My favorite is the 2006 Monterey Chardonnay, which at $15 could set the benchmark for unoaked versions of this popular grape. It features citrus, apple, and pear flavors with tight structure and acidity, a natural focus and breeding that most winemakers try to spank into their wines with oak.
Almost as good are the 2005 California Zinfandel ($15) and the 2004 California Cabernet Sauvignon “Blend 815” ($17). Don’t let the California designation fool you into thinking these are common plonk—these are deftly blended wines fashioned by a palate skilled in featuring the nuances of each grape.
Unfortunately, these wines are not produced in large numbers, and they’re not widely available in this area. In DC, they can be found at Pearson’s (2436 Wisconsin Ave., NW; 202-333-6666) and Potomac Wine & Spirits (3100 M St., NW; 202-333-2848); in Maryland at Waugh Chapel Village Wines & Spirits (2646 Chapel Lake Dr., Gambrills; 410-451-9100) and Wine Cellars of Annapolis (1410 Forest Dr., Annapolis; 410-216-9080); and in Virginia at the Wine Cabinet (1416 North Point Village Center, Reston; 703-668-9463), Church Street Cellars (111 Church St., Vienna; 703-255-0550), Balducci’s (600 Franklin St., Alexandria; 703-549-6611), and Whole Foods (1700 Duke St., Alexandria; 703-706-0891).