring Co-Op in Takoma Park, Wine Harvest (Gaithersburg, Potomac). Available in Virginia at Streets Market and Cafe (Alexandria, Arlington).
IGP Atlantique, France, $9
This sauvignon blanc hails from just outside the borders of Bordeaux, so it's labeled "Indication Géographique Protégée Atlantique." It is on the flowery side of sauvignon blanc, so wine nerds will probably recognize the musqué clone of the grape. Never mind — it's tasty and nicely balanced, fine by itself or with lighter dishes and salads. ABV: 11.5 percent.
Distributed by M. Touton Selection: Available in the District at Ace Beverage, Capital City Wine & Spirits, Cleveland Park Wine and Spirits, Eye Street Cellars, Oasis Gourmet Deli, Rodman's. Available in Maryland at Bethesda Co-Op in Cabin John, Bradley Food & Beverage in Bethesda, Brother Liquors and Silesia Liquors in Fort Washington, Fishpaws Marketplace in Arnold, Old Farm Liquors and Plus Mart in Frederick, Town & Country Wine Liquor Etc. in Easton. Available in Virginia at Market Street Market in Charlottesville.
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.