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MoCo prices get better on these Top 5 red wine bargains

This consistently pleasing Italian red blend is a bargain at less than $11 a bottle in Montgomery County, but a steal on sale for less than $8 a bottle at Pearson's.
This consistently pleasing Italian red blend is a bargain at less than $11 a bottle in Montgomery County, but a steal on sale for less than $8 a bottle at Pearson's.
Rob Garretson

It costs a little more to be a wine drinker in Montgomery County. We don’t enjoy the competitive prices and wide selection available in the District or Virginia. Even neighboring Prince George’s County has one Total Wine super store, which makes stocking up on good, inexpensive wine easier for our Maryland neighbors to the east.

We won’t belabor the evils of the state-mandated three-tier distribution system that keeps prices high and limits selection in Maryland—exacerbated in Montgomery County, where the County government is the wholesaler through which all wine, beer and spirits must pass. Suffice it to say that MoCo residents have to hunt down the occasional local bargain like pigs rooting for truffles. Otherwise, we make a periodic pilgrimage over the District line to Rodman’s or Calvert Woodley or across the Potomac into Virginia if we want to pay competitive prices for our favorite wines.

The price premium, which typically runs $3 to $5 a bottle or more for County residents, does seem to be shrinking for some popular wine. Take, for example, Marietta Old Vine Red Lot Number 60, recently featured in Dave McIntyre’s Washington Post wine column as among “The New California Wine” that occupy a middle ground between “the innocuous supermarket wines and the [exorbitantly priced] cult cabs” produced in California.

McIntyre quotes San Francisco Chronicle wine editor Jon Bonné calling it “an example of a traditional-style wine that provides value at a reasonable price.”

We couldn’t agree more, which is why Marietta Old Vine Red leads our list of Top 5 Value Domestic Red Blends. But McIntyre lists the wine at $15 a bottle, which would probably knock it out of our “value wine” category, if that’s what it typically cost. Thankfully for most of the Washington area, it’s available for less than $12 a bottle at wine shops like Calvert Woodley or Total Wine (in both Virginia and Maryland). And in Montgomery County it costs just a dollar more ($13.79) at County Liquor stores, though elsewhere it’s probably $15 or more.

[Find Marietta Old Vine Red online or at a wine shop near you.]

(Many wine publications and writers use $20 a bottle as a threshold for budget wine. But for everyday wine drinkers, $15 to $20 per bottle can add up fast. You’ve got plenty of fine wine to choose from that costs $10 to $12 a bottle or less. We think spending $15 or more for a bottle only makes sense for special occasions or as gifts for wine lovers.)

Another one of our Top 5 Value Wines that’s typically only a dollar more expensive in Montgomery County is Tormaresca Neprica Puglia IGT, which is widely available for $10 a bottle in the District and Virginia and costs just $10.85 a bottle at MoCo liquor stores. This terrific red blend from the Puglia region of Italy (the heel of the boot) used to be hard to find. But since it started showing up in more wine shops throughout the area a few years ago, it’s become one of our go-to Italian values.

And now may be one of those times to take a stock-up trip into the District, since the 2011 vintage of Tormaresca Neprica is on sale for just $7.98 a bottle at Pearson’s in Glover Park or $8.49 at Chevy Chase Wine & Spirits, just over the District line on Connecticut Ave., NW.

The tasty blend of native Italian grapes negroamaro and primitivo (genetically identical to American zinfandel) along with cabernet sauvignon has been a consistent winner year in and year out; a wine we buy by the case (like Falesco Vitiano) in every vintage. And the 2011 is no exception.

“Round and fruity, with jammy plum, spice and light herb notes that lead to a rich finish,” is how Wine Spectator’s MaryAnn Worobiec described it in the July 31, 2013 issue.

[Find Tomraresca Neprica online or at a wine shop near you.]

She rated it “Very Good” (86 points) at $12 a bottle. So it’s a bargain even in Montgomery County at less than $11 a bottle. And if you’re inclined to stock up, a trip to Chevy Chase or Glover Park will save you $20 to $25 on a case.

Cheers!

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