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From reading the comments on my recommendations, it would seem that most people just want a good, cheap buzz. But wouldn’t you rather have a better cheap buzz? Here are five wines that justify a little research — or maybe just attention — to what you are buying so that you can have a much better drinking experience.
We start with a California red blend. Yawn, you say? But look at its pedigree. Then we have two outstanding chardonnays, one from a quality producer in a value region of Burgundy, another from a region better known for another grape — both excellent values. To top off this list as we (finally!) transition to warmer weather, we have a rosé from a lesser-known region of Italy and a steak-worthy bargain red from Argentina to stock our summer wine lists.
During the covid-19 situation, check with your local wine store to ensure they are open and for the availability of these wines.
The Paring 2015 Red
Here’s where a little knowledge can go a long way. A wine simply marked “California” might suggest an innocuous, inexpensive wine. But the Paring is a label from two highly regarded Santa Barbara County wineries, Jonata and the Hilt, using grapes from younger vineyards or barrels that didn’t quite make the more expensive wines. The Paring’s other wines — syrah, chardonnay and pinot noir — are all designated from Santa Barbara County and its subregions. So it is reasonable to assume that some of this delicious Bordeaux-style blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc and petit verdot is sourced from farther north. The winery doesn’t tell us where the grapes came from, but Napa Valley cult winery Screaming Eagle is under the same ownership, so it figures they would have access to some good fruit. Winemaker Matt Dees has crafted an elegant, energetic wine that combines power with finesse. The winery is donating $1 for each bottle sold through the end of June to the Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation. Alcohol by volume: 14.5 percent.
Distributed by Salveto: Available in Maryland at Wine Source in Baltimore. Available in Virginia at Arrowine and Cheese and Crystal City Wine Shop in Arlington; Balducci’s (Alexandria, McLean, Reston); Chain Bridge Cellars in McLean; Department of Beer and Wine, Planet Wine & Gourmet and Unwined (King Street, Belle View) in Alexandria; Norm’s Beer & Wine in Vienna; Oakton Wine Shop in Oakton; Pazzo Pomodoro in Ashburn; Puck’s Market in Henrico; the Wine Outlet (Great Falls, McLean, Vienna).
Céline et Laurent Tripoz Cuvée du Clocher Mâcon-Loché 2017
Burgundy, France, $26
Tripoz has consistently been among my favorite producers since I started writing this column in 2008. The chardonnays and sparkling wines are top-notch and reasonably priced. That’s a hallmark of Macon, a region in southern Burgundy known for good quality-price ratio, or QPR in wine-geek speak. This wine is effusive in its expression of orchard fruit flavors — apple, apricot and pear — with a hint of lemon curd and buttery brioche. Demeter certified as biodynamic. ABV: 13 percent.
Imported and distributed by Elite: Available in the District at Cork Wine Bar and Market, Dixie Liquor, Domestique Wine, Rodman’s. Available in Maryland at Balducci’s and Bethesda Market in Bethesda, Bin 201 Wine Sellers in Annapolis, State Line Liquors in Elkton, Wine Bin in Ellicott City, Viniferous in Frederick. Available in Virginia at Crystal City Wine Shop in Arlington, Whole Foods Market in Fairfax.
Catena High Mountain Vines Chardonnay 2018
Mendoza, Argentina, $18
Argentina is best known for its malbec, and the Catena winery helped forge that reputation. The country’s chardonnay, though overlooked, is often fantastic, especially when grown in high-altitude vineyards. This attractively priced wine is lithe and racy, with peach and apricot notes and just enough oak to give it backbone. ABV: 13.5 percent.
Imported and distributed by Winebow: Available in the District at Rodman’s, Safeway (Wisconsin Avenue). Available in Maryland at Balducci’s, Bradley Food & Beverage, Georgetown Square Wine and Beer and Shuvam Beer and Wine in Bethesda; Bel Pre Beer & Wine, Fenwick Beer & Wine and Woodmoor Supermarket in Silver Spring; Bin 604 Wine Sellers and Wine Source in Baltimore; Choice Wine & Beer and Wheaton Winery in Wheaton; Downtown Crown Wine and Beer in Gaithersburg; Mills Fine Wine and Spirits in Annapolis; the Perfect Pour in Elkridge; Rodman’s in White Flint; Total Wine & More in Laurel. Available in Virginia at Balducci’s (Alexandria, McLean, Reston), Chain Bridge Cellars in McLean, Wegmans (Alexandria, Chantilly, Fairfax, Leesburg), Whole Foods Market in Tysons.
Cavalchina Bardolino Chiaretto 2019
Here’s a bright, fruity rosé from an unfamiliar appellation — “Denominazione di Origine Controllata” in Italian bureaucracy-speak. Don’t let that deter you from trying this beauty. This is serious wine, delicious with its core of refreshing acidity swathed in ripe, sweet flavors of strawberries and melon. ABV: 12.5 percent.
Imported by deGrazia Imports, distributed by Bacchus: Available in the District at A. Litteri, Ace Beverage, Calvert Woodley, Cork Wine Bar and Market, Modern Liquors, Rodman’s. Available in Maryland at Bay Ridge Wine & Spirits, Giolitti Delicatessen and the Italian Market in Annapolis; Edgewater Liquors in Edgewater; Fishpaws Marketplace in Arnold; Friendship Wine & Liquors in Abingdon; Piazza Italian Market and Wishing Well Liquors in Easton; Wine Source in Baltimore. Available in Virginia at Chain Bridge Cellars in McLean.
Santa Julia Reserva Mountain Blend Malbec-Cabernet Franc 2018
Valle de Uco, Mendoza, Argentina, $13
The Zuccardi family has long excelled at producing good-quality wines at bargain prices with their Santa Julia wines. This delicious full-bodied, juicy red blend should be in everyone’s collection for summer — give it a slight chill in the fridge or an ice bath while the steak is on the grill. ABV: 14 percent.
Imported by Winesellers, distributed by Winebow: Available in the District at Calvert Woodley, Lion’s Fine Wine & Spirits, Paul’s of Chevy Chase, Rodman’s, Wardman Wines, Whole Foods Market (P Street). Available in Maryland at Beer, Wine & Co., Bradley Food & Beverage and Lance’s Beer & Wine in Bethesda; Downtown Crown Wine and Beer in Gaithersburg; Edgewater Liquors in Edgewater; Fishpaws Marketplace in Arnold; Grosvenor Market in Rockville; Laurel Beer, Wine & Spirits in Laurel; Montgomery County Wine & Liquor Stores in Wheaton; Old Town Market in Kensington; the Perfect Pour in Elkridge; Rodman’s in White Flint; Snider’s Super Foods and Woodmoor Supermarket in Silver Spring; Takoma Park-Silver Spring Co-Op in Takoma Park; Thirsty’s Wine and Spirits in Oxon Hill. Available in Virginia at Balducci’s (Alexandria, McLean, Reston), Whole Foods Market (Alexandria, Tysons).
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.