Exceptional   Excellent   Very Good

If you’re looking for a wine to challenge your preconceptions of what wine should taste like, have I got one for you. Then take comfort in a luscious California chardonnay or a couple vibrant whites from Italy and southern France. If dinner is casual, a nice savory red from Spain will fit the bill.

Antiquum Farm Juel Pinot Noir 2015

Willamette Valley, Ore., $45

Oregon pinot noir is my comfort wine; I turn to it when I’m feeling down and need reassurance. Yet the Antiquum Farm made me feel like Luke Skywalker entering the cave and encountering Darth Vader. It seemed to challenge my entire perspective. Earth, wind and fire — all the elements are here. Far from comforting, this is a challenging, thrilling, compelling wine. Open it two hours before dinner and have more wines on hand, because you will want to savor this as it evolves. Leave some for tomorrow: The conversation will be entirely different. ABV: 14.3 percent.

Distributed by Le Storie: Available in the District at Ace Beverage. Available in Virginia at Department of Beer and Wine, Grape + Bean (Old Town, Rosemont), and Planet Wine & Gourmet in Alexandria, Vino Market in Midlothian; on the list at Rowland Fine Dining and Shagbark in Richmond, Wild Ginger in Midlothian.

Smith-Madrone Chardonnay Spring Mountain District 2015

Napa Valley, Calif., $34

Some chardonnays whack you in the face with an oak two-by-four. Smith-Madrone wraps you lovingly in a warm blanket. ABV: 14.4 percent.

Distributed by DOPS in the District and Maryland, Robins Cellars in Virginia: Available in the District at the Cupboard Market, Paul’s of Chevy Chase; on the list at Old Ebbitt Grill. Available in Maryland at Cork 57 Beer and Wine in Bethesda, Petite Cellars and Wine Bin in Ellicott City; on the list at Bond 45 at National Harbor, Knoxie’s Table in Stevensville, Old Maryland Grill in College Park. Available in Virginia at City Vino in Fredericksburg, the Wine Outlet in Great Falls.


Albea Il Selva Locorotondo 2016

Puglia, Italy, $17

Puglia, in the heel of Italy’s boot, is known for rich red wines with baked-fruit character. This white wine, a blend based on the verdeca grape, is racy and ideal for a light lunch on the patio, especially if seafood is on the menu. ABV: 13 percent.

Distributed by Rapp Wine: Available in the District at Batch 13, Calvert Woodley, Chat’s Liquors, Congressional Liquors, Central Liquors, Dean & DeLuca, Imperial Liquors, MacArthur Beverages, Mediterranean Way Gourmet Market, Rodman’s, Paul’s of Chevy Chase; on the list at Acacia Bistro, Casa Luca, Centralina, Dino’s Grotto, Fiola Mare, Osteria al Volo, Sfoglina, Stanton & Greene, Tartufo, Trattoria al Volo. Available in Maryland at Downtown Crown Wine and Beer in Gaithersburg.


La Cabotte Colline Cotes-du-Rhone Blanc 2016

Rhone Valley, France, $17

This is a solid producer of fine red and white Cotes-du-Rhone, certified biodynamic. The 2016 white is lovely with aromas of white flowers (think jasmine, honeysuckle), an appealing waxy texture, and flavors reminiscent both of familiar orchards and more exotic tropical fruits. Enjoy this by itself or with broiled seafood dishes. ABV: 13.5 percent.

Distributed by Elite: Available in the District at Wardman Wines; on the list at Bombay Club, Free State. Available in Maryland at 5 O’clock Wines & Spirits in Owings Mills, Bay Ridge Wine & Spirits and Eastport Liquors in Annapolis, Frederick Wine House in Frederick, Wine Merchant in Lutherville; on the list at Black Market Bistro in Garrett Park. Available in Virginia at the Bottle Stop in Occoquan; on the list at Restaurant at Patowmack Farm in Lovettsville.

Finca Río Negro 992 2015

Tierra de Castilla, Spain, $18

This is a fun blend of tempranillo and syrah, on the lighter side and a good partner for grilled or roast meat or pasta dishes. ABV: 14 percent.

Distributed by Siema: Available in the District at Cleveland Park Wine and Spirits, DCanter, Wagshal’s Deli (Massachusetts Avenue); on the list at Bombay Club. Available in Maryland at Cranberry Liquors in Westminster, Fenwick Beer & Wine in Silver Spring, Old Line Fine Wine, Spirits & Bistro in Beltsville, Wine Market in Baltimore; on the list at Gnocco in Baltimore, Takoma Beverage Company in Takoma Park. Available in Virginia at Chain Bridge Cellars in McLean, Little Washington Winery Tasting Room, Planet Wine & Gourmet in Alexandria, Sonny’s Fine Wine and Beer in Henrico, Unwined in Belleview.

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.

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