Hello, it’s Angela! Here’s a list of some of my favorites wines. My criteria are that they’re easy to find in the D.C. metro area, they offer both quality and value year in and year out, and they’re relatively affordable. There are a couple exceptions: several of these are worth ordering online and/or at a higher price. Each item includes an abbreviated list of retailers likely to carry it. (I’ve either seen it on their shelves or it’s listed in their inventory on wine-searcher.com.) A complete list of abbreviations and retailers follows at the end of the article. So you can take this list shopping, I provide a print friendly PDF on my website.
DRY CRISP WHITES: These are all refreshing and fruity with notes of citrus and green fruit. Serve refrigerator cold.
- Cupcake Sauvignon Blanc. Marlborough, New Zealand. This is a lovely, light, crisp, grapefruit-flavored wine. It retails for under $10, (Costco, supermarkets)
- Fox Run Dry Riesling. Finger Lakes, New York State. This Riesling is refreshingly dry, crisp, and lemony. For more information, see my earlier review. Winery suggested retail $16, but Wegmans discounts that price for a great deal. (Wegmans)
- Hughes Beaulieu Picpoul de Pinet. Languedoc, France. This wine is crisp with grapefruit notes, similar to a Sauvignon Blanc. It usually retails for under $10. (Whole, MacArthur, Calvert, Bell)
- Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc. Marlborough, New Zealand. This one offers grapefruit and orange blossom. It retails for $8-$12. (supermarkets, Total, and many wine shops)
- Ten Sisters Sauvignon Blanc. Marlborough, New Zealand. This recent find offers a burst of grapefruit and is a bargain at $12. (Bell, MacArthur, Calvert, and dozens more; see the “find us” link on the website)
DRY, SOFT, ROUND WHITES: These wines are fruity with flavors of ripe red apples, baked apples, stone fruit (peaches), melon, pear, and/or tropical fruits. Take these out of the fridge and let warm for a few minutes before drinking.
- Albino Armani Pinot Grigio Valdadige. Veneto, Italy. This wine offers apple, peaches, some citrus, and retails for $13. (Total).
- Di Lenardo Pinot Grigio. Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy. This wine’s profile includes citrus, pear, and some floral notes, but it also has a richness that is uncommon in many Pinot Grigio wines. For more information see my earlier review. It retails for about $12. (Bell, Calvert, Unwined, and more).
- Fox Run Unoaked Chardonnay. Finger Lakes, New York State. This wine offers apples, pear, and some spice. It retails for under $10 at Wegmans. For more information see my earlier review. (Wegmans)
- Kim Crawford Unoaked Chardonnay. Marlborough, New Zealand. This wine tastes like peaches, citrus, and grape juice. It retails for about $13. (Chevy, MacArthur, Total)
- The Pines Pinot Gris. Columbia Gorge, Oregon. This one tastes of apples, pear, some citrus, and pineapple. For more details, see my earlier post. It retails for $16. (Unwined).
AROMATIC WHITE WINES.These wines offer intense floral and perfume notes and rich fruits—apricots, cooked peaches, and orange blossom, apple pie. Some are off-dry (slightly sweet). Serve chilled.
- Conundrum. California. This wine is a blend of grapes (Sauvignon Blanc, Muscat Canelli, Viognier, and Chardonnay). It has a tropical, fruity flavor. It retails for $20-$25, sometimes more. (Total Wine, Costco, Supermarkets, Bell, many wine shops)
- Crios de Susana Balbo Torrontes. Cafayate, Argentina. This wine offers floral and sweet aromas of peaches and some citrus (lime). See my earlier review for more information. It retails for about $15. (Bell, MacArthur, Calvert).
- Finca La Linda Torrontes. Mendoza, Argentina. This wine tastes of honey, citrus (orange and lime), and tropical fruit. See my earlier review for more information. It retails for under $10. (Unwined).
- Trimbach Gewürztraminer. Alsace, France. This wine has flavors of apricot, lychee fruit, sweet citrus (oranges), and honey. See my earlier review for more details. It retails for $16-$20. (Chevy, MacArthur, Calvert, Total, and many more).
FULL-BODY WHITES.These oaked Chardonnay wines have undergone malolactic fermentation, which creates creamy and buttery notes. They have less pronounced fruit flavors and more vanilla, oak, butterscotch and/or nutty flavors. Serve only lightly chilled; overly cold temperatures will inhibit flavors.
- Artesa Chardonnay. Carneros, Napa Valley, California. This one possesses a nice balance of fruit, oak, and cream. It retails for $15-$20. (Total, Bell, Chevy Chase).
- Bouchaine Chardonnay, Estate Vineyard. Carneros, Napa Valley, California. So far, everyone I have shared this wine with has responded with “Mmmm” immediately after the first sip. It possesses great balance of fruit (apple/pear/citrus) with butterscotch. Unfortunately, it’s hard to find in D.C., so mail order may the best option. It retails at the winery for $25.
