Distinctive wines are special, being memorably separated from hundreds of other wines. They can be challenging to find, because they are uncommon and many are produced in small amounts and have limited distributions.
Of course, exactly what makes a wine distinctive depends on personal experiences, including one’s culture. For example, Americans may not find many Zinfandels to be highly distinctive -- Zins being commonly available here -- but Chileans, Germans, South Africans and New Zealanders certainly would.
Below are distinctive wines I’ve enjoyed recently. They encompass a variety of grapes, including some as familiar as Pinot Noir, and extend across a broad range of prices. Try them and take delight in the special experiences they provide.
Wines $10 to $29
Shooting Star 2014 Aligoté “Washington State” ($14): Aligoté is a white wine grape widely grown in Eastern Europe. This excellent buy is full of personality, featuring strong fruit, highly complementary acidity and impressive complexity. Serve with shellfish. Order online.
Cecchi 2014 Vermentino “La Mora, Maremma, Toscana, Italy” ($16): Vermentino is a white wine grape from Sardinia, the western Italian coast and part of southern France. I loved the Cecchi’s deep color, full body, terrific balance and lengthy finish. Serve with white fish. Order online.
Raptor Ridge 2016 Grüner Veltliner “Tuscowallame Vineyard, Chehalem Mountains” ($20): “Grooner” is a white wine grape most abundant in Austria. This example from Oregon has a strong personality featuring forward fruit, fine balance and great length. The grape is food flexible, including with white fish. Order online.
Scheid 2015 Albariño “Arroyo Seco, Monterey County” ($22): Albariño is a white wine grape grown most extensively in Spain. This Californian is one of the best I’ve tasted from the U.S., being very expressive in terms of fruit and complexity, but also refined. Albariño is very food flexible. Order online.
Murrieta’s Well 2015 white blend “The Whip, Livermore Valley” ($24): This highly attractive, seamlessly integrated blend is a very distinctive, superb wine made from five grape varieties grown in different microenvironments. Serve with full-flavored, white-meat dishes.
Oremus 2015 Dry Tokaji/Furmint “Mandolás, Hungary” ($25): This fine white wine is sure to be distinctive to American palates with its unique flavors paired with strong fruit, full body, attractive integration and impressive refinement. Very food friendly, especially with white fish and white meats. Order online.
Wines $30 to $49
Barda (by Chacra) 2015 Pinot Noir “Patagonia, Argentina” ($30): Pinot Noir isn’t an unusual grape, but this Patagonian presents a tasting experience for American palates. Lean-styled but excellent, I loved the nose, strength on the palate, notable complexity and prominent personality. Serve with lamb, salmon and beef. Order online.
Dutton-Goldfield 2016 Pinot Blanc “Dutton Ranch, Shop Block, Green Valley, Russian River Valley” ($30): Pinot Blanc is a white wine grape widely planted in central Europe and increasingly in California and Oregon. This unoaked beauty pairs strong fruit with fine, crisp acidity for wonderful balance, making it very food friendly. Order online.
Stony Hill 2015 White Riesling “Napa Valley” ($30): Stony Hill’s Riesling is beautifully clean and focused, a straight-forward but impressive wine that is robust on the palate, very well balanced and smoothly integrated with a touch of sweetness. A tasting experience that is excellent with varied foods, especially those a bit spicy.
Feudo Maccari 2013 Nero d’Avola “Saia, Sicilia, Italy” ($39): Nero d’Avola is the prime red wine grape grown on Sicily. This example resembles Amarone with powerful, rich fruit, impressive complexity on nose and palate and great length. Serve with beef, especially roasts. Order online (bargain prices currently available).
Marchesi Fumanelli 2014 white blend “Terso, Veneto, Italy ($39): This is a highly intriguing blend of Garganega and Trebbiano, two grapes rarely grown in the U.S. It is strong on the palate with unique flavors, full body, expressive fruit and great length. Serve with white meats. Order online.
Susana Balbo 2013 red blend “Brioso, Single Vineyard, Agrelo, Mendoza, Argentina” ($44): This Bordeaux-style yet distinctive red blend features a very smooth attack that is soon followed by highly attractive, tannin-induced complexity. Long-lingering on the finish. Serve with red meats.
Wines $50 to $75
Quinta do Vallado 2009 red blend “Reserva, Field Blend, Douro, Portugal” ($55): This is a wonderful blend of over 30 grape varieties. Enjoyment begins with its vivid purple hue and continues with beautiful fruit, complexity and strength on nose and palate. Serve with roasts and other cuts of red meat. Order online.
de Coelo 2014 Pinot Noir “Quintus, Sonoma Coast” ($75): This wine by Benziger is less fruity and more complex and powerful than most California Pinot Noirs. It is luminescent in the glass, strong and complex on the nose and long-lingering on the palate with a highly attractive core of well-integrated tannins. Serve with red meat. Order online.