I've always tried to use my column to feature Washington wines and, rest assured, I will continue to do so. But it's also a good idea to let down your provincial guard once in a while and venture into the wider world of wine.
As we start the New Year, this is a great time to resolve to explore wines from other countries. While doing this, I encourage you to compare and contrast styles between Washington wineries and the rest of the world, find some new favorites, and above all, have fun.
Italy is a great place to start because many Italian wines are made in a food-friendly, light- to medium-bodied style.
A perfect example is the Frescobaldi Morellino di Scansano 2010 Pietraregia Riserva (about $25). This sangiovese-centered blend is filled with bright red fruits of plum, currant, pie cherry and cranberry, with mild accents of white pepper and spice. The finish carries a touch of tannic grip, allowing it to pair perfectly with pasta or chicken prepared with a tomato-based sauce.
For an exquisite Italian white, consider the Frescobaldi 2012 Pomino Bianco (about $18). A blend of chardonnay and pinot bianco, it opens with lovely aromas of allspice and honeysuckle, generous flavors of Golden Delicious apple and green pear, and an elegant, slightly creamy finish.
South African wines have improved markedly the past decade or so. You may already be familiar with the country's popular pinotage grape, a cousin of pinot noir, but there are a number of other solid wines to choose from this part of the world as well.
The more I tasted the Mulderbosch Vineyards 2009 Faithful Hound (about $19), the more I enjoyed it. This five-varietal Bordeaux blend consists primarily of cabernet sauvignon and merlot, but the small amount of cabernet franc really comes through on the nose and palate with its herby, earthy qualities. There's also a good measure of spicy blackberry to taste, along with a lengthy finish of dried black cherry.
The Mulderbosch 2011 Chenin Blanc (about $14) is another tasty and refreshing choice that is quite affordable. Filled with tropical and citrus fruit flavors, there's also a note of field flowers and faintly sweet clover that starts at the bouquet and carries through to the finishing taste.
One more well-priced choice, this one from Portugal, is the Herdade de Gâmbia 2011 Red Wine. This three-varietal blend is comprised of touriga (traditionally used in Port wines), syrah and aragonez (tempranillo). Sassy and slightly spicy, it's filled with bright red fruits along with an underlying touch of minerality. I picked up a bottle at Bellingham's Seifert and Jones Wine Merchants for only $12.
Dan Radil is a wine enthusiast who lives in Bellingham. Reach him at danthewineguy.com.