★ ★ ★Exceptional ★ ★Excellent ★Very Good
Availability information is based on distributor records. Wines might not be in stock at every listed store and might be found at additional stores. Prices are approximate. Check Winesearcher.com to verify availability, or ask a favorite wine store to order through a distributor.
Here are four top examples of local wines made from unusual grape varieties. Some of them may be in very limited distribution, but they are all available from the wineries.
★ ★ 1 / 2
Albariño is the popular white wine from the Rias Baixas region of northwest Spain and from northern Portugal, where it’s called alvarinho. The Chrysalis version is racy and fruity, less earthy than in Spain. It’s excellent with shellfish. Other recommended producers: Willowcroft, Sunset Hills Vineyard and Ingleside Vineyards in Virginia; Black Ankle Vineyards and Old Westminster Winery in Maryland. Alcohol by volume: 13.6 percent.
★ ★ 1 / 2
Monticello, Va., $30
Virginia winemakers have not reached a consensus on whether petit manseng should be dry, off-dry or overtly sweet, which increases the sense of adventure for wine lovers but also the danger. We don’t know what we’re getting until we pull the cork and taste it. Shaps has made a classy, elegant version, with the grape’s overt fruitiness tamed. A little time and air will coax out beguiling orange blossom and tropical flavors. This is a fun wine to savor. Other recommended producers: Glen Manor Vineyards, Linden Vineyards, Lovingston Winery and Veritas Vineyard & Winery in Virginia. ABV: 14.6 percent.
★ ★ 1 / 2
Monticello, Va., $32
Stinson is a young, rising-star winery just outside Charlottesville. Its tannat is vibrantly fruity, with good structure to keep the flavors going for an impressive length. Two other 2011 tannats — from Horton Cellars and Fabbioli Cellars — won gold-medal honors at this year’s Governor’s Cup competition, suggesting that this grape can perform well in wet vintages. Other recommended producers: Hillsborough Vineyards, Horton Cellars and Fabbioli Cellars in Virginia. ABV: 13 percent.
Winemaker Luca Paschina was enjoying vermentino from Tuscany and Sardinia during a trip back home to Italy a few years ago when he had the idea to plant the variety in Virginia. His first vintage, in 2010, proved it can thrive here, and the wine keeps getting better with each vintage. Great acidity and mineral flavors make it ideal for seafood salads and other light dishes from the sea. ABV: 12.6 percent.