Priorat is known for heady, high-alcohol reds from garnacha (grenache), grown on slate soils called “llicorella” in hills near the Mediterranean coast in northeastern Spain. This intriguing example offers attractive perfume of roasted fruits and wild herbs, and a sense of adventure. ABV: 14.5 percent.
DOMAINE DU MONT EPIN MACON PERONNE
Chardonnay shines in the Maconnais, and Domaine du Mont Épin doesn’t disappoint with this racy white that combines fruit, flowers and minerals in its flavor profile. ABV: 13 percent.
Imported and distributed by Artisans & Vines in the District and Maryland, distributed by LK Wine Tours and Sales in Virginia: Available in the District at Cleveland Park Wine and Spirits, Morris Miller Wine & Liquor, Rodman’s. Available in Maryland at Bethesda Co-Op in Cabin John; Bradley Food & Beverage in Bethesda; Crescent Beer & Wine in Bowie; Downtown Crown Wine and Beer, Finewine.com and Wine Harvest in Gaithersburg; Franklin’s Restaurant, Brewery and General Store in Hyattsville; Rodman’s in White Flint; Snider’s Super Foods in Silver Spring; Takoma Park-Silver Spring Co-op in Takoma Park. Available in Virginia at Aldie Peddler in Aldie, Bonnie Blue Southern Market and Bakery and Murphy Beverage in Winchester, Mt. Airy Farm Market in Boyce, Rio Hill Wine & Gourmet in Charlottesville, Woodstock Cafe & Shoppes in Woodstock.
NV Louis Massing Brut Blanc de Blanc “Grand Cru”
My recent tasting of the three Louis Massing Champagnes was my first encounter with them, and our love affair is off to a flying start. All three are quite good, but this Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs release is definitely the pick of the litter to my palate. I can’t say whether the fruit was sourced entirely from the famous Chardonnay-producing village of Avize, but that’s where the producer is located. In any case, the core material was certainly very good, as was the winemaking, as this shows wonderful purity as well as fine concentration, complexity, depth and length. In sum, it displays the freshness and elegance expected of a Blanc de Blancs Champagne while also delivering the complexity and flavor impact appropriate for a Grand Cru wine. I also love the fact that this $55 bottle tastes like a $75 Champagne.
NV Louis Massing Brut Rose “Ier Cru”
This is a very good Rosé Champagne, exhibiting the richness and depth of flavor expected by buyers of Rosé, but without veering to the extreme of seeming too obviously fruity or “winey” at the cost of the fluffiness and charm that any Champagne show also deliver. A genuinely dry wine, it is nevertheless not austere at all, and the winemaking team got the dosage just right. Appropriately expressive yeastiness provides complexity without proving distracting, and the finish shows enough acidity to keep this fresh and enable it to work well as an aperitif or a partner for a seated first course.
NV Louis Massing Brut “Grande Reserve”
This non-vintage Brut from Louis Massing is significantly better than many comparable wines from big Champagne houses, so you should seriously consider it when stocking up for holiday celebrations this year. Medium-plus in body, it offers expressive aromas and quite impressive depth of flavor. Nicely fresh but also quite complex (no doubt thanks to a judicious dose of reserve wine from years prior to the base vintage), this is very satisfying while also staying light on its feet.
Grapillon d’Or Gigondas “Cuvee 1806”
Ripe, rounded and inviting in feel, delivering blueberry, blackberry and raspberry reduction flavors rolling through in waves, kept bright with fresh, well-embedded acidity and a lilting violet note. A flash of roasted apple wood shows on the finish. Best from 2020 through 2035. 4,900 cases made.
CROIX D’OR SYRAH ROSE
This wine, from vineyards near Carcassonne along France’s Mediterranean coast, is classic rosé — flavors of citrus and melon, with wild herbs and a hint of sea air. Soak this up with the late-summer sunshine and some garlicky, spicy snacks. ABV: 12.5 percent.
