Tasting Virginia wines Michael Dresser

January 16, 1994

All wines were bought at Total Beverage in Alexandria, Va. Prices in Maryland may be higher.


* 1990 Montdomaine Cabernet Sauvignon, Monticello region ($13). Here is a serious wine -- one of the best reds produced in the East. It's packed with dense black cherry fruit and has terrific intensity and persistence on the palate. Its soft tannins could be deceptive. This wine has definite aging potential.

* 1990 Montdomaine Heritage, Monticello region ($12). This blend of 45 percent cabernet franc, 35 percent merlot and 20 percent cabernet sauvignon is exuberantly flavorful, with flamboyant fruit flavors and the characteristic spiciness of the cabernet franc. A wonderful blend, ready to drink now, at a very fair price.

* 1991 Oasis Merlot ($12). This medium-bodied merlot is packed with black cherry and black currant fruit. Its texture is smooth and gentle, but there's plenty of grip and intensity in its flavors. Delightful to drink now.

* 1991 Oasis Cabernet Sauvignon ($11). This solidly constructed, intensely flavored medium-bodied cabernet could use a year or two of age, but it offers considerable pleasure right now. There's plenty of black cherry fruit, with a lightly herbal nuance that doesn't go overboard. It's slightly more rustic than the merlot, but also well-made.

Dry whites

* 1992 Horton Vineyards Viognier, Orange County ($21). This racy, spicy, vibrant wine is one of the best American examples of this cult varietal. Flavors of peach and tropical spices give it an extra kick seldom seen outside of Condrieu, the ancestral home of this wonderful, exotic varietal.

* 1991 Piedmont Special Reserve Chardonnay ($11). This toasty, balanced wine is an exceptional value -- medium-bodied, but with gripping flavor and a pleasant hint of lemon.

* 1992 Prince Michael de Virginia Chardonnay ($9). Here's a thoroughly exuberant, unabashedly pleasurable wine with flavor of vanilla and banana to go with exceptional acidity.

* 1992 Rapidan River Semi-dry White Riesling ($8). It's not the equivalent of a top German riesling, but this zingy wine is better than 90 percent of U.S. rieslings. In this case, semi-dry does not mean overly sweet. There's some residual sugar, but it's well-balanced. The wine would be great with Sichuan cuisine.

* 1991 Linden Chardonnay ($13). This is not a big, buttery cabernet, but there is a dramatic element to its flavors. It's lean, electrically vibrant, with great structure and mineral character. There seems to be fine aging capability here. This is a puzzling wine -- certainly not for everybody -- but in its lean way it has wonderful, complex flavors of sage and melon.

* 1992 Ingleside Plantation Special Reserve Chardonnay ($15). There's nothing much wrong about this wine. Neither is there anything exceptionally right. It's pleasant. lightly oaky, balanced, but not terribly gripping. Pleasant but overpriced.

* 1991 Deer Meadow Special Reserve Seyval Blanc ($8). This dry, herbal-tasting wine shows considerable class, even though it lacks a pure vinifera pedigree. The pear-like, spicy flavor is appealing, but it falls short of the best seyvals, which just happen to come from Maryland.

* 1992 Oasis Vineyard Barrel Select Chardonnay ($15). This vineyard's spectacular improvement in red wines isn't reflected in this white. There are some pleasant flavors, but the sage-like, herbal element is too pronounced and there's a thinness to the finish.

* 1991 Piedmont Vineyards Semillon, 50 percent, and Sauvignon Blanc, 50 percent ($16). There's a wonderful wine hidden here, beneath an oppressive layer of sulfur. I doubt many tasters will ever reach its core of great flavors. The raw material was great, but that matchbox odor never fully blew off, and an hour after opening there was still a burning quality on the palate. The potential here is exciting.

Dessert wine

* 1992 Oasis Nectar of Traminer ($9, half bottle). Purists might balk at this luscious, lightly sweet wine, but I suspect most wine drinkers will be charmed by its flavors of melon, peach and

mulled-wine spices. Many sweet gewurztraminers are cloying, but this one is preserved from that fate by its vibrant acidity.

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