The Wine Guy: Giving Local Wines Their Due

Virginia is one of the country's best sources for Viognier. So why is Proof, the new wine-centric restaurant in Penn Quarter, serving a bottle from California?

Like many vinoscenti in the DC area, I eagerly awaited the opening of Proof restaurant (775 G St., NW; 202-737-7663) in Penn Quarter, with its wine theme and extensive by-the-glass offerings that encourage exploration. But I was surprised, even dismayed, to find an unspectacular mass-produced Viognier from California featured on its list. Given the number of excellent Viogniers available from Virginia – a region already known for the grape – why offer the Bridlewood 2005 Reserve, a Gallo label with 12,000 cases in production?           

Sebastian Zutant, Proof’s sommelier, told me he selected the Bridlewood for its “unique characteristics.”

 “It has a great level of acidity, and Viognier can be flabby,” he explained. “This one has the richness of Viognier with greater acidity.”          

Still, in an age when restaurants boast about their local meats and produce, it’s time to pay attention to local wines, especially when they are good. Zutant does have a late-harvest Viognier from Virginia’s Delfosse winery on his dessert list. Produced as an ersatz ice wine (the grapes are frozen after they are picked rather than picked while frozen on the vine), it is delicious. But Delfosse also produced a spectacular 2006 Reserve Viognier that offers the unctuous body and vibrant acidity Zutant is seeking, along with the grape’s enticing floral and tropical flavors that I found lacking in the Bridlewood.

“I’m working the local stuff in slowly but surely,” Zutant says, mentioning a Chambourcin from Oakencroft Winery on his list. With the rise in quality and the increasing number of  boutique wineries in Virginia and Maryland, he should find plenty to choose from.