Sonoma County, Calif., $39
It's the ultimate zinfandel, though with only 72 percent zin it cannot be labeled by the grape variety. The blend includes carignane, petite sirah and mataro (mourvedre) and achieves an earthy, leafy-tobacco character that is utterly beguiling. This wine should age well for several years and will reward an hour or more of decanting. The Lytton Springs blend and East Bench (100 percent zinfandel) are also terrific.
Republic National in the District: Available at Burka's Wine & Liquor, Calvert Woodley, Chevy Chase Wine & Spirits, Dean & DeLuca, Trader Joe's; on the list at Blue Duck Tavern, District Chophouse, Posto, Smith & Wollensky, Ten Penh. Country Vintner in Maryland and Virginia: On the list in Maryland at Volt in Frederick. Available in Virginia at Arrowine in Arlington, Cecile's Wine Cellar in McLean, Out of Site Wines in Vienna; on the list at 2941 in Falls Church, Tallula in Arlington.
Napa Valley, Calif., $30
This wine was a little ornery at first, showing its new oak as if it didn't like being wakened from its slumber. But after a half-hour it blossomed into a sinewy, seductive wine with exotic spice notes of fenugreek and curry accenting a core of cranberry. Elegant and earthy; a top-notch wine.
Republic National in the District: Available at Harris Teeter locations, Rodman's, Safeway in Georgetown, Sheffield Wine & Liquor Shoppe, Whole Foods Tenleytown; on the list at Capital Grille, CityZen, Equinox, Four Seasons, Johnny's Half Shell, Proof, Ristorante La Perla, Vidalia. Bacchus in Maryland: Available at Calvert Discount Liquors in Cockeysville, Corridor Wine & Spirits in Laurel, Festival Wine & Spirits in Annapolis, the Liquor Store in Waldorf; several Montgomery County liquor stores; on the list at Houston's and Morton's the Steakhouse in Bethesda, Mrs. K's Toll House in Silver Spring, Stanford Grill in Columbia; Tsunami in Annapolis. Country Vintner in Virginia: Available at Arrowine in Arlington, the Wine Cabinet in Reston; on the list at Restaurant Eve in Alexandria, Sea Pearl in Fairfax.
Carmel Valley, Calif., $24
A stylish, spicy zinfandel, it's bursting with cranberry and raspberry flavors and a healthy but not overpowering dose of oak to give it structure.
M Touton Selection: Available in the District at Ace Beverage, Cleveland Park Wine and Spirits, Riverside Liquor, Watergate Wine & Beverage. Available in Maryland at Old Farm Liquors in Frederick, Silesia Liquors in Fort Washington, Town & Country Wine, Liquor, Etc. in Easton; on the list at Wild Orchid in Annapolis. Available in Virginia at Cork & Fork in Gainesville, Norm's Beer & Wine in Vienna, the Vineyard in McLean, the Wine Cellar in Middleburg.
Alexander Valley, Sonoma County, Calif., $19
This wine also needed to be awakened before it showed its true stuff, which turned out to be brambly, spicy cran-raspberry fruit nicely balanced by oak.
Dry Creek Valley, Calif., $21
Here's an example of the big style of zinfandel, with a whopping 15.7 percent alcohol and in-your-face fruit. In fact, it tastes like a jar of Smucker's: jammy, with blackberry and raspberry fruit and a sweet, thick texture. Yet it works, to a point. Share it with like-minded friends, because wines like this can become plodding by the end of the bottle.
Bacchus: Available in the District at MacArthur Beverages. Available in Maryland at Christos Discount Liquors in Ferndale, Dawson's Liquors in Severna Park.
Bogle consistently produces excellent values, and this wine has the virtue of being widely available. It offers nice zinfandel characteristics of cranberry-raspberry fruit and some peppery spice.
Constantine: Widely available, including in the District at Barrel House Liquors, Cleveland Park Wine and Spirits, Hayden's Liquor, Magruder's, Modern Liquors, Schneider's of Capitol Hill, Whole Foods Market P Street. On the list in Maryland at Mrs. K's Toll House, Ruby Tuesday locations.
Sonoma County, Calif., $15
Unusually light-bodied for a California zinfandel, this wine still shows the spicy dark red fruit of the grape variety.
International Cellars: Available in the District at Tunnel Wines & Spirits; on the list at Rasika. Available in Virginia at Norm's Beer & Wine in Vienna; on the list at Brabo Restaurant and RedRocks in Alexandria.
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Prices are approximate. Check Winesearcher.com to verify availability, or ask a favorite wine store to order through a distributor.