- Franciscan Chardonnay. Napa Valley, California. This wine offers a solid balance of citrus, cream, and butter. (Total, Costco, supermarkets).
- J. Lohr Estates Riverstone Chardonnay. Arroyo Seco, Monterey, California. This is a soft buttery wine that delivers big for a low price. Retails for $10-$12. (Costco, Total, Supermarkets).
- J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines Chardonnay, Arroyo Vista Vineyard, Arroyo Seco. Arroyo Seco, Monterey, California. For about seven bucks more than the Riverstone, this wine offers a bigger, creamy, butterscotch profile. It retails for $17. (Total Wine, Wegmans).
- Wente Vineyards Chardonnay Riva Ranch Reserve Arroyo Seco. Arroyo Seco, Monterey, California. Wente Chardonnay offers a balance of oak, cream, and citrus, plus some additional complexity from the inclusion of one percent Gewurztraminer in the blend. It retails for $15-$18 (Total, supermarkets)
- Wente Chardonnay, Morning Fog. Livermore Valley, California. This one is very similar in style to the Riva Ranch, but less expensive. It retails for $10-$15. (Total, supermarkets, sometimes Costco).
LIGHT-BODY REDS: These are light and fruity wines with low tannin and a relatively a short finish.
- Artesa Pinot Noir Carneros. Napa Valley, California. This Pinot Noir has a delicate profile packed with red fruit flavors and spice. Get more information on Artesa in my articles here and here. It retails for about $20-$25. (Total, Bells)
- Cambria Pinot Noir, Julia’s Vineyard.Santa Barbara, California. This wine offers aromas and flavors of plum, ripe red cherries, light spice, and a touch of vanilla, with a relatively short finish. It retails for about $20. See my earlier review. (Bell, MacArthur, Calvert, supermarkets).
MEDIUM-BODY REDS: These are wines that have some complexity and length, but are not as “heavy” as the full-body dinner wines listed below.
- Barefoot Merlot. California. Wine snobs unwilling to appreciate a bargain might change their minds if they bother to taste this one. This very affordable wine offers a nice balance of berry flavors and some complexity. It over-performs for its price point of about $6. See my earlier review for more information on Barefoot Cellars.
- Bodegas Campos de Enanzo Unoaked Tempranillo. Navarra, Spain. Even with the absence of oak, this is an unusually rich wine that is soft, fruity and a bit savory. It retails for just $9.99. It’s new to the Washington, D.C., area, so keep an eye out for it.
- Benziger Merlot and Benziger Cabernet Sauvignon. Sonoma, California. These wines offer ripe red fruit and unusually soft and silky textures. They might be described as full-body, but they do seem lighter than many of the “big” wines listed below. They retail for about $16-$20. (Total, Calvert, Chevy, supermarkets).
- Cline Cellars, Cashmere. Sonoma, California. This rich plumy wine is a blend of Mourvèdre, Grenache, and Syrah. It lives up to its name with an unusually silky and soft texture. For more details about Cline Cellars see my post for the Weekly Wine Pick. It retails for about $16-$21. (Bell, Whole, Total, some supermarkets).
- Fox Run Cabernet Franc. Finger Lakes, New YorkState. This is a surprisingly light and fruity Cabernet Franc. For more details see my article on Fox Run. It retails for about $20. (Wegmans or mail order).
- Luigi Bosca Single Vineyard Malbec, DOC. Mendoza, Argentina. This Malbec is exceptionally smooth with soft berry flavors balanced with toast from oak barrels. For more information see my article on the topic. It retails for about $20. (Bell).
- Vina Santa Ema Reserve Merlot. Maipo Valley, Chile. This wine is a tremendous value offering oaky vanilla and dark berry flavors. For more information see my article. It retails for about $10. (Total).
RICH, JAMMY RED: These are mostly full-bodied wines that have unusually rich, jammy notes. They are good with food, particularly items with similar fruity qualities like barbeque ribs.
- Alto Moncayo Veraton Grenache. Campo de Borja, Spain. This wine is rich and jammy made from 100 percent Grenache grapes. For more details see my earlier review. It retails for about $30. (MacArthur, Bell)
- Cline Cellars Big Break Zinfandel. Sonoma, California. This one is dry, rich, and jammy with good acidity. You can order direct from Cline Cellars or check online for other options. Occasionally, you may find it at wine.com. It retails for about $30.
- Cline Cellars Zinfandel. Sonoma, California. Cline’s value-priced basic Zinfandel deserves much praise because it delivers big at a value price of about $10 a bottle. (Costco, Wegmans, supermarkets).
- Mollydooker, The Boxer Shiraz. McLaren Vale, Australia. Mollydooker produces wines so fruity that the winemakers call them “fruit bombs.” They also tend to be high in alcohol. Despite that, this wine is smooth, soft and very flavorful. See We Love Shiraz for more information. It retails for about $25-$30. (Bell, Chevy, Schneider’s, Total, Cecile).
