★★★Exceptional ★★Excellent ★Very Good
Prices are approximate. Check Winesearcher.com to verify availability, or ask a favorite wine store to order through a distributor.
Here are some California pinot noirs that embody the spirit of In Pursuit of Balance. Not all of these wineries are members of the group; these are my selections of wines available around Washington that embody the spirit of the movement toward elegance and balance.
Anderson Valley, Mendocino County, Calif., $30
Winemaker Wells Guthrie has become a poster child of elegance and restraint in pinot noir. He crafts wines that say a lot without shouting, including this delightful pinot.
J.W. Sieg: Available in the District at Calvert Woodley; on the list at Art & Soul, BLT Steak, Bourbon Steak, Jack Rose. Available in Maryland at Wine Source in Baltimore; on the list at Volt in Frederick. Available in Virginia at Aldie Peddler, Grape + Bean in Alexandria, Market Street Wineshop in Charlottesville, Salute! Wine Market in Winchester; on the list at Ray’s: the Steaks in Arlington.
Sonoma Coast, Calif., $73
Only 370 cases of this pinot were produced. Rich with dark fruit flavors, it packs a lot of flavor for a wine that clocks in at a modest 13.1 percent alcohol in an age when many pinots are more than 14.5 percent. Ross Cobb is also the winemaker at Hirsch Vineyards, and has made wine at Flowers, so he knows the Sonoma Coast region.
Potomac Selections: Available in the District at Cork & Fork; on the list at Bourbon Steak. In Maryland, on the list at Volt in Frederick.
★★1 / 2
Santa Cruz Mountains, Calif., $35
Sleek and lively, this wine doesn’t want to quit with its berry and cherry flavors and an undercurrent of earth, nicely balanced at 13.5 percent alcohol.
Constantine: Available in the District at Georgetown Wine & Spirits; on the list at BLT Steak. Available in Maryland at Wells Discount Liquors in Baltimore; on the list at 8407 Kitchen Bar in Silver Spring, Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse in Pikesville, Pure Wine Cafe in Ellicott City.
★★1 / 2
Santa Barbara County, Calif., $33
Adam Tolmach’s wines are distressingly hard to find, and I say that because they are so consistently good. His 2009 Santa Barbara County pinot noir hails mostly from the Santa Maria Valley, including some fruit from the famed Bien Nacido Vineyard. This is aromatic with dark fruit scents and flavors (blackberry) and an appealing savory herbal note to give it complexity.
Country Vintner: Available in the District at Local Vine Cellar. Available in Virginia at Arrowine in Arlington.
★1 / 2
Castle Rock wines are not in the same league with the others in the In Pursuit of Balance movement because they are not small-production, terroir-driven wines. However, this California Cuvee has three advantages: it is easier to find, it is affordable, and, at 13.6 percent, it is modest in alcohol — a trait it shares with its elevated counterparts. Nothing deep here, just plain, tasty pinot.
Winebow in the District, LVDH Vignobles in Maryland, Robins Cellars in Virginia: Available in the District at Ace Beverage, Bell Wine & Spirits, Boston Wine & Spirits, Cairo Wine & Liquor; Capitol Fine Wines & Spirits, Connecticut Avenue Wine & Liquor, D’Vines, De Vinos, Lion’s Fine Wine & Spirits, Magruder’s, Morris Miller Wine & Liquor, Paul’s of Chevy Chase, Pearson’s, Rodman’s, S&R Liquors, Safeway locations on L Street and MacArthur Boulevard, Van Ness Wine and Liquors, Wine Specialist. Available in Maryland at Bay Ridge Wine & Spirits, Bin 201 Wine Sellers, Mills Fine Wine and Spirits, and Wine Cellars in Annapolis; Bin 604 Wine Sellers, Wells Discount Liquors and Wine Source in Baltimore; Montgomery Plaza Liquors in Catonsville; Decanter Fine Wines in Columbia; Mt. Airy Liquors; Pine Orchard Wine in Ellicott City; State Line Liquors in Elkton; Ye Old Spirit Shop in Frederick. Available in Virginia at the Aldie Peddler, Arrowine and Westover Market in Arlington, Total Wine & More locations in Chantilly and McLean, Whole Foods Market in Falls Church and Vienna, Wine Cabinet in Reston; on the list at American Cafe in Herndon, Extra Virgin and Portabellos in Arlington, Union Street Public House in Alexandria.