Lustig Gruner Veltliner
In Austria, the fad is to drink the freshest wine from the most recent vintage. But good gruner veltliner needs some bottle age to show its talents. When I first tasted the Lustig, I shrugged and thought, “Yeah, it’s gruner.” After about 30 minutes, I did a double take. The aromas of white flowers and the talc-like minerality I love in Austrian gruner had unfurled, and the wine was simply delicious. It kept improving over the next hour or so, adding a refreshing lime zest quality on the finish.
Perfectus Pinot Grigio
So many Italian Pinot Grigios merely “get the job done,” washing down light appetizers and taking the edge off the day. This sprightly wine does more, adding citrus scents and melon flavors that suggest an alfresco luncheon of salads or light pasta dishes. Hey, we can dream, can’t we? ABV: 12 percent.
Domaine Naturaliste Rebus Cabernet Sauvignon 2015
The Rebus is a big step up from the Discovery Range Cabernet. It offers blackberry, mulberry and dried herbs on a lively bouquet. Thick, concentrated, ripe, inky fruit shows on a silky textured palate. Outstanding value! Sourced from the Wilyabrup region and aged 14 months in 40% new French oak.
Domaine Naturaliste Chardonnay 2016
Rich Chardonnay fruit with hints of flint appear on the nose and are picked up again on a well-balanced palate. The fruit component is especially clean and bright with brisk acidity. A nice rich extract shows on the finish. Made from the Margaret River low-yielding Gingin clone, which winemakers like for its flavor intensity, attributable in part to its susceptibility to scatter. Matured 7 months in used French oak. An unusually good Chardonnay for the price.
Domaine Naturaliste Cabernet Sauvignon 2015
This nicely priced Cabernet offers plenty of flavor and a nice, silky mouth feel. It reveals generous flavors of plum and berries and appealing suggestions of garden herbs. The finish is long and symmetrical. The fruit comes from Wilabrup and the Cowaramup area just south of it. Matured in used French oak for one year.
Domaine Naturaliste Chardonnay 2016
Succulent, with peach and apricot flavors that give way to a juicy
core of dried mango and Meyer lemon notes. The details dance
around effortlessly, with fennel, cumin and white pepper accents
lingering on the silky finish. Drink now through 2022.
Lost Inhibitions Red Blend 2014
Dried-fruit flavors of prune and raisin lend a very ripe, dense richness to this high-powered full bodied wine. It has good supportive acidity and tannins to balance out the ripeness.
Three Sisters and A Brother Shiraz
Chateau des Collines Medoc Bordeaux 2015
Bordeaux lovers know to seek out wines from exceptional vintages, such as 2015. This is a blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon, petit verdot and cabernet franc, and it is textbook Bordeaux: Aromas of blackberry and graphite combine with a minerally core and soft, ripe tannins for a rich, satisfying wine. Alcohol by volume: 13 percent.
Domaine Naturaliste Chardonnay 2015
Here’s a case study in why we shouldn’t rely on snap judgments when tasting wine. My first sip of this Australian chardonnay, just liberated from under its screw cap, was a bit reductive and sulfury. But I could tell there was good fruit underneath. So I poured a glass through an aerator, a device designed to let wine breathe in a hurry. It tasted better, more fruity. Then after an hour or so, the wine showed tropical fruit and nice richness, with a savory acidity that called for rich seafood or poultry dishes. So if you do find a screw-capped wine tasting a bit off at first, give it some air — pour it in a decanter and slosh it around a bit. Liberate that fruit! ABV: 13 percent.
Matakana Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2016
This fine Marlborough Sauvignon succeeds by…not trying too hard. Many renditions of this famous wine category are exciting to taste but tiring to drink. Not this one. It shows expressive aromatics without shading over into pungency, and offers zesty acidity without seemingly overly tart or screechy. The fruit is fully ripe, but the residual sugar level keeps this from tasting overtly sweet, which is another virtue differentiating it from many current releases from Marlborough. Very well done, and a strong value too.
Domaine Naturaliste Chardonnay 2015
Zonte’s Footstep Sauvignon Blanc 2016
Rife with citrus flavor and refreshing acidity, this is a zesty sauvignon blanc. Enjoy it with seafood salad and other summery seafood dishes. ABV: 13 percent.