- Petite Petit, Michael David Winery. Lodi, California. This is a lovely blend of Petite Sirah and Petit Verdot. It’s plumy and full of vanilla notes with some tannic grip (but not overpowering). It retails for about $18. I believe saw this at Bell Wine and Spirits, but I am sure you can find it somewhere in D.C. Ask your wine shop to order if necessary! It is also available online.
- Seven Deadly Zins, Michael David Winery. Lodi, California. This is a rich and jammy zinfandel with lots of vanilla overtones at a budget price. It retails at a substantial discount for $12 at Total Wine, but its suggested retail is $17. (Total, Chevy, supermarkets).
FULL-BODY DINNER REDS: These are wines you can enjoy with a rich juicy steak, a grilled portabella mushroom, or something equally rich and powerful.
- Artesa Merlot and Artesa Cabernet Sauvignon. Napa Valley. California. These wines are deep, complex, with ripe berries, oak, and caramel-like flavors. For more on Artesa, see my articles here and here. Retail prices vary with Merlot starting at about $20, and the Cabernet starts at about $30. (Bell, Total)
- Bodega Norton, Malbec Reserva. Mendoza, Argentina. This Malbec offers dark fruit—black cherries and more—along with an herbaceous quality. For more information see my earlier post. It retails for about $13. (Total, Costco).
- Castillo Monjardin Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot Crianza. Navarra, Spain. Aged in French and American oak, this wine offers a soft, ripe mix of red fruit, vanilla, and oak. A fantastic buy with retail prices around $12. (Whole).
- Franciscan Merlot and Franciscan Cabernet Sauvignon. Napa Valley, California. Both of these wines are oaked, presenting cedar notes and rich berry flavors. They are particularly smooth and approachable. For more information, see my earlier review. They retail anywhere from $12-$27. (Calvert, Supermarkets, Costco, Total).
- J. Lohr Estates Los Osos Merlot. Paso Robles, California. This “big” wine has a woody, rustic quality with black fruit flavors. It retails for $12-$16. (Total, supermarkets)
- Veramonte Primus. Casablanca Valley, Chile. This wine is a Bordeaux-style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Carmenère that is aged it in both French and American oak for 12-18 months. For more details see my earlier article on Primus. It retails for about $20. (Calvert, Chevy).
- Ridgeline Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon and Ridgeline Vineyards Merlot. Sonoma, California. Artesa produces these wines (see entry above) using grapes from their vineyard in Sonoma. Like Artesa, Ridgeline is a top-tier favorite, and they are also deep, complex, with ripe berries, oak, and caramel-like flavors. Ridgeline wines retail from around $35-$40 a bottle. On occasion, you can find them at wine.com for a discount, or buy them from the winery. They have special shipping prices for the holidays.
SWEET / DESERT WINES
- Cascinetta Vietti Moscato d’ Asti. Piedmont, Italy. Like all Moscato d’Asti wines, this is a lightly sweet, low alcohol wine that is described as being fizzante, (lightly fizzy). The Cascinetta is particularly lovely, imparting flavors of peaches and rich honey. For more information see my earlier article. It retails for about $16-$20. (Bell, Cecile)
- Cline Late Harvest Mourvèdre. Sonoma, California. This is very unique: a sweet red with rich, smooth, and complex flavors, similar to a Port, but without the heavy alcohol. For more information see my earlier article. (Schneider’s)
WINE SHOP KEY
- Bell — Bell Wine and Spirits, 1821 M Street, NW WashingtonD.C., DC 20036
- Calvert — Calvert Woodley Wines & Spirits, 4339 Connecticut Avenue NWWashington, DC 20008
- Cecile — Cecile’s Wine Cellar, 1351 Chain Bridge Road, McLean, VA 22101
- Chevy — Chevy Chase Wine & Spirits, 5544 Connecticut Avenue N.W., Washington, DC 20015
- Costco — Costco, see website for locations.
- MacArthur — MacArthur Beverage, 4877 MacArthur Blvd., N.W.Washington, DC 20007
- Schneider’s — Schneider’s of Capitol Hill, 300 Massachusetts Ave, NE Washington, DC 20002
- Supermarkets — Giant, Safeway, Harris Teeter, etc.
- Total — Total Wine (locations throughout Virginia). Check their website for locations.
- Unwined — Unwined Gourmet Wine and Cigars, BradleeShopping Center, 3690-J King Street Alexandria, VA 22302; and 1600A Belle View Blvd., Alexandria, VA 22307
- Wegmans — Wegmans Supermarket. Check their website to see if you are among the select few lucky enough to live near one of the greatest supermarkets on earth.
- Whole – Whole Foods. Check their website for a store near you.