Matakana Sauvignon Blanc 2015
Pucker up, friends, and accept the kiss of acidity Matakana’s Sauvignon Blanc is going to bestow on you. After inhaling the wine’s deep, rich fragrance (reminiscent of green rain forest plants plus hints of citrus) the tingling embrace of acidity seems absolutely perfect. Of course you’ll want to pair the wine with some oysters on the half shell, but you can also enjoy it with other nautical fare — grilled shrimp or a crab cake sandwich, for example.
Three Sisters And A Brother Red Blend 2015
An easy drinking GSM that includes about 40 percent 80 year old bush vine Grenache in the mix. It shows pleasing flavors of dark red fruit on a peppery, ripe tasting palate.
Three Sisters And A Brother Shiraz 2015
Offering a very attractive perfume of black raspberry, cracked pepper, and a hint of cassis, this is a most appealing, popularly priced Shiraz. It has a lovely, fleshy texture, dark berries, and a hint of garden herbs on a nicely structured palate. Matured 12 months in French and American oak, about 20% new.
Zonte’s Footstep Avalon Tree Cabernet 2015
Our favorite of the tasting. This 85/15 blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Tempranillo offers blackberry, plum, spice box, and just a touch of eucalyptus mint. It’s densely flavored, firmly structured, and has an amazing long, richly extracted finish. Superb Value.
Zonte’s Footstep Canto Di Lago Sangiovese/Barbera 2014
This wine takes the prize for originality and for success in harnessing the Sangiovese grape, which rarely does well outside its native Tuscany. Perhaps it’s the Brunello clone that makes a difference here. This 55/45 blend of Sangiovese and Barbera offers that tell tale red cherry Sangiovese character along with a touch of Tuscan underbrush combined with Barbera’s bright acidity. The result is a fresh, flavorful red-fruited wine that packed with flavor. It’s very firm finish makes this a wine for food, pasta or pizza, preferably
Zonte’s Footstep Chocolate Factory Shiraz 2015
Stylistically different from the Lake Doctor Shiraz, the Chocolate Factory is fresher with more red fruit and a beautiful firm but refined structure. It has a silky milk chocolate mouthfeel and appealing cherry conpote and crushed plum flavors. But don’t expect the charred oak flavors that most wines carrying the name “chocolate” have. This wine is much more subtle, and better.
Zonte’s Footstep Lake Doctor Shiraz 2015
Offering a fresh, dark plum and berry nose, the Lake Doctor Shiraz offers a soft attack and abundant fruit on a smooth palate. It’s ripe but not over-ripe with nice dark berry, licorice, and black olive flavors and a slowly mounting spicenss. Co-fermented with about 2% Viognier and matured in used oak, mostly French.
Zonte’s Footstep Excalibur Sauvignon Blanc 2016
This Australian Sauvignon Blanc bears more resemblance to California than New Zealand in its lush citrus and tropical fruit that runs from the first whiff of the glass to a lingering finish. In between, there’s flavorful grapefruit with a touch of lime zest and crisp acidity. A perfect wine for sipping well-chilled on a hot summer day, or any other time. Brad does two picks to get the right combination of acidity and ripe flavor
Domaine Weinberg Riesling 2015
Riesling can be a great warm-weather wine (though I’ll drink it any time of year). This one is bright and fruity, with appealing sweetness balanced by acidity. Its low alcohol makes it extra attractive for summer. Drink this by itself or with salty, spicy appetizers. Smoked fish comes to mind. ABV: 9 percent.
Distributed by Global Wine: Available in the District at Cork & Fork, Odd Provisions, Rodman’s. Available in Maryland at Belby Discount Beer & Wine in Rockville, Beer Wine & Co. in Bethesda, Fenwick Beer & Wine in Silver Spring, Finewine.com in Gaithersburg, Kings Contrivance Liquor Shop in Columbia, Old Town Market in Kensington, Rodman’s (Wheaton, White Flint), Takoma Park-Silver Spring Co-op.
Lost Inhibitions White 2015
Lost Inhibitions has a white blend and a red, each marketed with a variety of labels that can be cheeky or profane. My bottle of the white asked, “Too Soon?” I tend to be leery of wines that rely too much on cute labeling, but this one charmed me. It’s a blend of chardonnay and sauvignon blanc, with a sploosh of muscat to give it a flowery aroma and a touch of sweetness. Drink this by itself or with spicy Asian dishes.
Distributed by Hop & Wine in the District and Virginia; DOPS in Maryland, except for Montgomery County, where it is distributed by Artisans & Vines: Available in the District at 1 West Dupont Circle Wines & Liquors, Broad Branch Market, Schneider’s of Capitol Hill. Available in Maryland at Bradley Food & Beverage in Bethesda, DJ Liquors and Old Farm Liquors in Frederick, Downtown Crown Wine & Beer and Finewine.com in Gaithersburg, Fenwick Beer & Wine and Snider’s Super Foods in Silver Spring, Montgomery County Liquor Stores (various locations), Old Town Market in Kensington, the Perfect Pour in Elkridge, Wine Works in Baltimore.
The Washington Post- Koster Wolf Riesling 2014
This dry Riesling is delightfully balanced with apple and fruit flavors and refreshing acidity, making it a nice partner for casual pasta or seafood dishes. The liter-size bottle makes it an extra value for dinners or parties. ABV: 12 percent.
Distributed by Free Run (Artisans & Vines in Montgomery County): Available in the District at A. Litteri, Odd Provisions, Soapstone Market. Available in Maryland at Adega Wine Cellars & Cafe and Fenwick Beer & Wine in Silver Spring; Beer Wine & Co., Capital Beer & Wine, Cork & Fork and News Express in Bethesda; Downtown Crown Wine and Beer and Finewine.com in Gaithersburg. On the list at Alonso’s in Baltimore, the Daily Dish in Silver Spring. Available in Virginia at Ellwood Thompson’s Local Market in Richmond, Vino Market in Midlothian, Vinosity in Culpeper, the Pottery Factory in Williamsburg.
Belle Jardin Blanc de Blancs Brut
What a delightful sparkling wine, delicious and cheap! This bargain bubbly should be an easy choice for large parties, weddings or weekday celebrations. Stock up. ABV: 11.5 percent. Distributed by Hop and Wine in the District and Virginia, Artisans & Vines in Maryland: Available in the District at Cork & Fork, Streets Market and Café, Union Kitchen Grocery; on the list at Bistrot Lepic, Hank’s Oyster Bar (Dupont Circle). Available in Maryland at Bradley Food and Beverage in Bethesda, Fenwick Beer & Wine in Silver Spring. Available in Virginia at Altura Wine & Gourmet in Alexandria, Vienna Vintner in Vienna; on the list at Bastille, Hank’s Oyster Bar and Hank’s Pasta Bar in Alexandria, Lyon Hall and Northside Social in Arlington, Sal’s Italian Bistro.
Domaine Puig-Parahy Georges 2011
This is a rustic red from southern France, ripe, brambly and spicy in a rough-and-tumble sort of way. Try this when fun is on the menu.
Matakana Estate Pinot Noir 2014
This pinot noir offers darker fruit flavors of blackberry and cherry rather than the brighter style more characteristic of Marlborough. The balance is pitch-perfect, with bright acidity. Pair this with charcuterie, grilled veggies and other lighter summer foods. ABV: 13.5 percent.
Weingut Köster-Wolf Müller-Thurgau Halbtrocken 2015
Müller-Thurgau has a reputation for making innocuous white wine, but this charmer is terrific – bright and fruity, with flavors of ripe peaches and apricots. This is an ideal house wine, not just for the rest of summer, but through the fall, and it’s an even better value for being in a liter-size bottle. ABV: 12 percent.
Distributed by Free Run (Artisans & Vines in Montgomery County): Available in the District at Broad Branch Market, Central Liquors, Cordial Fine Wine & Spirits, DCanter, Irving Wine & Spirits; on the list at Open City. Available in Maryland at Bethesda Co-Op in Cabin John, Dawson’s Market in Rockville, Rodman’s (White Flint).